Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Reign, reign, go away

In the last few years writers in the popular prints have lost the distinction between 'rein' and 'reign.' Something to do, I suspect, with never having read anything much and writing by ear instead of eye, an artifact of the new culture. A recent story in the NYT has someone reigning in something, I forget what. When the ignoramusosity slides past the hotdog copy editors at the Times, the disease may be beyond cure. A reign is the administration of a king. You can see the king word in there, like a rey. 'During the reign of King George, the American people were ill used.' A rein is the lines that control the movement of a horse. When you rein the beast in, you stop it. [In Spanish you can dar rienda suelta to give free rein, and freno, the word for a bridle bit is also the word for a brake. Anyhow, nothing to do with kings in either language.] We know too well that a word misused long enough becomes accepted usage. Or, maybe younger writers are simply totally ignorant of horse words.

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