You’ve got to be carefully taut

Last night’s writeup of the hard-fought Celtics-Sixers playoff contest in the online Boston Globe called it a “taught game throughout.”  Yikes!

That reminded me of an email I got from someone telling me we needed to “reign in”  something or other.  How are all these extra g’s sneaking into words?

Dunno about “taught” for “taut”.  And I’ll excuse almost anything in email; I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve used the wrong its or there or your in a hastily written email. The guilty party in this case is an excellent writer and would be deeply embarrassed if I were to point out the error to him.  But of course “rein in” is the kind of dead metaphor that will get progressively easier to screw up as history moves us ever further away from the era the time when the metaphor actually had some meaning in every day life.  “Reign in”, “rein in”, what’s the difference?

Here is a grumpy guy complaining about “reign in” and other annoying mistakes like “vocal chord.”

Both the Globe error and the email error are, I assume, the result of fast writing unmediated by editing or even self-review.  Your spellchecker certainly isn’t going to complain about the error.  Google, however, shows that “reign in” is gaining traction, with over half a million hits.  Here are some novelists discussing what you should do when your characters “go rogue”: should you “reign them in”?  Here is CNN talking about reigning in the influence of Super PACs on elections.

Looks to me like “rein them in” is a cliché on its way out.

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One thought on “You’ve got to be carefully taut

  1. …and then there’s “The hiring committee really put that candidate through the ringer” — perhaps understandable, given that the mechanics of the old-fashioned wringer washing machine have probably been lost in the mists of time. Only — how do you put someone through a ringer? Tie him to the clapper and — what?

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