14 February 2008

It's De-Lovely

(Etim. disc.; cf. lat. carere, carecer, arag. cariño, nostalgia).
1. m. Inclinación de amor o buen afecto que se siente hacia alguien o algo.
2. m. Manifestación de dicho sentimiento. U. m. en pl.
3. m. Añoranza, nostalgia.
4. m. Esmero, afición con que se hace una labor o se trata una cosa.
5. m. Regalo, obsequio.

From Diccionario de la Lengua Española - Real Academia Española

Years ago, when I was working on a call centre for a travel assistance/insurance company I started to send e-mails to co-workers with little "Spanish lessons" which I signed "El Profe" (the "prof"). I have kept that character hidden for a long time, regretfully and probably creating some resentment in the meantime. I think this could be a good time to either "resuscitate" elProfe or to make an exception and let him give a short lecture. And why is this a good time? Because today in Canada we celebrate Valentine's Day and in Guatemala is celebrated something similar which has a different connotation rooted on language semantics. February 14th in Guatemala is "el día del cariño y la amistad"; the last part is straight forward and already gives one of the big differences in the celebrations: Amistad=Friendship. Thus, Guatemalans are not only celebrating your "significant other" or romantic love, but really any meaningful relationship.

The first part, the cariño part takes a bit more of explaining. According to the Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy (see definition in Spanish in the epigraph) "cariño" is not only love, but "good affection" and the expression of such feelings. Its etymology is even more interesting, cariño has common ancestors with "to lack". Infinite letters and postings can derive from this little fact... (sigh). In any case, what I want to relate cariño with is the Spanish expression te quiero, which literally means "I want you", but it doesn't mean that, you dirty English-speaking minds. It means, as I feel it, "I care for you"... "I have these feelings for you and you are important to me". Some people can get away with never say te amo ("I love you") to their partners by always expressing their "love" with te quiero. On the other hand, it can be seen as a watered down or even "innocent" or "inoffensive" way of telling a friend that you feel the relationship to be an important one.

In my search for consolidation of my multiple identities and the role that language plays on this endevour I have not figured out this following issue: I am not sure which society is more "sensitive" or "picky" in using the word LOVE. As I explained above, in Guate couples can live without saying "I love you" by the artifice that te quiero produces. However, is within the North American context that I have felt the importance of saying "I love you". You just don't go around saying this or that person loves this or that other person. How appropriate (or not) is to say you love a friend? I certainly have friends that I can say I love, both male and female friends that I truly love. It is not a romantic love, although it can be confused that way (both by the other person and/or by my own silly self).

Trying to figure out this issue I am reminded (was reminded a few months ago actually) of two types of love: Eros and Agape. Eros is that passionate, romantic, usually physical love. Agape, as I understand it, is more like cariño, but with more commitment. It makes me think of the phrase "I would give my life for...". Which brings to my mind that idea that it is easier to die for than to live with someone. No, agape is giving yourself in, giving yourself up, your time, your self, your everything. I don't believe there is a hierarchy, both types of love are important and should be celebrated. Ideally we could have someone (hopefully the same person) to whom we can give both kinds of love and to whom we are the object of both kinds of love. At least that is something to aspire to.

Before leaving you with more questions I wanted to share at least a few verses of that lovely Cole Porter song, which Ella Fitzgerald sings beautifully and that gave the title to this post:

The night is young, the skies are clear
And if you want to go walkin', dear
It's delightful, it's delicious, it's de-lovely

I understand the reason why
You're sentimental, 'cause so am I
It's delightful, it's delicious, it's de-lovely

You can tell at a glance what a swell night this is for romance
You can hear, dear Mother Nature murmuring low "Let yourself go"

What is love to you? What do you think is celebrated on February 14th? What should be celebrated this date?


CancunCanuck said...

It's delightful, delicious...great post!

The whole "te quiero"/"te amo" thing still freaks me out sometimes. Hearing my partner say it to so many other people, sign emails with it, send it in texts, it just gets thrown around a lot. I got jealous, even with the understanding of the double meaning. Now that I hear him say "te quiero mucho" to Max, I know it does have strong meaning for him so I accept it.

He also says "I love you", so we're good.

