Every now and then as I’m reading, I see a word that pops out at me as being misused, and by that, I mean the writer didn’t understand the correct definition of the word. Let me say right up front, I’m not an English teacher, nor a grammarian, but sometimes, it’s pretty obvious that what was actually written was not what the author meant.
This happens to all of us from time to time, but we should strive to do better, right? With that thought in mind, today I’d like to address both a single word that gets misused more often than you’d expect, and a pair of words that are frequently confused with each other.
The first word of the day is opaque. Believe it or not, I see this word being misused fairly often. For instance, “She gazed at the rose garden through the opaque windows of the greenhouse.” Huh? Not very likely. Opaque and transparent are exact opposites.
Opaque is defined as not able to be seen through, or not transparent. Synonyms: cloudy, filmy, blurred, smeared, misty, hazy, etc.
The greenhouse windows were opaque with steam.
He gazed at the moon and stars through the opaque skylight.
So be sure to describe your (clean) windows as transparent, and your dusty, dirty skylight as opaque.
My second example involves a pair of somewhat confusing words, which are very often misused in both day-to-day speech and in published books. Let’s take a look at home versus hone.
The word home, in addition to meaning a place of residence, can be used as a verb meaning the act of heading home, much like a homing pigeon.
To move or be aimed with great accuracy toward a particular target or destination.
The hungry boy homed in on the delicious aroma of chicken roasting on a grill.
At dawn, the missiles were launched and immediately began to home in on radar emissions.
DEFINITION: The word hone, on the other hand, means to sharpen or whet, as a knife or axe. It also refers to the sharpening or refining of something less tangible, often over a period of time.
He honed his hunting knife to a razor’s edge.
He has taken numerous vocal classes over the years to hone his singing skills.
So if you are writing about someone or something seeking a target destination, you should use home. The lonely man homed in on the sound of the mysterious and haunting music.
And if you are talking about sharpening a blade or perfecting a skill, the word choice is hone. With every new book, the writer honed her vocabulary skills.
And there you have it. If you want to be sure you’ve got it correct, just remember no more being able to look through opaque windows, and no more honing in on the pigeon’s nest, and you’ll be all set! 🙂
And that’s it for today’s #WhyWriteWrong post. Has this one been helpful to any of you? Hope you’ll take a moment to share your thoughts on on misunderstood phrases. Inquiring minds wanna know.
Thanks for stopping by SE today! Please check back often to see what the rest of the gang will be talking about. It’s always good stuff! And I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with something else up my sleeve. In the meantime, stay safe and stay well! And now I’m heading forth to write with a happy heart. I highly recommend it.
Happy is good!
I am not an English teacher, grammarian, or expert on all matters of this nature. I don’t even play one on TV! But I promise I have consulted with those in the know before posting anything in this series.
(All images above were created by me or obtained from Pixabay.)