Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Episode 141: Heart of Gold Show Notes

 Click to read more

Bunny Trails: A Word History Podcast

Episode 141: Heart of Gold 

Record Date: January 16, 2022

Air Date: January 19, 2022



Welcome to Bunny Trails, a whimsical adventure of idioms and other turns of phrase. 

I’m Dan Pugh


And I’m Shauna Harrison

Each week we take a group of words and try to tell the story from their entry into the English language, to how they are used today.

If you take Dan’s word for it from our last episode, you might think I’m all dark and twisty inside… aaand, that’s maybe mostly true. I will admit that I am fascinated by the macabre. And often my favorite phrases employ dark humor, especially when it highlights the seeming futility of trying to view the world as a loving and happy place for humans when we are constantly bombarded with proof of the opposite. 

However, I am also paradoxically optimistic and therefore I also love beautiful and joyous and pleasant and fun idioms just as much! And today, I’ve decided to fight against the dark and twisties with a phrase about awesome people. 

Therefore, we are discussing… heart of gold. 


This phrase is definitely figurative or metaphorical. There isn’t some magic King Midas raygun that turns hearts into actual gold. But Dan, what does heart of gold mean to you?

When I was about seven, I read a book that first told me a Heart of Gold belonged to the good, kind knight in fairytales who fights for the poor and the weak, protects ladies’ honor, treats staff well, feeds the hungry, goes on quests… and eventually saves a damsel in distress… and probably the entire kingdom. He also at some point passes some sort of test to confirm he is humble and kind, generous and even-tempered. All those impressive traits necessary to become the king of a fairytale land. Basically perfect… and not very real. 

By the time I was in my pre-teens, I’d heard it used many, many times to describe a variety of people doing good deeds or just being good people. 

Why gold? 

We discussed this a little more in depth in previous episodes, so I won’t get too much into it. But gold has been representative of high value since the mid 1100’s. Oxford English Dictionary shares the following figurative usage of gold, quote: 

a. Something likened to gold in being beautiful, rare, or unsurpassed in preciousness. of gold: of the highest or purest quality. Often literary and poetic in later use.

-End quote. 

For heart of gold, Oxford English Dictionary gives the definition, quote: 

used to denote a kind, generous, brave, or noble nature, or a person having this.

-End quote

The first time the phrase is attested in print is in the mid 1500’s. 

A Dialogue Defensive for Women was written in 1542 by Robert Burdet

The copy I am using is courtesy of English and Linguistics at the University of Otago in New Zealand. Their notes state that the work was based heavily on Sir Thomas Elyot's 'Defense of Good Women, written two years prior in 1540. This is essentially a conversation between a Falcon and a Pye… like a magpie. The Falcon is speaking in defense of women against the Pye who is basically acting as trickster and using twisted logic. 

Before I read the excerpt, I need to establish the definition for one of the words which is ‘churles’. Someone who is churlish is a rude, boorish, surly person. a peasant or rustic. a stingy person. a miser. In general it was used to describe someone in a low station or a jerk… or both. 

Spoken by The Falcon, quote: 

Shameles thou arte surely, thus shamefully to speake

That man to vyce is moued, by womans prouocacyon

For women of cleane lyuynge, be oft moued to breake

Theyr chastytie by churles, that chafe them by temptacyon

What paynted wordes, womans loue to allure

What tokens that be trycke, do these men vse

What rynges, what hertes of golde fyne and pure

Whiche women do vtterly contemne and refuse

-End quote 

Shakespeare’s Henry V is dated 1600 

We are reading from a scene between Pistol and King Henry as follows, quote:  

-End quote 

Now, there was a term in there that sounds a little odd… bawcock. This essentially meant a fine fellow. 

A voyage to the Antipodes, a simile, in a dialogue between Remarquo, a member of the English flying-squadron, and a sayler [sic]. Giving an account of what happened by the treachery of some reformado-officers ... Together with some reasons why the seamen desert Her Majesties service, and how they may be restored, and others provided for the speedy supplying the Royal-Navy, in order to reduce the Power of our professed Enemies… Offered to the Consideration of all those that bear true Faith and Allegiance to the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty. Printed, and are to be sold by most Booksellers in London and Westminster, 1703. 

The next item was accessed through Chronicling America from the Library of Congress, U.S. The April 22, 1789 edition of the Gazette of the United-States out of New York contains an article titled, The Vice President. It begins, quote: 

-End quote 

From The Journal of Sir Walter Scott, printed in 1831, we find the following, quote: 

A fine fellow, & what I call a Heart of gold.

-End quote 

I liked that he claims this is his term for it. While we cannot know the reason he states in this way, it reminded me that even though an idea or phrase may be common during a timeframe, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is common in all areas. 

Here is a delightful poem from the January 08, 1875 edition of The daily gazette out of Wilmington, Delaware. Quote:

-End Quote 

It was quite common over the centuries to express that the guy with the heart of gold should be able to get the girl. 

In the June 13, 1913 edition of The Day Book out of Chicago, Illinois, there was a serial story being shared. It included this excerpt, quote: 

-End quote

It is good to see this used to describe a female as a heart of gold. 

I’d now like to share a song copyrighted in 1911 and written by Marie Taggart

Before we get to our more modern uses, we’d like to take a moment to thank our Patrons. 

A Quick Thank You


This episode is sponsored by our amazing Patrons.

And speaking of our patreon, we’d love your support! Tiers start at $3 a month, which gets you our polls and community only discussions, early access to the podcasts, and the behind the scenes video for each episode so you can watch along as we make the show. At $10 you’ll also get original digital artwork from Shauna once a month featuring exclusive art about an idiom or other turn of phrase. At $15, you’ll also get personal on-air recognition like Pat Rowe and Mary Halsig-Lopez do every episode. Because they are awesome! 

We also have higher tiers available. Whatever your budget, you can help create Bunny Trails week after week to continue this educational artform. 

We are bunnytrailspod on Patreon. That’s

Modern Uses

There are quite a few songs titled Heart of Gold. One released in 1972 is by Neil Young. Some of the lyrics include, quote: 

I want to leave my footprints

On the sands of time

Know there was something there

And something that I left behind

When I leave this world

I'll leave no regrets

Leave something to remember

So they won't forget

I was here

I lived, I loved

I was here

-End quote 2009 remastered version 

The book Heart of Gold by Kerri Strug was released in 1996

Kerri Strug competed in the Summer Olympics on the USA gymnastics team in 1996. She injured her ankle during the vault event, but continued on to complete one more vault, scoring enough points solidify the team’s gold medal. Near the end of the book, Kerri shares, quote: 

…and I know my final vault inspired many people. Maybe I reminded people that the courage to soar to great heights is inside all of us. If you work hard. be persistent. and follow your dreams— anyone can have a heart of gold.

-End quote. 

We’ll link to a video from the Olympics channel on Youtube of this well-known moment. At the time, this story was shared over and over as an example of courage and strength. 

Johnny Cash released his own song Heart of Gold in 2003. Some lyrics include, quote: 

I want to live,

I want to give

I've been a miner for a heart of gold.

It's these expressions I never give

That keeps me searching for a heart of gold

And I'm getting old.

It keeps me searching for a heart of gold

And I'm getting old.

I've been to Hollywood

I've been to redwood

I crossed the ocean for a heart of gold

I've been in my mind, it's such a fine line

That keeps me searching for a heart of gold

And I'm getting old.

It keeps me searching for a heart of gold

And I'm getting old.

-End quote 

Heart of Gold is a book released in 2020. From the publisher, quote: 

On a planet torn apart by class and economic divisions and feuding factions, a scientist and a rebel are drawn together in a forbidden love that could change their world forever.... 

Nolan uses his rational powers of observation to examine more closely the privileges he was born to enjoy—and the people he was raised to despise. Katrini follows her fiercest passions in the struggle to overthrow a legacy of hate—one that has poisoned her family for generations. Between rich and poor, strong and weak, intellect and feeling, only one thing could bring these two opposites together: a passion that is strictly forbidden.

-End quote 

From a user on Untappd, there is an entry for Devil's Heart of Gold (released 2021) by Perennial Artisan Ales. It is described as, quote:  

Wheat Wine aged 19 months in Four Roses Bourbon barrels.

-End quote 

The drink has decent ratings and a lovely bottle. 

I thought this was an interesting perspective from a user on Twitter. Chanille says, quote: 

When you have nothing but pure intentions and a heart of gold, you never lose anyone. They lose you. 

-End quote. 

Wrap up...

Most of us know at least one person who is just a solid, decent human being. Someone who is consistently kind to others. Someone who - when faced with a challenge - just, does the right thing. Their moral compass is aimed well and they seem to think of themselves only to consider how they might make the world a better place. In my opinion, that’s a person with a heart of gold. When we see strangers helping one another in a crisis, that’s what we’re seeing… golden hearts.  I think there are more gold-hearted folks out there than we realize and I’m grateful for their existence. They are the ones who walk around just being themselves and - day after day - restore our faith in humanity. 



That’s about all the time we have for today. If you have any thoughts on the show, or pop culture references we should have included, reach out to us on social media where we are @bunnytrailspod, or comment on our website - Of course, the best way to make sure we see your comment is to post it on the Patreon page! 



Poll time! 

In a recent poll, we asked Patrons 

What are your go-to Thanksgiving side dishes? 

Thanksgiving in the US is celebrated in late November with family and friends gathered round a table with a big meal. Turkey is the tradition in the US, but other poultry, ham, or meat-free options are often found. But we want to talk about the sides. What are your go-to sides for a Thanksgiving meal?

Patrons were told to pick as many as they’d like! 

Options included: 

Cranberry Sauce

Potatoes (Mashed, roasted, with Gravy, covered in Noodles, etc)


Sweet Potato/Yams (savory, covered in marshmallow, sliced, etc)

Green Bean Casserole

Something else (Be sure to tell us in comments!)

Corn (creamed, on the cob, in a casserole, etc)

Rolls (homemade, crescent, dinner style, et

Potatoes and Green Bean Casserole tied for first each getting 23% of votes. Stuffing and rolls each received a little over 15% of votes each with Cranberry Sauce, the added Mac’n’cheese, and corn next up with almost 8% each. 


I vote for all of the above. I love having a big table of choices to eat. 


If you want to join our polls, head over to where Patrons at all levels can participate in our weekly silly polls that mean absolutely nothing and aren’t even scientifically valid. But they are fun to talk about!


Thanks for joining us. We’ll talk to you again next week. And until then remember... 


Words belong to their users.

No comments:

Post a Comment