the heyday in the blood is tame (and what is a heyday?)

Es­ti­mated reading time is 3 min­utes.

I JUST PUT the fin­ishing touches on a rewrite and up­date of an old ar­ticle of mine on ’60s teen model Colleen Corby. While rereading the text and checking to see if the im­ages were linked to their source, the opening sen­tence caught my at­ten­tion. It read, “The term ‘su­per­model’ didn’t exist when Colleen Corby was in her glory days during the 1960s.”

Without much thought, I changed two words and the sen­tence now reads, “The term su­per­model didn’t exist when Colleen Corby was in her heyday during the 1960s.”

After reading and nod­ding in ap­proval at the change, I won­dered ex­actly what does heyday mean and where did it come from? Like many people, I have been using the term since we rode di­nosaurs to grade school and was fairly cer­tain that I used it correctly

But I had never looked it up.

So I did.


Heyday book DanielCorrigan 700

Looking for an image to spice up this text and I came across this book, Heyday: 35 Years of Music in Min­neapolis: “Daniel Cor­rigan began taking pho­tographs in the Twin Cities in the early 1980s and since then has cap­tured thou­sands of con­certs and mu­si­cians as a free­lancer, as­sign­ment pho­tog­ra­pher, and long­time of­fi­cial pho­tog­ra­pher for First Avenue.”

The heyday in the blood is tame

I al­ways turn first to Merriam-Webster, which de­fines heyday as “the pe­riod of one’s greatest pop­u­larity, vigor, or pros­perity.” Which is how I and most people tend to use the word. As ex­pla­na­tion they offer this:

“In its ear­liest ap­pear­ances in Eng­lish, in the 16th cen­tury, heyday was used as an in­ter­jec­tion that ex­pressed ela­tion or wonder, sim­ilar to our word hey, from which it de­rives. Around the same time, heyday saw use as a noun meaning ‘high spirits.’

It wasn’t until the 18th cen­tury that Eng­lish speakers, per­haps in­ter­preting the day of the second syl­lable to mean ‘a time or pe­riod,’ began using heyday to refer to the pe­riod when one’s achieve­ment or pop­u­larity has reached its zenith.”

Et­y­mology On­line of­fered a sim­ilar back­ground on heyday (and I have rewritten their ex­pla­na­tion into some­thing re­sem­bling stan­dard Eng­lish for your ease in reading):

“The word heyday or hey-day is from late 16th cen­tury where it was used as an ex­cla­ma­tion. It was an al­ter­ation of heyda from the 1520s, which was an ex­cla­ma­tion of play­ful­ness, cheer­ful­ness, or sur­prise some­thing like Modern Eng­lish hurrah.

Ap­par­ently, it is an ex­tended form of the Middle Eng­lish in­ter­jec­tion hey or hei (see hey). The modern sense of heyday meaning one’s ‘stage of greatest vigor’ was first recorded in 1751—perhaps from a no­tion that the word was high-day—and it al­tered the spelling.”

So now I know the meaning of heyday and so do you!

More of gravy than of grave

The pull-quote at the top of this page (“Alas, the pe­riod of my greatest vigor is a dim memory, aroused as dreams by a frag­ment of un­der­done potato”) is a ref­er­ence to Ebenezer Scrooge’s at­tempts to ra­tio­nalize his first vis­i­ta­tion from the ghost of Jacob Marley. This is the full quote in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol:

“You may be an undi­gested bit of beef, a blot of mus­tard, a crumb of cheese, a frag­ment of un­der­done potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, what­ever you are!”

The modern sense of ‘heyday’ meaning one’s ‘stage of greatest vigor’ was first recorded in 1751. Click To Tweet

Hamlet LaurenceOlivier 1 1000

FEATURED IMAGE: So, I’m guessing you’re guessing what I had in mind when I chose this still from the 1948 movie Hamlet with Lau­rence Olivier and the beautiful Jean Sim­mons, right? Well, there’s a very good ex­pla­na­tion! As an ex­ample of the use of heyday as meaning high spirits, Merriam-Webster of­fered Act III, Scene IV of Hamlet, when the Prince of Den­mark tells his mother, “You cannot call it love; for at your age, the heyday in the blood is tame.”

There you go . . .


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