The Language of Affection, P.S. Valentine’s Day is utter Bullshit don’t support the facist Greeting Card machine!
This subject has been a pet peeve of mine for ages. If you look at Deconstructionist philosophy at all, it touches upon the concept that language shapes our reality, by extention, if you look at the language we use when speaking of love it kinda’ explains one of the reasons that it makes most of us miserable.
First let’s cover the infantile terms, “girlfriend”, “boyfriend”. Yeech… While we’re at it let’s pass notes “Do you like me? check yes or no”. We hear both these terms used seriously often enough to take them well… seriously; but come on, listen to the words. The term offers neither permanance or maturity. To strip it to the bone, the term “boy/girlfriend” denotes non financially committed posession of slightly flexible exclusive mating rights. How romantic.
Now let’s use the word “fiancee”. I just fucking hate the sound of it. The word sounds like it should be part of an old lady’s tea set, in which case I would fully approve of it. Onomonopaeic aversions aside, it again denotes posession (or impending posession); specifically in the final stages of negotiations (usually financial) before the completion of marriage as a contract; which is the most historically accurate use of the word.
The terms “husband” and “wife” I have fewer problems with than most, however in my opinion they are almost demeaning in the back of my head in that they denote a “role” more than a person. But again, they are at least useful, and immutable in comparison to the nebulous terms mentioned above.
I will admit a certain weakness for the term “signifigant other”, which in my mind is a slightly goofy term; but I like the almost Victorian sound of it and it’s oddly “old fashioned” tone in the context of 21st century speech patterns.
From a descriptive point of view I like the concept of “life partner” that’s how I feel about my signifigant other (a wonderful & understanding woman for the record), however, it has the connotation of a homosexual relationship (since they are for the most part denied the terms husband & wife legally which is something I hope to see be an outdated practice in the near future) and is frankly, not a very romantic sounding term. What I do like about the term “life partner”, is that it presents both members as equals and is descriptive. I also like the gender ambiguity when I feel like making someone I know is homophobic squirm while casusally speaking about my home life.
Let’s also look at how we describe the feelings of love; “madly in love”, “crazy about you”, “can’t live without you”, “head over heels” etc. You never hear someone say “I’m so sensibly in love with her” or “I have perfectly rational feelings about that person. Don’t even get me started on love songs.
But really if you think about it, we have fairly limited linguistic devices to use in relation to one of our most hard wired of biological imperitives, so it really shouldn’t be a surprise that it gives us so much trouble. Or in other words, “if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail”.
And that’s before we even touch gender differences. Eeep…
Good luck and happy valentines day.