Friday, June 08, 2007

moving

In our e-conversation about upping sticks, Nancy F mentioned finding a book called How to Move House and Stay Sane, noting the Britishness of the phrase move house. Americans simply move (and the British can too). So:
AmE or BrE: We're moving this weekend. [intransitive]
BrE: We're moving house this weekend. [transitive]
Now, don't tell me that your dialect's version makes more sense than the other, because they're equally problematic from a literalist, logical point of view. The intransitive version seems like it could apply to exercising one's muscles. The transitive version seems like it involves relocating a building. But, of course, both involve the relocation of the contents of a dwelling and an address-change for the individuals associated with that dwelling. Language isn't about literal, logical description; it's about communication--and these both work, if you know the conventions of the dialect in which they're said.

I was reminded of this when talking to my friend the Recyclist the other day. She's recently come to the UK for an extended stay, and was confused by a television commercial she saw in which moving home was mentioned (and the same day I saw a billboard in London with the headline Moving home?). As an AmE speaker, Recyclist interpreted this as 'moving back in with one's parents'. It took Recyclist a few beats to figure out why people who were 'moving home' would need a mortgage (or whatever it was that the ad(vert) was about). In BrE moving home means the same as moving house, but is perhaps used in advertising to make things sound a bit hom(el)ier.

As long as we're talking about moving, Americans often comment on the (AmE: real) estate agents' signs in the UK that indicate properties in search of tenants. In the US, such signs say FOR RENT. In the UK, they say TO LET. And Americans almost invariably have the reaction: 'I want to put an i in that sign'. Occasionally some (probably young) joker does just that.


(Photo from here.)

20 comments:

zhoen said...

All I know is I don't want to move again for many years.

judyb said...

as a child in England, i always thought the "To Let" signs were just helpfully pointing people to a toilet, should one be needed.

I never tested this theory, though, thank goodness :)

flashgordonnz said...

In NZ, vendors and their agents have "open homes" these usually occur on a sunday afternoon for about half an hour or maybe 1 hour max. This is where prospective purchasers (and all the neighbours, without shame) come and view the property at the same time. It means the vendor can lock their valuables away just once. Oviously, serious purchasers will come back for subsequent viewings.
But I was struck at a couple of "open homes" how visitors sometimesdo avail themselves of the facilities. To one such person I remarked "Going downstairs to make yourself a cup of tea now?" Fun!

John Cowan said...

A fellow with limited English, it seems, once went to a doctor complaining of severe constipation. The doctor gave him a laxative and tells him that his bowels should move by tomorrow; but if not, to return at the same time for a stronger laxative.

This repeated for several days until the doctor, exasperated with the failure of his strongest treatment, finally said, "You haven't moved yet?"

To which the patient replied: "No, me move tomorrow. House full of @#$*."

dearieme said...

In Fair Scotia, of course, the verb is "to flit". Similar to the Swedish, I understand.

jack said...

In the US we have "open house" rather than "open home." You'll sometimes find articles and TV shows about what one should do to prepare for an open house to make it more desireable to potential buyers - like hiding clutter, family pictures, and personal affects.

Janet said...

The first time I heard somebody mention "moving house" or "moving home" here in Britain, I had this vision of dragging a mobile home from one parking location to another!

And yet, just this very morning, I sent a letter to a local investment company (with my change-of-address information) which begins, "As I have moved house...". I figured it would be easier to use Brit-speak.

I guess I'm assimilating!

Janet

jack said...

A conversation I had the other day reminded me of an American use of "let" to mean "rent." We were talking about someone who had "sub let" an apartment (meaning the person was renting the apartment from someone who was renting it from a landlord).

johnb said...

Let works the same way in BrE, although (in my experience) it is more liklely to refer to the lease on a commercial property rather than a residential one.

I suspect (in BrE) 'To Let' is more likely to apply when a new lease is issued rather than when an existing lease is purchased from a previous lessee.

ally said...

'open house' in the UK tends to indicate that the owner of the house has some particularly interesting art. so they open their house for a few hours/ weekend/ however long for people to come and look. That's what i think of when encountering the expression, anyway.

Peter Matthew Reed said...

I guess moving home to mean 'returning to your previous home' is a case of the prepositional home, whereas in the meaning 'changing home' it is a straight forward nominal. So there is structural ambiguity in a two word phrase. I understand (via the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language) that the Australians have bush as a preposition as well - as in I am heading bush.


In other news, this (http://www.visuwords.com/) is a pretty cool implementation of the Princeton-based WordNet project. Enjoy!

djlynch said...

On "Moving House": "House" can often be substituted for "household" without a loss of meaning, so I wonder if "moving (the) household" (a much more accurate description of what is moving) was gradually shortened to where the idiom was simply "moving house."

Tony said...

In my suburb in Melbourne, Australia, we have some houses that are "to let" and others that are "for rent". You can also "sub-let" a property here. We have "open house", and we usually "move house", though it's fine to say just "moving".

Largely because of television, but also because we're keen travellers, Australians tend to use and understand bits and pieces of both British and American English, and we have a wonderful dialect of our own as well.

Van Man said...

English language is spoken all over the world, but of course i differet countries there are some differeces. Especially pronunciation, not only words.

Stephen said...

A Spanish freind of mine, on first arriving in Britain and needing a piss, saw the sign in a car and though "Well English spelling is notoriously inconsistent", got out and knocked on the door and asked to use the loo.

ReckenRoll said...

"To Let" and "Way Out" both created problems for me when I first moved to London. As an AmE speaker, I always thought they were incomplete statements.

The adding of an "i" is a new one but now I will always see that!

John Cowan said...

A sublet, at least in NYC, is by no means merely the transfer of a lease: rather it is quite literally a lease from a lessee, creating a three-tiered relationship between landlord, tenant, and subtenant.

For many years, subleases couldn't be created without the landlord's consent, but this changed in a series of steps: first, accepting rent directly from the subtenant was construed as consent; then the consent was still required, but it was not to be unreasonably withheld; finally, the law compromised: a tenant may create a sublease, but not for more than two out of every four calendar years.

Sometimes, however, the subtenant does not pay the landlord directly, but the tenant, in which case the subtenant's rent may well be higher than the tenant's. This restores the original feudal land tenure situation.

Richard Gadsden said...

I think estate agents prefer "moving home" to "moving house" because not everyone is moving into / out of a house - some are moving into flats.

Fred said...

Open House has a particular meaning here in Brighton - an artist/maker's home open to the public to show and sell work. I remember the delight of one Open Houser when they found out Open Houses in America took place when people wanted to sell their houses, and that he could buy ready made red, white and blue flags with the words OPEN HOUSE in bold lettering on the white bit from Ebay!

Home Loan is tabloid newspaper speak for a mortgage!

Fred said...

Open House has a particular meaning here in Brighton - an artist/maker's home open to the public to show and sell work. I remember the delight of one Open Houser when they found out Open Houses in America took place when people wanted to sell their houses, and that he could buy ready made red, white and blue flags with the words OPEN HOUSE in bold lettering on the white bit from Ebay!

Home Loan is tabloid newspaper speak for a mortgage!