Love, metaphors and prepositions

One fairly common mistake made by English speaker Spanish students is to use the preposition “con” after the verb “enamorarse”. The reason is obvious: “to fall in love” requires the preposition “with” in English but not in Spanish. The question I’m interested in, though, is why would the same meaning require two different prepositions. And the answer is pretty simple: it’s actually not the same meaning.

This can be explained thanks to a nerdly beautiful masterpiece of cognitive linguistics called Metaphors We Live By, a book that makes evident that metaphors are far from being a stylistic device owned by poets but rather they are an attribute of every human being. Examples can be given by thousands, I will just give a few.

Thinking an argument as a war allows us to say things like:
You disagree? Okay, shoot!
He attacked every weak point in my argument.

Thinking of time as money allows us to say:
You’re wasting my time.
I’ve invested a lot of time in her.

And so on.

What are the metaphors, then, underlying both “to fall in love with” and “enamorarse de”? Well, in English the metaphor is apparent: loving is falling. That´s why you can “fall with”, meaning “in someone else’s company” or sometimes just “along with someone” if that other person is falling happily by themselves and you decide to go after them and try to catch them. In English, a fall is a good thing when it comes to romantic thinking, it’s what you have to do. See this song here by Green Day:

I had a dream that I kissed your lips / And it felt so true / Then I woke up as a nervous wreck / And I fell for you

Or this other one:

[…] So I locked my heart away / Built up my wall / Nobody could figure me Out at all […] So I just jumped for you / I jumped with no parachute / Cause you took away all / All my fear of flying / And I just jumped for you

A literal translation to Spanish would have little if no sense. Because in Spanish loving is hanging. You hang from someone else´s hand. I mean, for the ones who don´t speak Spanish yet, there is nothing in the verb “enamorarse” suggesting the idea of “hanging”. It´s the preposition “de” (one of its meanings being “from”) and the metaphors you can make with it what suggests it. In Spanish, falling in romantic terms is a bad thing. You can see that in the following reggaeton song:

Tú me dejaste caer / pero ella me levantó
You let me fall / but she helped me up

Meaning that his girlfriend broke with him but the love of another girl helped him in his moments of distress.

Or this other phrase I found on internet:

Justo cuando estabas logrando sacarme de ese agujero, me soltaste la mano, me dejaste caer y me dejaste sola.
It was precisely when you were managing to take me out of that hole that you “unheld” my hand, you let me fall and left me alone.

The fact that in both languages loving could be related to a movement downwards creates some interfaces between them, but it doesn’t really mean the same.

As I explained in a former post regarding the word fiesta, dictionaries easily offer a translation for a word without going deeper in its real meaning, as if two languages were but same ideas with different vocab. This is not the case. Languages are much more interesting than that. Don´t lose your chance to learn one in depth to experience how the world transforms in front of your very eyes.

5 thoughts on “Love, metaphors and prepositions

  1. Martín Currás says:

    Wow, Sofía! Excelent article! I didn’t know about this, your page. Really interesting!
    I agree about nowadays people is translating so literally… But not only people: we all have read automatic translations in the web.
    In that last case, it’s just a programming issue, but the real problem is people who don’t understand the thing is not a “word by word” translation. Instead of that, the goal is to translate an idea or feeling considering the context and using the nearest meaning in the destination language.
    Regards, Sofi!

  2. Mikael says:

    It was funny to read this blog post and understand that little small differences in the languages illustrates big differences in how we think differently or make different pictures in our heads 🙂 Keep up the good work Sofia!

    • Airecito says:

      ¡Gracias! Me alegra que te haya gustado 🙂 De paso aprovecho para contarte que Sacha y yo estamos empezando a organizar un viaje a Europa y Suecia es uno de los destinos 🙂

      • Mikael says:

        Lo siento no respondé, pero leí su mensaje. 🙂 Son buenas noticias. Notificarme si vienen a Estocholmo. Beso!

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