Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A house is not a home

I winced this morning to hear the newsreader at our NPR member-station refer to our new governor Bruce Rauner’s “nine homes.” Properties, yes: condos, houses, a penthouse, ranches, a farm. Homes, no.

Garner’s Modern American Usage makes the point nicely: its entry for home reads, in its entirety, “See house.” And that entry explains: “In the best usage, the structure is always called a house. . . . The word home connotes familial ties.”

One cannot have nine “homes” without a very complicated (messy) private life. I am not accusing the governor of that.

comments: 11

Diane Schirf said...

They're likely 9 real estate investments.

Michael Leddy said...

Ya think? : )

Chris said...

Yes, I think we can thank the upscale real estate industry for this usage. Having a mere "house" no longer accords one sufficient status; one must have a luxury "home," preferably one big enough to fit three or four old-style "houses" within its walls.

Michael Leddy said...

Yes, I see that language everywhere. Homes for Sale.

Mike Donovan said...

Hi Michael,

I'm not sure about this one. I've thought about this more than a few times and have decided that if "home" is wrong than it's wrong in some big ways. Examples...

1. Do we but a Home security system or a House security system?

2. Do we shop at Dell's "Home and Office" site, or "House and Office?"

3. Do we shop at home improvement stores or HouseDepot?

4. Since 1942, there has has been a "National Association of Home Builders."

5. Do we usually shop at insurers offering Home & Auto policies or House and Auto?

I usually agree with you, but this one is a very fuzzy line. It's hard to find a familial link to any of the above.

Michael Leddy said...

Mike, I like your examples, and I like “home” in 1, 2, 3, and 5. I think that the word there suggests not a structure but a place (which could be an apartment or a house) and its people, its contents. But I like what Garner says about “house” being the word for the structure. So no. 4 sounds to me like real-estate language. And now I remember a word from childhood: househunting. Anyone looking to build or buy a house already has a home.

What set me off was the idea of someone having nine “homes.” That seems to warp the idea of home.

Elaine Fine said...

At least a chair is still a chair.

Michael Leddy said...

Even when there’s no one sitting there.

Diane Schirf said...

My home is an apartment, which in some circles are sometimes marketed as "apartment homes," but "apartment" on its own seems more common. I suspect some homeowners don't see apartments as "homes."

Michael Leddy said...

Snobs! Their logic would make apartment-dwellers homeless.

Diane Schirf said...

Pretty much. "Renters" is spoken with a curl of the lip. Of course, I think of most "homeowners" as banks. :)