Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Original or not?

I imagined I was being original the first time I used the phrase, “I’m houseless, not homeless,” or, “I’m not homeless, just houseless.” 

I don’t remember hearing it anywhere else before I said it to Jessica Bruder when she was interviewing us nomads for her Haper’s article, “The End of Retirement,” which led to her book, Nomadland. She attributed the quip to me. And Frances McDormand repeated the line in the movie.

It’s a simple, pithy phrase that effectively explains the nomadic life. No wonder it has spread during the past half dozen years. Has it spread faster and wider than would be possible if it had originated with little old me? Is it a case of simultaneous independent invention? Or is it one of those two-people-each-tell-two-people-who-each-tell-two-people-and-so-on exponential propagation things?

My egotistical side wants to take all the credit. My impoverished side wants to own the rights and charge outrageous fees for its use. 


  1. Sorry Al but that phrase was already well in use when I joined the Escapees in December of 1998. I think you did a lot to increase its use.

  2. I had a similar experience. Two of us started a new type of model railroading about the same time. He published first. Oh, well. My articles still sold when i published them.

  3. If you haven’t seen it, Jessica Bruder mentions first hearing this from you in an interview on PBS NewsHour. It occurs at around 48:00 on the YouTube video: