[T]he phrase “I like music” appears roughly three times as often as “I love music,” and the phrase “I like movies” is about five times as common as “I love movies.” (Indeed, the general preference for “I like X” is stronger than you might expect: Even “I love America” gets roundly stomped by “I like America,” just as “I love beer” is, to my sorrow and surprise, trumped by “I like beer.”) But the phrase “I love poetry” beats “I like poetry” by a ratio of two to one. … [N]o matter how many times I ran these particular searches (and I did this repeatedly over several days), I never got a result in which “I love poetry” failed to outperform the “like” version; in fact, one particular, presumably aberrant search returned thirty-six occurrences of “love” for every occurrence of “like.”
I repeated the experiment. For “I like poetry” I got about 1,260,000 results. For “I love poetry” I got about 4,170,000 results.
Then I thought, why not, I’ll try, “I don’t like poetry,” and got about 961,000 results. For “I hate poetry” I got about 285,000 results. Amusingly, many of the initial “I hate poetry” results are poems or poetry discussion groups.
I did pretty quickly find another supposedly atypical love/like asymmetry. “I love sex” (about 31,000,000 results) vs. “I like sex” (about 11,900,000 results). Does this say something about Poetry?
Interestingly, considering yesterday’s post, the likes vs. the loves as regards ping-pong are fairly comparable: “I like ping pong” (about 287,000 results) vs. “I love ping pong” (about 263,000 results). (For Orr the likes vs. the loves for “poker” came out about the same.) He also searches Cooking (2.8 : 1), Gardening (2.54 : 1), Romance Novels (3.36 : 1), and Stamp Collecting (3.5 : 1).
source: Beautiful and Pointless: a guide to modern poetry by David Orr