Good morning, Netizens…
“Thou touchest my inmost centre, boy; thou art tied to me by cords woven of my heart-strings.” — From Herman Melville's novel Moby Dick, 1851
“This former Indy icon still tugs on the heartstrings of local baby boomers, who recall cruising into the drive-ins for a Big Chief burger, onion rings and a milkshake.” — From an article by Jolene Ketzenberger in The Indianapolis Star, January 11, 2013
Before a song or movie or heart-shaped card accompanied by a box of chocolates could tug at your heartstrings, the job was more likely to be accomplished by a surgeon: the word “heartstring” used to refer to a nerve believed to sustain the heart. (The metaphor is a bit more apparent in the Melville quote above than it is in most modern uses.) You might recognize the word's second syllable in the term “hamstring,” which refers to both a group of tendons at the back of the knee and to any of three muscles at the backs of the upper legs. It's also apparent in a rare dialect term for the Achilles' tendon: “heel string.” And in light of these terms, it's not surprising to know that “string” itself was at one time used independently to refer to cords like tendons and ligaments.