What we talk about when we talk about love

by mollykl

In ancient and modern Greek there are four words for love, with varying meanings. It really beats the hell out of the tossed off, “Love you!” or the soulful but is he telling the truth “I…love you” or the patient “you got glitter glue all over the couch but I love you.”

ἀγάπη is agape, or unconditional love. It’s not the word you spout when trying to get laid, rather it means a sense of contentment and love in general that can apply to your spouse, your kids, God, your dog or your life in general.

ἔρως is sexual love, yeah, now this is the word to use when trying to get laid, because one of the ideas around eros is the concept of understanding that finding the beauty and worth within a person leads to an understanding of the world, and of beauty and worth in all.  You read that correctly: have sex, find truth.

φιλία is philia, or affection. You might feel this for friends, co-workers or neighbors for whom you feel a sense of loyalty.

στοργή is also affection, but is reserved for familial relationships.

Even within each meaning there’s room for misunderstanding. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!!! As if there isn’t room for misunderstanding in general any time you use the word love.  The Greek is nice, but a little too clinical (probably the only time in recorded history the Greeks have been called “too clinical”) , and not humorous enough.

I much prefer “monkeys in hats”, from Zoe Archer’s Blades of the Rose series.

“I mean that when I see a goddamn monkey wearing a goddamn hat, I want to tell you about it. You and no one else.”

“I monkeys in hats you, too.”

See? It works. You know exactly what I mean, or at least you should, and if you don’t, well then knowing a couple extra words in Greek isn’t going to help you at all, is it?