I came across a video somewhere on the internet today, of someone’s front-door security-camera footage. It showed a delivery man petting the homeowner’s cat, and the uploader had captioned it something like, Check out the UPS guy loving on my cat.
Well that’s a new one, I thought. Loving on. Hating on I’d heard of, but not loving on.
Of course I understood the meaning in context: showing affection to. And of course I understood that adding the preposition on made an important distinction, as loving my cat would’ve been far too strong. I mean, I’m sure the delivery man liked the cat, but I think it was the first time they’d ever met.
Still, it struck me as an odd phrase, mainly because we tend to avoid using the verb to love in English, so using it in a phrasal verb with a fairly trivial meaning seems a little strange (at the time of writing, it’s the only phrasal verb that incorporates to love that I can think of).
Of course the adverb on puts a little distance between the verb to love and the object, so it’s a lot less risky than just using to love on its own. But I’m still curious why people are using this expression in the first place. If we need to make it clear that we’re not really talking about love by using the preposition on, why use the verb to love at all? Why not just say petting my cat or doin’ a heckin’ good pet on my floof or something?
Perhaps, as I suspect, it’s a generational thing. Young people in English-speaking countries are generally more open about showing affection, and maybe this is reflected in their greater ease with using the verb to love.
Still though, with a bit of distance, a little qualifier, in the form of that preposition on. Though perhaps that was just a little prudence on the part of the cat’s owner, wary of someone in the NSA seeing them uploading a video about a man loving a cat.