Center On or Center Around?

The term center around is illogical because the two words conflict with each other. (It is an oxymoron.) However, through common usage, center around has become an idiom meaning to make something a point of focus. It has probably developed from people taking elements from the terms revolve around and center on, both of which are logically sound themselves.

In formal writing, it is best to avoid the term center around and use an alternative such as center on or focus on.

  • What I learned growing up on the farm was a way of life that was centered on hard work, on faith, and on thrift. Those values have stuck with me my whole life. (Rick Perry)
  • SpongeBob SquarePants is a great show, and it centers on a character that is courageously nice and who has a passion for chasing jellyfish. (Vince Gilligan)

Use center on, revolve around, or focus on in formal writing to avoid looking sloppy.