"" THE ROAD NOT TAKEN: Love and limerence


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Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Love and limerence

ROMANCE, the love you have for your family, the joy there is in meeting old friends, that feeling of peace you feel while praying, that joy that comes from watching dawn come up when you’re out rambling in a park ... can you imagine life without love?
We take a look at some expressions where love plays a central role.


Behaving or speaking in an extravagantly sentimental way.

Slang terms for this include mushy and syrupy. Although it first appeared in print in 1819, the imagery of the second half of this term is rooted in a very old tradition that links doves to romance. English texts remarking on the similarities between the way loving couples speak to each other and the sound of cooing doves existed as far back as the 13th century. While all doves are included in the image, the turtledove’s throaty sound and colourful feathers are particularly lauded.

Example: Lam and Ean were holding hands, whispering to each other, and kissing. Lucy was charmed but I can’t stand all that lovey-dovey stuff.

Puppy love

A young person’s first romantic love; usually a short severe infatuation that fades quickly. In the 15th and 16th centuries, puppy was a nickname for a lapdog, and a rude term meaning a rude young man.

The term puppy love first appeared in print in 1834. While it may be rooted in that adoring look puppies specialise in, it’s more likely to have become popular because the boys at Eton, a very expensive and famous school in England, called their study rooms puppy rooms.

Example: Parents in China say their children’s schoolwork is suffering because practically every teenager is suffering from puppy love.


That heady feeling or rush of love you feel when you first fall in love.

This relatively new noun coined by Dorothy Tennov in 1977 is used by psychologists and family therapists but hasn’t really come into everyday use – yet!

The UK newspaper Observer reported Tennov as saying, “I first used the term ‘amorance’, then changed it back to ‘limerence’ ... It has no roots whatsoever. It looks nice. It works well in French. Take it from me, it has no etymology whatsoever.”

Example: I say falling in love is romantic but scientists say limerence is caused by a rush of brain chemicals.

To fall head over heels (in love)

To fall in love in an unrestrained, impulsive way.

This phrase has been around since the 13th century although in many older texts, it is sometimes turned around, appearing as heels over head.

While the origin is obscure, many speculate that the image refers to a cartwheel or somersault because falling in love gives you a similar head rush. People who fall head over heels don’t just feel good, though, they often behave out of character as well.

Example: Tom fell head over heels for Charlotte but she can’t stand the sight of him.

Tough love

Acting in a way that seems harsh or unsympathetic at the time with the hope that the person will benefit from this in the future.

First appearing in 1957, this phrase was used by psychologists, social workers and others interested in motivation. It is generally popular today, especially with US teachers who want to underline the dangers of being overindulgent towards teenagers who break the rules.

Example: Tim has become so wild that his parents have decided on a tough love strategy. If he doesn’t pass his exams, they’re sending him to military school.

Love me, love my dog

This saying means love my faults as well as my good points.

First written in Latin by St Bernard of Clairvaux in the 12th century, the popular image became an English proverb by 1546 and was also translated into Spanish.

In case you’re curious, the big rescue dog, the Saint Bernard isn’t named after this saint but after St Bernard of Menthon who was setting up hospitals a century earlier.

Example: Should you love me? I’m kind but also quick-tempered. All I can say is love me, love my dog.

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