Full rein
Posted: 14 June 2008 03:09 AM   [ Ignore ]
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The phrase “full rein”, synonymous with “free rein”, has come up in another context.  They have both been eggcorned to versions with “reign”.  I can understand the literal meaning of “free rein” but that of “full rein” escapes me.  Is this a term that has actually been used in horsemanship or is “full reign” the original and “full rein” the eggcorn?  Or what?

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Posted: 14 June 2008 04:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Free rein(s) is the original expression. OED has no cite at all for full rein, although it does mention the ‘folk etymology’ form with reign . Interestingly the first cite for the figurative sense predates the horsemanship one by some 150 years.

free rein, n.

1. Freedom of action or expression. Chiefly in to give (a) free rein (to). Cf. REIN n.1 2b.
Also (esp. in early use) in pl. with same sense.

1640 W. HABINGTON Hist. Edward IV 180 He..gave free reines to his injurious ambition. a1644 F. QUARLES Virgin Widow (1649) I. i. 1 At such a time when he was pleas’d to lend Free reines to mirth. 1746 R. LESTOCK Def. to Court-martial 221 He would not only preserve his own Reputation, but give free Reins to the Hatred he always nourished. 1778 T. PENNANT Tour in Wales I. 324 Owen, after securing this potent enemy, began to give a free rein to his revenge. 1846 J. H. INGRAHAM Slave King I. x. 35 His air was that of a man accustomed to command, and wont also to give free rein to his temper. 1884 Mind 9 320 It is in the critical section..the author gives himself free rein. 1906 Philos. Rev. 15 89 The historical authority on which this statement is based is of very late date.., when the romancing tendency was given free reins. 1942 J. LIPMAN Amer. Primitive Painting 7 The primitive artist typically allowed himself free rein in depicting pose, gesture..and background. 1997 Resource Packet for Neo-Paganism & Witchcraft 47 Unless we give free rein to an innocent sense of wonder..the tuning will be in vain.

2. lit. A rein held loosely to allow a horse free motion; the freedom that this gives a horse. Chiefly in to give (a) free rein (to). Cf. REIN n.1 1b.

1803 J. PICKERSGILL Three Brothers 126, I vaulted into his vacant saddle; gave free rein to the horse, and drove after the Cavalier

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Posted: 14 June 2008 05:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Apparently it’s an alternative form of “full rein.”

AHD: give free (or full) rein to To release from restraints
M-W: opportunity for unhampered activity or use <gave full rein to her imagination>

Quotes from Google Books:

Metamorphoses - Page 199
by Ovid, Charles Martin - Poetry - 2004
... who, having heard the clattering of arrows in a quiver, at once gave full rein
to his horse, fleeing as when a helmsman sees a distant cloud

The Man in the Iron Mask - Page 321
by Alexandre Dumas, Joachim Neugroschel, Francine Du Plessix Gray - Fiction - 2003
D’Artagnan gave his black horse full rein and it galloped away. Both men were
taking the same route. The quadruple echoes of the hooves mingled together.

The trees and fields went the other way - Page 32
by Evelyn Sybil Mary Eaton - Literary Criticism - 1974
The first time “giving full rein to his passion” appeared in print, it must have
seemed the ultimate image of frenzied urgency.

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