house and home

sam schulman points me to an interesting article in the tls (thanks, sam!), Querns and curtains, which is a review of a couple of books about the house and home. one of them is The Making of Home: The 500-year story of how our houses became homes by judith flanders.

here’s the cool bit [my bolding]:

“France and Britain stood on two sides of a divide that Flanders identifies between the ‘home’ countries and ‘house’ countries. In the ‘house’ countries – where Romance or Slavic languages are spoken – there is no linguistic distinction between house and home. ‘When an Italian goes home he *sta andando a casa*, goes to the house’. To speakers of the languages of north-western Europe, home and house are ‘related but distinct things’: *Heim* and *Haus* in German or *koti* and *talo* in Finnish. Flanders convincingly suggests that this linguistic separation of house and home went along with a different ideal of ‘homeness’. The focal point was not the wider community but the individual household, which was increasingly founded on privacy. Curtains are a case in point. They make possible the kind of cosiness – the Danish word is *hygge* – that can only be found inside ‘when set against a real or metaphorical cold world outside’. Flanders writes that the implications of the northern European version of ‘home’ went far beyond the cultural. Patterns of late marriage in these countries produced generations of couples who needed ‘to equip new houses’ and had ‘the cash to do so’. It is Flanders’s thesis that a focus on a private ‘home’ equipped with new desirable consumer goods was one of the factors that made industrialization happen earlier in Britain than elsewhere. The ideal home was an insatiable creature, constantly generating new appetites for consumer goods, such as sash windows, carpets, cookstoves; and later for gas light and newfangled raisin-pitters and apple-corers.”

sounds like the dividing line between ‘house’ and ‘home’ societies in europe is more or less the hajnal line! — with france outside the hajnal line in this instance. (is there really no word for ‘home’ in french?)

consulting my (shorter) oed, i find that the words house and home both go back to at least old english, i.e. sometime before 1149 (and both are also related to similar words in other germanic languages obviously), but that the word home really took on the primary meaning that we use today in middle english or sometime between 1150 and 1349 when its other usage (“a collection of dwellings”) was dropped:

house [f. Gmc: ult origin unkn.] A n. Pl. houses. 1 A building for human habitation, a dwelling, a home; spec. a self-contained unit having a ground floor and one or more upper storeys (as opp. to a bungalow, flat, etc.). OE.

home
A n. †1 A collection of dwellings; a village, a town. OE-ME. 2 The place where one lives permanently, esp. as a member of a family or household; a fixed place of residence. Freq. without article or possessive, esp. as representing the centre of family life. OE.

i’ve been arguing for a while now that the foundation of anglo-saxon society in early medieval england was the extended family or kindred and not the individual and his nuclear family like today. (this is not my idea — i’ve picked it up from various historians.) i’ve also argued that the shift from the kindred to the nuclear family in medieval england and elsewhere in my northwestern “core” europe occurred sometime between ca. 1000 and 1200 — roughly speaking (prolly slightly later in northern scandinavia). for example, it wasn’t until the eleventh century in england that a feud could be carried out by a man’s fellow guild members (i.e. people not necessarily related to him) rather than his kindred (see here) — this, i think, indicates that the importance of the kindred was dying away at that point in time. for more on all this see my previous posts: kinship in anglo-saxon society, kinship in anglo-saxon society ii, and the importance of the kindred in anglo-saxon society.

the shift in the meaning of the word home sometime between 1150 and 1349 to (only) the way we use it today is, i think, another indicator of the rising importance of the nuclear family right around this time (or just a bit before, perhaps, with a slight delay in the language until it caught up with the reality on the ground). from the article again: “The focal point was not the wider community but the individual household….” the “wider community” had, of course, largely been extended family and kindred members in the early medieval period; by the high and late middle ages, the nuclear family in the individual household was what was important — one’s “home” (as we know it), no longer one’s “home” (a “collection of dwellings”…belonging to the extended family?). and, of course, i think that this shift from the extended to the nuclear family in nw europe happened thanks to The Outbreeding Project in medieval europe, yada, yada, yada….

this shift in the language parallel to the one in the family type isn’t the only one that appears to be connected to The Outbreeding Project. the terms that we use to describe various family members — especially cousins and aunts and uncles — also changed in nw europe a couple of hundred years after The Outbreeding Project got going in europe — right around the 1100s in germany, in fact. interesting, huh? (and did i ever mention that there was a similar linguistic shift in ancient greece in the fifth to the third centuries bc?)
_____

something else that i found interesting in the review article, but only because i have a quirky interest in the layout of houses, both inside and in relation to other houses:

