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A New Feature! NCN’s Goof of the Week

February 29, 2008

Errors at the North County News continue to abound. This week’s lollapalooza shows that the North County News not only needs a fact checker to correct inaccurate information in its stories, it also needs a copy editor to pull up the newspaper’s socks grammatically.

Consider this from a story in this week’s issue by Adriane Tillman and headed “Changing of the Guard at Croton Police”:

A recent, quiet, unceremonious changing of the guard saw Croton’s Dennis Coxen retire after 22 years as police chief, and former Lieutenant Anthony Tramaglini assume the reigns.

Ms. Tillman obviously meant that newly installed Chief Tramaglini assumed the reins. There is a not-so-subtle difference between reigns and reins, although they are pronounced alike. We are indebted to The American Heritage Dictionary for the following contrasting definitions:

reign (rān) n.

  1. Exercise of sovereign power, as by a monarch.
  2. The period during which a monarch rules.
  3. Dominance or widespread influence: the reign of reason.

rein (rān) n.

  1. A long narrow leather strap attached to each end of the bit of a bridle and used by a rider or driver to control a horse or other animal. Often used in the plural.
  2. A means of restraint, check, or guidance.
  3. A means or an instrument by which power is exercised. Often used in the plural: the reins of government.

Idioms: draw in the reins
* To slow down or stop by or as if by pressure on the reins.

give free/full rein to
* To release from restraints; allow to go unchecked: gave rein to her emotions.

tight rein
* Close control: kept expenses on a tight rein.

The growing number of errors appearing in print media and on the Internet has been blamed on word processing programs with their built-in, non-discriminating spelling checkers, and the Internet. We have noted a large number of such errors on comments made to articles posted on Crotonblog. We cannot process comments before they appear, nor do we want to.

There’s a vast difference between a hasty comment posted on an Internet blog and a news story printed in a once-respected newspaper and repeated on its own blog. It is our considered feeling that a newspaper for which subscribers or readers pay money has an inherent obligation to avoid glaring errors of fact and grammar.


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