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(image via flickr)

February 14th: A day of heart-shaped chocolate boxes, naked archer babies with wings, and linguistic pedantry. Yes! Some people—no names named—live to gleefully gloat their pronunciatorial prowess any time some unfortunate, uninformed soul dares to let slip the word “Valentimes.”

To which I say: listen up, you whatever-the-February-equivalent-of-Grinches-is! You need to stop. No, not because correcting people is cruel (for Cupid’s sake, all of this holiday is cruel), but because it’s time—Valentime—for a change.

Controversial, I know. But I brought charts. Here are five rock-solid reasons we need to rename this holiday already.

1. No one even knows who St. Valentine is.


Where's the birth certificate, Val?!

Even the Roman Catholic Church, which is tasked with making up all the rules for its Saints’ days and should really be on top of this, doesn’t know anything about poor V. except that he was martyred in Rome on February 14. And even though he was allegedly killed on the Via Flaminia in 273, the earliest known list of Christian martyrs from 354 conveniently doesn’t mention him. Romantic! Just kidding; it’s FULL OF HOLES. From then on, it’s basically a free-for-all of hagiography, with chroniclers making up biographical details left and right. Valentine is basically the Frank Abegnale of Ancient Rome. 

So whence the name for a lovey-dovey holiday? In the eighteenth century, a theory arose that St. Valentine’s day was conflated with the Roman (read: Pagan) holiday of Lupercalia, which was when, according to Plutarch:

…Many of the noble youths and of the magistrates run up and down through the city naked, for sport and laughter striking those they meet with shaggy thongs. And many women of rank also purposely get in their way, and like children at school present their hands to be struck, believing that the pregnant will thus be helped in delivery, and the barren to pregnancy.

Oh, okay. Because nothing says true love like getting whapped in the face with a piece of leather so you’ll get pregnant? Point being: there’s no reason to tie this random dude and his chimeric celebration to our modern Valentimes day.

2. There’s tons of linguistic precedent for this kind of simplification.

Case in point: Santa Claus. The adorably childish mondegreen of St. Nicholas’s name has been gaining steam for the past 100 years:

All Hallows’ Eve became Halloween. The Old English spelling of the pagan dawn goddess Eostre became Easter. Washington’s birthday became Presidents’ Day. Even the word holiday is a mushed-up version of holy day (and don’t even get me started on what the hell “Maundy” Thursday is supposed to mean.) Why should we stop a similar thing from happening to Valentimes Day? Especially when no one even knows who this “Valentine” character is? (see point 1).

3. People already say it.

As proof, here is another graph, via Google Trends:

4. It’s a cute portmanteau.
Valentine (the erstwhile founder of the feast) + times (as in a day, i.e. Feb. 14) = Valentimes! How is that not a charming neologism?

5. Okay, I don't really have a fifth point except to say that a sweeping change in nomenclature would be an excellent chance to rid ourselves of those nasty candy hearts.
Because if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that they taste like Pepto-Bismol.


Blair Thornburgh's picture

Blair Thornburgh

Blair Thornburgh is an editor at Quirk Books. A native Philadelphienne and apparent devotée of gendered demonyms, she makes a mean plate of scrambled eggs, a much friendlier cup of coffee, and would love to talk to you about (or in) multiple dead languages. Hwæt!