“Another common feature of these roundhouses, as the archaeologist Francis Pryor notes in ‘Home: A time traveller’s tales from Britain’s history’, his account of family life in Britain before the Romans, was that the doorway almost always faced south-east – as many as 95 per cent of the ones we know of. The most likely reason was solar orientation: ‘to catch the light of the rising sun’, as Pryor puts it. In his view, this was not primarily a practical move – in the Fens, where there are bitter north-easterly winds, a west-facing door might have offered more protection – though it ‘may have helped’ with getting up in the morning. Rather, these sun-catching doorways were a ‘symbol’ of the importance of the sun in structuring daily life. Home, in Iron Age Britain, was a place that looked outwards towards the sun.

“Fast-forward to the towns of Britain in the nineteenth century and people no longer had strong views about the placement of doorways. A front door faced not the sun but the street, and therefore varied depending on which side of the street you occupied. What mattered more than which way the door faced was that a home should have curtains. By the mid-nineteenth century, as Judith Flanders explains in her magnificent overview ‘The Making of Home’, to live without curtains ‘seemed as odd to the British as living without corridors’ (another thing that homes had once not felt the lack of). Curtains have many functions – insulation, decoration and prestige. But their primary purpose is to protect the home from what is happening outside, ‘even light’, as Flanders writes. Curtains epitomize a view of ‘home’ directly opposed to the south-easterly doorways of prehistoric Britain. Our modern version of home is not a place that looks towards the sun, but inwards towards itself. Curtains enable the occupants of a house to feel that ‘what is happening outside is far away’.”

i’ve brought up the orientation of houses in england (and nw europe) before. what i’ve always thought was significant is that anglo/nw european houses face onto the street or a common area (the “green”), not only for a functional reason (although it’s no doubt useful to have the entrance to your house face the road), but because all the unrelated nuclear families in these homes feel that they are a part of the broader community (except, of course, for that one crazy guy livin’ on his own down the street). this is in contrast, for instance, to courtyard houses that you find in many areas of the world where inbreeding (cousin marriage) still occurs and where it’s the extended family that’s important, not the neighborhood.

flanders’ observations on curtains offering some privacy and a way for the nuclear family to focus in on itself (particularly when the blinds are closed?) are interesting, though. maybe i’ll have to read the book! (^_^)

previously: big summary post on the hajnal line and the importance of the kindred in anglo-saxon society and kinship in anglo-saxon society and kinship in anglo-saxon society ii and there’s no place like home and kandahar vs. levittown.

(note: comments do not require an email. curtains!)

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28 Comments

  1. But German and Dutch do not say the equivalent of “go home”. They say the equivalent of “go to house”. The four major Scandinavian languages do, however, say “go home”.

    Simplest inference : Danish/Viking influence on late Old English.

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  2. @pseudoerasmus – “Simplest inference : Danish/Viking influence on late Old English.”

    maybe! when did “home” in the scandinavian languages start to mean “home” as we use it in english today? or did it always mean that in those languages? (don’t have access to a scandinavian languages etymology dictionary.)

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  3. No idea about the word shift in Scandinavian.

    Actually German does have the verb “heimgehen”, with one of those separable prefixes. But it has euphemistic connotations. If you’re literally staying at home because of illness instead of going to work, you would say “zu Hause bleiben” or if you’re going home “nach Hause gehen”.

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  4. “home” as we use it in english today?”

    But the usage is very expansive in American English. I have heard Americans say “townhomes”…. I think the historical usage in English is more restricted. In Old English “home” is “ham” as in “hamlet”. It refers to the general place you come from. In a Romance language the same meaning would have been conveyed by the equivalent of “country” (pays, paese, etc.)

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  5. @pseudoerasmus – “But the usage is very expansive in American English. I have heard Americans say ‘townhomes’…. I think the historical usage in English is more restricted.”

    yeah, sure. maybe not strange that the meaning has expanded again in american english since a lot of non-anglos have contributed words (and meanings) to american english.

    i was just thinking about “homeboy” here. that’s just someone from your ‘hood, not a family member. but that word wasn’t coined by anglos.

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  6. “Townhome” is the logical extension of huckster-marketingese, just like “home buyer”, “home loan”, “home builder”, etc. These are all referring to literal houses, but some dimwit decided home is a homier word.

