In So Many Words

Info-Comics by Larry Paros

A More Affectionate You

The language of relationships is a minefield of emotions. Of all the states men and women might enter into, affection appears the safest. It is also the one into which most long lasting marriages eventually settle.

It hasn't always been that way. Affection once denoted a burning, passionate love. It described feeling as opposed to reason, stressing passion, even lust. Its symbol was a flaming heart.

Over the years, however, a damper has been put on the word, and the flame no longer burns as intensely. The word speaks less of passion and more of tempered and reasonable caring. Many even use it to convey insipidity, describing a relationship of convenience and habit that has lost its élan.

How has this happened, and what can we do to do about it? The answer perhaps lies within the evolution of the word. It derives from the Latin affectare "to aim at," "aspire to," or "" from ad to + facere, "to do," "to put to," hence refl. (se facere ad) "to put or apply oneself to," or to "aim at." This all should have made it a good starting point for a relationship.

A sister word, affectation, however, got in the way. Affectation began life similarly as a "striving after," "aiming at;" "a desire to obtain," and an "earnest pursuit." But over time, it mutated into "an artificial or non-natural assumption of behavior;" an "artificiality of manner"; and "the putting on of airs." As a result, people started becoming affected and engaging in affectations.

That usage could have possibly affected "affectionate," taking all the energy from it and rendering it superficial. No affectionate relationship, after all, can succeed if it is based primarily on affect.

Perhaps it's time we returned to the highly charged nature of the original affection. Passion and intentionality inform our most important actions. It should do the same for the fondness, goodwill and caring we show others through our affection for them.

When all is said and done, affection between two people, remains the very best one can hope for in a relationship.