Thursday, August 07, 2008

Another Eggcorn in My Kingdom

Same story, still First Proof, a few paragraphs later:

"[She] suggests giving your parents free reign over some elements..."

The idiom "free rein" originally sprang from the idea that spirited horse, once its rider let the reins go free, would take off and go anywhere he wanted, without direction.

But as fewer and fewer people ride (know anyone who does regularly?), the regal imagery came to the fore.


Editrix said...

It wasn't until grad school that I learned it wasn't "free reign." And when I learned why that wasn't the case -- the whole let-the-reins-go-free thing -- I flashed back when I was six or seven and trying to write "reindeer," only I spelled it (of course) "raindeer." My mom pointed out my mistake, and I was genuinely shocked (shocked enough to remember the moment vividly today). How could it be "rein"? It sounded like "raindeer," not "reendeer." This made no sense.

I guess when it come to "reign"/"rein"/"rain," I'm always a little slow on the uptake.

TootsNYC said...

"free reign" makes a certain sort of sense--as all *good* eggcorns do.

And I remember that feeling, the one you had as a kid: What do these grownups think they are doing?

JD said...

I guess that if lots of people are doing it, there may be a case for it being a folk etymology rather than just an eggcorn.

TootsNYC said...

well, an eggcorn is really folk etymology.

Or, "folk etymology" is the PROCESS by which an eggcorn becomes mainstream.