Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wednesday Word: Limerance

"Hezbollah" and "plum pudding" aren’t terms that are often used together.

I was playing the Wikipedia game the other day-- you know the one where you look up Hezbollah because your knowledge of Lebanese politics is equivalent to a pill-bug’s, and while you’re reading about Hezzie* you find another interesting link within the article and you click on that and before you know it, you’ve ended up at the entry for the plum pudding model of the atom. It happens. It’s a really funny game if you have a short attention span, but you do tend to veer off track a bit.

*my little name for Hezbollah

The other day I played it (although I didn't start with Hezbollah. No! Give me some credit. I started with Pol Pot) and clicked until I found this delightful word, limerance. Limerance, a word coined by psychologist Dorothy Tenov refers to a mad state of lust or infatuation. We all know it. It’s that period of time when you don’t care about anything in the whole world except the object of your limerance, and you’re absolutely consumed by loving them more and more and more. You know when you have limerance, because you can’t stop thinking of the person and you’re pretty much willing to drop everything and fly half way across the world to them if needs be, even if it means losing your job,your house, and -- uh oh --your spouse in the process. Limerance is that mad, mad state where the intensity of a relationship is deepest, and you will overlook anything your sweetheart does because you don’t care and you want them and you must have them and you can’t imagine anything better than them, ever, in the history of time.

Limerance is a problem if you’re not free to love the object of your intense affection. I believe limerance is what makes otherwise tied people do things like cheat and leave their spouses. Basically, it’s what makes you lose your mind, which is not great if you don’t have a mind free to lose.

In a story, limerance is key. Long-term relationships never stay in the limerance stage; they progress to love, which then levels out into a deeper love and friendship. But limerance is addictive, I think. Someone dear to me used to admit that it was the limerance she craved with men--but she didn’t really care for the long term and would frequently break up with them after limerance faded. Rarely do we get to see those long term stages in a story. Limerance is what makes us read, actually. It’s what makes tension, and what makes two characters sizzle. Limerance is fleeting; we live it through the characters we read about.

Can you think of any famous characters in literature or on film whose limerance was fabulous to follow? Or, tell me of your own experience with limerance. Have you had it? Hopefully not with Hezzie or Pol Pot?

The painting is Il Bacio by Francesco Hayez, taken from the Italian Wikipedia entry for limerance. No, I don't read Italian. But I like that Italian Wikipedia had this for limerance whereas English Wikipedia has nothing. Nothing like a little Italian limerance, no?


demery said...


Thank you for the great new word!! I've definitely been in the state of limmerance - it's wonderful. But I agree that it makes a person blind. Or in my case, lose her car insurance b/c she neglected to pay all of her bills for three months. I ended up marrying that one :) And we're still together - in that longer term state of love and friendship now. Sometimes I miss the limmerance, but knowing that it will fade and that I'd be left with exactly what I have now (but starting all over again) I won't follow it again. Not to mention that what I have now is pretty darn wonderful.

Trying to create, allow for, encourage moments of limmerance in my novel has been a ton of fun. Almost as good as when I was in it myself.


Anne R. Allen said...

I love this word! We should use it more. I remember when I first read it--in some academic women's studies book that came out about 15 years ago, that said limerance was dangerous to women and something to be avoided, like crack.

But hey, all romance novels are really about limerance, aren't they? Maybe we read them to get that fix without actually doing ourselves/our sig. others any damage.

Meghan Ward said...

What a great word! Your words are getting better every Wednesday! I learned a good one yesterday, too: rag and bone man (okay, that's a phrase in English, but in French it's one word: chiffonier). And there's a great story behind it. Maybe I'll even blog about it myself!

Sierra Godfrey said...

Demery, that is DEFINITELY a great example of limerance! Thanks for that!

Anne, I think we should use it more, too. It just sounds apt for its meaning.

Meghan, I love chiffonier. I look forward to reading about it!

Christine H said...

Titanic. Jack had to die, because they could never have kept that relationship up for much longer.

The opposite of limerance: Aragorn and Arwen. Like, do ya think many couples could wait hundreds of years to be together?

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