Often hear it in connection to LGBT. Can anyone please explain what it means? I get the original version: "love is love" but I don't understand the syntax of Lin-Manuel Miranda's poem.


If you understand "love is love" then you'll understand that "love is love is love" is the same but more assertive. In English, repetition increases emphasis. For example:

He was a man among men, among men.

means, "He was very, very manly."

The meaning can vary with context. For example:

"Cake is cake", she said, "but I prefer pie."

means that she feels cake is nothing special. If instead she said, "Cake is cake is cake," it would only emphasize how uninterested she is in any kind of cake.

Sometimes this makes sense, sometimes it doesn't. It's one of those structures that works best when it's unexpected, and not overused.

Miranda's repetition of "love is love is love is love ..." emphatically implies the assertion that all people to love who they choose, in the way they choose, even though many (in the US) want to deny them this right. It helps if you fully understand the political context behind this statement, and why the situation makes him so emotional.

(Edit) The structure "X is X" is actually a kind of ellipsis, meaning that it's short for a longer sentence, expression, concept, or thought. The words are left out because they're obvious from context, or because (in this case) the expression version has more direct emotional impact.

For example, in the above example, "cake is cake" can be short for, "Cake is just the ordinary dessert 'cake' which I don't really care for."

Another example:

The two of them are always fighting! I'll never understand how they stay a couple, but what can you do? Love is love.

Here "love is love" could be a short, simple version of the more complex thought:

'Love' is a combination of many weird and inexplicable attractions which we collectively group as a single word, 'love' but we don't really understand.

Again, the structure has no single meaning. You have to understand what the writer (or speaker) is trying to say. It should be obvious from context, but might sometimes require some understanding of current events.

With Miranda, you have to understand how the US is going through a painful political shift with this new Trump administration, which is leaving a lot of people feeling excluded or persecuted by religious fundamentalists who have been given a lot of power. It helps also to know about this event where after the show the stars of the very popular music "Hamilton" delivered a special message to (then) Vice-President-Elect Mike Pence, a very conservative Christian governor who has consistently voted against LGTQ rights, and who was in the audience that night.

So this version of "love is love is love is love etc." has a lot of subtext.

  • Indeed, it's just reduplication (as opposed to a claim that the utterance "love is love" is itself love, for example). – Luke Sawczak Jun 30 '17 at 20:14
  • I'm not sure I understand that thing with cake...but it came to my mind that it constitutes the different letters of LGBTQ+, as he would say heterosexual love = homosexual love = trans...is that what you meant? – Probably Jun 30 '17 at 20:30
  • @Probably There are different meanings of "X is X" structure which you have to interpret from context. In Miranda's poem he uses it to emphasize that "all love is valid". But just as often this structure means that I don't think X is anything interesting -- that one X is the same as any other X. I didn't notice that he said "love" five times, but I think it might just be a coincidence, since there is some dissent whether these five are the only kinds of sexual alignment out there. – Andrew Jun 30 '17 at 20:37
  • @Andrew I didn't count it, I'm just still struggling to understand what you meant. I understand there are those 2 meanings and I tried to explain how I could see the X (one meaning of love) = X (second meaning of love)=(third meaning of love)... structure. I can see the meaning in it much better than in the 2nd option you're putting through - X (narrow meaning) = X (wider meaning) = X... – Probably Jul 1 '17 at 6:38
  • @Probably Actually I suspect "X is X" can have any number of meanings which vary with context, because it's really an ellipsis meaning that it's short for a longer sentence. Which words are left out will vary with context. I can't add too much detail in comments, so let me amend my answer. – Andrew Jul 1 '17 at 15:20

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