Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Roses are Red and Other Love Idioms

By Kathy Kovach

Ah, February! That little month in the dead of winter where outside the blustery wind chases snow into impossible drifts, (at least here in Colorado,) but inside, words of love are warming hearts. Words that are spoken, written, or stamped on candy. Have you ever wondered where these sayings come from...or from whence they came, if I may wax poetic?


The origins of this well-known poem can be traced back to 1590 in a book called The Faerie Queene by Sir Edmund Spenser. Two lines of that poem are what sparked generations of dewy-eyed lovers to declare their affections.

She bath'd with roses red, and violets blew,
And all the sweetest flowres, that in the forrest grew.

Then came a little poem in a collection of nursery rhymes originally published in 1784 entitled Gammer Gurton’s Garland. The verse goes as follows:

The rose is red, the violet’s blue,
The honey’s sweet, and so are you.
Thou are my love and I am thine;
I drew thee to my Valentine:
The lot was cast and then I drew,
And Fortune said it shou’d be you.

 The first two lines ended up in a 1901 Mother Goose book, replacing honey with sugar, and it was eventually pared down into the rhyme we know today:

Roses are red, violets are blue,
Sugar is sweet, and so are you.


How did such a negative word become an endearing one? Back in the early 1800s, a British social gathering or dance was called a “crush.” It was termed thus because of the crowded rooms and the women’s full gowns. It’s not difficult to envision two people engaging in conversation as they try to get to know one another, and squeezing their way through the party. The term evolved into a desire to get to know someone better, crushing on them as they wish to get closer.


If you have teenagers, you know their vulnerability when they openly confess their adoration for someone. The connotation of this phrase today means just 
that, to be vulnerable when open to someone, something, or an ideal. It comes from a bold act practiced in the Middle Ages, when a knight would wear a colored ribbon on his arm to represent the lady he loves and for whom he is fighting.


It is said when Saint Andrew, the first called Apostle, was set to be crucified, he asked for his cross to resemble an X because he didn’t feel himself worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord. In the Middle Ages, a person who was illiterate would sign their name with an X to represent Saint Andrew. Then they would kiss the X to express their sincerity. Today, when we place an X on a love note, we are sealing it with kiss.
With Valentine’s Day upon us, will you let your Crush see your vulnerability as you wear your heart on your sleeve? Or will you write a love poem to your significant other in the manner of Roses are Red and seal it with a kiss? Perhaps the day is simply a great excuse to buy yourself a big box of chocolates. Whatever your plans, remember God’s love letter to us, where He declares, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3, NIV.

MissAdventure Brides Romance Collection
Seven daring damsels don’t let the norms of their eras hold them back. Along the way these women attract the attention of men who admire their bravery and determination, but will they let love grow out of the adventures? Includes:
"Riders of the Painted Star" by Kathleen E. Kovach
1936 Arizona
Zadie Fitzpatrick, an artist from New York, is commissioned to go on location in Arizona to paint illustrations for an author of western novels and falls for the male model.

Kathleen E. Kovach is a Christian romance author published traditionally through Barbour Publishing, Inc. as well as indie. Kathleen and her husband Jim raised two sons while living the nomadic lifestyle for over twenty years in the Air Force. Now planted in northeast Colorado she's a grandmother, though much too young for that. Kathleen is a longstanding member of American Christian Fiction Writers. An award-winning author, she presents spiritual truths with a giggle, proving herself as one of God's peculiar people.


  1. I agree, God's love for us is the best Valentine ever! Thanks for posting.

  2. How beautiful those lines, quoted also in Far from the madding crowd by Thomas hardy if I remember well.
    How I love the Barbour Publishing Inc Romance brides collection. Maybe one day I'll write for them too !