You should be careful when deciding whether to use ho or hoe. Both are words, but you may get into trouble for using one of them!
There was a time when discussing whether to choose ho or hoe wouldn’t be necessary. There was a time, after all, when no one would have considered one of those choices to be proper.
Language isn’t the only thing that changes. Our common sense of decency adjusts itself as well, it seems. While one of those words might still raise eyebrows — and with good reason — fewer people seem to find it overly offensive.
Facebook, on the other hand, might be over-compensating for that. More on that in a moment.
Children learn about the magical man at the North Pole, Santa Claus. His favorite expression, as I’m sure you remember, is “Ho Ho Ho!” It’s the sound the jolly, good-natured soul makes when he laughs. In that respect, ho is an example of onomatopoeia.
That fancy-sounding word refers to words that are generated from the sound they describe. Other popular examples of onomatopoeia include words like fizz, pop and boom.
I doubt if anyone finds that particular meaning of the word offensive.
But there’s an alternate meaning for the little word. It can refer to a prostitute. It can also refer to sexually promiscuous women who are not specifically prostitutes but may have questionable moral principles.
I have seen some use the word just to refer to an authoritative woman assumed to have an attitude, particularly toward men.
Regardless of the specifics of the meaning, this alternate usage of ho is unflattering.
A hoe is a garden instrument that seems to be a combination between a shovel and trowel. Farmers and gardeners use a hoe for weeding. You can also use it to breaking up the soil before planting.
The description of the stock photo I used for this post indicates a man is using a hoe to reclaim soil in a potato field. More power to him.
I have never used a hoe. I do not have a green thumb. My place is where perfectly good plants go to die. But that’s another story.
Anyone who refers negatively to women with the word hoe have clearly committed a spelling error.
Facebook doesn’t care which you mean: It hates both
I belong to a “grammar police” group on Facebook. Members often post photos of signs with unfortunate misspellings and other grammatical errors.
Recently, moderators of that group warned everyone to avoid using the word indicating “the sound Santa makes” or the “garden tool.” Facebook, it seems, recently sent moderators a warning about a post that contained one of the two words.
The use, Facebook said, violates their Terms of Service. The moderators said even the more innocent garden tool variant — hoe, not ho — can cause problems from Facebook.
It seems a bit silly.
But a web search seems to confirm that Facebook doesn’t fool around with either word.
This summer, the Associated Press reported that Facebook’s algorithm sometimes misunderstood the intended use of the word hoe. That algorithm would flag posts that contained that word from, of all places, a western New York gardening group!
Their reporter interviewed one of the group’s moderators who said when group member commented about gardening tools using the word, Facebook would send a notification.
“We reviewed this comment and found it goes against our standards for harassment and bullying,” the notification said, according to the moderator.
No one should be shocked that it’s an algorithm, not a human being, who reviews the use of the word. There aren’t enough employees at Facebook to keep track of the volume of posts.
But clearly, the automated option is problematic, too.
So now that you know whether to choose ho or hoe, you should reconsider using either one on Facebook!
At least until Facebook’s algorithm learns how to tell the difference within context!