A weblog by Will Fitzgerald

"Buy a house, sell a home?"

This might not be worth a post, but anyway:

Arnold Zwicky has a post at Language Log on “home” vs. “house” in (American) English, citing (among other things) the commentators in the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage saying:

A final note on home ownership: MWDEU reports that “a number of commentators have remarked on the tendency to buy a home and sell a house”.

I was curious to see whether this ‘tendency’ was real, so I checked the Google 3-gram data (see announcement). I think for this tendency to be real, the following should be true:

(1) buy a home >> buy a house
(2) sell a house >> sell a home
(3) (buy a home/buy a house) >> (sell a home/sell a house)

Here are the bare facts:

buy a home : 328,584
buy a house: 235,019
sell a home: 193,088
sell a house: 25,632

and the ratios:

buy a home/buy a house: 1.40
sell a home/sell a house: 7.53
buy/sell ratio of ratios 0.19
(buy a home+sell a home)/(buy a house+sell a house): 2.00

As you can see, (1) is true, but (2) and (3) are not (2 and 3 are related, of course). According to the Google data, ‘home’ is twice is likely than ‘house’ in both these contexts, and ‘sell a home/sell a house’ is much greater than the ‘buy a home/buy a house’ ratio.

It must be all those realtors (oh, excuse me, ‘REALTOR®s’).


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