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It's a reality that language is a changing and evolving entity. Verbs become nouns, nouns become verbs, and slang transforms from shibboleth to common usage in the blink of a generational eye. Those fluent in modern English don't speak, write or think using the same language the translators of the King James Bible or the framers of the Constitution did, even though it seems that way some of the time. I can accept this, for the most part.
Today's subject is a crusade doomed from the start; I stand as but a feeble stem in the tsunami-level tide on this one. Why bring it up for the Fascista's sophomore week? Maybe because it's my most cherished usage peeve, or maybe just to prove to the world how very quixotic I am. If I were Catholic, I would take the matter to Saint Jude, the patron of lost causes. I'm not, though, so I guess I'm on my own.
Here's how Robert Frost famously defined 'home,' from his 1915 poem "The Death of the Hired Man."
Home is the place where, when you have to go there,But this strict and precise definition of 'home' started to change in the 1950s. After World War II, when America invented the Suburban Dream, a profession rose up out of obscurity into great prominence. I refer, of course, to the vast army of real estate agents now entrenched permanently throughout the global village. These humble soldiers, given the task of marketing properties to a prosperous public, redefined 'home,' with far-reaching results. Here's what usage guru Kenneth Wilson writes [bold emphasis mine; italics his]:
They have to take you in.
Realtors have turned home into a euphemism: no realtors worth their salt will sell houses, only warm, emotion-filled homes....Nor is this the only euphemistic entanglement the highly charged word home has been involved in: the terms convalescent home, retirement home, and nursing home are in such universal use that the more explicit, informative asylum, convalescent hospital, retirement center, or nursing hospital are no longer current. Much tugging and hauling is ill-concealed in this double use of the word: We wanted to keep mother at home, but the doctor said she’d be better off in a home.--Kenneth G. Wilson (1923–). The Columbia Guide to Standard American English. 1993.
Modern dictionaries are now bowing to the weight of nearly universal usage of 'home' in this way, though stalwarts like the OED persist in more traditional (though somewhat slippery) meanings such as "the physical dwelling-place of a family."
Redefining and using 'home' for purposes of commerce has cheapened the term. I hear nearly everywhere phrases like "a home's energy use" or "that old Victorian home on the hill" or 'his home value went up with the pool installation" or "buying a home in Montclair" or "sold their home for less than what they paid for it."
Just as money can't buy you love, money can't buy a home. In all cases in the preceding paragraph, 'home' is used incorrectly; 'house' would have been proper usage. It may seem extreme to you, but I believe that using 'home' to refer to a physical structure rather than a place of the heart (or at least, habit) shows our culture's unhealthy focus on material objects as substitutes for the things that really matter in life.
Here are some examples of 'home' used appropriately:
She returned home after a grueling semester at college.And finally, a bit of doggerel that may prove a useful mnemonic for those willing to join my crusade: “A house is made of walls and beams; a home is built with love and dreams.”
They made their first home in Ames, Iowa. [They didn't buy or build the physical structure; they settled in and made the house their home. Got it?]
He filled our home with laughter and chaos.
Some of you are now muttering, "Lighten up, Francis." I bow to your wishes and offer you a lighthearted, but topical, bit o' fun: