Everyday I receive an email from Oxford containing a grammar tip. The last one I shared was about flaunt v. flout. Today’s tip is about having free rein, (not reign) a mistake I make all the time.
This is the correct spelling of the phrase — not “free reign.” The allusion is to horses, not to kings or queens. But some writers have apparently forgotten the allusion — e.g.:
“Indianapolis deserves to be a healthy and livable city, not just a place where developers enjoy free reign [read ‘free rein’], routinely decimating our few remaining significant tree stands.” Letter of Clarke Kahlo, “The Public’s Interest in Tree Protection,” Indianapolis Star, 19 Jan. 1997, at B4.
“Holmgren was quoted in a New Orleans paper as saying his players have a fairly free reign [read ‘free rein’] to enjoy New Orleans during their stay there. However, he did warn them about talking to ‘weird women.'” Danny Wells, “Backup Draws a Crowd: McMahon Still a Super Attraction,” Charleston Gaz., 23 Jan. 1997, at C1.
“Full rein” is a synonymous but less common expression.
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