Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sun Jul 5 01:11:08 UTC 2009

Needless to say, anyone who learned to read in the 'Forties *ought* to
be aware of the original idiom. And I suppose that the speaker *could*
have pictured homeless children running about the abandoned building
like a horse given free rein, as opposed to merely wandering randomly
about the building in a manner like unto that of free-range chickens.
But it's hard to tell, not having the speaker available for
questioning on this point.

I'm just happy that the kids didn't take the bit between their teeth!


On Sat, Jul 4, 2009 at 7:46 AM, Arnold Zwicky<zwicky at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender: Â  Â  Â  American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster: Â  Â  Â  Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at STANFORD.EDU>
> Subject: Â  Â  Â Re: Eggcorn
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Jul 3, 2009, at 7:47 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:
>> From a discussion of homeless children being allowed to wander:about
>> in abandoned buildings:
>> "... the only building in the city that allows _free rein_ to
>> homeless kids ..."
>> I'm *really* uncertain about this one. It seems to me that this
>> sorta-kinda-maybe calls for "... allows free _range_," since the kids
>> are *wandering about* within the building, but, WTF, I wouldn't bet
>> money on it.
> "free rein" is the original idiom, but (as Chris Waigl said on the
> ecdb):
> Â  As horses and carriages have become rare as a means of transport,
> the metaphor controlling or restricting their movement with the help of
> reins has lost its transparency.
> Â
> so "rein" has been replaced by items that make more sense to people,
> in particular "reign" and "range", the latter also in the ecdb:
> Â
> searching the ecdm for "rein" will get you both of these entries.
> arnold
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