Once upon a time, long, long ago…(Fall of 2010)
In a faraway land…(Moscow, Idaho)
a farmgirl princess (MaryJane Butters)
was indulging in one of her favorite, guilty pleasures…
No, not banana bread. My OTHER guilty pleas–
No, not Ham and ‘Tater BakeOver, neither! My OTHER other guil–okay, I’ll just come out with it:
The New York Times.
Delivered to my mailbox every day, a day late.
I may be a country girl (er, farmgirl princess), but I’m sweet on their Travel, Arts, Business, Home, and Science sections, well, just about all of it, but I also subscribe to our local daily newspaper. (It actually costs more than a sub to The New York Times.) It all started years ago when I wanted to read The New York Times Book Review without fail. (It comes out once per week IN the newspaper itself.) Their Review is my way of “reading” all the books I can’t possibly, actually, read.
Anyway, just before the last election, I’m sitting there reading a Nate Silver article and see this:
“I’ve started to hone in on the seats…”
Not “home in,” mind you, but “hone in.”
Well, it’s been stuck in my brain ever since! So let’s home in on the issue.
“Home in” came into use in the 1800s to describe homing pigeons doing their thing. (Okay, I know this through experience. When I was a kid, my father erected a 10-foot-high, 2-foot-wide section of culvert in our backyard. On top of that, he plopped a homemade pigeon house he’d built. He wanted us to KNOW the concept of homing pigeons. Whenever we left for a camping trip, we’d catch and load some of our homing pigeons into a cage, put it on the back seat of our old sedan—also loaded down with tents, sleeping bags, and fishing poles—and then let the homing pigeons loose just before we left to come back home. The race was on! But they’d almost always beat us home. (Really, it was my parents’ way of keeping some of us occupied while they were packing for a trip. Have you tried catching a pigeon lately?)
After the 1800s and into the next century, “home in” was being used to describe aircrafts and the like. Of course, by that time, the phrase was also being misused, a la “hone in.”
But hone means to sharpen something. Something physical, like your favorite banana bread knife on a whetstone, or something abstract, like my killer wit (I’m also honing my modesty.)
So if you’re zeroing in on something, you’re homing in, not honing in. But this here English language is a work-in-progress, and some dictionaries now include “hone in” as an acceptable alternative.
I’m a stickler who’s “stickling” with “home in,” especially given my whispering ways with pigeons. (Does this mean I’ll end up on a park bench when I’m old?)
But what do you think? Should “hone in” catch a break?