Irreversibly loved

« previous post | next post »

Yesterday, on our way to school, my four-year-old commented, "When you love somebody, it can't be unloved. That's 'irreversible change'." I'm not sure which I appreciate more, the sweet sentiment (don't we all wish this were 100% true?), the generalization of a concept he learned on Sid the Science Kid, or the example of unloved in this unconventional usage.

Why do I find this so compelling? On reflection, perhaps it's because instead of the adjectival un- prefix (unhappy, unclear), which is about states, what we have here seems from context to be the verbal un-, which is about reversing actions (unlock, untie). Love as an action, something that effects a change of state, not just a state.

Or maybe I'm just in a sappy mood. :-)

Share:



15 Comments »

  1. Freddy Hill said,

    July 30, 2010 @ 5:27 pm

    Awww! So sweet. Just love your kid and forget the linguistics.

    (S)he's actually right. Once you love somebody you can't unlove them. You might perhaps hate (as opposed to unlove) a later version of them (the one that serves you papers, maybe?) but not the one you fell in love with.

    Or in another, perhaps darker, way to put it, you'll always love your four-year old regardless of what the future holds.

  2. Freddy Hill said,

    July 30, 2010 @ 5:34 pm

    And linguistically speaking, isn't unlove akin to Facebook's unfriend? How did your kid make that leap? Did she (I'll use my own stereotypes to guess the gender) hear older kids' talk and coin her own word?

  3. Nathan said,

    July 30, 2010 @ 5:51 pm

    It says "a concept he learned".

  4. ~flow said,

    July 30, 2010 @ 5:58 pm

    so when you break up, that's when you unlove someone; then when you make up, that's when you ununlove someone? or relove someone? and when you make up but it ain't working out so you break up 'gain, then you unreloved? unununloved? reunloved them?

  5. Marinus said,

    July 30, 2010 @ 6:22 pm

    I think we should note that, as a four-year-old, possibly the most prominent example of 'love' he has in mind would be parental or filial love, which is a much better candidate for 'cannot be unloved' than romantic love is. Even then it's probably still not entirely true, but certainly far more likely to be true.

  6. Winnie said,

    July 30, 2010 @ 6:43 pm

    The way I think of it, once you give love to someone, you can't take it back. It applies to what you felt at that moment, even if it was only for a second. That you loved him for that one second can never be changed. How you feel the second after that, well…

    It's a lovely sentiment.

  7. Josh said,

    July 30, 2010 @ 6:54 pm

    Linguistic innovation is pretty much the main reason I had kids. :)
    I kid of course, but I still find the process fascinating.

  8. Sili said,

    July 30, 2010 @ 9:34 pm

    so when you break up, that's when you unlove someone;

    I'm not sure, but isn't part of the point, that not all break ups are symmetrical? One party may have stopped loving the other, but the other may still love the first, being unable to unlove them.

    In fact, isn't the harshest way to end such relationships claims like "I never loved you"? The denial of love ever having been in place, rather than the 'mere' "I don't love you anymore".

  9. Sili said,

    July 30, 2010 @ 9:35 pm

    Linguistic innovation is pretty much the main reason I had kids. :)

    If I were to have kids, it would be so I could stick them in a box without outside influence in order to discover the natural, uncorrupted language of God.

  10. Craig said,

    July 30, 2010 @ 10:09 pm

    @Sili, I would think the sparse anecdotes of feral children would suggest against the value of such an experiment.

  11. Randy Alexander said,

    July 31, 2010 @ 11:57 am

    I guess I'm the only person who read it at first glance like this: "When you love somebody, it [that person] can't be unloved." I went through a flash where I was imagining that your son was somehow seeing that love somehow dehumanizes people, but I quickly rescanned, thinking that a four year old kid couldn't be that dark.

  12. Mr Fnortner said,

    July 31, 2010 @ 2:07 pm

    @Josh: Kid as a verb? I kid of course.

  13. Mr Fnortner said,

    July 31, 2010 @ 2:08 pm

    ….as a verb meaning beget. (Oops.)

  14. Edward Vitasek said,

    July 31, 2010 @ 4:30 pm

    I'm interested in the referent of the pronoun "it". If it were a simple reversal of the verb "to love", wouldn't you expect he/she/they? I get the feeling that this "it" has some sort of abstract quality in mind ("love can't be unloved"). Sounds like "When you love somebody, it can't be undone." with extra lexical emphasis.

    Also, an active version would sound odder, I think: "When you love somebody, you can't unlove it." (Is it that the pronouns more prominent at the end of the sentence?)

    Thoughts?

  15. Barbara Partee said,

    August 5, 2010 @ 8:56 pm

    My son Morriss put a comment to me on my Facebook page in reaction to @Sili's note "If I were to have kids, it would be so I could stick them in a box without outside influence in order to discover the natural, uncorrupted language of God." — Morriss wrote: "Oh, bummer, you blew it with us! You could have stuck one of us (or all of us?) in a box, and discovered the natural, uncorrupted language of God! (I think Dave could have a field day with this comment on the LL.) Maybe I should have stuck Sean in a box for his first few years….oh well, next generation."
    — It's OK, Morriss, such experiments had already been tried and showed that (a) the original language was Hebrew, and (b) that kids in a box die or end up more or less mute (the first of those several centuries before the second and presumably less reliable). We got enough data out of you guys anyway …

RSS feed for comments on this post

Leave a Comment