Home in vs horn in

Home in and horn in are two idioms that are sometimes confused. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. We will examine the meanings of the expressions home in and horn in, where they came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Home in means to direct on a target or to concentrate one’s attention on one specific thing. The phrasal verb is derived from the nineteenth-century use of homing pigeons, but it reemerged in the twentieth century to refer to missiles that home in on their targets. It’s also commonly used metaphorically, where to home in on something is to focus on and make progress toward it.

Horn in means to intrude on a situation, or to interfere in a situation where one is not wanted or invited. The term horn in comes from American cowboy slang, originally used around 1850 to describe a cow, steer or bull that pushes the way forward by using its horns. The term horn in took on its figurative sense, to intrude on a situation, by the 1880s.

Examples

Mr Trump has been right to home in on this issue, where his populist instincts are shared by voters across the political spectrum. (The Financial Times)

Rather than fixate on an individual judge, senators should home in on the hazards of an increasingly polarized judiciary setting the rules for an increasingly polarized society. (The Modesto Bee)

In this case, you’ve got a movie that was funded by the McDonald’s corporation, which decided it’d like to horn in on the overwhelming success of 1982’s E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial by making an E.T. of their very own. (Birth. Death. Movies.)

But the original subscription company isn’t letting AMC horn in on its territory without a fight — or, at least, without some sniping on Twitter. (The Gainseville Times)

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