DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am in an all-volunteer animal rescue group that re-homes abandoned or surrendered dogs. In advertising our animals for adoption through social media, we often indicate that an animal can be given "free rein" of the house -- meaning they are housebroken and can be trusted not to chew or destroy things when left alone. (As an amateur horsewoman, I know that the term comes from giving a horse a loose rein to find its way in difficult footing, or to just go as it pleases.)
Unfortunately, whoever writes the descriptions of the animals invariably notes that the animal can be given "free reign" of the house, which is a very different use, or misuse, of the phrase. I don't know who the grammatically challenged person is, though I suspect it is one of the top three members of our board, making it difficult to inquire without offending the writer.
This repetitive misuse of a term in virtually every post is an embarrassment to our organization. How would you suggest that I try to correct it, or is it best to let sleeping dogs "lye"?
GENTLE READER: Good one. And you can make your point without embarrassing any individual.
Miss Manners suggests a memo to everyone concerned, somewhat along these lines: "We all know that our wonderful dogs will reign supreme in the households they grace, but let's let our human clients discover that for themselves. Meanwhile, they do have to know that the dogs should be given free rein, as a horse is when you loosen the reins."
No one will have been specifically targeted, and everyone can smile at the confusion of others.