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Words - What's love got to do with it.

I blame the Bloody English.

The other day I told someone I loved them. Apparently this was a really bad idea :-).

The someone in question (someone I do in fact love dearly) got a bit worried. They went to another someone (someone I also love dearly), and asked if either of the someone-s should be concerned. After all. The whole love thing. Bad love thing. BAD love thing.

Bloody English. That’s who I blame. See, they got lazy.

If we forget about the Bloody English for a while (and having been one once, do please let me :-P), I’d like, if I may, to wander past the Greeks. No. Not those Greeks. Besides, they’re not really skirts. And they really are soldiers, so don’t go try breaking into any government buildings. No, not the ones haunting college campuses either. The Ancient Greeks.

See, the old Greeks were smart. They knew stuff. About lots of stuff. And, in the current case, about love.

If you’d hung out with people like Plato, Aristotle maybe, or Socrates, you’d be way ahead of me by now. Well, and dead of course. But staying with the ‘way ahead’ thing, Mr. P, Mr. A and Mr. S would have probably got distant looks on their faces, grabbed a bunch of nearby students so they could claim whatever they said next back on taxes, and waxed eloquent. And they might have used words like these:

Agápe means "love" (brotherly love) in modern day Greek, such as in the term s'agapo, which means "I love you". In Ancient Greek, it often refers to a general affection or deeper sense of "true love" rather than the attraction suggested by "eros". Agape is used in the biblical passage known as the "love chapter", 1 Corinthians 13, and is described there and throughout the New Testament as sacrificial love. Agape is also used in ancient texts to denote feelings for a good meal, one's children, and the feelings for a spouse. It can be described as the feeling of being content or holding one in high regard.

Éros is passionate love, with sensual desire and longing. The Modern Greek word "erotas" means "intimate love;" however, eros does not have to be sexual in nature. Eros can be interpreted as a love for someone whom you love more than the philia, love of friendship. It can also apply to dating relationships as well as marriage. Plato does not talk of physical attraction as a necessary part of love, hence the use of the word platonic to mean, "without physical attraction."

Philia means friendship in modern Greek. It is a dispassionate virtuous love, a concept developed by Aristotle. It includes loyalty to friends, family, and community, and requires virtue, equality and familiarity. In ancient texts, philos denoted a general type of love, used for love between family, between friends, a desire or enjoyment of an activity, as well as between lovers.

Storge means "affection" in ancient and modern Greek. It is natural affection, like that felt by parents for offspring. Rarely used in ancient works, and then almost exclusively as a descriptor of relationships within the family. It is also known to express mere acceptance or putting up with situations, as in "loving" the tyrant.

See, those Greeks knew a thing (or in this case, more like four things) about love. But while one could wander by one's sister and whisper delicately “Hey, Jane. I really Storge you, you know”, I suspect the results wouldn’t be pretty.

Bloody English :-).

Let’s leave the Greeks for a while and head a bit further north. See all that white stuff? Well, people live there. Yes, you can say Eskimo if you choose. No, they probably won’t like it. You could say Inuit, but the Inupiaq and the Yupi might take offence. But all of them live in places where ‘warm’ means you only need three layers of sealskin on.

It’s been said the people who live in places covered in white stuff have a hundred, or a thousand, or a million words for snow. They don’t. They have a lot of different words for - well, for things they consider different. As far as they’re concerned ‘non-fluid cold stuff good for packing into the gaps of ice in a temporary shelter while hunting’ is absolutely nothing like, in their eyes, ‘non-fluid cold stuff that will probably hurl you into a pit fifty feet deep if you step on it’. So when some ignorant southerner (to the Inuit and the Inupiaq and the Yupi nearly everybody is a southerner) turns up and calls it all snow, they tap their heads and sigh.

See, it turns out snow is a lot like love :-).

So what does this have to do with writing? Maybe nothing. Or maybe a lot. Because writing isn’t about words. It’s about real stuff. And words aren’t real. But (and with apologies to the Brothers Gibb) even if they’re only words, words are all we have. And it might be useful for me to remember while I’m writing them and you’re reading them (or writing them too) that words can get you into trouble.

To remember that love is a lot like snow.

Oh. And Lady Fox? I really do Philia you. Maybe with some Storging on the side. Forgive me? :-) :-).


Lady_Mary's picture

I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who gets in trouble with my words because the English doesn't have a more specific term for what I mean. Love your examples (I remember learning about Agape in church!). Hopefully Lady Fox is understanding!

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