Love is just so…boring.

It’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow, and I’ve had it with “love.”

I love you. You love me. We love this place. “I love it when a plan comes together.

Love might be a wonderful concept, a condition most of us hope for, but let’s face it: the word “love” itself is boring. In many cases it’s diluted of genuine meaning. It’s an abstract word that some people use nearly as frequently as “like” (a verbal tic, as in, “that’s, like, so unfair.”). It acts much like a weasel word, without even needing modifiers.

Love has got to be one of the most irresponsibly overused words in the language, especially around this time every year. It gets tiresome and trite. Can’t we do any better?

Here are a few suggestions (and note that my lists are not meant to be comprehensive). As you finalize your Valentine’s Day plans (assuming they involve a significant other), maybe you’ll have the opportunity to use a few of them.

= = =

As a verb, as in “I love you truly, madly, deeply” (the act of loving, but including other meanings):

feel for, cherish, adore, fancy, relish, take pleasure in, approve, admire, desire, fondle, caress, sweeten, be stuck on, embrace, engage with, feddle, to be devoted to, to be addicted to, to be partial to, like

Of these I think feddle (an obscure word meaning roughly to pamper or to cherish) stands out as the most unusual – go there if your intent is to confuse or alienate your date. Cherish, adore, and like are probably the most appropriate in a romantic context…and the lack of others reveals an unfortunate bald spot in English.

As a noun, as in the feeling of love, “My love for you knows no bounds,”

affection, desire, charity, dilection, kindness, fairness, benevolence, fondness, sympathy, pleasure, affinity, concern, tenderness, tendresse, passion, compassion, concord, accord, regard, consideration, agape, romance

Affection, desire, fondness, perhaps passion are probably most appropriate here. Dilection is perhaps the most interesting one that got my attention, but it’s obsolete and is more appropriate for a spiritual love, closer to agape than intimate warmth. Tendresse, an obscure loan word from French, also has possibilities (but like feddle might lead to undesired confusion). One would also need to be cautious with charity, as your intended might feel patronized.

As a noun, as in, “You are my one, true love” (the lover, or sweetheart, definition):

paramour, sweet, druery, doceamor, douse, prim, sweetheart, frister, liebling, liebchen, squeeze, beloved

Of course, there are probably a hundred other slang terms for a lover, girlfriend, boyfriend, or significant other, complimentary or otherwise. Maybe a thousand. Choose your own level of formality.

I of course caution you about using any of the alternative words above, unless you’ve looked them up yourself and understand the subtleties of meaning. Get the context and the nuance right, or they could be more trouble than they’re worth. Any problems caused with your boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse are your fault, not mine.


About thebettereditor

Chris holds a BA degree in history from the University of Virginia and a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Degree in writing from the University of Southern Maine (Stonecoast). He has worked extensively with professional and semi-professional writers and enthusiastic amateurs for about 20 years. He has several years experience in scientific publishing, but has also worked in information technology, insurance, health care, and education (he taught writing at the university level for a number of years). Since 2011, he's also specialized in helping small business meet their writing and editing needs on a budget.
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