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In the article of today’s New York Times praising Elisabeth Taylor’s beauty and her personal style titled “An Alluring Beauty Exempt From Fashion’s Rules” I found two phrases unfamiliar to me, i.e. “She was irresistible mayhem, and “I love you in 18 syllables.” quoted from Joel Rosenthal, one of the actress’s closest friend’s remarks. Could you explain what these two phrases mean?

“She was the only goddess I know who had a sense of humor and a gigantic heart,” said Joel Rosenthal, one of the top jewelers in the world, whose Paris-based company is called JAR. “She was irresistible mayhem,” he said by telephone from Basel, Switzerland. “And she was without vanity. She transcended whatever else she was doing, be it a mediocre script or a dress that didn’t look right. --- He could still hear the singing tone of her voice as she signed off a telephone conversation: “I love you,” he said, “in 18 syllables.”

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The first phrase seems straightforward: what he means by "irresistible mayhem" is that she was a wild, chaotic force that was utterly captivating and impossible to draw away from.

The way I read the second phrase is that she sang a drawn out "I love you", which could perhaps be represented as "I lo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-ve you". His phrasing isn't exactly standard English, though.

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So these two phrases are not established usage, and parhaps I need not to be too discouraged with absolute lack of English vocabulary. – Yoichi Oishi Mar 25 '11 at 0:51
@Yoichi Oishi: Oishi-san, it's anyone's guess what the 18 syllables refers to. It certainly isn't a catch phrase of some kind. – Robusto Mar 25 '11 at 1:00
That is correct. It took me a minute to work through the second phrase. Personally, I think it's a little over-wrought. – Yozomiri Mar 25 '11 at 1:03
Don't be discouraged. They are far from established usage. Rather, Joel Rosenthal was using paradox to try to say something distinctive, creative, even poetic. Literally, "I love you" has three syllables. He might have said you would hear 18 tones. It was a slight distortion, for the effect of surprise and paradox, to say 18 syllables. Similarly, how can mayhem be irresistible? You would normally shun mayhem for your own safety. Again he's using paradox to communicate what a singular person Elizabeth Taylor was. – Concrete Gannet Mar 25 '11 at 1:36
@Concrete Gannet.Today’s (March 25th) New York Times picked up Joel Rosenthal’s “She was irresistible mayhem,” in its “Today’s Quote” section. It seems this expression seems to be singular (or noteworty) even to the editor. No wonder I'm puzzed. – Yoichi Oishi Mar 26 '11 at 6:13

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