I’ve got myself into trouble again. I wrote a poem the other day about bank queues. It was silly. My wife saw it, and instead of smiling because it was silly, she decided that I was not nearly romantic enough, and would be writing her a love poem. I can’t do that. You see, I do not love my wife.
They say that the Eskimos have over a hundred different words for snow. I love the idea, and was devastated the other day to learn that they don’t. They have one.
If you really want a rich and varied language, you have to turn to English. This has something to do with the fact that they call their home the green and pleasant land. Apparently everyone who ever saw it thought “this is pleasant! And green!” and proceeded to invade the crap out of it.
Over the course of history, they have been found pleasant (and green), and been invaded (with varying degrees of success) by; the Britons, the Romans, the Angles, the Picts, the Saxons, the Danes, the Normans, and others.
All of these invaders settled down and carelessly scattered words all over the place, leaving a language littered with a hundred different ways to say pretty much anything you could think of. Just look at rain.
Most languages have taken the time and trouble to find a word for water that falls from the sky. The English have found the need to find a whole dictionary. It rains. It pours. It drizzles. It spits. It can really be coming down. It can be all cats and dogs. It can be coming in sideways. There is precipitation. There are showers, downpours, deluges, storms, and cloudbursts. And more.
Being English though, and struggling with that whole stiff upper lip thing, they have brought a world of trouble onto me. You see, they only have one word for love.
Fat people in Bermuda shorts, white socks, and sandals go to New York on holiday, and love it so much they buy “I love New York t-shirts”. How can that be the same word you use for the person you have chosen to share your life with?
How can you spend a huge chunk of your life with someone, with its ups, downs, joys and sorrows, and still want to be there the next day, the next month, the next year, and have to share the word for it with a bunch of horny teenagers writing “I love Jason” on their pencil cases, only to try and scratch it off when Jason gets off with Suzy at a high-school dance?
How can you wake up next to the same person every day for fifteen years, and look over to see them wild-eyed, and groggy, and crazy-haired with sleep, and think that you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, ever, and have to share the word for it with the guy who “really loves this next song”, and stares at you throughout to make sure you are loving it too?
How can you spend whole nights on your knees with someone, scooping up toddler vomit and liquid poo, washing sheets at three in the morning, and meet each-other’s eyes and smile, because you know that somehow, this is what you are meant to be doing, and you’re both going to laugh about it later, and have to share the word with someone who really loves what you’ve done with your front garden.
How can you potter around in the evenings for a week or so, not fighting or ignoring each other, but busy with your own things; books, TV shows, blogs, computer games, only to walk past each other in a passage and be electrified by a simple touch, a hand on the stomach or an arm brushing an arm, and feel your heart quicken like you were eighteen again, and share the word for it with someone who loves pie.
How can you spend every free moment for more than a decade with someone, having the same conversations over and over again, “how was your day?”, “what happened at work?”, “what should we do this evening?”, and still feel the need to call at lunchtime, just to see how things are going, and have to share the word for it with some testosterone raddled college boy who really loves his girlfriend until he drinks too much at a party and hooks up with her best friend.
How can you stop, unseen, behind someone, as they wash the dishes or bend to pick up a scattered toy, and see the graceful curve of their neck, or the fall of their hair over their face, and be reminded, even after all these years, that you have not seen all of them yet, and share the word for it with someone who loves lolcat pictures.
If a word can serve some acned reprobate, furtively carving four letters and a heart on a tree in a public park, that word simply cannot cover raising puppies together and burying dogs together, it won’t do for buying houses together and burning them down together, it’s not up to making little people, losing loved ones, drifting apart, rushing back, finding grey hairs, losing jobs, falling down, standing up.
There are people out there who really love Morris dancing. They can keep the word. When you have a day where your son’s teacher calls you in for a “little chat”, you have to fire someone at work, the roof springs a leak, the dog eats your children’s’ supper and your car breaks down, and you can still look across at someone and think “I’m glad that it’s you. It’s always been you”, it’s time we found another one.
I really love bacon. I might even write a poem about it. My wife, though, is just going to have to wait until the English get invaded again, and someone brings us some bigger words.