In the weeks surrounding Valentine's Day each year, much is written on the subject of love. That wonderful emotion which poets, artists and songwriters have been obsessed with for centuries. As Ewan McGregor helpfully summarised in Moulin Rouge's Elephant Love Medley, "Love is a many splendored thing! Love lifts us up where we belong! All you need is love!"
Sadly, the only type of love that these folk seem to think is worth celebrating, is romantic love. More specifically, the type of love you feel at the start of a relationship when you are "head over heels" and pretty much blinded by this strong emotion. Nothing else matters... apart from perhaps writing a song about just how in love you are.
But we all know that there is much more to love than that. We love our families, our children, and our friends. We continue to love our partners, even once the drug-like effect of new passion has worn off. Fathers of babies, mothers of teenagers, BFFs, and couples who have been married for fifty years all love each other dearly, yet "I love you" only conjures up images of passionate 20-somethings.
Whether we're talking about spreading peace and love to the world or loving how our mums are always there for us, there's sadly just one word for it in English. We 'love' our partner, our parents, our kids, our friends, our mobile phones, that amazing pair of shoes, the movie we saw last week and our morning coffee, but we know that the word means something slightly different in each case.
What we really need are more words, so that no one ever need get huffy again when their partner declares undying love for chilli cheese fries, but still won't use the L-word on them. As Simon Jenkins mentioned in the Guardian this week those clever ancient Greeks had more than one word for love: eros, agape, philia and storge. Polly Oliver explains this in more detail on her blog, An Open Book:
"Eros refers to romantic love and desire. Agape (pronounced a-gah-pay) usually refers to the deep, true, unconditional love felt by a parent for a child, or the love in a long-established marriage. Philia is the most general kind of love; it’s often translated as friendship. Storge is much less commonly used in classical writings than the others. It’s the kind of affection that comes through familiarity [...] and is generally only used to describe family love."
With many words for love, we could be more specific about the type of love we mean whilst still keeping it brief. Rather than spending 30 minutes explaining to a close friend exactly what you mean when you say you love her, one specific word could get your message across and simultaneously avoid any confusion.
Just think... no one need ever confuse meltybrainlove, loinfirelove, supercontentedlove, epicfriendlove or awesomebabylove again! Love songs could be about more things without getting complicated. After all, I'm pretty sure Love Me Tender was actually Elvis' tribute to a juicy steak, but people somehow missed the point.
Lori Smith loves plenty of things and people, but some with more passion than others. BitchBuzz, blogging and Twitter rate quite highly, but she's not ready to drop the L-bomb just yet.
Image © Lori Smith