Tomato, Tomahto?

“Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off”

You say either and I say either,
You say neither and I say neither
Either, either Neither, neither
Let’s call the whole thing off.
You like potato and I like potahto
You like tomato and I like tomahto
Potato, potahto, Tomato, tomahto.
Let’s call the whole thing off
But oh, if we call the whole thing off
Then we must part
And oh, if we ever part, then that might break my heart.


In 1937, the Gershwin brothers wrote the original score, “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” for Fred Estair and Ginger Rogers in the movie, Shall we Dance. It would go on to be recorded by the likes of Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Harry Connick, Jr (in When Harry Met Sally). The inspired song strikes a chord for anyone in a relationship.

Relationships are complicated and especially when we often speak different “love” dialects. Who would have guessed that the words, “You like tomato and I like tomahto,” could say so much?

I suspect that if we were given an audience inside God’s mind, we would see that the point of all this flesh, bone and spirit drama is to figure out how to love well—Divinely even. But let’s face it, a lot of the time we are “love numbskulls.” We speak a dialect of French when our mate only understands Spanish. We often don’t take the time to walk in the other’s shoes to see how their heart actually operates. What is it that makes them feel be-loved?

In one of my first pastoral care classes at Vanderbilt Divinity School, I read the book, The 5 Love Languages, by Gary Chapman. He claims we all have our own love language. The kicker to successful relationships is figuring out which love language you speak and which your mate speaks. And like tomato and tomahto, we usually don’t speak the same one!

Ironically, we often give the kind of love that we would actually like to receive and vice versa.

Why so many relationships fail is our inability to study our mates needs and understand what makes them tick—-what lights them up so that they are buoyant in our love? It sounds so simple but clearly with a 50% divorce rate, and a scary number of couples living parallel lives—something has gotten lost in translation.

Let’s play a game of darts. I’ll give you a list of the five love languages and you figure out which one is the bullseye for you and the ones you claim to love.

1. Words of Affirmation: Sometimes the words, I Love you, are not weighty enough, and you need to go deeper. These people are nourished on a loving rhetoric of compliments. They need to hear how valuable, irreplaceable, and important they are in your life. As Shakespeare once said, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”

2. Quality Time: Lay down your iPhone, turn off ESPN or Nashville, stop cleaning the kitchen, and just sit down and listen. When was the last time you gave your spouse, child, or friend your undivided attention. There is no reward in love for the multi-tasker. These people need you to look them in the eye and be present. They want you to turn off everything else and just focus on them. What they need is not words, but your time.

3. Gifts: Even the cavemen knew that a fine way to express one’s love is with a token of affection. The act of gift-giving is a tangible act of love. But where this love language is most effective is when accomplished for no special occasion, but just because. Usually it’s not the extravagant gestures that win the heart, but the thought that counts. I have a friend who loves collecting folk art and her husband has been known to return home from a business trip with a piece of art, usually not of the expensive kind, but full of meaning. Love notes, a single bud, a bag of chocolate covered almonds—–anything that says, “I was just thinking about you and I love you.”

4. Acts of Service: Nothing says love like a clean kitchen, a home-cooked meal, a mowed lawn, or paying the bills. For many, actions speak louder than words. Don’t tell me you love me, show me you love me. These people love to help others out and have others help them out. They feel loved when you do something unsolicited and often undesirable for them. This love language is acts of kindness.

5. Physical Touch: Stop your giggling. This one is a big one for many men and women. And it can be as simple as a brush against the knee,  the reach for a hand, or as my grandmother used to say, “a little pillow talk.” We all need to feel embraced— to connect in body and spirit.

We are our relationships! How we love and are loved says so much about who we are and how successful we are as human”holy” beings. We are only fools if we keep it a secret the best way to love us. And we are even more the fool if we don’t take the time to figure out the most effective way to love the people most important to us. This goes for husbands, wives, partners, children, parents, work colleagues, and even strangers. We have to get into the business of “reading hearts.” It’s a win-win for everyone involved.

What could better be said about you than you loved well AND you were well-loved.

Live in Hope,



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