And continuing the longest comment ever, Mexico celebrates "Dia de Amistad" tambien, I like it. No pity parties for the single people,it doesn't bring people down as much as the Canadian "you must have a partner!" romantic version. :)

Feliz Dia amigo, te quiero. ;-)

Herber said...

Vos lo describiste bien (el amor) y es tan difícil dar definiciones a esta "palabra" tan subjetiva, pero pienso que el amor como lo dijo Arjona se traduce en verbo... en el hacer cosas por esas personas que amas, para dejarles saber que en realidad las amas y que no haga falta un "te amo/te quiero" para que "sientan" lo que sientes por ellos y lo traduzcan a su propia definición de amor.

Aun dentro de las sociedades hispanas hay diferencias. Los caribeños (hablando generalmente), tienden a usar la palabra amor con menos compromiso diciendo frases como "te puedo ayudar amor" o por el estilo.

Pienso que este día se debe celebrar cualquier tipo de afección que se sienta por las personas que significan algo para nosotros.

Hop Hunahpu (Quintus) said...

en el francés ocurre lo contrario con el verbo aimer, el que se utiliza indistintamente para decir gustar y amar. Decirle a alguien Je t'aime podría intepretarse de dos maneras muy distintas, con la verdadera intención envuelta en el body language, tono y talvéz hasta el tamaño de la baba que cae...(o no)

Muy cierto, el "te quiero" es un comodín...


Manolo said...

Canucka With some friends we were talking a few weeks ago about txt lingo and how TQM is one of the coolest ways of saying bye in Spanish. Is kind of hard not to get down surrounded by all the hoopla about V-Day 'round here. I heard on the radio something I am going to start celebrating (even once I find my media naranja ;-) ): Valentine's Boxing Day... So Happy V-Boxing Day! Yo también te quiero amiga.

Herber Es cierto, como se siente uno de bien cuando una persona desconocida de repente te trata de "amor". Las acciones son indispensables y no importa cuantas veces uno diga "te amo/te quiero" como dicen en inglés uno tiene que poner su dinero donde pone su boca.

HH(Quintus) Es cierto, aunque la distinción que al menos yo trato de usar es aimer bien cuando hablo de personas que "me caen bien" o "me agradan".

Y de ahí tenemos el slogan de McDonalds:
I am lovin' it
Me encanta
C'est ça que j'aime

Y el de Taco Bell:
Yo quiero Taco Bell

Pat said...

Yes, it's delightful and delicious--especially when you get chocolates!

By the way, (and I know this is very late in saying this!!!), there is/was an Angels Diner in Kitchener. It's a franchise that you can buy into I believe!


Guelph Daily Photo, My Photos.

CarmenDeBizet said...

Pues a ver Profe (heehee).
My parents come from the school of thought that love ought to be demonstrated and not just talked about...because words without actions are just words. In my opinion, striking a balance between the words and the actions is where the magic happens. After all, words can turn hollow with no substantial evidence and actions can become interpreted as obligations, duties, and things to cross off a list of some sort.
As far as V-Day, I prefer the celebration that I remember from my childhood where the word "cari~no" played an important role as in El dia del amor y la amistad. Here, I see an emphasis (and an annoying one at that) to have a "significant other" in order to be "complete."
P.S. If my comment survives, I will do a happy dance.

Manolo said...

Pat Thanks for dropping by... I didn't get chocolates, but was able to buy some discounted sugar cookies on the 15th. So the Angel Dinner in Kitchener is the same "franchise" as the one in Guelph then... I used to go for dessert, good cheesecake if I remember well. If you happen to be in Kitchener on a Saturday morning (and if it still exists) try the Country Boy Restaurant and their breakfast special. People line up for it.
Carmencita Put your money where your mouth is... and put your mouth where your money is... I've learned that "actions only" can be both misinterpreted and be also misinterpretations. You owe us a happy dance!

GarridoRomero said...

Wonderful post Manolo! Personally I think February 14th should be a day where you celebrate all those that are more then just friends. This includes significant others, best friends, BFFs(as us kids say nowadays), family and even pets!

p.s. I prefer the Jeri Souther version of It's Delovely....
I am the biggest fan of Ella but I prefer Southern for this particular song.



Manolo said...

JuanGR I bet you gave some kind of Valentine's Day gift to the loyal Tommy, that beautiful lab you guys have. I looked up Jeri Southern and so far I thank you for the recommendation. Cheers.