Monday, July 19, 2004

Che is Alive and Well and Editing Sports Copy at the San Francisco Chronicle

Faithful ColumnWhich readers who have been with us from the first will recall that my maiden post was a rant against the San Francisco Chronicle's use in a headline of the idiomatic "hone in" instead of the clear and sensible "home in." I complained to the Chron and was told that a contemporary dictionary had placed its imprimatur on "hone in," and the Chron copy czar (whose name I did not know and whose name was not provided) preferred "hone in."
 
This made me unhappy. Usage changes, and we don't need the French Academy in the U.S. -- but "hone in" strikes me as a very stupid mishearing, one that wrecks the original metaphor. I thought the Chron still gave a roof to enough language snobs that "hone in" would be cast into outer darkness if for no other reason than keeping up with the Times.
 
Imagine my pleasure when I read the headline on D9 of today's Five Star:
 
"Armstrong homes in on victory no. 6"
 
So some copy editors of sense remain. Hurrah. But there's a final twist. 
 
If you link to the story on sfgate.com, you get this -- same story slightly edited and without a "homes in" hed. I don't know what to make of this. When I go online to get Chron stories to use in my copy editing class, I have never encountered a story whose hed was not identical to what ran in the paper paper. There's no reason the online versions should not have better heds, of course, since online heds need not be written to fit so precisely within the limits of the printed page. The discrepancy may mean nothing.
 
But still. Is it a battle of Chronicle copy editors to the lexical death?  "Home in" is smuggled in, discovered, banished, hidden behind the arras and told to bide its time. I hope so. I hope punches are thrown, and blood runs in the gutters, and heads are stuck on spikes, so that when I die my Chronicle obit will have the headline:
 
"He came. He saw. He homed in."