Sunday, October 23, 2011

Reign, reign, go away

One of those annoying little aggressions on decent usage is 'free reign,' most often found in stupider comments on blogs but popping up today on the NYTimes, a paper – annoying PC quirks and crotchets notwithstanding – that purports to hold the highest standards of usage. The offending headline, 'Free Reign to Play Free Spirits,' is in some movie column today.
What they want is, of course, 'free rein,' as when a rider lets the reins go slack and allows the horse to go as it will. The Rants and Raves section in Spanish-language Craig's Lists is 'rienda suelta,' meaning the same thing – running free – and it's a good equivalent for RnR. It's easy to see how the idea of 'reign' in a sense of governance, of control, got this meaning in the minds of marginally bright Websters, but still, folks ...

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