Preparation, of course, can help us prevent these spoken errors. A word mixup by a member of Congress at a hearing, for example, is less forgivable than one in a phone conversation. Politicians are supposed to be eloquent and prepared. They have speechwriters, consultants and interns at their beck and call to reduce the chance that they will slip up.
That brings us to Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina. She was on the House panel this week that questioned pitcher Roger Clemens about steroids. In fawning remarks that drew criticism from ESPN and others, Foxx asked Clemens:
Mr. Clemens, maybe you’d like to talk about your regime and how hard you work?
The word Foxx wanted was “regimen.” Here’s a typical definition:
A regimen is a plan, a regulated course such as a diet, exercise or treatment, designed to give a good result.
A regime can be lots of things. It usually refers to an authoritarian government, not exercise. In the age of “regime change,” is it too much to ask our leaders to know the difference?
UPDATE: As reflected in the comments to this post, some people don’t agree with me on this one. Similar disagreements have come up in discussions of “sanction” and “rumor.”
I decided to take “regime” and “regimen” to the AP’s Ask the Stylebook site. Here’s the response: “Regimen normally describes a course of treatment or a period of training or schooling. Regime is a synonym for a political system.”