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Archive for Sunday, February 8, 2004

Valentine’s books give skinny on love

February 8, 2004

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For those who won't be "making whoopee" on Valentine's Day, a new book offers the next best thing -- the etymology of the phrase.

Sound romantic? Maybe not, but at least it's educational.

In "Making Whoopee! Words of Love for Lovers of Words" (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill), Evan Morris offers a lexicon of love language, from "prude" to "lewd" and "kiss" to "bliss," "woo" to "coo" and "necking" to "nosegay."

Origins are explained for 150 romantic words and phrases, arranged alphabetically from "Adonis" to "yen." In addition, there are separate sections of terms about eyes, flowers and physical beauty, and for various sorts of Ms. Wrongs ("chippy" and "harpy") and Mr. Wrongs ("heel" and "creep").

Readers learn that "heartbroken" has described disappointed lovers since the 16th century, and that "spoon" (to behave romantically) is related to the familiar eating utensil. What's more, "ogle" comes from "oog," the Dutch word for "eye," while "slut," meaning a promiscuous woman, has its roots in "slutte," a Middle English word for a woman who is merely "untidy."

In this book at least, "date" definitely leads to "mate."

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The song "Makin' Whoopee" by Gus Kahn and Walter Donaldson appeared in 1928, so it is far too old to be included in "You Give Love a Bad Name" (Quirk).

This little volume of "Timeless Poems of Tainted Love From the Pop Hits of the '70s and '80s" offers consolation (you are not alone!) for the unrequited lover.

Editor Danny Cassidy, a Philadelphia disc jockey, has selected 30 breakup songs whose lyrics address one of the five stages of life for the suddenly single: denial, anger, bargaining, revenge and acceptance. Bound into the book is a ribbon marker to help readers easily locate -- again and again, if necessary -- the lyrics that speak especially to their heartbreak.

Sentiments range from Joe Jackson's "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" to Scandal's "Goodbye to You." Along the way, The Bee Gees ask "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?"; Hall and Oates lament that "She's Gone" and J. Geils Band speaks for all of the above, perhaps, declaring "Love Stinks."

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But love smells sweet in "The Love Almanac" (Welcome Books), a colorful volume packed with poems, songs, recipes, advice, crafts, trivia, history, love letters, literary quotations and you name it, all about love.

Readers can browse or research (there is an index) to locate the lyrics of love songs, including "I Only Have Eyes for You" and "You're the Top"; recipes for Sugar Cookie Valentines and Fondue for Two; and literary excerpts by Truman Capote, Amy Tan, Alexandre Dumas, Anna Quindlen and a guy named Shakespeare. Among several Top 10 lists scattered throughout are Movie Kisses, Wedding Dance Songs and Valentine's Day Gifts -- one list for him, one list for her.

Plus, now there is no excuse for not saying "I love you": The phrase is translated into several languages, from Hawaiian to Zulu.

Editors Katrina Fried and Lena Tabori have divided their book into five chapters -- "Looking for Love," "Love and Courtship," "Love and Marriage," "Passion" and "Enduring Love" -- and has hundreds of quaint color illustrations, in Victorian and early 20th-century styles.

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Vintage illustrations recall bygone days in "Retro Romance: Classic Tips for Today's Couples" (Collectors Press) by Cheryl and Joe Homme.

In this book's illustrations, the ensemble de rigueur for men is jackets and ties; for women, it's dresses and high heels. One appropriately clad couple even exhibits bygone behavior, as the gentleman driver of a 1950s Buick is seen opening the passenger's-side door for his lady.

Chapters cover dates, food, famous couples, trust, travel, tiffs, gifts and several other topics.

One key to a successful relationship, the authors say, is "be reliable, dependable, and on time." It's important that gifts be appropriate, so the Hommes suggest writing each other's sizes and preferences on a piece of paper to carry with you at all times. They helpfully point out that "adjustable dimmer switches allow for dial-a-mood lighting" and warn that "if kissing skills are not maintained over time, they can erode."

Sprinkled among such tidbits are "True Romance" stories in which real people share a relationship experience. We learn that Walt takes the kids along when he shops for Mother's Day flowers; Julia's husband not only gives "excellent" back rubs but does his own laundry; and one of the sweetest things Audrey's husband ever said to her occurred while they were trying to fix the hot water heater together.

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"Love's Book of Answers" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) is a sort of crystal ball between hard covers -- red hard covers, with a satiny finish and heart motif.

Carol Bolt's chunky little volume uses bibliomancy -- you know, the art of using books to foretell the future -- in providing 300 answers about love. All you need do is ask a question and open the book randomly, to any page, to divine the answer.

That answer could be "don't bite off more than you can chew," "set a date" or "keep your options open." Or perhaps it will be "call now" or "take a cold shower, then reconsider."

One page you might want to glue shut: "get a witness."

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However, if you already have all the answers, maybe what you need is "Luv Questions" (Sourcebooks Casablanca) by Cyndi Haynes.

This thick little paperback offers "650 questions, quotes and fun facts about everyone's favorite subject" -- that's love, of course. Responses to questions include pertinent facts, suggestions for finding the answer or guidance for contemplating it.

Question No. 258 asks "Where do you go to meet singles?" and offers this point to ponder: "Would the type of mate you want to attract be likely to go there?"

"Do you ever think about how much time you spend getting ready for a date?" The reply is another question: "Is he worth it?"

"Would you consider marrying someone who has been married before?" asks question No. 282. Beware: "Sixty percent of all second marriages end in divorce."

And if "you ever think about marrying a doctor, you should know that "there are 700,000 male doctors in the United States" -- not saying how many are single.

"How do you know when you are in love?" The book has the answer to that fundamental question, too, but readers will have to wait until they get to No. 446 to find it.

Scattered throughout are quotes about love, from a host of sources, including the Bible, Virginia Woolf, Walt Whitman, Gloria Steinem and even Dan Rather. Among them: "Follow your inner moonlight" (Allen Ginsberg); "There are no rules. Just follow your heart" (Robin Williams); and, from Dorothy Day, "The final word is love."

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