In a Manner of Speaking: How to Fall in Love in English Language Terms

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A follow up to Crime of Fashion by Alexa Lash – a writer, editor, and on-the-spot poet. Former Floridian and resident Bostonian, she has written for the Seminole Chronicle, Momslikeme, and the Central Florida Future, and is currently working in the Journalism Department of Emerson College.

“I picked up a rhyming dictionary last week, to find a word that rhymed with you and love, without slanting.”

When seeking a mate (synonyms: partner, spouse, romantic comrade, lover) it is often best to ignore the lesson that antonyms attract, because people, inherently, are not opposite in meaning or intentions—no, no—people share basic needs. It is the structure of us that differs, some of us more descriptive—love is a many-splendored thing, changing as  swiftly as the types of available social media–others motivated by prescriptivist notions, schoolbook-style and rule-driven (some might refer to these lucky souls as Type A+). While I am not prescriptivist myself, I do feel some rules were made to be followed, broken, tweaked, molded. When it comes to the language of love it depends on its speaker. Do you speak with a twang? An accent? Do you complain in whispers and compliment in yells? The way you use the language, combined with the occasional romantic hand gesture, makes all the difference when it comes to falling metaphorically in love (a literal fall would be both uncomfortable and dangerous depending on what love is actually made from; please see entry on wood, stone, fire, and steel). I have cobbled together a small swag of rules that’ll help you find and keep your complement.

1. Be Bold

Dating, like word choice, requires affection. You pronounce your love both carefully and with consideration for your audience, or in the case of dating, your lover. You pronounce her (or him—see entry on gender) like a vowel, rounding out the O, the aaaaaah. You leave dignity, like modifiers, dangling, especially on that first date. The subject before the verb. You need to use direct speech, emphatic and unstressed. You need to drop capitals before you drop trousers, because it is more important to put your best qualities at the beginning of a sentence. Introductions, you see, are significant here. Insert compliments in bold tags (aka strong), with the occasional italicized word. Oh, my darling, you are beautiful, gorgeous, extraordinary.

2. Possession is Eight-Fifths of Some Law

Don’t be one of those overly-possessive types, but do pay attention to how you express your devotions. Put motions forward to illustrate your desire for it to just be the two of you. Make it clear, because here is where it’s tricky, where the language becomes muddled in abstract nouns and metaphors and non sequiturs. Tell her you want to be a collective of two. Synecdoche: you and me represented by the singular us.

3. Complementary, my dear Watson

When looking for love, you should be searching for the second in your dyad, a colligation in synonymous wants for comfort and caring (but don’t overdo the alliteration). You must be the suffix to her prefix. (Too cheesy? Perhaps.) Romance is predicated on the idea that you have similarities in desires, urges, attractive qualities and occasional needs. In those places where a descriptive word is lacking, your complement fills the void. Adds the article where there is zero. Makes your subjects and verbs agree.

4. The Adverb (-ly)

Love him or her completely.

5. The Gerund Phrase (-ing)

Never stop loving him or her.

6. Sound Argument

This isn’t about the phonetics, but the phone. Don’t get caught up in the way your voice sort of accidentally lilts upward in a 13-year-old squeak. If you say you’re going to call, then be active about it. Like familiarity, passivity breeds contempt.

7. Shampoo and Conditionals

When on a date, it is best to be in the moment; that is, don’t judge your date based on a past relationship, and don’t start talking about your future children with said date. It may scare him away, make her tense for the rest of the outing. Tenseness often presents a problem in the average date when you revert between stories of your past and ideas for your future. Stick to the present if you started with it.

Zero Conditional (certain to happen): If you treat her with respect, she’ll respect you.

First Conditional (likely to happen, future): If the date goes well, you will ask her to go out again.

Second Conditional (unlikely to happen, future): If you dated her for at least a month, she would sleep with you (eventually).

Second Conditional (damn-near impossible, present): If you had more confidence, you would sleep with her.

Third Conditional (not going to happen, past): If you had taken her to dinner at a fancy restaurant, she would have slept with you.

Conditional Perfect (no one’s perfect, let’s just forget this one): You would have kept dating her if you had not been dating someone else at the same time.

8. Use Your Words

Your relationship, sentence-structured and fluid, needs a defined subject and verb. You must say her name proper-nounly, putting an accent on the i as you call her magnífico with your lips pursed in a descriptive curve. Together you are an adjectival noun, the young and the restless, the weird and the nerdy. You are all action and helpful. You hold her door and bow, like adding an exclamation point to the end of a sentence to say Hey, I like you! A lot!!! You must say things to your love that make him or her feel special. You must make him or her feel superlative. They are the greatest, prettiest, multitalentedest. You must say adjectives like perfect and rich, must use verbs like let’s get outta here or let’s tango. Diversify. Magnify. And eventually, multiply?

9. Descriptivist Behavior

Just as how you approach an essay varies from subject to subject, how you make your approach varies from person to person. Don’t stick to the rules if the person you’re with doesn’t follow them. You may use contractions or you may not. You may like standard or you may like a man or woman rife with similes. Like. Like. Like, like.

10. Honesty is the Bestest Policy

Don’t just be direct with your partner, be direct-object direct. The kind of direct that makes abstract nouns tremble. Don’t tell a person you love them, if your only intention is usage. This is it. Your love life. A fragment of what it used to be. You and your significant other are parts of speech; and you must make sure you decide are you for or are you against love? Are you noun or are you verb? (Thesaurus: also known as, are you boy or man?)

11. Dress to Impress a Point

Watch what you wear; each article of clothing gives the looker a unique impression, sometimes negative, sometimes double negative. We wouldn’t want that to not not be the case. Your outfit should be screaming personal pronouns (this is totally an I outfit). It is imperative you do not dress in visual slang. This rule also applies to apartments (see houses, dorms) and pet care.


Wanna read more captivating stories for geeks from Alexa’s series? Check out Love Triangle: A High School Romance in Mathematical Terms, What is Luv: Another Love Poem in Internet Slang, Text Drive: An Inappropriate Poem in Textual Terms, Less than Three: A Love Poem in Internet SlangType M for Murder: A Mystery Short in Graphic Design Terms, Pub and Marriage: A Noir Short Story in Publishing Terms & Kern, Baby, Kern: A Relationship in Typographical Terms.

Alexa Lash – a writer, editor, and on-the-spot poet.