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‘Hone’ and ‘home’, ‘flout’ and ‘flaunt’

[31 Jan 2012] Sleepy, night-working subeditors often get the blame for the common newspaper mix-up of ‘hone’ and ‘home’ in examples like this about the Duchess of York: ‘The camera has greedily lapped up each shot, honing in on the duchess either red-eyed and bare-faced or with her carefully applied make-up artfully trickling down her face.’

‘To hone’ means to sharpen, refine or polish, so it’s much rarer than ‘home in’, which means to focus and was the intended word in the above paragraph. It would have been simpler to use ‘focus’ anyway – it’s one word instead of two and there’s no chance of error.  

Media people are still getting their flouts and flaunts mixed up, despite years of nagging from sticklers. See here: ‘When Kate Middleton got engaged to Prince William, she flouted the most perfect, discreet, Queen-to-be manicure possible.’

So that would be ‘flaunt’ in the princess-perfect world we aspire to here at Plain Language Towers. ‘Flaunt’ means show off, as in the maxim ‘If you’ve got it, flaunt it’, while ‘flout’ means disobey a convention, rule or law. [MC]

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