On Friday, March 18, 2005, at 09:24 , David G. Durand wrote:

> Obviously, any usage can be thought of as wrong, but this one seems
> quite well established.

Which one? The carpenter's usage or the one in the quote from tom Purdum?

> The OED doesn't have this usage, but has
> several citations of hew in the sense of forming or shaping, as by
> masons or carpenters, including "hewing the arch of a perfect circle"
> (slight mangling possible as it's back on the shelf now.

But _no one_ has said that is wrong! The verb is normally transitive &
means 'to cut, to shape'. AFAIK this is normal usage - as far as the verb
is used at all now in most of the anglophone world.

> here's on etymology, courtesy of
> hew
> O.E. heawan "to chop, hack, gash" (class VII strong verb; past tense

Yes, yes - I know the etymology.
> forge;" L. cudere "to strike, beat;" M.Ir. cuad "beat, fight"). Weak
> pp. hewede appeared 14c.

Did it? As I said, both 'hewed' and 'hewn' are normally accepted by
presciptivists past participles, tho only 'hewed' is used as the preterite.

> Seemingly contradictory sense of "hold fast,
> stick to" (in phrase hew to) developed from hew to the line "stick to
> a course," lit. "cut evenly with an axe or saw," first recorded 1891.

I.e. a metaphor from woodworking.

>> Mr Purdum's usage seems to me to be on a par with a south Walian
>> councillor I once heard on the radio talking about a "resumé of work"
>> when
>> he meant a _resumption of work_ - trying to use a fancy phrase and
>> choosing the wrong word!

Yes, I have since learnt by private email that the term is used as Todd
Purdum used it, but it seems mainly (only?) in political contexts (as
indeed it was) & it also seems to be essentially an Americanism. But I
admit I was wrong about Todd Purdum.

What misled me was the notion that he meant 'clinging to' as _cleaving to_
would mean. I feel certain, as my informant suggested, that the term in
fact derives from the woodworking term as Elyse Grasso said and, indeed,
as you say above. It would seem that the metaphor in Todd Purdom's "Mr.
Wolfowitz's career has hewed to those same unshrinking precepts... " is
that of shaping one's life by cutting back on everything else to
concentrate on a particular objective.

But I confess I not come across this metaphorical use this side of the
Pond (maybe it's on its way over  :)

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Anything is possible in the fabulous Celtic twilight,
which is not so much a twilight of the gods
as of the reason."      [JRRT, "English and Welsh" ]