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Fifty Words for Love

Apparently, there are really fifty Eskimo words for snow, for example “matsaaruti” for wet snow that can be used to ice a sleigh’s runners, and “pukak,” for the crystalline powder snow that looks like salt.


If "languages evolve to suit the ideas and needs that are most crucial to the lives of their speakers," as David Robson points out in his article (link above,) then why do we have such improverished vocabulary for love? Is this the legacy of modernism's reductionary tendency for the grand narrative? Or is it a result of postmodern skepticism towards the grand narrative? 

The reason for this inquiry is related to the experience of a friend who was recently asked what she thought of love; to her surprise, her classic notion of agape, eros and philia was swept aside as narrow and inadequate.  Should she have known about storge (family love) and xenia (hospitality)? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love  Should she have mentioned intimacy and goodwill as synonyms for love and expounded on the topics of attachment theory, mirror neurons, oxytocin, and empathy? Should she have mentioned the courtly love of the Middle Ages? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Courtly_love

As she seemed truly upset by the idea of her newfound inadequacy to satisfy someone who asked a simple question, I thought to myself that she was stumped by a deceptively simple question.

Perhaps she could have looked for a loophole and said that it is an ineffable quasi-mystical experience that engages one's whole being in ways that cannot be described by words. Then, she could have quoted applicable passages from The Little Prince.

Or, perhaps, we need to move towards a post-postmodern definition for love.

If I may offer a tentative definition, here's a broad one:

Love is a positive regard for someone (fellow human or an animal) or something (concrete or abstract) that has a profound multi-dimensional (physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual) and heartfelt effect which allows one to voluntarily make space for them within one's sphere of existence.  (True love would be sincere, lasting, and based on respect.)

Incidentally, I've always liked M. Scott Peck's definition of love for another person: "The will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth" (Peck, 1978/1992,p85). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M._Scott_Peck

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I really enjoyed this post,

I really enjoyed this post, Kim.  "Love" is such an over-used word.  You love your husband/wife.  You love chocolate.  You love your job.  You love your dog.  You love a particular film. No wonder the word has lost its power.

Perhaps Mary Wilkinson will pick up on this and help me out.  Someone once told me that in Irish-Gaelic there is no "I love you" but "I feel you are an extension of me."  Do you know if that's true?

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A Roundabout Expression

No, I have not heard of such a roundabout expression of love in any vernacular, maybe except for "the apple of thine eye."  Perhaps there's one in Hawaiian? :-) Just a hunch but Hawaiian greeting aloha essentially means "I love you." http://www.to-hawaii.com/aloha.php  http://www.huna.org/html/deeper.html

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Kim, In contrast to your


In contrast to your carefully prescribed concept of love,  the word "love" in contemporary culture is so frequently used superficially, cavalierly, inappropriately, ceremonially and seductively for self-serving purposes that it has come to "mean" almost anything and hence means nothing.  

Moreover, at the risk of reinforcing stereotypes, I think the way many women "experience" love in  sexual relationships may approximate elements of your definition more typically than for many males who, in my random observations, are more likely or inclined, at least INITIALLY, to confuse lust and possessiveness with love, and who only experience true love (in the sense of "to value or cherish deeply") once they know someone more fully over time.   And any love relationship needs nurturing and reciprocity for it to endure and remain vital or alive.


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Gender Differences

Thank you for reading and commenting. Obviously, there are some gender differences reinforced by biological factors such as the long gestation period for human babies and social factors such as the even longer commitment to parenting.

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double post

double post