There’s no place like home.

For everybody in the world, that good old saying is getting a little tarnished. There must be someplace better looking than these four walls. At least, that’s what I’m thinking much of the time.

Good old list maker Merriam-Webster has recently provided us not with a new home but with a list of all the words we use to call home.

Some of them are pretty far out of our ability to own, or even rent.

First on the list is penthouse.

In Middle English pentis meant primarily “a shed or roof attached to a larger one.”

From there we get a building on top of a roof, used to cover a stairway, a water tank and air conditioning equipment.

Then there’s condominium, usually thought of as luxurious. More spacious than an apartment.

It denotes individual ownership of a unit in a multi-unit structure.

Then there’s crib, most often used to describe a baby bed. In the early 2000s, the word became a room or apartment or entertainment place of the ill-reputed kind. It got to be a criminal thing, like cribbing from an author’s work or from an exam.

Remember when a pad was a place to live? We thought it was cool in the ‘60s. To crash in somebody’s pad was extra cool.

Then we get digs or diggings.

Have you noticed that these words all have meanings having nothing to do with home sweet home?

Some folks connect digging to the miners who came to the gold rush in California.

Do you call your habitat a joint? The word comes for the French of joindre, which joins things together. The word became a name for a disreputable establishment. And you know the other connection, I’ll bet.

There’s a shanty in old shanty town. No, you can’t possibly remember that song, and you have not thought of that word in forever.

A shanty is a sea song. Also a crudely built dwelling or shelter. Not especially a place you’d want to live. The four parts of a town, like the French Quarter or the quarters, is where you house military troops.

Then there are apartments, flats and studios. The Spanish version translates to separation. They built a big house, and separated everyone into his own space.

The British name for this separate space is flat. It comes for the Scottish flet, which means floor. It came to mean the story of a house or building.

Have you lived in a studio apartment? It features a large open room with space to accommodate painting, drawing, photography and other forms of art work.

Here’s hoping you have a space you can enjoy during this pandemic. And a way to get out of it if you can.

Cathy Gillentine is a Daily News columnist. She may be reached at

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(1) comment

Bailey Jones

Crib - as slang for someone's home - goes way back.

"The worst of the story is, said he, that I show myself up as such a confounded fool. Of course it may work out all right, and I don't see that I could have done otherwise; but if I have lost my crib and get nothing in exchange I shall feel what a soft Johnnie I have been. I'm not very good at telling a story, Dr. Watson, but it is like this with me:

I used to have a billet at Coxon & Woodhouse's, of Draper's Gardens, but they were let in early in the spring through the Venezuelan loan, as no doubt you remember, and came a nasty cropper. I had been with them five years, and old Coxon gave me a ripping good testimonial when the smash came, but of course we clerks were all turned adrift, the twenty-seven of us. I tried here and tried there, but there were lots of other chaps on the same lay as myself, and it was a perfect frost for a long time. I had been taking three pounds a week at Coxon's, and I had saved about seventy of them, but I soon worked my way through that and out at the other end. I was fairly at the end of my tether at last, and could hardly find the stamps to answer the advertisements or the envelopes to stick them to. I had worn out my boots paddling up office stairs, and I seemed just as far from getting a billet as ever." - Sherlock Holmes, The Stock-Broker's Clerk

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