In So Many Words

Info-Comics by Larry Paros


Holding On To Your Mate

Have you taken leave of your senses? "You're in love," you say. What's love got to do with it? Let's dig a little deeper and try to find out.

Love's related to the Old English leof, "dear" or "splendid," which also happens to be the source of both our leaves and our beliefs. It's not, however, a "love ´em and leave ´em" phenomenon. This leave refers not to "departure" but to "permission" as in "by your leave" and "absent without leave."

Love, you see, is a "by invitation only" proposition, consent first having to be granted by both parties. No one said it would be easy. As with our beliefs, that permission is an act of faith. Sometimes you even have to say goodbye. As Kahlil Gibran noted, "If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, they were always yours. If they don't, they never were." It's the essence of many a country-western song, and is better known as "unrequited love."

Cynics, however, emphasize getting a return for your investment, putting love in the context of a larger game — tennis anyone? This unfortunately reduces love to nothing at all, as in the score 15-love.

They blame it on the French l'oeuf, "the egg," from its similarity in shape to a zero — the same way we use a goose-egg to signify scorelessness, it having been later corrupted by English speaking players into love. It's an intriguing — dare we say — "lovely" notion, but one on which someone laid an egg, since the French themselves traditionally favor "zero."

Of one thing we can be sure — that when it comes to romance, few know the score. Whatever it is, it isn't love.