or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Out of Control

I know English has a lot of homophones, but a writer is expected to know enough not to put down "I saw him last knight" or "My mother used to reed to me". And yet some homophonous errors crop up with metronomic regularity.

Once again, The New Republic Online thinks that "reign in" is a phrasal verb (I snarked about this back in March, too).

What do you suppose is going on? I have some theories:

1) TNR Online has a very bad copy editor.
2) TNR Online has no copy editor plus some sloppy writers.
2.5) Someone has manually removed the word "rein" from the office computers' spellcheckers.
3) "Reign in" is actually correct and I am wrong and/or a moron.

I'm banking on theory 2, myself.


Blogger Tony Pius said...

Don't worry about (3): you're amply backed up by Garner, who gives "rein; reign" a half-page.

"Rein in, not reign in, is the correct phrase for "to check, restrain." The metaphorical image is of the rider pulling on the reins of the horse to slow down (i.e. "hold your horses")."

In short: you're right, they're wrong.

Monday, May 23, 2005 2:35:00 PM  
Blogger pyramus said...

Oh, I know. But sometimes you stare at a word so long that you start to doubt it's a word, and sometimes a usage becomes so prevalent that you think, well, jeez, what if I'm wrong? What if the stupid, mistaken way of expressing it has completely edged out the correct way and I'm the only person who remembers what used to be correct?

"Reign in" really pisses me off because anyone who had ever seen the expression in print could never make this mistake, which means (to me) that people who use it simply don't read. You can't be a good writer if you're not a good reader.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005 7:56:00 PM  
Blogger Tony Pius said...

When I get an attack of paranoia like that, I always dive into a reference book. Yes, I may have read the word "strength" so many times that it no longer looks like English -- faced with all those consonants, I'm suddenly convinced it must be Dutch or Afrikaans or something -- but the reassuring 20-pound Unabridged is there to set me straight.

Or Roget. Or Garner. They're security blankets for panicky writers and editors.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005 2:39:00 PM  

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