Monday, June 4, 2012

House and Home

As is well known, English has an unusually large and varied vocabulary for almost all matters, including the important issue of housing.  After all, shelter is one of the most basic needs.  Opening up the Thesaurus to the word home – noun brings up an impressive list of related words, each with a bit of a different context.
A home is a general word for a permanent place to sleep as compared to lodgings where a hotel guest may stay or quarters or a billet where soldiers spend their nights.  Of course, the home implies some emotional attachments unlike a house, which is merely four walls with some rooms in it. 
On a smaller note, a British flat becomes an apartment, if it is for rent, or a condo, if it is for sale and a bit fancy, on the other side of the Atlantic.  A studio is a fancy word for a small, one room place.  A penthouse has very high class pretentions that do not meet reality in Israel at least. 
The upper part of scale is a mansion, which assumes some staff to maintain all the rooms or possible a residence if it is official, as in the Prime Minister’s Residence, which is really a rather large flat.  Royalty did once live in palaces, but today the term is rather relative, to misquote Einstein, as in moving into a cottage of 240 meters after years in that quaint studio.  It does give the feeling of “making it.”  As that term cottage, it once meant a small country house, a bit like a Russian dacha.  Today, it is used indiscriminately any house with a yard, big or small.
The flip side of the equation is a tenement, a small crowded flat in a poor area.   Some people would call that a dump, but that is being negative.  On the other hand, if you are young, poor, and in love in Paris, you would call the 9th floor studio with no elevator a loft or even a pied-è-terre, even if it is far from the ground. 
So, as you walk in big cities and see homeless, reconsider your dwelling and remember that home is where the hearth is, no matter how small or big it is.

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