Crucial Minutia
it's the little things...
Cristina Pippa
All the World: Origin of Love
5 Comments | posted April 05th, 2007 at 05:09 pm by Cristina Pippa

This time eavesdropping was the last thing on my mind. I was about to cross the street when the conversation behind me brought me to a halt. I had a walk sign, there were no cars coming, but I stood there on the corner for you, Crucial Minutiae, snatching a bit of real life soap opera on a park bench. Okay, I’ll admit it. It was my own curiosity that caused me to turn and look at the preppy kid whose hand was inching toward the neck of a wide-eyed brunette.

“Oh, my girlfriend. She’s just mad because I’m taking you home with me. But I said I would, and I’m going to. You know? I mean, she should know I love her.”

Love. On the tennis courts, it means zero. Off the courts it can mean everything– or still zero. It’s a word packed with meaning and forever open to interpretation. Some use it frivolously while others are scared to use it at all. Many believe it can never be conveyed enough and make a habit of ending every phone call with a mention of it. Americans throw it around as a compliment or an expression of taste too. “I love that sweater!” “He loves pies.” “Don’t you just love it when she says that?”

I’ve heard non-native English speakers laugh when they hear an American proclaim their love for a sweater. They may “gusta mucho” a sweater or even go so far as to say “me encanta” a sweater, but the verb “amar” is reserved for romantic love. Add a little lust to and “querer” is used. Italian love is expresssed in a similar way– and I’m told much less frequently than Americans do. An Italian man might tell his amore “Ti amo” only a few times in their life together.

So what does it mean to only have one word in English to express so many things? And where did we get it from? The root “leubh-” has been recorded at least as early as 2500 B.C. in an area which is now Russia. Love in Russia now? влюбленность or lyub-vi — which is not so far from the way we pronounce it in English today. In Old English, it was lufu, related to Old Frisian luve. In Old High German it was luba and in Gothic lubo. In early Scandinavian, it was lof! And we know that love is also related to Latin lubet, which means pleasing (even though some would say it’s not pleasing at all), and lubido, which means desire.

Even if we know where the word comes from, the meaning will always be an individual quest. Since music has quite a lot to say about love, I’ll leave you with the final lyrics of “Origin of Love” from Hedwig and the Angry Inch. You can find the Japanese translation on YouTube if you’re curious.

Last time I saw you
We had just split in two.
You were looking at me.
I was looking at you.
You had a way so familiar,
But I could not recognize,
Cause you had blood on your face;
I had blood in my eyes.
But I could swear by your expression
That the pain down in your soul
Was the same as the one down in mine.
That’s the pain,
Cuts a straight line
Down through the heart;
We called it love.
So we wrapped our arms around each other,
Trying to shove ourselves back together.
We were making love,
Making love.
It was a cold dark evening,
Such a long time ago,
When by the mighty hand of Jove,
It was the sad story
How we became
Lonely two-legged creatures,
It’s the story of
The origin of love.
That’s the origin of love.

–Stephen Trask

This entry was posted on Thursday, April 5th, 2007 at 5:09 pm and is filed under Relationships, Music, Random. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

There are currently 5 responses

  1. Joie Jager-Hyman

    A few days ago, I heard Rebecca Walker being interviewed on NPR about some comments she made in her new book. Apparently, she said something about how a mother feels a different kind of love for her biological children then her adoptive or step children. This caused quite an uproar among angry callers who scolded her for “diminishing” or “dismissing” the love between an adoptive parent and child. Personally, I’m not exactly sure how I feel about Walker’s comment, probably because I am neither a biological nor an adoptive parent at present. However, Walker said something that remained with me. She defended herself by saying how sad it is that we only have one word for love in English. The love that adoptive parents feel may very well require a slightly different (though no less significant) word. The same is true for our love of a sweater or a husband or a friend. These loves are all different and significant. We are at a loss in having only one word to express them all. How do you think we can get around this? If anyone can reinvent language, it’s you Cristina!

    April 5th, 2007 | 5:57 pm
  2. bubbaj

    love it!

    April 6th, 2007 | 8:43 am
  3. Languages are so fascinating. It’s been a while since I thought about “love” as a word. I remember when it had a thrilling power between two young people. I think my whole body was sweating when I first blurted it out to a high school boyfriend.

    April 6th, 2007 | 9:06 am
  4. Oh, thank you for these comments.

    Joie, I read an article in the NYT about Walker’s new book, “Baby Love,” and was also struck by her need to distinguish the love she felt for her child from any other love. But perhaps that’s what’s so amazing about this four-letter word– that we can actually feel selfish about it’s content. Or maybe this points back to the reality that we’ve all reached at some time that words just aren’t enough (a great frustration to writers!)– even if, or perhaps because, we chose the word “love.”

    April 7th, 2007 | 7:50 pm
  5. Erin

    In a discussion on love over a year ago, my boyfriend and I invented a new word variation for our love so that it could be expressed differently than other “love” we feel/have felt before. It is Blurve. I Blurve Thomas. I do not blurve my parents or my sweater. It isn’t necessarily better….it’s just different. And I like that. :)

    April 9th, 2007 | 9:53 am

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