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.



4 comments:

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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