    “Homeboy” seems a coinage much more in keeping with tradition, along the lines of homeland, “Home Counties”, home-grown, home rule, home town — all abstract usages of “home”.

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  7. @pseudoerasmus – “‘Homeboy’ seems a coinage much more in keeping with tradition….”

    yeah, but with OE tradition. =P “home” as in the sense of village versus the nuclear family and its residence.

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  8. Heim is very infrequent in German, most common is probably Heimat.

    “Heimat (pronounced [ˈhaɪmat]) is a German word with no English equivalent that denotes the relationship of a human being towards a certain spatial social unit. The term forms a contrast to social alienation and usually carries positive connotations. It is often expressed with terms such as home or homeland.”

    So Germans took home and expanded it to the level of the village (there was a famous documentary a few years ago called Heimat).

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  9. No, English tradition in general. The use of the word “home” in the sense used in “home rule” or “Home secretary” is plentiful. Can’t think of any compounds containing the word “home” that means “house with a family living in it”, other than very recent coinages, like “home maker” or “home movie”.

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  10. @pseudoerasmus – “Can’t think of any compounds containing the word ‘home’ that means ‘house with a family living in it’….”

    no, no, no. you’re missing my (the) point. nowadays HOME means a house w/a nuclear family in it — plus more, obviously — “home is where the heart is” sorta stuff.

    it used to also mean a collection of houses, a village, but it lost that meaning sometime during the ME period (1150-1349).

    you’re bringing up compound words using “home” which is interesting, but the coining of many of them might be a result of special interests trying to tug on the people’s heartstrings ’cause of the warm & fuzzy feelings associated with the ideas of home in the first place — like the madison avenue types you mentioned. even “home rule” — coined in the late 1800s (according to the oed) — could very well have been thought up to assuage the feelings of populations that had been colonized (“we’ll give you home rule — you’ll feel better then” (~_^) ).

    here’s a funny one, though: home run. heh! =P

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  11. @bjk – “So Germans took home and expanded it to the level of the village….”

    thanks, bjk! that was also, however, one of the early meanings of “home” in english — in old english. it lost that meaning, though, sometime during middle english (1150-1349).

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  12. “huckster-marketingese, just like “home buyer”, “home loan”, “home builder”, etc. These are all referring to literal houses, but some dimwit decided home is a homier word”: that phenomenon is obvious in Britain too. I blame the Americans. Mind you there is one subtlety in Britain: in Scotland “house” can include an apartment in a tenement (i.e. an apartment block) but that usage seems to be quite foreign to the English. So I suppose in England “home” can then be justified as including house, flat, maisonette, hovel, mansion ……

    There is also the usage (is it perhaps post war?) “stately home”, which in Scotland would be Big Hoose.

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  13. Why did I not look it up earlier ?

    Here is the entry for “home” in the Oxford English Dictionary.

    Old English had several meanings for “home” or “ham”, two of them obsolete.

    The sense of “person’s house” or “fixed residence of the family” also existed in Old English. It’s used in the Lindisfarne Gospel of John ! That’s like 700.

    The usage of “home” as a kind of proper noun, without article, dates to Tudor times.

    The phrase “the home” dates to the 19th century. The sense of “family” or “social unit” dates to the late 19th century.

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  14. I am not linguist but in Czech (slavic language) there is a noun “dům” (house) and “domov” (home). With similar distinction between words as in English. The same situation should be in Slovak. I am not sure about Polish though (according to dictionary it seems there is no such difference).

    Maybe you should kick hanjal line a little bit eastwards (there are more similarities).

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  15. @pseudoerasmus – “Old English had several meanings for ‘home’ or ‘ham’, two of them obsolete.”

    i know! that’s what i wrote in the post, silly person. =P (well, i’ve got one of them obsolete in ME.)

    @pseudoerasmus – “The sense of ‘family’ or ‘social unit’ dates to the late 19th century.”

    no, no. that’s not what i’ve got from my oed. see the definitions from my shorter oed in the post:

    “2 The place where one lives permanently, esp. as a member of a family or household; a fixed place of residence. Freq. without article or possessive, esp. as representing the centre of family life. OE.”

    and that sense goes back to Old English.

    the interesting thing to me is that the word’s meaning as a group of houses or a village disappeared in Middle English, and the word is left with pretty much only the above meaning from then on.

