Valentine’s Day has its own kind of graffiti. “Hug Me.” “Love Bug.” “Doll Face.”
These are the short, sweet and simple words of love that come on the candy with a message — those pastel lozenges in heart shapes with writing stamped on top. Made with a pinch of sass, more than a lump of sugar, and a dose of corn, the little sweets have become traditional for Valentine’s Day.
With the charm of alphabet soup and the mystery of fortune cookies, the talkative confection is a way for even the shyest suitors to wheedle the objects of their affections, and spell out unspoken feelings.
One might assume that some pet cherub’s poetry is used for the slogans, but usually, candy company people, including executives, share the task. “We just sat down one year, and thought up the slogans,” says Willard Seefeldt who works for the Curtiss Candy Company. “Some of the sayings have had to be changed over the years as the lingo of children has changed.”
“Like ‘Cutie Pie’ was something said in the ’20s, ’30s, or ’40s. The slogans have probably been changed about a half dozen times or more to keep up with the current vernacular. ‘Oh You Kid,’ ’23 Skiddoo,’ and the like just became too outdated.”
Nowadays slogans are a bit more impertinent, though not exactly what could be called real sophisticated. But they are more timely, says Seefeldt, who is production manager for the Melville division of Curtis. “Real Gone,” “Dig Me,” “Cool Cat,” and “The Most” are among the 50 or so sayings that currently adorn the Curtiss candies called “Talkie Hearts.”
Other words to make a Valentine eat are “Playtime,” “Zowie,” “Heatwave,” “Hexed,” “Natch,” “Lovelorn,” “Flame,” “Sugar,” “Gosh,” “Bashful,” and “I’ll Bite.” Occasionally difficulties arise with the slogans. The machinery may miss and create sayings that are illegible. Or a misprint may occur. One saying, “Sweet Lass,” had to be dropped entirely because it often printed without the “L.”
Updating candy heart slogans
According to a spokesman for E. J. Brach and Sons, they last updated their slogans about seven or eight years ago. “Revisions were made because certain sayings were too old fashioned. But we purposely kept a lot of old ones for nostalgia’s sake. Some are just as corny as blazes, but kids and adults love ’em.”
Sold in bulk (by the pound) as well as by the bag or by the box, the heart-shaped candy seems to offer just the right touch of pure schmaltz to Cupid’s day. “Sloppy sentimental” is how Sally White, assistant candy buyer at Marshall Field & Company, describes the feeling expressed by the wee printed candy bits.
But at about $1.25 a pound (25 cents higher than last V-Day), she still expects the Chicago area store chain to sell more than 2,400 pounds of the confection this season. The sweet-talking candy really is legitimate nostalgia, because it’s been around for a long time.
“I’ve been in the candy business for more than 44 years, and it’s been a commodity in the field for at least 50 years,” says Seefeldt.
Another source, the National Confectioners Association, traces the origin of the sweet-hearts back to the 185os, when candy making became more sophisticated with the development of more advanced equipment like the revolving steam pan.
“Vegetable dye is used to print the slogans on the dough, and the dough is mostly sugar with a little gelatin and syrup added to make it pliable,” according to Seefeldt. The smaller hearts are usually called “flirtation hearts,” while the larger ones are referred to as “romance hearts” almost as if to designate little heartthrobs or big ones.
“But they’re all called “conversation hearts,'” says Seefeldt. “They all have that yakkety-yak.”