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Word in Review: Do we 'love' too many things?

caption: Bronwen Stevenson, owner of Shotgun Ceremonies Wedding Chapel in Seattle.
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Bronwen Stevenson, owner of Shotgun Ceremonies Wedding Chapel in Seattle.
KUOW/Bill Radke

Every week, Bill Radke asks listeners to name a word they hear that seems misplaced or overused. This week’s listener, Claire Carter, is thinking about Valentine’s Day.

Claire Carter: I think that the word that is most overused and devalued is love.

Where would Bill walk? He would walk through Pike Place and he would hear, “I love almonds. I love rain. Oh, I love salmon.” And, “Oh, I love those guys.” But the crowd is gathered around because there's a young man proposing to his love. And of course, she says, “I love you, or course I'll marry you.” And I just thought, "All of the love that you hear in the market, and then there's the real thing."

Bill Radke: You think that romantic love gets to keep the word "love" — that's love.

Carter: I do, I do.

What about the platonic love of two friends? Is love too good a word for that?

Carter: Oh, that's such a good question, Bill. I didn't think of it that way. I don’t know, I don't think I love my friends to the same degree that I love my husband or my children.

OK, so that’s one listener’s take on the word love. You might feel differently. In fact, you do feel differently if your name is Bronwen Stevenson and you perform weddings inside a shipping container and call your business Shotgun Ceremonies.

Bronwen Stevenson: Well, I had I guess you could say a shotgun wedding. I was knocked up and went to Vegas 30 years ago, and I've been happily married ever since.

She wanted to create that quickie vibe in Seattle. Couples can call her up last-minute, skip the hassle, and get hitched. Her little chapel stands next to the Georgetown Trailer Park Mall right by Boeing Field. Don’t mind the jets overhead.

Stevenson: It's painted pink. And I have little sort of window-esque looking pieces on the wall. So it kind of gives it kind of represents a chapel. And then I have an arch that is made from metal and says shotgun on it. And yeah, it's kind of a kitschy sort of a place.

A listener was just telling us how she thinks the word "love" is overused and devalued. Do you think that's true?

Stevenson: I would say if that was a word that's being overused, I'll take that word over a lot of words being overused. I would say use it more.

Do you ever hear people think that a wedding like this in a shipping container is somehow less than or like devaluing the greatest day of your life?

Stevenson: Oh, absolutely. And I hear comments and that sort of thing. One of the places which I haven't been there since Covid hit, is in jail where people are going to be sentenced and they're gonna leave and go to prison. So they want to get married prior so they can get conjugal visits and that sort of thing. One of the sweetest things was the couple, so she had made her own, made her own bouquet, made a boutonniere for him and just kind of pinned it on the glass because we’re behind glass. We have to have be on a phone. He was wearing a orange bow tie that he made out of prison sock. And she brought a wipe so they could kiss on the glass.

She sanitized the glass?

Stevenson: Yeah, it was just the sweet — like they, in that moment that is so stressful and so painful and so hurtful, they did a wedding behind the glass and made every effort to do it to where they that felt like a wedding to them, you know felt like that. So I mean, there's things like that that happen where you're like, you don't know their story and people judge you know if I'm doing weddings in a jail or whatever, like you don't know what what's going on, you know, but those are moving moments.

You're getting emotional. What made you emotional about that?

Stevenson: Just how you know there's so much sorrow in the world but love is … love happens anyway, you know? So, yeah.

And with that, Bronwen and I walked out of her shipping container, past her outdoor chapel where for a fee you can have your wedding performed by Elvis. Which is funny because it turns out that Bronwen and our earlier listener Claire have something in common. Claire and her husband got married at the Chapel of the West in Las Vegas.

Carter: We wrote our vows to one another, and every line was a line from an Elvis song. We said in unison and I promised never to step on your blue suede shoes. And everybody just laughed, and we just had fun with it.

I hope you didn't rush into this marriage because wise men have said that...

Carter: We might be foolish, but we're foolish in love.

That’s KUOW’s Bill Radke with the latest in his series about the words we use.

If you hear a word in the news you’d like to hear Bill discuss, email him at

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