Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Kabuki and 77 Words for Love

My friend Jill recently informed me that a small part of my novel was blended into a modern dance piece in LA by choreographer Jeremy Hahn called “Facets of Love.” This is the coolest cross-pollinating artistic thing my novel has come across. Jill was inspired by a reference in “Finding Nouf” to the many words Arabic has for love. The dancers wore kabuki-style make-up and used cue cards with Arabic words and their meanings.

It has been claimed that Arabic has 77 Words for love. I don’t know where that number came from. Probably it’s just catchy. There’s more like 45.

Many of those words describe particular states of love. Such as hayam, a love that causes someone to wander around distractedly, and gharam, a love so intense it causes physical pain. A lot of the other words for love also translate into basic ideas like “terror”, “slight mental confusion”, “derangement”, and “disease”. Yep. There’s also “chaos” and “civil war.”

I was hoping to find 77 new ways of describing that blissful, chemical phenomenon of passion…but no, it’s pretty much 40-odd reasons you might need a doctor. Yet there is one word I keep going back to: izaz. (rhymes with eee-GADS!) It means a kind of love that gives power and dignity to both lovers, but which still remains innocent and pure.


  1. Great cross-genre work! Someone once told me they had heard there was no Arabic word for love, if you can believe that. That's as ridiculous as the Eskimo's having no word for snow.

  2. Wild!

    "Love" needs its own dictionary.