Has this word really been with us for nearly 15 years?
Yes, it has. Congress voted in November 2002 to bring this rarely used word to our attention by establishing the United States Department of Homeland Security.
For naming the new department, Homeland was an excellent choice: little used in everyday speech or writing, but a transparent word which had been in the English language for some time and whose meaning was easy to discern: a land that was someone’s home.
After that, homeland slowly caught on for other uses. Showtime took Homeland as the name for a long-running TV series that began in 2011.
And Neil Howe, co-author of the book Generations, chose Homeland as the name for the generation born in 2005 and later.
He explained in an interview:
“The reason I chose 2005 … is that kids born in that year and after will recall nothing before Barack Obama’s presidency, the financial meltdown of 2008, and the seemingly endless Great Recession that followed.”
But aside from names, even 15 years later we still don’t use homeland much in everyday conversation. And I think I know why: Homeland just doesn’t stir the emotions in America the way it does in Europe, where the equivalent words (like Heimat in German) have deeper meanings.
We knew the word; we just don’t think of applying it to our own country. Ours, after all, is largely a nation of immigrants who left Old World homelands behind. If we define homeland as “the land of one’s ancestors,” as the Oxford English Dictionary does, then the American homeland is — everywhere else in the world.
So for Americans, instead of stirring the soul as it does on the other side of the pond, homeland barely evokes a yawn. Call it hohumland.Return to Top