Sunday, March 02, 2008

Q: When is a house a home?

A: when it's listed in the Real Estate section of the Canberra Times.

Over the last ten or so years, I have watched the RE section of the CT grow from half of a broadsheet section (shared with Employment, probably) to its own half-sheet full-colour, saddle-stitched (i.e., stapled) 104-page(!) magazine. At least it's not glossy, but I dare say that's only a matter of time, really.

Last weekend and today, I searched this 'section', called Domain (highly original, I know) for images to cut & paste the old-fashioned way, with -- gasp -- scissors and glue, to make a master page for a photocopy zine exercise I'm doing with my Book Design students. I wanted large lush house and interior images, and lines of text to collage about houses and the things they contain. I specifically wanted the word HOUSE.

There is, in 104 pages, only a few, maybe only four, uses of the word HOUSE, in all instances followed very quickly by the word HOME.

There is a gross overuse of the word HOME, and medium use of the word PROPERTY.

In the private advertisements, listed by suckers who are Not In The Know, 'HSE' is occasionally used, but not the full word because it would cost too much.

The home is two minutes walk from...

Aficionados of this suburb will recognise this glamorous home as one of Kaleen's finest...

Number of homes sold in the suburb in 2007...

This stunning family home was designed from the ground up to take advantage of the spectacular views...
[I should hope so! Hard to design a building from the side across, or from the top down]

This dual-occupancy property features a 4 bedroom home ... at the back of the block is a three bedroom home...

Constructed less than 4 years ago ... you will discover this substantial and well presented 4 bedroom plus ensuite home.

Looking for a separate title home without the hassle of a body corporate?
[oh noes!]

This 3 bedroom home has been extensively modernized to ensure you enjoy coming home every day. [GAH]

If you have been searching for a home and love to entertain, this light filled three/four bedroom home may be just too tempting.
[tears hair out by the roots]

Whether you are looking for your first home or even your first investment property, this home could be the one for y---- OK, THAT'S ENOUGH!

Your Honour, I object! Apart from the shocking lack of hyphens, I object to the overuse of such a delicate and intangible term as HOME.

I would like to write more, much more, about the ways that a house becomes a home: by the people in it, by the amount of time you spend in it, by the length of time you've lived in it; about the fact that millions of people around the world have good, valid homes without the tonnage of bricks and stainless steel that we seem to think we need; about the execrable use of language in the RE industry; and about the fact that my students probably think that making a photocopy book is impossibly retro of me...

...but I've run out of time. Sorry, it's a busy day (yes, I know it's Sunday), and I just had to quickly vent my spleen.

Things to be done, pages to be folded, aged photocopier to be gently warmed up.

When opportunity knocks, grab it!

Reading Domain and writing this post totally changed what I made for the student group project. It's now a double-sided photocopied A4, with the reverse a page of blue & white clouds (our ancient and beloved workshop photocopier has blue and black toner) and the main side a series of houses and interiors with snippets of text pasted over them (many the same that I quoted above).

It's folded in half and then halves again and slitted down the middle in a classic one-page zine fold (which, if you don't know or want downloadable instructions on how to do it, click here), and then I've cut out bits of the details (windows, fridge doors, pool decorations) to reveal the blue sky and clouds underneath.

The title is 'HOME NOT HOUSE'. The last page is a townhouse, with the words 'townhouse not home', because my trawling post-post revealed that only houses with a chance of families living in them were dubbed 'homes'. Flats, apartments, townhouses, were all given their real names or were called 'properties'. Tuh, talk about fairy-tales!


Michelle said...

You are so right.

But it's because the RE agents want you to IMAGINE yourself if someone's else's house. Thereby making it a HOME.

Stupid. And Townhouses, Flats and Unit are only marketed as investment possibilities.

Someone should write a book on RE crimes on the English vernacular. My favourite (and one we use at home all the time) was for a townhouse in Emu Ridge, where they descirbed it as "A little piece of Paddington in the heart of Belconnen". Please! It's friggin' Emu Ridge! When we sold our Emu Ridge townhouse in 2006 we told our RE agent about our joke, and he actually thought it was a great line and wanted to use it for our CT ad. I'm not kidding. Thank heavens we vetoed the idea.

Adele said...

I have been venting spleen on this subject for many years. I remember Miss Chilvers, our fearsome English teacher making us aware of this mangling of the language during a lesson in 1962..................

M-H said...

Great post. Deconstruction is us.

Ampersand Duck said...

Or should that be Deconstruction R US, m-h?

I've let all my postmodern vocab slip into a big crevasse, otherwise I would have used a lot of jokes about RE signs and signifiers.

Ahem, Adele, we don't need to go into dates, do we?

Michelle -- you are so right as well. Emu Ridge as Paddington! My arse.

Mummy/Crit said...

Duck, is that last photo you used there of the weirdo house on raymond St in Ainslie? We've spent weeks laughing about that 'property'. You should do a drive by some time...

Ampersand Duck said...

It could be! I just plucked it from a RE website. Don't you mean 'weirdo home'? :)