REGIME/REGIMEN: easily confused nouns


It was a perfectly ordinary mistake.  I was listening to a Boston-based conversation on NPR.  The celebrity who was being interviewed was asked, “So tell me, what is your regime before a big game?”

Without a hesitation the interviewee answered about his diet, his exercise, his mental exercises that he employs before each football game.  He was, in fact, telling the interviewer his regimen, not his regime.  The words are easily confused, and most people don’t even hear it.  Being a wordsmith, however, it screamed into my ear.

A regimen is a normal practice, a routine followed regularly.

A regime, however, is a body of people who have determined the rules, regulations, and normal practices expected of all people in a government or other form of connection.   The regime is also responsible for policing that body to be sure the people adhere to the stated rules.

Regime, a Latin/French word in origin, from words meaning “guidance” or “rule. ” is a political term.  It doesn’t always refer to government, however.  It can be a organization, a business, a school, religious group, etc.  I heard a conversation on NPR just this afternoon which talk about the Syrian government as “the Regime.”  It is shorthand for President Assad’s leadership and his associates.

Regimen, however, is a different thing altogether.   It is a plan, or a practice.  There are diet regimens which involve dietary limitations. There are also exercise regimens which affect weight loss or weight gain. There are regimens of medical routines (as with Diabetes, for instance.)  And there are regimens of sleep patterns.   They are all patterns of behavior for a specific purpose.

It is important for news commentators to get this distinction straight.  I sent off a text message to the commentator that screwed them up this morning.  She is used to getting such messages from me.  She doesn’t respond any more.  But I hear the corrections from time to time.


 Photo Credit: Wikipedia

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