Monday, August 18, 2008

Wonderings and Googlings (Wherein I wonder about words, then I Google them)

rein him in + rein her in + rein them in = total 60,720 hits
reign him in + reign her in + reign them in = total 26,720 hits

free rein = 769,000
free reign = 1,010,000 hits


Traditionalists say both expressions call for rein. To rein someone in is a reference to a horse's reins and means to get someone under control. Conversely, to give free rein means to let someone or something run wild. (I've actually done this on a horse = let go of the reins, yelled "ha!," and seen where I ended up [I was young].)

But you could, if you wanted to, make a case for free reign, since reign, like rein, refers to control or power. In fact, some sources sanction free reign, sort of.

But think twice before you include the G -- a lot of us "we were taught differently" types will assume your spelling is out of ignorance and not conscious choice.

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3 comments:

David said...

How about "full rei(g)n"? I've asked a horse loving friend and she was unable to give me any definitive answer as to whether it's even used in horsemanship.

June Casagrande said...

I just checked six reference guides (Garner's, Fowler's, Word Court, the Careful Writer, American Heritage and Webster's New World) and none of them lists full rei(gn) as an idiom. Therefore, you can assemble your own.

It seems to me it's a variation on "free rein," so you could use that spelling. But if you really mean "royal power, authority, or rule; soverignty; dominance, prevalance, or sway" (Webster's New World), then you can give "reign" to its fullest.

That's a nice thing about language. As long as you're saying what you mean, you don't have to say what others say. Foshizzle.

June Casagrande said...

CORRECTION:

American Heritage DOES have it. Says it's "full rein" -- a variation of "free rein."

(I shouldn't post before I've had my coffee.)

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