Monday, February 08, 2010

Home is Where the Heart Attack Is

I was having breakfast at A&W this morning with my little guy, Sam (if you can call sharing a greasy Bacon N' Egger with a drooly 15-month-old having breakfast), and between bites I stole a look at today's edition of the Metro, the freebie commuter paper. Their book review page (if you can call three artlessly composed, error-ridden single-paragraph summaries book reviews) bears the headline "Rice hones in on religion"--a reference to Anne Rice's debut novel of her new series, in which she has evidently traded vampires for angels.

But of course, Anne Rice isn't honing in on religion. To hone is to sharpen, either literally (as with knives) or metaphorically (as with wit or skills). To focus attention is to home in on, and that is clearly the trite phrasing the author was going for here.

Some dictionaries have now starting including "to focus" as a second definition for hone, but that only means that so many careless writers have made the mistake that descriptivist lexicographers feel obliged to record it. Any writers worth their salt (900 mg of which can be ingested in a single Bacon N' Egger) who have honed their skills will continue to home in on the difference.