Outerwear: Garments, as raincoats, worn over other clothing for warmth or protection; overclothes. – Dictionary.com
Anticipating colder weather, I stopped in a men’s clothing store looking for a winter jacket since I didn’t find one under the Christmas tree.
My old leather bomber-style jacket, much loved, is being relegated to everyday use. Its brown finish is gone in places and it, like me, is showing its age.
On entering the store, I noticed some winter jackets on my left. The quilted style wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, but they appeared warm enough and sported leather trim on the shoulders, which gave them some style.
A sign above the jackets read: “All outerwear, 60 percent off.”
I tried on one of the jackets and then said to the salesman: “I might be interested, especially since it’s on sale.”
He looked a bit befuddled, then said: “I don’t think these are on sale.”
To which I responded: “The sign says all outerwear on sale.”
And he said: “But these aren’t outerwear.”
And I said: “Jackets are outerwear, aren’t they?”
“No,” he said, “they aren’t. Outerwear would be these shirts over here,” and he directed me to some long-sleeved shirts adjacent to the jackets.
As readers know, this column strives to be about words and word meanings.
I was certain that “outerwear” referred to garments worn over other clothing, and would include coats, jackets, and overcoats.
Was the salesman uninformed or has the word “outerwear” changed in meaning, as so many other words in our language?
For example, I was reading a story in USA Today that said “the tax plan honed in on exemptions for the rich,” or something to that effect.
And this from the Orlando Sentinel: “Tuesday marked the practice during which UCF players and coaches honed in on the game plan” for the upcoming Peach Bowl.
The discussion about football and taxes aside, I thought to myself, why are these writers using “honed” when they clearly mean “homed?”
Grammar expert Migon Fogarty says “home in” means to get closer to something. “You home in on it or zero in on it.”
Compare to “hone,” which means to sharpen. Fogarty’s example: “Squiggly honed his cooking skills in Montreal.”
That said, the spoken language over time is what controls definitions and usage. If a word is misused often enough, it takes on the new meaning.
However, I don’t think we’ve reached that point with “outerwear.” Maybe I’ll send the men’s store salesman a copy of this column.
Dec. 27, 2017