This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Thing Not To Be In America: homely.

Does anyone have a 


t shirt?

No, I didn't think you did.

In most of the English-speaking world, homely can mean in the manner of an ordinary home (so a chandelier isn't homely but a lampshade probably is (unless it's ornamented with gold leaf, diamonds or hand-painted flamingos)) or else homely can mean...well, the homely person is the one who gives you a warm welcome. The one who provides you with a good pie, makes sure your chair is comfortable, and makes preserves for pleasure rather than show. In Ireland homely can even verge towards meaning kind.

And in America? 

Well, I'm not sure how it's happened - perhaps it was originally a way of being kind, or perhaps it was that homely in the plain-and-unostentatious sense got extended to people - but in America homely means plain, or even ugly: someone whose pie is more likely to be their fortune than their face.

This means that we all have to be jolly careful with the word homely.

In Tolkien's Middle-Earth you could talk about something being homely without being shot by enraged elves - 

- but on our own Earth the word is absolute dynamite.

Thing Not To Be In America: homely. The word home comes from the Old English hām and goes right back to the Greek kōmi, village.

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