Letter to the editor in the New York Times of 27 June (from James Bloom of Bethlehem, Pa.):
Paul Krugman's observations ["Home Not-So-Sweet Home", column of 23 June] about our uncritical bias in favor of home ownership and the widespread attitude toward home renters as second-class citizens calls to mind an exchange I had several years ago while ordering a pizza.
When I told the delivery dispatcher my address, she asked, "Is that an apartment or a home?"
I still don't know what the right answer would have been, though the pizza did arrive.
I was at first baffled by Bloom's bafflement, until I realized he was understanding home to refer one's domicile, the place where one lives, which could be either a house or an apartment (he might also have been assuming — contrary to fact — that apartments are only rented rather than owned, but this isn't clear from his story). The delivery dispatcher, on the other hand, was using home to mean 'house', and was asking whether the delivery was to be made to a residence accessible from the street or whether the deliverer would have to gain access to the interior of the building.
As it turns out, MWDEU has a (fairly long) entry on home vs. house, observing that some writers have criticized home 'house' on the grounds that homes are not merely residences but come with an emotional attachment lacking for mere houses; that others have criticized it on class grounds (a criticism that goes back at least to Emily Post in 1927); that still others have criticized it as a genteelism, a device of real-estate agents and advertising writers (though MWDEU notes that "the usage is much older than modern real-estate agents"); and that other usage writers have noted that for many "ordinary prose writers" (and the pizza delivery dispatcher), home and house are often interchangeable. For Bloom (and many other modern speakers and writers), however, home is distinguished from house.
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".