Homing in


At about 8.20 this morning, on the Today programme, Nick Robinson (the BBC’s Political Editor) said that the opposition parties would want to ‘hone in’ on the revelations that Stephen Byers (former Minister for Transport) had been caught claiming to be able to influence government policy. Here he is.

The OED gives examples of hone in, where the sense is clearly ‘home in’, going back to 1965, but while the explanation for the slippage given there (confusion with hone in the sense of practise or refine a technique) is possible, it still seems to me to be a very strange development, and certainly one I would recommend that any foreign learner of the language should avoid as to many people it would still be thought of as a mistake.


  1. Isn’t that what the folks over on Language Log call an eggcorn? I do things like this all the time, although this is a new one to me.

  2. The Eggcorn Database classifies this one as ‘nearly mainstream’ : http://eggcorns.lascribe.net/english/48/hone/

  3. There’s also a good bit of discussion of this, and the ‘home’ / ‘hone’ switch generally, on the American Dialect Society list: go here


    click on ‘Search’ under ADS-L, and you’ll get a list of hits.

    Good to meet you yesterday, Graham, and thanks for pointing out your blog!

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