Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Citing Wikipedia:

Many actuaries were unhappy with the stereotypical portrayals of these actuaries as unhappy, math-obsessed and socially inept people; others have claimed that the portrayals are close to home, if a bit exaggerated.

Does this mean "rather accurate"?

This does not seem to match the definition found in The American Heritage® Dictionary:

So as to affect one's feelings or interests

Nor the definition in Wiktionary:

Affecting people close to, or within, ones family circle.

Is Wikipedia misusing the term?
Or are those definitions wrong?
Or am I misunderstanding these definitions?

share|improve this question
3  
The definitions aren't wrong, and you're not misunderstanding them. I can't decide whether Wikipedia is misusing the term, because these portrayals can be viewed as an insult, and "hits close to home" applied to insults has a meaning that isn't quite in these definitions. Google "joke hits close to home". –  Peter Shor Apr 14 '12 at 10:34

2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

"Close to home" is a tricky phrase that dips into several extended meanings depending on context:

Ouch, that hits a little close to home.

The primary usage is that a joke, insult or story ends up being significantly personal. The phrase is using the description of "home" to mean something from your culture or childhood. A good example would be making a fat joke about someone who was once obese. It doesn't matter if it is no longer true; the joke hits close to home.


I am looking for something a little closer to home.

The cultural distance can come into play stronger than a personal history when making requests for things like food, art, music: "These cookies are good but I was hoping for something closer to home." In this usage the phrase would be similar to "fatherland" or "motherland" but drastically scaled down into a specific region or even family.


Regardless of prevalent counter-examples, the accusations are close to home.

And the phrase is used to describe accuracy which is what is being used in your original quote. In this case, "home" is describing the current state of home, culture or personal details. In a certain sense, this usage is implying that it should hit close to home because it is true — regardless if it actually does cause those feelings.


Heh, that's got to hit close to home.

Wow, that must be a bit close to home.

Others have claimed that the portrayals are close to home.

Most people use the phrase to explain an unexpected or extreme reaction to something. This ends up landing somewhere between the description of the feelings and commentary on the accuracy of whatever was said. If it hadn't hit close to home, why the reaction? And why would it hit close to home if it was not true?

Because of this, it is hard to call the original quote incorrect but I would agree that it is stretching the usage of "close to home" a little but I would chalk it up to trying to apply a personal level of feeling to an accusation of an entire group of people.

In an odd sense of irony, the idea that anything could hit close to home for a stereotypical actuary would prevent them from qualifying as a stereotypical actuary. So it is a strange choice of words, to be sure.

share|improve this answer

The Wikipedia reference of "close to home" is quoting Coleman, Lynn G. (Spring 2003). "Was "About Schmidt" about actuaries?"

Wiktionary and Heritage Dictionary are correct in their use of "Close to Home"

I believe Coleman's use meant "near target" or "familiar territory".

Both dictionaries use the term in the sense of affecting a person.

If you are wondering about Coleman's use of the phrase, I would go with "familiar territory".

share|improve this answer
    
Both Wiktionary and Heritage Dictionary use the term "close to home" in the same way. It affects the person's feelings or memories. It strikes a personal chord with the person. –  mrwes Apr 17 '12 at 6:01

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.