Posted by ESC on July 15, 2005
In Reply to: "Learn it off by heart." posted by James Briggs on July 15, 2005
: : Does anyone know where and how the phrase "Learn it off by heart."originated?
: The heart is classically regarded at the seat of feeling, thought, etc. Thus, if you learnt something so well that you could repeat it, it was then taken up by your 'heart'.
: The 'learn off' bit is obscure and I, too, find this puzzling. Others may have answers.
I'm originally from West Virginia. We had an expression: He can say it off by heart. I'm not familiar with "learn it off..."
LEARN BY HEART - "How does it happen we say we learn things 'by heart' instead of 'by head'? It's because of a mistaken analysis of anatomical functions made by the ancient Greeks. They placed the seat of thought in the heart." LEARN BY ROTE - "What is the reason we use the phrase 'learn by rote' to indicate learning by repetition? This phrase means 'to learn by the wheel' - from 'rota,' the L*tin word for 'wheel.' The allusion is to turning the thought over and over in the mind or saying it over and over again, in much the same way as a wheel goes around." From "Why do we say it? The stories behind the words, expressions and cliches we use," (no author listed), Castle Books, Edison, N.J., 1985.