My Twitter followers want me to define love. Ok, here goes.
Last night, I posted a list of words missing from the English language, and one of them was "forelsket".
I woke up this morning to a list of @mentions on Twitter about the difference between the English "in love" and the Norwegian "forelsket".
Seriously, Twitter? You think I know the answer to that one? Well, I’ll try.
In my head, "forelsket" is how you feel between just having a crush on someone and actually realizing you are in love with them.
I guess if I were to use both my languages to describe how love evolves, it would be something like this: I like someone in general (conveniently, same word in both languages), I have a crush (which at least one friend of mine has directly translated into English as "ha et knus"), I feel "forelsket", I fall in love. This doesn’t necessarily happen in that order, but on a scale of not-serious to very-serious, that’s how it works.
Is forelsket the same as infatuated? Not really. Infatuated implies silliness, irrationality and superficiality. "Forelskelse" is hardly rational, but it’s not as stupid/crazy as infatuation. If I ever describe myself as infatuated, it’s because I know I’m completely stupid and out-of-character, and that this insane crush will blow over any minute. On the other hand, I can be forelsket for a frightening amount of time.
When I listen to friends who only speak English or watch movies in English, and someone says "I think I’m in love", I think: "No dear, you’re forelsket. You just don’t have that word in your vocabulary, poor thing." I guess forelsket is that giddy, excited feeling that’s telling you someone is very interesting. Forelskelse is when you have a theory that you might be able to fall in love with someone, but you just don’t know them well enough to tell yet.
Privately, I think that all the words I know, in English, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, French, German, Dutch, Khmer, Thai, Italian, Spanish*, are all one big vocabulary. Sometimes I can use all my words, sometimes only a few, depending on who I’m talking to.
I also appreciate the British verb "fancy" and the American "hooking up" (I interpret it as an intentionally ambivalent way of saying "Something physical happened, but I’m not going to give you any details."). I think the Norwegian "kjæreste" is more serious than the English "boyfriend/girlfriend". Saying "I love you" in English is nowhere near as big a deal as saying it in Norwegian.
Even when no one else agrees with my definitions (or even understands me at all), speaking two languages fluently gives me twice as many ways to think about everything. There are some feelings I can only express in English and some I can only express in Norwegian, but in my own thoughts, I can sort out my emotions using my whole vocabulary.
* I only speak two languages fluently, but I do know words in all of these languages. And the list looked cool.