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Feb 13, 2017
Hugh Dellar

Word of the day: crush

It’s Valentine’s Day today, the one day of the year when married men panic buy the last sad bunches of flowers from garages on their drives home, restaurants double their prices and still end up fully booked weeks in advance, suicide rates soar and emotionally-stunted teenagers send anonymous cards (often written using a range of different letters cut out from newspapers) to boys or girls they’ve fancied from afar for far too long. It seems as good a day as any to tell you about the sudden passionate interest in history that I developed when I was fifteen. So obsessed with the subject did I become that I ended up sailing through my O-level exam with an A grade. You may be wondering what sparked this sudden interest. Was it a sudden realisation that those who do not learn the lessons of the past are doomed to repeat them? Was it a growing awareness of the way in which many of the major events of the twentieth century were shaping the strange and violent era I was growing up in?

I’d love to say it was both of these things, but it wasn’t.  It really wasn’t.  Instead, it was my teacher. Miss La Porte we called her. And while she no doubt had many excellent qualities as a classroom practitioner, it was less her grasp of pedagogy that entranced me – and more just her appearance. As a newly-qualified teacher aged 23, she was only a few (well, eight, in fact … which was, looking back on it, more than half my life, but I didn’t let little details like that get in the way of things back then) years older then me and as a French-Moroccan with a slight (but very sexy) accent, she was impossibly exotic. She was also the only teacher I ever had a terrible crush on.

Having a crush is quite often a fairly unpleasant experience. It’s something we rarely share even with close friends – and most people certainly don’t tell the object of their desires how they feel. Almost by definition, crushes are mostly unrequited – the object of your affections does not return your feelings. In the case of Miss La Porte, that’s probably just as well (and, of course, I certainly never dreamed of sending her a Valentines’. I mean, imagine if she’d found out who it was from!) but it can be agonising if you have a crush on someone in your class that you have to see each and every day. You get butterflies – that awful nervous / excited feeling in your stomach – every time you see them; when you try and talk to them, you get all tongue-tied and find the words come out all wrong; and you end up making a complete fool of yourself every time you go near them! Horrendous!

Fortunately, though, crushes also tend to be transient. When you’re a teenager, they come and they go, often with remarkable regularity. My interest in Miss La Porte (which was dented, but not completely destroyed, when she revealed to the class one day that she lived with her boyfriend) was intense and obsessive, but also mercifully brief – and it vanished into thin air once I hit 16 and got my first serious girlfriend.

These days, it’s also common to hear crush used as a noun, so you might admit that some famous person or other is your celebrity crush, or you might say that when you found out your crush was already seeing someone, you were absolutely devastated. There’s also a connected phrasal verb, as there often is. Malia Obama recently admitted that she’s been totally crushing on the rapper Drake of late, or your friends might warn you that the guy you’ve been crushing on all year is coming to a party – with his new girlfriend! Finally, because advertising is always trying to equate sex and shopping, it won’t surprise you to learn that people sometimes talk about crushing on things they’d love to buy, but maybe can’t yet afford to. You know, as in I’ve been totally crushing on these amazing shoes I’ve seen, but they’re way out of my price range . . . . unless of course you’d like to buy them for me. As a Valentine’s. You know, to prove you really love me!

Love learning with Lexical Lab? Why not treat yourself to a place on our summer school?

  • Have you ever had a crush on someone you couldn’t tell anyone about? When?
  • How do you feel about Valentine’s Day? Why?
  • Do you ever panic buy things? When? Why?
  • Is there anything you’d really like to buy at the moment, but know that it’s out of your price range?
  • Can you think of a time when someone completely made a fool of themselves? What happened?

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