Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Let me count the ways...

Say "I Love You" in 14 languages.

... more or less. I can't resist quibbling with the Russian. That verb, "liubliu," can mean "to like" or "to love." But the pronoun is the formal "you" not the familiar "you." If you're using the formal pronoun, you're not talking to someone you'd say "I love you" to, unless it's an older relative. So that version is more likely to come across as "I like you" (which you might say to a friend or a newish romantic partner). For the "I love you" connotation, the informal/intimate pronoun would more plausibly be used: "Ya liubliu tebya" it was in my textbooks, though the positioning of the pronoun is flexible and "Ya vas liubliu" as in the example is fine too.

Not only is the like/love ambiguity famous for causing embarrassment in Russia, I actually saw it happen to a friend in college who'd received a letter and interpreted it rather differently than was intended. And it wasn't until I saw the example in this list that I realized there are some contextual clues that can tip the meaning one way or the other.
Tags: linguistics, vocabulary
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