Raining Death and Destruction

By Maeve Maddox

This week I received an email that contained the phrase “reigning death and destruction on innocent people.” Naturally, I was moved to do a web search to see if other writers were misspelling the phrase “raining death and destruction.”

Here is some evidence that some are:

INCORRECT: Civil liberties are suppressed for our own good, and patriotism means going along with lawless governments, reigning death and destruction on defenseless nations for imperial, not noble, reasons.—Political commentary blog.
CORRECT : Civil liberties are suppressed for our own good, and patriotism means going along with lawless governments, raining death and destruction on defenseless nations for imperial, not noble, reasons.

INCORRECT: The FSA, however, have developed a different role for their Gunship, the Princeton class is an artillery emplacement on the water, its large turret reigning death and destruction from afar along with a healthy dose of rockets to boot.—UK gaming site.
CORRECT : The FSA, however, have developed a different role for their Gunship, the Princeton class is an artillery emplacement on the water, its large turret raining death and destruction from afar along with a healthy dose of rockets to boot.

INCORRECT: The name refers to the Lord’s “passing over” the Jewish children while reigning death and destruction on the Egyptians for Pharaoh’s refusal to free the Jews.—Feature article in The Washington Post.
CORRECT : The name refers to the Lord’s “passing over” the Jewish children while raining death and destruction on the Egyptians for Pharaoh’s refusal to free the Jews

The misspelling occurs with the similar idioms “raining blows” and “raining punches”:

INCORRECT: A man has been told he is lucky not to be going to prison after reigning blows on his mother’s partner in their own home.—The Plymouth Herald (UK).
CORRECT : A man has been told he is lucky not to be going to prison after raining blows on his mother’s partner in their own home.

INCORRECT: A.J. Ferrer lived up to his nick name “The Pitbull” when he stormed out of his corner at the bell and began reigning punches from every angle.—Mixed martial arts site.
CORRECT: A.J. Ferrer lived up to his nick name “The Pitbull” when he stormed out of his corner at the bell and began raining punches from every angle.

In these idioms, the metaphor is that of a heavy rain pelting down on someone or something beneath.

Reigning, on the other hand, is from the verb reign: “to exercise authority or hold sway in the manner of a monarch.” The participle form is used with the meaning ruling or predominant.

Here are examples of reigning used correctly:

The reigning dynasty of Uaxactun was not always housed in the same location.

The reigning philosophy of the Enlightenment, we are told, was that of Locke and his disciples in England and on the Continent.

We have never had a World Championship where the reigning champion could defend the title.

In conclusion, death, destruction, blows, punches, insults, volcanic ash, and other such unpleasantries rain on their recipients.

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6 Responses to “Raining Death and Destruction”

  • Tim Slager

    (IN)CORRECT : The FSA, however, have developed a different role for their Gunship, the Princeton class is an artillery emplacement on the water, its large turret raining death and destruction from afar along with a healthy dose of rockets to boot.
    CORRECT : The FSA, however, have developed a different role for their Gunship; the Princeton class is an artillery emplacement on the water, its large turret raining death and destruction from afar along with a healthy dose of rockets to boot.

    Not the point you were making, but I think it is a run-on sentence without the semicolon. Or it could be: …their Gunship, the Princeton class, which is an artillery emplacement…

    Also, I would argue that “along with” and “to boot” are redundant. If I were editing, I would delete “along.” Some diction seems created to make editors feel useful.

  • venqax

    This is the tip of an iceberg. The confusion even transcends the image of actual rain, which we have to assume most people are familiar with. The Who’s famous song, “Love, Reign O’er Me” concerns a character asking for help in and from pouring rain. PeteTownshend, the song’s writer, himself described the song as: “[It] refers to Meher Baba’s one time comment that rain was a blessing from God.” Yet, we have the title, published and everything, set in stone for all time without any reflection, apparently.
    Then we have the triplet, rein that muddies the waters as well. We see attempts to “reign” in problems of all sorts over and over again, usually without success. Maybe the difficulty with reining in some things is that the wrong equipment is being used—confusing terms can lead to confusing things can’t it? Seems like a logical progression.

  • Mike Rose

    The Who’s word play between title and lyrics is intentional. And clever, to a degree. I don’t see it as part of any iceberg tip to worry about. No need to overcomplicate things.

  • Agua Caliente

    A good site for these eggcorns is the Eggcorn Database Forum, especially if you want to laugh.

  • venqax

    How is it clever wordplay? Serious question– I’ve never seen the movie and I have never seen any reference to the word play in anything I’ve read about the movie, song, etc. (Well, I have seen the movie but not since I was maybe, 10, and I don’t remember much of anything about it except I couldn’t understand how anyone would think those little toy scooters were cool). The iceberg is definitely there, though, enormous and Titanic-sinking with or without a Who song.

  • David Knuttunen

    This of course, for no particularly good reason, made me wonder if there was any way to twist “reign” to make sense in any way, in any form of the cited sentences. Not easy, since, besides the difference in meaning, reign is intransitive (always, I think), and the examples use “rain” in a transitive way (“raining blows”). But if you change it to an adjectival construction: “The champion’s reigning blows successfully defended his crown once more.” Nah. That’s silly. It was fun to think about, though.

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