Pedants revolt – honing, homing and homing in (and waterlilies).

Sorry, I have to get this off my chest.

Honing = to sharpen

Homing = to (instinctively) return to the nest

Homing in = to converge on


You hone your knife on a whetstone, or your critical faculties on a course in logic.

You home, after you have delivered your message, to the loft – you are a pigeon.

You home in on a solution after racking your brains.

And yes, I know, the misuse of honing is now so common that it will probably be accepted soon, but you can’t sharpen in on something, it does make sense and please think of pedants like me who get a pain in the head every time they see it.

Rant over. Some soothing waterlilies from Kew Gardens to follow.

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29 thoughts on “Pedants revolt – honing, homing and homing in (and waterlilies).

  1. I love a good pedantic rant. And it drives me mad when people just blithely accept something that is wrong. Just because it is widely done, doesn’t make it acceptable. It just means a lot of people are stupid.

    Do you think the frogs serve cocktails on those big waterlilies?

    • Thanks. I have been muttering about this for years, now I feel better. You have almost written a children’s story with the idea of frogs serving cocktails… although perhaps smoothies might be more age-appropriate.

  2. Mate, I’m with you ! We had a terrible few years of honing in on something, Downunder, a while back; but I believe that either it’s stopped, or Aussies don’t use the phrase at all, any more. 😐
    It maketh me mad indeed, Hilary !
    Re them lilies: my Mauritian friends used to refer to them as
    which SOUNDS wonderful, don’t you think ? 🙂

    • I fear it is an (English-speaking) world-wide trend and no whimpering from me will make any difference. You have set my memory chasing down a tunnel, someone I knew always said nénuphars too, but whether the memory will find the person at the end of the tunnel, who can say.

      • Maybe it’s just the French word ? (I do know some specifically Mauritian words, but they are unrepeatable here …)

  3. Here the rage is ‘making crystal clear’ and ‘absolutely’. Both used appropriately but so often by our PM it becomes a nightmare. Almost a chant that one hears almost non-stop on TV. No one seems to have the courage to tell our PM to ease up a bit.

  4. A lovely rant, Hilary, and I sympathize. However, I tossed away my persnickety schoolmarm hat a long time ago when studying etymology and falling in love with metaphor. Language is a living thing and I can’t get upset about “honing in” as a variant, since we nowadays have more familiarity with knives than homing pigeons; and it does carry the meaning of “sharpening” and “precision”. Now if my compatriots would just stop saying “it boggles the mind…” The mind boggles, every time I hear it!

    Have a nice cup to tea….as you British say…..meditate on some beautiful water lilies..thank you for those!

  5. I have an example of ‘honed in’ in the introduction to a biology textbook – even academics are at it!

    Like the lilies. We have a humble specimen in the garden pond. Small though it is it had five out at the same time a few days ago – quite an achievemnt when you comsider that the flowers only last a few days.

    • I know, I know, I am fighting a losing battle. I just don’t understand why people can’t hear that it doesn’t make sense. Well done for growing waterlilies, I think they are pure joy, but we don’t have a pond.

  6. Any chance you might do a rant on the wrecking of havoc? I am sick to the back teeth of people talking about stuff wrecking havoc on their lives. It’s very hard to feel sympathetic for someone while you’re thinking of never ever speaking to them again. But yes. Very, very nice lilies.

  7. Gorgeous water lilies, very therapeutic. I hadn’t noticed that honing problem but thank you for pointing it out. I can understand your agitation. I have a similar distaste for ‘toothcomb’, as in ‘going over it with a fine toothcomb’. What’s a toothcomb? Surely the phrase is ‘going over it with a fine-toothed comb’? I’ve come up against this time and again and, as with honing, I think it’s slipped into common usage and is likely to stay there.

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