Idiomatic Pet Peeves

I can’t seem to help myself. I get my dander up when confronted by improper use of idiomatic English (or even just plain, old correct English) expressions by people who ought to know better.

A few on my mind lately include:

  • One does not “home in on” something. One “hones in on” it. [UPDATE: I have learned this is not exactly right. Both are correct. See comments below.]
  • One does not “take a different tact.” One “takes a different tack.”
  • “Alumni” is a plural word, and its singular is not “alum.” Someone is neither “an alumni” nor “an alum” of an institution. One is an alumnus (male) or an alumna (female). When gender is in doubt, the masculine is used. No, that’s not sexist, it’s grammar.

Whew! Glad I got that off my chest!

What are your pet grammar peeves? Add them in the comments.

9 thoughts on “Idiomatic Pet Peeves”

  1. not exactly what you are referring to but it irks me just the same…..the dog is a Rott weiler, not a Rock weiler…..
    and its a Boxer……just Boxer…….not Boxer Bulldog. 
    I agree with what you said above!!  The one I learned tho, was about alumni!  Thanks for the new brain wrinkle today! 

  2. I’ve been hearing a lot of “far and few between”.  :(

    Also, the home in/ hone in is apparently not settled. I was in agreement with you, but Merriam Webster is not: 

  3. I read yesterday in a book where they used “home in” and I was so confused and stared at it for a while wondering if I was wrong all this time. Thank you for the boost in self confidence!!

  4. Me too, actually. I also thought it was “hone in”. I found the Merriam Webster page as I was searching for more “idiom errors” to remind me of my own grammar pet peeves.

  5. “Home in on” is correct. The only reason “hone in on” is accepted as a recent alternative is that, like many incorrect usages, is that is it is so widely misused, it has become accepted, by a few, as colloquial. Unfortunately, there are many other examples of this. To hone is to sharpen, such as a skill or tool.

  6. Forte (meaning strength) and forte (meaning loud) aren’t the same word. They don’t derive from the same root and are pronounced differently.  I sit up when I hear someone forte (meaning strength) correctly (as a homonym for fort.) Rare.

  7. I see this in email a lot: “do to the fact that…” rather than “due to the fact that…”

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