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

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.”

Alas, the period of my greatest vigor is a dim memory, aroused as dreams by a fragment of underdone potato.

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 . . .