Carrying a torch for…
Posted: 09 August 2007 08:29 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I am intrigued by this (I believe) purely American expression, which I understand to mean “having an unrequited passion” for someone. Etymology On-line only says something vague about “Broadway slang”. Can anyone be more specific about the origin of this picturesque figure of speech?

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Posted: 09 August 2007 10:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The metaphor of the torch as a flame which must be nurtured and kept alight (like the olympic torch) is an old one, and the additional metaphor of flame=passion is a bonus. OED’s earliest mention of the expression “carry a torch” is:

1927 Vanity Fair (N.Y.) Nov. 132/3 When a fellow ‘carries the torch’ it doesn’t imply that he is ‘lit up’ or drunk, but girl-less. His steady has quit him for another or he is lonesome for her.

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Posted: 10 August 2007 10:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I don’t think it is purely American, because I remember my mother and grandmother using the phrase in the 50s.

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