Dulce domum

Dolce domum, The Wind in the Willows

Home! . . . Since his escape on that bright morning he had hardly given it a thought, so absorbed had he been in his new life, in all its pleasures, its surprises, its fresh and captivating experiences. Now, with a rush of old memories, how clearly it stood up before him, in the darkness! Shabby indeed, and small and poorly furnished, and yet his, the home he had made for himself, the home he had been so happy to get back to after his day’s work. And the home had been happy with him, too, evidently, and was missing him, and wanted him back, and was telling him so, through his nose, sorrowfully, reproachfully, but with no bitterness or anger; only with plaintive reminder that it was there, and wanted him. – The Wind in the Willows

Hoy no quiero estar lejos de la casa y el árbol. – Silvio Rodríguez

Vocabat has a new home base, and all fan mail via snail mail will need to be redirected. (Electronic fan mail can be sent the same route as always.) Where in the world has Vocabat flown to? Well, she’s found herself new and better lodgings on the west side of town. That place won’t be ready for a month, though, so she’s staying at a friend’s house (the same friend of last post’s dedication) in the meantime. He’s away gallivanting around Europe, and she has a big, beautiful house all to herself. As it’s right by the lake, she’s taken to thinking of this place as her month-long balneario— her lakeside resort. It will be a month of repose, cleansing, and preparation for some new and wonderful tides.

I wanted to teach you the phrase por estos lares because I used it in a recent comment and thought it would make for as good a post as any. It’s not that it’s uber-useful–you won’t be hearing it left and right–but I still consider it useful enough. Also, we all have our little pet phrases, and this is one of mine. The nice thing about pet phrases is that you get all the fun of being a pet owner and none of the mess or hassle. Searching in old emails and chats, I see that I’ve used this phrase many times but have never been the recipient of it. And that’s OK–I have the confidence to use certain peculiar words and phrases even if it makes me a little extravagant, a little eccentric. I like to be anything but generic, and I try to keep my Spanish just as interesting and memorable as my English.

Por estos lares means around here, ’round these parts, in this neck of the woods. Some other colloquial and regional ways of expressing the same idea are por estos rumbos, por estos pagos, and por estos vientos. In a word, around.

¡Tanto tiempo, Diana! Qué milagrazo verte por estos lares.

Long time no see, Diana! Fancy running into you around here.

Juancho se ha ido a Francia. Ah, ¿sí? ¿Qué estará haciendo por esos lares?

Juancho took off for France. Oh, really? What could he be doing in those parts?

Lares is actually an archaic word that you won’t see outside of this fixed phrase and variants. While it’s very formal and highbrow in some areas, it still gets a good bit of currency in others when you purposely want to use a formal word or use it facetiously for a laugh. It’s rather poetic–after I used it once in an email, someone went on and on about it, saying how beautiful the word was and what an excellent choice it was on my part. It’s a pretty word that apparently is heard infrequently enough that it warms the heart of those with literary sensibilities.

If you remember your Roman history, you know that Lares were guardian deities in ancient Roman religion. From what I can tell, Lares sometimes get conflated with other gods and thus get labeled as household gods, even though some had much broader domains. In Spanish, then, a lar came to mean an hogar (hearth or fireplace)– perhaps because that’s where the shrine for the Lares would be set up?–and then figuratively a house itself. Of course, hogar works the same way: it means hearth, and thus by extension also refers to the entire house and the sense of home. You’ll never hear lar in the singular or anyone refer to their house as their lar, but the word has survived thanks to the por estos lares phrase. I suppose he’s still a pretty endangered species, though.

Not in other Romance languages, however. One way of saying home in Catalan is llar; lar can also be home in Galician and Portuguese.

Llar, dolça llar – Home sweet home (Catalan)

Lar, doce lar – Home sweet home (Portuguese, Galician)

In Spanish, the phrase is hogar, dulce hogar. I’ve never really been a fan of the word hogar– it looks so ugly to me. Makes me think of Hogwarts and William Hogarth. It is, though, much homier and cozier than casa.

Are you a homebody? A real lover of home? You can express this two ways in Spanish: casero and hogareño. I’m definitely a homebody at heart–you didn’t think all these blog posts were written at Starbucks, did you?–but I force myself to go out and be social. At least until I find another homebody to keep me company . . .

Another word for home that you might hear is morada. I was surprised to hear this word after a long hiatus last weekend when I went to the house of a new friend from Bogotá. As we walked in, he said, Bienvenida a mi morada. Morada? I vaguely remembered that it meant dwelling. You might hear this otherwise stuffy word in this phrase just like it’s typical for us to say in English, Welcome to my humble abode. 

While we’re on synonyms, I guess it bears mentioning that other ways of expressing a place where people live include vivienda and domicilioSome good friends of mine are very active in homeless and housing issues in our city–the word they would want to reach for to talk about housing in general is vivienda. It can also be an individual housing unit. Domicilio, well, I usually hear that in the context of getting carry-out: domicilios/servicio a domicilio. Of course, domicilio = domicile. Domicilio is such a cute word–it is definitely making part two of my favorite words list.

Servicio a domicilio

One house-related phrase that I love–wait, no no no. This won’t do. I think that’s more than enough for now. Besides, I got home so late today and then got straight to dinner and blogging–if I don’t go now, I won’t even have any time to enjoy this charming homestead. I’ll share the phrase later on; can anyone guess what it is?

5 responses to “Dulce domum

  1. Katie! There I was writing a comment about being back at home in England and you go and quote my old school song as the title of a post, the grounds of which I’m looking out on right now from my bedroom window… I believe the phrase originates from the song. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dulce_Domum_(Winchester_College_song)#Domum)

    As every Old Wykehamist knows, the second verse of that song begins with the line ‘Concinamus ad penates’ – ‘Let us sing to the Penates.’ The Penates were of course Ancient Roman household gods, which I had to learn about in Year 6 Latin, along with those other household/guardian gods… the Lares. Isn’t language great? :)


    • Haha, uncanny! Yes, I read about the Penates while writing this post. Have you ever read The Wind in the Willows? As far as kids’ books goes, it has many profound things to say to adults. It’s one of my favorites.


  2. jackbutterworth

    I haven’t actually, but am feeling very inspired to now…


    • I’d lend you my copy, but I left it (along with all my other good books) in Medellín. On purpose, of course. I hope they’re being read and enjoyed, but I’m pretty sure they’re just sitting there. Oh well :)


      • Jack Butterworth

        I’d happily lend one back, were you not across the pond! I swapped books with a friend in Bogotá, she has Kite Runner and I have Rosario Tijeras. Looking forward to starting that!


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