Words for Love and Sex

Do our words bias our thoughts?   Consider how differently we treat words for love and sex.

Words related to "love" tend to refer to usefully distinct concepts.  Words like "affection, devotion, fondness, and infatuation" describe identifiably different relationships and feelings.  But when we want to describe our affections for each other, we tend to gravitate to the common word "love." 

Words related to "sex," in contrast, tend to refer to pretty much the same concept.  Words like "intercourse, copulation, coitus, congress, relations" have a very similar connotation.  Some other words that don’t go in a family blog give connotations that vary along a spectrum of shock value, and sometimes identify alternative physical positions.   But while we can construct concepts that describe differing sex details or context, we don’t seem much interested in communicating those details.  Nevertheless, we go out of our way to use a wide variety of words for "sex." 

Perhaps those who use different words instead of "love" tend to be less focused on an exclusive relation with a single person, and so we gravitate to "love" to avoid this appearance.  Perhaps we use different words for "sex" in order to signal that we don’t consider our sex partners to be easily interchangeable with others.   

Whatever the reasons, it seems that using a common word can distract us from useful distinctions, while using differing words can distract us from commonalities.  Thanks to Colleen Berndt for suggesting the topic. 

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