Re: Remember those pet peeves?
Read this story about common spelling abuses becoming accepted and weep:
Other mistakes fast becoming the received spelling
include substituting "free reign" for the correct phrase,
"free rein". The original refers to letting a horse loose,
but many use "reign" and assume the expression means to
allow a free rule.
Well, the story's not quite right, either. Free rein is
allowing the horse to go as he will, while you are still
on him or in the carriage he's pulling. The story seems
to imply that he's merely turned loose. At free rein,
the horse still is under control, because the rider or
driver, if alert, can take up the reins in an instant.
Why would someone do this? For riding, the horse may know
better than the rider where to put his feet. When driving
on a road, where the choice of direction is obvious, slack
reins interfere less with the horse. This can be helpful
over long distances. Horses don't like micromanagement any
more than tech writers do.
What if the driver is not alert? Stories abound of tired
or drunk folks who would get (or pour) themselves into the
carriage and set out for home, sleeping the whole way,
waking only when the horse stopped at the barn.
Unreported in the story is the third spelling, free rain.
That's a pleonasm.
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Remember those pet peeves?: From: Janice Gelb
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