17 June 2009

Andrew never lets me down.

The last time I went to Germany was 2006, and throughout my trip, I discovered several linguistic fun-pieces--which made me think of my dear friend Andrew. Upon my return, I wrote to him:

i came across a lot of interesting observations about language, which is why you came to mind so so often. i had a lot of questions for you. i think ive forgotten most of them now, :) but as they come back to me, i'll pose them to you.
for instance: live and love. in german, leben und lieben. clearly coming from the same root... right? how cool that to live and to love are so closely in essence intertwined. !

another one i just remembered: the way in spanish you use "querer" instead of "amar" to mean love in most cases, in german you use "moegen" instead of "lieben" in those same cases. the interesting thing here is that "moegen" and "moechten" are often mixed up and are taught together (like "lay" and "lie" in english)--probably because at some point they came from the same root. "moegen" means to like or like strongly. "moechten" means to desire or want in a polite way (usually translated into "would like"). so this is all tied together, with wanting and loving being related in essence as well.

that sure says something about how people first described their feelings, and how way way back, things like living and loving were concepts that were naturally tied together. (or am i making wrong assumptions? i ask you because i know you know the history behind it all fo sho.)

maybe you already know all this *blush* but they're new, cool discoveries to me in which i know you can also share the enjoyment.

i know there are others. i'll think of them and relay them to you. i just made a lot of interesting discoveries in general, not just about language roots. for instance, maybe you already knew this, but cologne, like perfume, you know how on the bottles it says "eau de cologne" = "water of cologne"! hello? duh? perfume/cologne originated in the city of cologne. it seems really obvious now, but i had never thought of it. the city in german is called koeln, so they call it "koelnische wasser", but in french it sounds much better, :) eau de cologne. i went to the museums of the first cologne places, and the history is so cool.
" ... and then I went on to ramble some more about how cool Germany was.

He responded:

A friend and I were talking about the word "love" a while ago . . . checking with www.oed.com (an excellent tool for etymology), they're more similar now than they've ever been before. Going back to reconstructed Proto-Indo-European, "live" and "leben" are from "leip-", "to adhere or stick; fat." Whereas "love" and "lieben" are from "leubh-", which hasn't changed meaning much since . . . I think five thousand-odd years ago. And interestingly, the same root is responsible for "believe."

When my friend and I discussed "love," one thing we observed was the increasing ambiguity of its meaning in English, how it's held back from meaning everything people want it to mean and expounded to other things, all based on our kind of weird prudish society . . . I, too, think it's pretty cool that Spanish and German can connect love to wanting so frankly but without making it purely sexual as English "I want you" is . . . in Greek, there's "agapi" and "erotas" which I understand (possibly mistakenly) to carry more emotional and more physical weight respectively, but neither one exclusive of the other.

... and then he admitted he loves me. *blush* jajaja!

1 comment:

Andw said...

Another thing I just thought about: it really is remarkable that the root 'leubh-' that meant "love" five thousand years ago has barely changed in meaning or sound. I had to look up the numbers, but according to the one person I know of who has such specific ideas about rates of change, 14% of the core vocabulary of a language (i.e. a list of 100-200 very basic semantic items) changes completely each milennium. 5x14=70% of core vocabulary changing in 5,000 years, minus a bit for repeats. So clearly love is right there at the core of the things we talk about, and have talked about for as long as we've been talking.

Glad we dug this up again.