As any writer can tell you, language has its limitations, especially when it comes to a concept as complicated, celebrated, and universal as romantic love — but as artist Emma Block's series More Than Just a Word shows, people certainly haven't let that stop them from trying. Across the world, languages have developed their own unique terms to describe the nigh-indescribable connection known as love — some of which simply can't be translated into another language. Fortunately, to paraphrase Henrich Heine, Block's illustrations begin where words end.
The English artist created the series in partnership with jewelry company Vashi, who provided her with the meanings of romantic phrases around the world and essentially set her loose. To drive home the universality of romantic love, the images feature phrases from languages all over the world: Welsh, Arabic, Chinese, Boro, and many, many more. The result is a series of impossibly romantic illustrations depicting a relationship between two people as they go from love at first sight ("flechazo") to being too shy to make a move ("mamihlapinatapei") to growing old together ("Zhi zi zhi shou, yu zi xie lao"). Even I felt my cold, blackened heart stirring to life at the sight of the series, and I refuse to acknowledge my own emotions as a rule.
"Some of the words were quiet complex in meaning, so I really had to think outside the box with how to portray them," Block tells Bustle via email. "I wanted the images to work on their own but also tell a love story evolving over time, with subtle nods to the countries the words came from."
The romance is only heightened by Block's whimsical style, which evokes the feel of a bygone era. "My style is quite influenced by mid-century illustration and design, vintage fashion and old films," Block says.
Block also notes that she would love to continue the series in the future, possibly featuring different couples rather than following a single relationship. "I would love to include a same sex couple," she adds.
Even if you're an avowed nonbeliever, More Than Just a Word is sure to restore your faith in love at least a little bit — plus, the phrases themselves are perfect for when you're whispering sweet nothings into your lover's ear. It's a win-win!