There’s No Such Thing as a Honing Pigeon. Two Common Mistakes

Today I want to mention two mistakes that people make all the time. In fact, the mistakes are so common that I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re no longer considered mistakes in a generation or two.

But for now, they’re wrong and should be avoided in writing.

There’s no such thing as a honing pigeon

Hone = Sharpen

Home = Move toward a goal

When you want to zero in on something, or get closer to it, or maybe even focus on it, you want to “home in” on it.

Like a homing device.

To “hone” something means to sharpen it. You hone a knife. You hone your skills. But you don’t “hone in” on things.

Or, at least, I don’t. But like I said, in twenty to fifty years, this post (while being considered a work of genius) will be out of date.

Add flesh, don’t flush.

When you’ve got a general idea of something, but want more information, then you need to flesh out the details. In essence, you’re adding flesh to the bare bones.

When there are snakes hiding in the bush, you may need to flush them out. Send in the smoke bombs (or whatever).

The first adds something while the second removes something. The first thickens something, while the second cleans something.

There’s almost never a time in general business conversation or writing to use “flush.” People do have a need to flesh out the skeletal plan they’ve built. They’re fleshing out the back-of-the-napkin ideas.

I understand how the mistake happens. People think of ideas in hiding. Ideas that are there, but are sort of hidden in the recesses of the mind and need to be flushed out. But the original metaphor is about putting meat on the bones.

Neither of these mistakes will get you laughed at for ignorance, because both are widespread throughout the business world. But if you want to get it right, you know how.

Has anyone else heard these mistakes? Are they as common as I think?

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9 Responses to “There’s No Such Thing as a Honing Pigeon. Two Common Mistakes”

  1. Sherry
    April 2, 2011 at 4:34 pm #

    Robert,

    This was too funny! I haven’t heard of “honing pigeons” but the flesh vs. flush has surfaced a few times.

    There are others I have come across, but my brain is too busy laughing at your post to pull them up at the moment.

    Thanks for the humor!

  2. Don Day
    April 3, 2011 at 3:05 am #

    The first one was a mute point, per say, but the other was a bonified example.

  3. admin-Robert
    April 3, 2011 at 6:58 am #

    Thanks, Sherry!

    Don, I remember Joey from “Friends” saying it was a “moo point.” Like a cow’s opinion, it doesn’t matter.

  4. Davide Rizzo
    April 4, 2011 at 3:16 am #

    I admit I’ve never heard the flesh versus flush mistake. Instead, I remember a sign in a public lavatory in Tokyo inviting visitors to “flash the toilet”.

  5. Mom
    April 8, 2011 at 1:13 am #

    How about this mistake?

    “…if they’re not consider mistakes…”

    I believe you left off the “ed” on the word consider. For shame – you need a better proof reader- grin

  6. admin-Robert
    April 10, 2011 at 10:02 pm #

    Of course, typos are another kind of common mistake! Fixed.

  7. Ben
    February 1, 2016 at 2:46 pm #

    I just came across ‘honing pigeon’ while reading the Hunger Games, and wondered whether it was U.S. English. Thanks for clarifying! — Though maybe it’s special mutated bird like a Mockingjay.

  8. admin-Robert
    February 1, 2016 at 8:28 pm #

    Yes! Honing pigeons and mockingjays. Makes perfect sense.

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