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Friday, 15 February, 2002, 12:29 GMT
Homeland: That sentimental feeling
homeland n 1. One's native land. 2. An area set aside for a people of a particular national, cultural or racial origin. Popular in times of war as signifying more than just a mere plot of land, but instead embodying the emotional values of the home.

EXAMPLE: Winston Churchill, 1941: "We should therefore face now the problems of driving Japan back to her homelands and regaining undisputed mastery in the Pacific."

CURRENT USAGE: homeland security / homeland defence. Following 11 September, US President George Bush appointed governor Tom Ridge as director of homeland security.

NEW USAGE: the UK is not usually referred to as a homeland, but under influence of 11 September, the phrase is increasingly used. New Ministry of Defence discussion document raises possibility of reassigning reserve forces to "homeland" protection.

ORIGIN: in 17th Century, but used in 20th Century for people seeking their own land eg Kurds, Basques, Sikhs. Popularised in this sense by Jews prior to founding of Israel.

SYNONYM: why does homeland mean more than territory? Perhaps it conveys more folksy, sentimental and cosily dated nature. Gov Ridge described "homeland" as "the turf we stand on".

EMOTIVE: "Homeliness is at a premium in such anxious times and has often been the wished-for effect of President Bush's rhetoric": the Guardian, 24/10/01. Similar other words used to denote sense of national pride: Fatherland (for the Nazis) and Motherland (Stalinist Russia).

At home with this sort of language? Comments and suggestions can be submitted to the E-cyclopedia by clicking here.

Your comments:

Reader Martin Stock adds:
This is the language of political slogan writers and those who would be demogogues. It's main function is to curry nationalist fervour and is thus a highly charged word best employed to reduce real debate and stiffle those who seek a more open world.

Reader Steve Wehrle adds:
In apartheid-era South Africa, "homelands" were rural backwaters to which the government assigned those black persons it didn't want in cities.

Reader Brian Marshall adds:
I tend to think of "homeland" as the place you have come from rather than the place you are in. More frequently abbreviated to simply "home". But then I'm a Brit not given to adopting the phrases and titles of other nationalities.

Reader Tom (in Australia) adds:
Sure hope all the flags are at half-staff thru-out the UK homeland.

Reader Neil Smith adds:
The UK should stick to "Defence of the Realm". It has precise geographic and institutional implications.

See also:

14 Feb 02 | UK Politics
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