Thursday, 2 January 2014

Love on the cheap

I do object to the way the word "love" is trivialised and misused and cheapened. I object to the way it's thrown about so casually, and used to glamourise more mundane emotions.

To my mind, love is a two-way thing, an active give and take between two people, something growing and developing, something fed by affection, empathy, understanding.

When people say they "love" Lady Gaga, or Ed Miliband, or J K Rowling, surely that's a misuse of the word? There's no two-way relationship, no give and take. They've probably not even met the person they "love". There's no giving, only taking, only consumption.

What they really mean is that they "admire" Lady Gaga, they're impressed by her, they take a close interest in her. That's something entirely different.

Or people say they "love" Italy or New York. Meaning for a week or two they consume Italy and New York. They don't give anything back except money and a few casual compliments to the locals. And I doubt if they love the mafia or the pan-handlers. The word love is a mere romantic flourish.

Love is a very serious emotion, a very serious connection between two people. It's something rich and deep and resonant. It's a communion of souls. To equate it with showbiz loyalty or tourist fads is to mock its true meaning. It's the cut-price imitation, the discount knock-off.

Okay, it shows we're passionate about something. It shows we're emotionally healthy. But passion isn't love. Passion isn't intimacy. Let's not confuse the two.


  1. So that means I can't love my sugary coffee drinks. Bummer.

  2. I love this post!


    Seriously, I think it's okay for words to have more than one meaning. No one confuses loving the beach or good chocolate with relationship love. And I also think it's possible for love to be one-way. My love for my children, for instance, is in no way dependent on them loving me back. I feel fortunate that they do, but I would love them regardless.

  3. You've given me a sharp pull up.

    I do say that I love something on blogs where the bloggers are - if virtual - friends.
    I think it comes from my view of my relationship with the blogger.

    Love is sacred, special...I'll pay more attention in future

  4. I agree with you that some words are flung about with careless abandon. Regardless of their meaning. Devaluing them in consequence.

    However, you defining love as "a two way thing" is limiting. Secret Agent Woman in her comment giving a good example of how you can - and will - love without expecting return in kind. Unconditional as it were.

    I 'love' many people, many things, not least my life - with a passion! Whether it's reciprocated does not matter one bit, Nick. Not one bit. Not least because, by their nature, sunshine or a rainbow enriching our life can't love you BACK other than by being there in the first place.

    You have narrowed the meaning of 'love' tightly. And who is Lady Gaga?


  5. Okay, this is where I start discreetly backtracking, ha ha! I know, a word can have different meanings and different emotional strengths etc. But....

    Susie: Oh, I do the same! We're just so much in the habit of saying we "love" quite ordinary everyday things, I don't think that's going to change in a hurry.

    Agent: Ummm, yes, you've got me there, I guess one-way love can be almost as deep, even if it's not reciprocated. Especially love for your children, as you say.

  6. Helen: The word "love" trips off the tongue so easily, doesn't it? We scatter it around like confetti, even when it means nothing more than a sudden yen for something.

    Ursula: You're right. As Agent said, one-way love can in many cases be just as deep. It might be just a clueless obsession but it might be the real thing.

    Who is Lady Gaga? Ha ha ha....

  7. I agree with you that people cheapen the word with overuse, but if I say I 'like' red wine, you wouldn't really understand how much I like it.

  8. Bijoux: Well, you could say you adore red wine. But that's about it. We really need some new words to denote major enthusiasm as opposed to a close relationship.

  9. I have to say the throwing around of the word 'love' does not bother me. I can feel passionately about many things. And love and hate come trippingly to the tongue.
    I've never forgotten the outpouring of 'love' at Lady Di's death. I remember thinking 'they' don't know her from a hole in the ground, how can they love 'her'. Was it her clothes, her endless narcissism, her affairs? What do 'they' love?
    Perhaps their own fragility and vulnerability.
    Not derailing your post, I hope.

  10. www: Good point about Diana's death. I knew people who were in floods of tears about how much they loved her, but as you say what did they know about her apart from her media image? You might be right about identifying with fragility and vulnerability. Which may be why so many people identify with Nigella Lawson as well.

  11. In its true form, love is a many splendored thing, be it for a soulmate, a child or a parent. I agree that has many forms, but the term has been trivialised so it has almost lost its meaning.

  12. Ah, but Nick, you are only talking about one type of love!

    The Greeks designated several types of love: romantic love, or 'eros', which is passionate and sexual, 'agape' love, which is not romantic, but is selfless and expects nothing back, and 'philos' which is love between friends, platonic love. There is also a fourth type, 'storge' which is a natural love such as a parent feels for their child.

    Seriously, I do agree that so many people don't really mean 'love' when they casually throw the word around. It's modern English usage, I'm afraid, and the 'old-fashioned' word 'adore' would be so much more suitable. So here you are; I adore Italy. I adore Johnny Depp. I adore greyhounds.

    Is that better?

  13. By the way, I 'love' WiseWebWoman's comment. I wonder how many of the people weeping over Diana really knew what she was like. It seemed to me that she was not the perfect fairytale princess at all, but a very damaged young woman.

  14. In a similar vein
    I HATE people that say they are depressed
    I always say
    DEPRESSION is an illness

  15. Grannymar: I think it's more a question of it having too many meanings, rather than losing its meaning. Or maybe that's much the same thing.

    Jay: Well, I'm talking about several different types of love, which get muddled together in an unhelpful way. I think the Greek categories are a bit too compartmentalised; in practice they mingle together. Isn't agape love much the same as storge, for example?

  16. Jay: I think people identified with both aspects of Diana - the desire to be a fairytale princess but also the psychological flaws that made that impossible.

    John: I do agree. A lot of people still don't see the difference between being fed up for an hour or two and being chronically, paralytically depressed.

  17. It's true that the Greek definitions are very compartmentalised and really not a lot of use when considering our emotions. I have to admit that the way people say they love or hate something (or someone) doesn't wind me up half as much as the way they misuse grammar, because that really does reduce the effectiveness of our language and often causes confusion. I do know that it's mostly not their fault though, so I don't ridicule individuals for it.

    "Jay: I think people identified with both aspects of Diana - the desire to be a fairytale princess but also the psychological flaws that made that impossible."

    Right again. I suppose we need to see that in others, because perfection is impossible, isn't it? But I've spoken to many people who do put her up on a pedestal as the perfect princess. I don't say too much, though the stories I have read and what I observed at the time do rather contradict that.

  18. Jay: I find misuse of grammar irritating but it doesn't bother me that much. It usually makes sense, even if it's incorrect.

    Diana obviously had a lot of psychological problems including eating disorders, depression, feeling abandoned, feeling unloved, possible post-natal depression. To see her as someone perfect and exemplary flies in the face of the facts.

  19. Very true, Nick. I feel the same about friends. I have a lot of acquaintances but very very few friends.

  20. Liz: Me too. I find it very hard to form really close friendships. At some point, either the other person puts the defences up or I do.

  21. You have touched on a favourite whipping horse of mine too.

  22. Ramana: Ha, I see I took an entirely different attitude there and concluded that it's quite okay for the word love to cover a wide range of emotions. Clearly I'm a mass of contradictions....