I spent about 45 minutes late last night discussing all the ways to say "I love you" in different languages - English vs. Spanish and Portuguese. The people I've met down here find it very odd that we only have one phrase - they say we use "love" for everything. I love my new boots. I love sushi. I love my family. I love my (nonexistent) husband, etc. In Spanish, "te amo" is fuerte - they don't just throw it around. I didn't understand this until coming here - I thought "te quiero" (which literally translates to "I want you") was interchangeable with "te amo," but it's not - they use it to maintain the purity of the much-deeper "te amo." Same in Portuguese, Alex says.
And you never use "love" with objects here. If I love my new boots I say "me encantan." (Literally, they enchant me.) Or "me gustan mucho" (they please me a lot). I don't amo anything down here.
We touched on the weird transition between friend and significant other, too - when you're just friends with someone, and they do something awesome - bring you ice cream as a surprise, or give you an amazing backrub - you can say, "Oh my gosh, I love you!" and it doesn't mean anything serious. But if you start dating that person, you have to pull up short and stop saying it so casually. "Oh my gosh, I lo- I mean, thanks!" Gotta love (see?) the awkward moments.
We talked about the word "enamorarse" as well. One of the guys saw the difference between love and being enamored as the exclusivity - he may be enamored of his new car, but the car has no such feelings for him. (What a tease.) I remember our professor in Spain saying that the structure of the phrase in Spanish must reflect a different mindset - it's "enamorado de alguien," so enamored of someone, versus being enamored with someone, as we say in English. "In Spanish, it doesn't matter what the other person feels, we're just in love with them anyway." he joked.
Even being "in love" isn't just used for relationships. I'm in love with this city. I'm in love with this life. Or we use it to qualify our feelings on a subject. "What do you think of this lede?" "I'm not in love with it..." and so on.
But this I-love-you business - have we evaporated the strength of the word through overuse? I don't think so...I may say I love you to lots of different things and people, but that doesn't mean I don't feel it. There are distinct levels of love; it all depends on context. But I mean every one of them.
Maybe it's people's definitions of love that make the difference. In its best form, I think, and the way it should be said to people you truly love - your family, your significant other, your best friends - it means that you care about the other person and their happiness more than your own; that you love them more than you love yourself.
I grew up - and am still growing - in a family that says I love you all the time. I didn't know there was any other way for a family to be, until learning late in high school that several of my friends just didn't say it to or hear it from their parents. Not for lack of love, I'm sure, but they just don't say it. It made me so sad. What if something happened and they lost the chance to say it one last time? What would they feel then?
Really, though, coming back to the language of it - English is rather poor in ways to express love. Yes, you can say "I adore you," but that sounds sappy, and very one-sided. "I want you" is most often purely sexual. "I need you" doesn't necessarily have anything to do with love at all.
One of my favorite sermons at church in Seattle a couple years ago talked about the passage at the end of John, where Jesus "reinstates" Peter. He asks Peter 3 times, "Do you love me?" and three times, Peter responds, "Lord, you know I love you." But this is a scene that loses its potency in translation. The type of love Jesus uses is "agape" in Greek - God-love, unconditional love. "Peter, do you agape me?" Peter, however, responds, "Lord, you know I phileo you." Philia is the word for brother-love, platonic affection - nowhere near as strong as agape. Peter can't do the agape love. So the third time Jesus asks, he comes down to Peter's level. "Peter, do you phileo me?" I love that. (there it is again.)
Even the way I end my posts on here could be seen as throwing that word around. I've tried to consistently say "love always, molly." In my mind it's both a sign-off and a command, which double-meaning is fortunately unique to English.
I'm feeling ponder-ful today. Further posts may follow before I figure out what I'm doing tonight.
3 weeks ago