Someone shoot me before the earth melts, which will happen any moment now. How do I know? Simple. In the new issue of the New Yorker magazine, which once greatly (almost overweeningly) prided itself on its use of the English language, the writer Steve Coll in his opening piece for the “The Talk of the Town” uses/mis-uses/whatever, dude the phrase “honed in.” For those of you scoring at home, this marks the final milestone in the decline of Western Civilization.
The grotesque boner comes in the second paragraph of the magazine, so it’s hard to miss. As the New Yorker writers and proofreaders should know, the correct phrase is “home in”. The image is that of a homing pigeon. The popular misuse of “hone in” conflates “hone down” — which evokes a whetstone/hone used to sharpen a point, literally (blade) or figuratively (argument) — and “home in”. This misuse is heard more and more, but to read it in the opening paragraphs of the magazine — and in that section of the magazine — for which the great E.B. White (Elements of Style – yes, I’m weeping now) wrote for decades constitutes something of an Agita Apocalypsiensis, since we are all now coining ugly pseudo-phrases. But it seems The New Yorker may now think of correctness in English usage as a bourgeois/patriarchal/puritanical thing to be dispensed with. After all, they’ve been oh-so-transgressively dropping the F-bomb for a couple of decades! If fact, a couple of pages later in a piece about Penny “Hello, Laverne!” Marshall they cheerfully drop the daisy-cutter MF-bomb three times, just in case you thought they might not still be unbelievably hip. But there’s a single doily-wrapped Victorian F-bomb tossed in too. For old times’ sake. And then, a few pages later, they “Jump the Snark” and publish a “humor” piece which is a 1000-word knowing eye-roll against that ultimate bourgeois/patriarchal/puritanical conceit known as “motherhood”. Gotta stay at the forefront of these things, lest you backslide and start thinking Sarah Palin is not so bad. All right, kids. Thanks for listening. I’m done.