What are words/If you don’t really mean them

3 01 2012

Hippy nude yer. Or something.

Anyway, words. Specifically: home in/hone in. Every so often a new word or phrase creeps into the (more-or-less mass) media, hangs out for awhile, then fades back into either occasional use or goes away completely.

Remember paradigm and paradigm shift? Still around, but less ubiquitous. It also was yanked out of Kuhn and made to apply to shifts which were, in Kuhnian terms, decidedly not paradigmatic, but that’s how it goes when jargon moves the mainstream.

I also recall peregrination—a fine word—and one which now resides mainly in dictionaries.

Unpack and problematize both wandered out of the academy for awhile, but are now safely tucked back inside. And every so often someone pulls epistemology out of her sleeve, but then one gets caught up in questions of the existence of the sleeve and is it even possible even to pull knowledge out of clothing and, well, you see why epistemology prefers to hide out in back corridors of academia.

There are others, which I can’t think of offhand. Oh, Look, is currently quite popular among opiners, mainly as a way to say I am done talking about this and/or I am [no longer] willing to explain why I believe this. I think this augers the return of Listen as a stylistic alternative.

Now, about home in/hone in. The correct term is home in, as in, nearing a target or center or, y’know, home, but about half of the time I see the term the word hone is incorrectly substituted.

Hone: to sharpen,  make ready, as in, hone a sword or honing one’s rhetorical skills. Not to lock on target.

Yes, this is a simply matter of wrong word use, based on a spelling error.


I’m half a word snob. I try to avoid split infinitives, irregardless, and journaling; distinguish between disinterested and uninterested; prefer the original term empathic to its more recent commonalization as empathetic; anguish over repeatedly confusing compose and comprise; and try very hard to use the correct version of lie and lay. On the other hand, I’m not opposed to neologisms on principle (although some in practice), understand that usage changes (e.g. Let’s do lunch), do not disdain all cliches, enjoy playing around with words in casual circumstances (see: commonalization) and quite like that English is a scavenger language.


Hone is its own word, with its own meaning. Given that there is no necessary, absolute, and eternal meaning to hone, could we please please pretty please try to uphold its definition as is?

We already have the term you’re looking for: Home in.

Thank you.



5 responses

4 01 2012

eh, i like the sharpened occam’s razor aspect, but I could well do without hearing/reading “problematic” again (when I do it’s call for an about face and an exit) which unfortunately still has its undead use in some pc circles.

4 01 2012

I could like it if I thought it were intentional, but I don’t think it is. And I admit to a soft spot for “problematic” as a descriptor—conveys puzzlement in a pleasingly-slash-conveniently vague manner.

Perhaps that’s why its use displeases you. . . .

5 01 2012

I love this so much I just tweeted it.

And if that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

5 01 2012

Oh, great, now I go through and notice all the typos and sundry other errors which your minions are sure to notice. Thanks Emily—thanks a lot!

(No, I’m not neurotic, not at all.)

(And thank you. You’re sweet.)

5 01 2012

many use “problematic” before they launch into a pc soundbite of how they would opposingly frame an issue as a way of signaling, thru technical jargon, that they are highbrow, in the know, dwellers in the purified higher-consciousness of some variety/cult of “critical” thinking, often accompanied by talking-points largely patched together from secondary sources.
if only they would just say that they have a problem with what is being said I would be more willing to engage.

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