the guy you love to hate

Discussion in 'English Only' started by chance22, May 21, 2009.

  1. chance22 Member

    Lately, I've read a passage, and the first paragragh goes in this way:
    1.John is the kind of guy you love to hate. He is always in a good mood and always has something positive to say. When someone would ask him how he was doing, he would reply, "If I were any better, I would be twins!"

    1. what does "you love to hate" mean? Does it mean "you're likely to hate"
    or"you love him to such an extent that you hate him? " How can the expression be explained ?
    <<Second question deleted by moderator.>>
    Last edited by a moderator: May 21, 2009
  2. mrr5052 Senior Member

    American English
    I would say it is roughly equivalent to... "You couldn't hate him if you tried." Because of his exceptional personality, it is very hard to hate him.
  3. ewhite

    ewhite Senior Member

    It doesn't mean that at all. The term was most famously applied to Erich von Stroheim, a German actor of the silent and early sound period, who made a career of playing villainous Prussian noblemen. His portrayals were so strong that the audience would enjoy the feelings of animosity he engendered. Therefore, he was the man you love to hate.

    From that bit of Hollywood fluff, the term has generally come to mean someone who is enjoyably bad.
  4. chance22 Member

    Thank you very much for the reply. But still not very clear about the structure. Is this kind of expression often used? Does this "love to" mean "love to" in the common sense? Are there more examples?
  5. mrr5052 Senior Member

    American English
    If you are asking whether the "to" means "in order to" then, no it doesn't. It is the same as "The book you love to read"
  6. EnchiladaJack Senior Member

    USA, English
    It's literal. The author is saying that John is such an annoyingly cheerful character that people take great pleasure in despising him for his overabundance of cheer.
  7. mrr5052 Senior Member

    American English
    Yes! That is what I was thinking but I couldn't find the right words to express it.
  8. chance22 Member

    So happy to get your explanation. It does sound reasonable. And i have really been baffled for a long time.
  9. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I agree with ewhite's explanation of what this means, which makes it a bit difficult to work out why it has been used in this case.
    The guy we love to hate was in fact a hateful guy. We enjoyed hating him, hence the description.

    The guy in the topic text is annoying, no doubt, but he is not a figure of hate.

    So I am confused.
  10. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Here's what appears to be the full story: click.

    There's no hint that the writer finds John hateful or annoying; in fact he finds him admirable.

    I too agree with ewhite's description of "the guy you love to hate". I think the expression is completely out of place as an introduction to this story:(
  11. Franzi Senior Member

    Astoria, NY
    (San Francisco) English
    I agree with Loob; it's a poor choice of words.

    I think the writer might have been trying to say that it is easy to envy John or find his optimism annoying or mystifying (but that we should admire him instead).
  12. johndot Senior Member

    English - England
    Mightn’t it have been more appropriate to write “The guy you hate to love [admire]”?
  13. cycloneviv

    cycloneviv Senior Member

    Perth, Western Australia
    English - Australia
    By the way, this expression, and in fact this exact text with the name "John" replaced by "Michael", has been discussed in this forum before:

    love to hate

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