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  16. @krakonos – “I am not linguist but in Czech (slavic language) there is a noun ‘dům’ (house) and ‘domov’ (home). With similar distinction between words as in English. The same situation should be in Slovak.”

    oh! very interesting. thanks! (^_^) (domov sounds like maybe it comes from the latin domus. maybe even dům?)

    @krakonos – “Maybe you should kick hanjal line a little bit eastwards….”

    heh! maybe. (~_^)

    the hajnal line — as it’s drawn on wikipedia (and, therefore, in my posts) — runs right through the czech republic, but keep in mind that that’s a schematic drawing. i’m sure the borders of the hajnal “line” are not perfectly straight, but should be all squiggly.

    i wonder if there are two words in slovak like in czech? i’m thinking — and i’ve been wondering this for a while — what if the hajnal line runs between czechia and slovakia…?

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  17. @pseudoerasmus – “Here is the entry for ‘home’ in the Oxford English Dictionary.”

    oh, thanks for that! i’m going to study that later today. (^_^) (for some reason, i thought the oed online was subscription only. -?- that isn’t how it used to be?)

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  18. @hbd chick
    “Dům” should come from domus. But history of this word (and historical connection with “domov”) is not known to me (online explanatory dictionaries do not mention such details).
    Slovaks have the words (“dom” vs. “domov”). The question is where they came from. Maybe it is borrowed from czech.

    During revival of Slovaks in 19th century at some point they wanted to codify old czech as official slovak language (czech of protestant refugees of 30-years war). But dialect from central Slovakia won. Hopefully I have it right, it has been long time since I attended school. I do not want Slovaks to lynch me :).

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  19. Nothing illustrates your point better than the immense popularity of this 19th century song.

    Home Sweet Home

    Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
    Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home;
    A charm from the skies seems to hallow us there,
    Which seek thro’ the world, is ne’er met elsewhere.
    Home! Home!
    Sweet, sweet home!
    There’s no place like home
    There’s no place like home!

    &#9834 &#9835 &#9835

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Home!_Sweet_Home!

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  20. Oops, the Unicode didn’t make it! Should have been musical notes. Works in Disqus comments.

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  21. I am not entirely convinced of the significance of home/house.
    Nevertheless let me expand the languages represented here.
    In Hungarian to go home is hazamenni. Haza in this word is a verbal prefix meaning to(wards) home. [menni is to go]. We can also say to come home: hazajönni, or to visit one’s home: hazalátogatni. Now, haza also means homeland. House is ház in Hungarian, which certainly sounds related. There is however another word for home(land): hon. It is less used alone these days, nevertheless it is used in modern compound words like honlap – home page. To further complicate things, there are two other words for at home: itthon and otthon: literally herehome and therehome. If we want to say “I am home”, we would say itthon vagyok. If one left his keys at home, he would say: otthon hagytam a kulcsomat that is “therehome left-i the key-my “. Itthon and otthon are adverbs, but otthon is also a noun meaning home.

    In the end I am really not sure how to classify Hungarian in your home/house system.

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  22. @pseudoerasmus said: “But German and Dutch do not say the equivalent of “go home”. They say the equivalent of “go to house”.”

    However, that’s true for the northern Germans only.

    Southern Germans, e.g. Bavarians, say ” I bleib dahoam” (I stay at home) or “I geh hoam” (I go home).
    Bavarians would never say “Ich bleibe zuhause” (in the house) or “Ich gehe nach Hause” (to the house). Actually, that’s one of the markers for being a “Prussian”, i.e. someone hailing from north of the Danube, and therefore considered a foreigner by Bavarians ;-).

    In High German, both are correct, but “daheim / heim” is used less often nowadays.

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  23. @krakonos – “Slovaks have the words (‘dom’ vs. ‘domov’). The question is where they came from. Maybe it is borrowed from czech.”

    ah ha! ok. thanks! will have to investigate further. (^_^)

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  24. @frau katze – “Nothing illustrates your point better than the immense popularity of this 19th century song. Home Sweet Home”

    exactly! (^_^)

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  25. @nador – “In the end I am really not sure how to classify Hungarian in your home/house system.”

    oh, wow! no, me neither! -?-

    thanks for all that, though! don’t know what to do with all those hungarian words for house right now…but i’ll keep their existence in mind. thanks!

    Reply

  26. @susi – “Southern Germans, e.g. Bavarians, say ‘I bleib dahoam’ (I stay at home) or ‘I geh hoam’ (I go home).”

    ah ha! thanks! (^_^)

    Reply

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