Red Pen Diaries: Reign O'er Me

Red Pen Diaries: Advice and Observations on Writing and the English LanguageDo you know the difference between "reign" and "rein"? If not, you're in good company: The Associated Press doesn't, either..

Today, while logging into my Yahoo account, I was greeted with the following AP headline: "Senate OKs bill to reign in credit card practices."

I intended to take a screencap, but unfortunately I navigated away from the page to do something else, and minutes later someone at AP had corrected the mistake by changing it to "rein in."

What's the difference?

The relevant definition of rein is as a verb: "to control or direct with or as if with reins."

When you rein in a horse, you are directing it to slow down or otherwise exercising control or authority over its actions. Congress is attempting to control or direct the practices of credit card companies "as if with reins."

When you reign, you "possess or exercise sovereign power: rule." Louis XIV said, "L'etat, c'est moi." He reigned over France... for more than 72 years, still a record for European monarchs.

In other words, the king reigns and the carriage driver (or legislature, apparently) reins (in).

Being a libertarian, I can't resist saying that we must rein in the ambitions of anyone in government who would reign over our country. ("Here, sir, the people rule!")

Your political mileage may vary, but your grammatical usage should not!


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