Is English a romance language?

Romance languages are the languages derived from Latin, such as French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. The word romance has its origins in Latin. Romanici Loqui meant to speak in Roman, referring to the local dialect in Rome as opposed to the more formal dialect of Latin itself. Across Western Europe during medieval times, serious writing such as religious doctrine, scientific research, and nonfiction news accounts were usually written in Latin, while popular folklore was written in local dialects (vernacular). The folklore consisted of stories, plays, and writings that were often centered on love. Later, books of fiction came to be known as romance novels.

English is not a Romance language. It is the product of Anglo and Saxon dialects brought to Britain by Northern Germanic settlers in the 5th century. Nevertheless, English can be used romantically.  Humans spend much of their time pursuing love, and this pursuit clearly involves some crucial communications that can make or break a relationship.

The word romantic means characterized by a preoccupation with love; displaying or expressing love or strong affection. Parent-child love is perhaps the strongest kind of love we ever experience. Although this is not what most people think of as romance, the patterns of communication seem congruent to me. If the simplest, most personalized expressions between child and parent are perceived to be the most memorable and joy-producing, why wouldn’t the same thing be true among adults?

I think simple communications and personalized expressions of love between adults are the mainstay of romantic communications. They add energy to a relationship; they are essentially free; and they are far more memorable than a big piece of jewelry, new lingerie, or high-tech golf clubs. I am not talking about mushy love letters, although they too may have their place. I am talking about making a personalized effort to communicate on special occasions like a birthday or anniversary, or even everyday occasions, leaving a note or a voice-mail for the person you love.

What does it take to create romance? Some choice words and a little personalization. Here are a few ideas, ranging from trivial to more elaborate expressions.

  1. Instead of just picking out and signing that Hallmark card, try changing the card just a little or adding a sentence to personalize it into something that will be more meaningful.
  2. Send a personalized card for no reason other than to show gratitude or appreciation.
  3. Buy a blank card and write a message appropriate for the occasion.
  4. Leave a loving message or send a loving email for no particular reason. We all expect something on Valentine’s Day, but unexpected loving communications have a very romantic impact.
  5. Construct a word search puzzle where the words being searched are personally relevant to your recipient. For example, for your wife, it could be places where you have vacationed; for your child, it could be trophies or awards they have received; for your girlfriend, it could be places you have visited together on dates.
  6. Construct a gift hunt with a sequence of clues that lead to successive clues, with each one personalized to some facet of your relationship. At the end of the clues can be the gift. This approach is great fun to create and very romantic to receive.
  7. Take a photograph that is meaningful to you (a place, an event, another person, a thing) and write a personalized poem that expresses some aspect of your love, gratitude, or attraction to your partner. Frame the picture so that the poem and the photo are visible or, if the poem is private, so that it appears on the back.

It is folly for me to advise others about how to be romantic. There are so many dimensions and specific parameters to a loving relationship, and they are so widely varying and personal, it is impossible to give specifics that anyone would find useful.

Examples from my own experience would not be meaningful—the word choices, the allusions, the symbolism. The reasoning in the previous sentence strikes me as one of the best yardsticks for judging your success:

A romantic communication should have impact only on the one for whom it is intended.

If your communication would mean the same thing to anyone who read it, it is probably not that romantic.


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