August 22, 2003

The Language of Love

Posted by shonk at 06:57 PM in Language | TrackBack

I'm convinced we need to re-think this whole notion of French being the "Language of Love". Not necessarily because I hate the French (I don't really hate the French; I just don't like them too much), but because it's too cliched. And because 95% of the time I hear people speaking French, it sounds lecherous, not romantic. Plus, French already got the term lingua franca, so why should it get to be the Language of Love, too?

I've always thought Spanish and Italian sound much sexier than French. Part of that might be, I'll admit, that I find Spaniards and Italians more attractive, usually, than the French, but also because they don't feature that awful flat "r" that French has. Anyway, both Spanish and Italian sound really good.

Apparently some people are smitten by Tokien's made up language, Elvish, as the Language of Love. Well, at least when spoken by Liv Tyler. But I would have to agree - Welsh and Celtic, on which Elvish is largely based, can sound really good.

Others, apparently, are enamored with Quechua, which, despite its odd (to English-speakers) syntax, is not without its charms.

But, then again, I suppose any language can sound good if the right person is speaking it. I've even heard German can sound romantic (though I'm still suspicious of that claim). Which, I suppose, supports the claim that love is non-verbal. Though some would argue that "Grammar dictates the cognitive construction of mental images", that even our non-verbal communication is shaped by language (the same site, incidentally, makes the work I did last summer seem far more romantic and important than it probably really was; see this).

If you don't buy that, though, check out the list of "I love you" in 40 languages - if telling your girl/boy/hermaphrodite/sheep that you love him/her/it in Gujarati doesn't make his/her/its panties/shorts/fur wet, I don't know what will. Incidentally, I'm proud to say that I know "I love you" in at least one language not on that list. I chalk it up to good teaching.

Of course, the reason lists like the above are popular is because for some reason people think that the opposite sex creams itself over esoterica. I'm not convinced; I think it's "erotica" that has that effect, not "esoterica". In any case, there's a long literary history to love, which is somewhat more stimulating than the basic mechanics of sex. Give me "Liebestod" over gonorrhea any day. Which isn't to say I didn't do better on the second quiz in the above link than on the first. Which can mean only one thing: back to the books!