“Because Hope survives best at the hearth,” I said. “Guard it for me and I won’t be tempted to give up again.” (from Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan)
Okay, so this is a re-posted quote (here’s the original). But I’m not cheating because I have new thoughts about it.
More adventures in Irish language class: this week I learned that the Irish word for family is teaghlach (which also means household), and the Irish word for hearth is teallach. Even though these two words may look to your untrained eyes as very different, they are actually pronounced almost the same (think of the subtle difference between pen and pin in English–the difference between these two words is similarly subtle). My professor explained that the words are etymologically connected.
See, this is why I love studying language. This is why it is so important for me to learn the Irish language even if I end up studying mostly Irish literature written in English. Because language reveals so much about the values and perceptions of the culture in which it developed.
And this equation between family and household and hearth seems somehow profoundly beautiful. When I used this quote the first time, I wrote about the things that the hearth signifies. Essentially, it is life-sustaining, and it typically symbolizes family and community as well. In the Irish language, all of those meanings of the hearth are quite literally invoked by the word for family. Isn’t that lovely?