Lost for Words: Love

Now, normally, I’m the unsentimental variety who doesn’t do anything for the fast-approaching “holiday” that is St. Valentine’s feast-day. I don’t think a smidgeon of romance on one day because the commercially-minded tell us to is worth forgetting about it the rest of the year.

However, with all that in mind, while I was meandering through the OED, I  happened across the verb ‘to love’, and thence to the noun.

I once had a discussion with a more linguistically minded friend, and we came to the conclusion that the verb ‘to love’ should, grammatically speaking, be: First Person Plural Present Tense and a couple of other things I can’t now remember, and I can’t find the scrap of paper I wrote it down on. I forget how verbs are analysed grammatically. That was never my forte.

What I like about the word ‘love’ is that it has cognates in most Indo-European languages. The same base in languages from the Germanic to Latin to Sanskrit, with (almost) the same meaning in each – of feeling affection or being pleasing or being agreeable.

The Sanskrit root lubh- apparently originally meant something along the lines of ‘to be confused’. Which, to be fair, probably isn’t too far wrong, given all the songs and whatnot about love being confusing, and fools in love and so on. Sanskrit later gave it the meaning everyone else had, of feeling desire or affection. I think it should have stuck to its guns one the whole confused thing, although it did chuck greed into the later definition. Which, I suppose, is fitting for the modern Valentine’s Day, at least as far as the retailers go…



The Pursuit of Love

It occurs to me that of all the things I’ve talked about, I seem to be missing the literary influences.

Lots is written about love; what it is, and what it isn’t. Romantic novels and love-stories are dismissed as ‘chick-lit’, not serious literature. Which I think is something of a shame. Because while quite a lot probably are light-hearted bits of fluff, there’s a lot more that isn’t. And they get missed because they’re ‘just’ romances. And yet, that’s what most of us are looking for: someone to love, and who loves us.

The first love-story I heard, I heard many, many times. It was an audio-book of Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love. I didn’t read it until I was in my teens, but by then, I knew it pretty much off by heart, and the voices of the characters were those the reader had given them.

The Pursuit of Love isn’t really a traditional sort of romantic novel, but it is, most definitely, a story about love. As the title suggests. But it has a bitter-sweet ending, unlike most romances. Even Mitford’s Love in a Cold Climate and the story of Fanny, the narrator of both, manage happy-ish endings.

It is, quite possibly, my favourite book of all time. It speaks to me of my childhood. Of many happy hours curled up by a heater, listening as Linda Radlett’s life and great love unfold. Of the dreams of glamour, of an overwhelming, all-consuming love-affair, of finding happiness.

Sometimes we dream so much about chasing the elusive thunder-bolt variety of love that we miss the enduring variety of love. Chasing the exciting, we become like the Bolter, flitting from one to another to satisfy the belief that love must always be electric. But even an eco-friendly light-bulb reaches a steady level of output after enough time.

Love has many forms. And from all I’ve heard, love in relationships requires patience, good humour, and hard work. Sometimes it’s not easy, but love is always worth it.