I am no longer sure what I was actually looking for at the time, but I came across a site the other day which listed the ‘500 most frequently used words in the English language’. Curiosity got the better of me (as it often does where words are concerned) and I had a quick look. Most of the Top 500 were, as you might have guessed, ordinary, everyday words. (Number One on the list—‘the’—in case you were wondering . . . )
What did surprise me though was the word ‘love’ came in at number 387. Could that be right? Surely not. I checked another site (Top 1000). This time ‘love’ was number 391. Huh. Considering I seem to hear the word being bandied about incessantly of late (‘don’t you love that programme’ . . . ‘ I just love spaghetti’ . . . ‘I would love to be able to do that’ . . . ‘ OMG, I love those shoes’ . . . ) I really thought it would be higher up the list (most definitely before ‘feet’ at number 275, or, at the very very least, right up there next to ‘dog’ at number 317 . . . )
Dictionary.com defines love as ‘a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend; sexual passion or desire; a person toward whom love is felt; beloved person; sweetheart’. It doesn’t mention shoes, or pasta, or TV shows (or dogs for that matter, but that is obviously an oversight or an editing error . . . ) Although that definition is still relevant, it is also very obvious that we now use the word to cover a much broader spectrum. Which begs the question—’Can one ever truly love a thing?’
There are certainly people out there in the world who would say ‘yes’ and the internet is littered with people who claim true love with (and have even married) inanimate objects. (Don’t believe me? See here.) Personally, although I admit to having developed very strong feelings for certain pairs of shoes over the years, I fear I am too fickle to profess undying love (new season, new shoes) but having been witness to such love myself, I don’t feel I can completely disregard it either.
When my first dog Harry was still a tiny boy he fell deeply in love with a small stuffed donkey called ‘Teddy’. All his life Harry adored Teddy, even long after his constant attentions had reduced the once soft and cute toy to a smelly, patched, restuffed, balding brown blob (with ears). During the day Teddy was never far from Harry’s side and every evening he would ensure that Teddy was tenderly tucked up in bed with him before he fell asleep.
Many times over the years (especially after Teddy got really smelly and gross) I tried to tempt Harry away with lovely new toys, new games, even a new little brother (Frank), but his loyalty to Teddy never waned. It was love. Pure and simple. When Harry passed away at 19 years of age I buried his beloved Teddy with him. It seemed only right.
If I thought this was the last time I would witness such a love I was wrong—although this time I fear that Maudie’s ‘Ball’ (we are not very inventive with our names, are we?) is unlikely to live as long as Teddy. Maudie is still only six and Ball is already pitted and pocked, and nibbled and gnawed—and frankly, quite disgusting. It’s not even actually round any more. Maudie doesn’t care. Maudie thinks it is the most beautiful ball in the world . . .
So by now you are probably thinking that I’ve seriously lost the plot. A dog loving a toy and a human being professing true love for their pillow is not nearly the same thing.
Perhaps not. But who am I to judge? It seems to me that if everyone could find some-one . . . or some-thing . . . to love as much as Harry loved his Teddy and Maudie loves her Ball, the whole world might just be all the better off for it . . .