Monday, November 22, 2010

Honing In on Meaning

"Honing in." I paid attention when suddenly the expression's use was criticized. Perhaps I used it once or twice myself, in hurried conversation, trying to express something but subconsciously trying to jam two concepts into one phrase. It ends up seeming a stupid phrase; an error.

Although writers Bob Greene and George Plimpton have used it.

Because one "homes in" on targets or destinations, but one hones a knife or blade.

"Hone" seems to come from Old English, a word for "whetstone." This seems like a tautology. (What about "wet?" That is, a wet stone? Unclear, but possible.)
"Home" comes from words such as "haims" (Gothic) and "khaim" (Fris. [I guess they mean Old Frisian])

So to examine this, I got out the old scalpel of logic and went to work. Another writer mentioned it but didn't go very far into it.

Get a knife and cut the tiniest slice possible. You will be limited by two things, the sharpness of the edge and your ability to see. You can make a sharper more perfect lens if you sharpen your blade. (to make marks on your calipers). You can sharpen your blade better if you have a new more perfectly cut lens. Ad infinitum.

So "hone in on" is not completely daft. Still, its chain of logic is too obscure and the phrase is doomed.


jorge said...

Post ilucidativo e esclarecedor,parabéns.

Jumper said...

Obrigado muito! I wish my Portuguese was better.

phalanxausage said...

I used the phrase from time to time without thinking about it. After reflecting on it, I realize that I mean to say "home in."

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