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Your Questions About Heels Over Head

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Mandy Your Questions About Heels Over Head

Mandy asks…

“head over heels”??? what does it mean plz?

lizzyrose cropped Your Questions About Heels Over Head

Our pick of the answers:

Head over heels
Meaning

Excited, and/or turning cartwheels to demonstrate one’s excitement.

Origin

‘Head over heels’ is now most often used as part of ‘head over heels in love’. When first coined it wasn’t used that way though and referred exclusively to being temporarily the wrong way up. It is one of many similar phrases that we use to describe things that are not in their usual state – ‘upside-down’, ‘topsy-turvy’, ‘topple up tail’, ‘arse over tea-kettle’, ‘bass-ackwards’ etc.

Susan Your Questions About Heels Over Head

Susan asks…

What’s with the phrase “head over heels”?

Isn’t your head already over your heels?
I know what it means, but it just doesn’t make sense!

lizzyrose cropped Your Questions About Heels Over Head

Our pick of the answers:

You’re right! The logical order is the opposite, and that’s precisely what we find in other expressions (“upside-down”, “topsy-turvy”. . . And some racier ones)

http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?date=19960517

http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/head-over-heels.html

Not only so, but the ORIGINAL form of the expression (first attested in the 14th century) is exactly what you would expect, “heels over head”. And there have been those who have insisted on retaining that form (e.g., Baum in the Oz books).

But by the 18th century (first known example 1771) the confused, reversed form began to be used… And during the 19th century it took over.

Why? Well it might have been a simple mistake by someone not thinking. (And perhaps, once it got started, some thought the notion was that of flipping FORWARD.).

Frankly, I think the best explanation for how the mistaken version started and took hold is fairly easy if you simply try to say each expression out loud, several times (fast!). It is simply EASIER and more natural to say “head over heels”

(Michael Quinion has written about this on his own site. But oddly, in editing this article from an earlier form he omitted a very similar suggestion –that it may have been that authors “found the stress pattern of ‘head over heels more persuasive than the older form.” Actually, it’s not exactly the “stress pattern”, since that would be the same for each expression; it is the order of the sounds — the newer order is easier to articulate.)

Qunion

http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-hea3.htm

earlier(?) article:

http://www.suite101.com/discussion.cfm/investing/106255/973849

compare:
http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a3_241a.html

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