Lindsay Lewis

English/ ESL consultant: Word worker, writer, teacher, mentor and poet. Author of This Won’t Hurt a Bit! on writing clear content.

Language and love: What’s in a word?

Posted by on Jun 4, 2015


It’s spring, and our thoughts often turn to love. I’m fascinated by the way in which each culture expresses love. Personally, French is my favourite language. I think “je t’aime” is an elegant and simple way to say “I love you.” However, many cultures are horrified by the overuse of the word love in North America. We are just as likely to say “I love your shoes!” as “I love you.” Love is as worn out as old pair of runners here, and many Japanese students have been baffled by this loose use of the word love, an expression which is quite sacred and rarely uttered in Japan.

The Greek language divides love into various types for friendship and romance, and “S’agapo” is the way to say “I love you.” in Greek. They also love synechdochy- using body parts to represent the whole such as calling the beloved one “my eyes” (matia mou) and “my heart”(cardia mou) . Similarly, Spanish speakers often say “mi alma” or “mi amour” to say my heart, my love.

Spanish has two principle expressions, “Te quero” and Te amo”to express “I love you.”Te amo translates more as soul love, related to alma, the heart and soul, whereas te quero is for newly acquainted couples- I desire you (te deseo) or I want you. Moi, je prefer Francais…. France, je t’adore!!!

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