“Regiment: a military unit of ground forces consisting of two or more battalions, a headquarters unit and supporting unit.” (1992, Random House Webster’s College Dictionary, p. 1134)
“Regime: a mode or system of rule or government.” (Random House, p. 1134.)
“Regimen: a regulated course as of diet, exercise or manner of living, to preserve or restore health or to attain some result.” (Random House, p. 1134)
Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of misuse of the word regiment. By the dieter as in “…I’ve been on a strict regiment of vegetables..” I picture rows of celery and lettuce, marching in lock-step with carrots and green beans. The athlete: “I’m on a strict weight-lifting regiment…” I see hand weights with caps and rifles, marching in formation across the gym.
The same occurs with the word regime. “The team is on a new practice regime.” “I’m losing weight on my new diet regime.” I’ve seen these grammar errors time and again – in print and in spoken media.
Of course, in the examples above, the speaker should have used the word regimen. So why do folks get these words mixed up all the time? This has been going on unchecked for a while, which possibly contributes to the misuse. If one hears the wrong word used and sees it repeatedly in print, one begins to think that regiment or regime really IS the correct word. Copy editors should be correcting the error in print media, but I don’t think we really have copy editors any more – just spell check. Our shorthand communication methods such as texting and Twitter no doubt contribute to word misuse and poor grammar as well. The grammar police are no longer as active in this country as they once were. Sure, you see occasional bloggers, journalists and others like me who put out an article similar to this one, decrying the misuse of words and doesn’t anyone know how to speak in this country any more?
Some day when our civilization has died out, visitors from another world will arrive in large regiments. In excavating our civilization, they’ll no doubt put themselves on a strict regimen of reading our literary works and marveling at the decline of our literary regime.