The Meaning of Home

As anyone learning a language will soon learn, there are some things in your native tongue that just do not have a literal translation. This is usually established in an embarrassing social situation as you try to explain the word you mean – or even resort to google translate – and receive only blank looks, or possibly offended ones if google has betrayed you. It is frustrating: you know the perfect word to complete your sentence or capture your opinion, yet it does not exist in their language. Two of these words I have encountered happen to be ones I use often; cheesy, and awkward. Perhaps that says something about my personality. The closest word I have found to awkward is “scomodo”, literally meaning uncomfortable, yet it doesn’t quite capture the full meaning. I have yet to discover a word for cheesy, despite five minutes at an aperitivo desperately trying to explain my meaning via thesaurus’ and google translate – unfortunately the translation of lame follows the older meaning of disabled, so that didn’t work well.

Yet the word I wish to focus on today is “home”, something that I’m sure means a lot to people in this holiday period. My struggle with its Italian translation, “casa”, is that I do not think it holds the same sentiment, with “casa” also serving as the word for a house. Yet in English, these two are vastly different. As the saying goes, home is where the heart is; usually where your family are, and possibly old friends. You may have other temporary homes throughout your life, but there is always one which bears the strongest hold over you. A house, however, has no such hold: in university, for instance, I moved house, but I didn’t move home.

I encountered this problem in translation as I referred to my home friends in Italian, unsure if “amici di casa” worked correctly. My friend (the listener) seemed satisfied with it, yet I felt it could not capture the same emotion. Because in English, home is not just the house itself – it is your home town, your home friends, your neighbours. It is the streets you’ve walked a thousand times, an understanding of the people, and knowing the exact distance to the shops. It is where you are safe.

Of course, your home may change over the years, but I personally feel there will only ever be a few. I am currently at a period in my life where I am unsure of my home: in the last four years, I have lived in five different places, through university and now Italy, as well as returning to my parent’s in between. I had assumed that the latter would always remain my home, yet after Italy especially, I am discovering I cannot feel as settled here. Too much has changed, and both me and my friends are outgrowing our stay. It is unsettling when you do not connect with the home of your twenty-two years, but four years of living away has separated us beyond repair. I only hope, when I have seen all I need to see in the wider world, that I can find another. Yet at least I know this one will always be waiting for me: the town and its people may change beyond recognition, but so long as my parents remain I will have a home of sorts. I am sure, even as I build my own home in later life, I will return here for Christmas dinner – a testament to a childhood home. Because there is nothing like home, childhood or present, at Christmas.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas – buon natale a tutti! – and hope you can all enjoy your holidays at home.

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