I recently noticed this use of the word reign:
After Chretien resigned as Prime Minister, we learned of a new major scandal that occurred during his reign.
It surprised me because I attach the word reign to a royal personage, not an elected official.
El Greco to Velázquez: Art during the Reign of Philip III
Travels in England During the Reign of Queen Elizabeth
Historical Writing during the Reign of Shah Abbas:
Territorial expansion during the reign of Khan Krum
Regime, on the other hand, usually denotes a government, or a period during which a political party or perhaps a dictator is in control of a government. For example,
Foreign support for Venezuelan political exiles during the regime of Juan Vicente Gomez: the case of Mexico,1923-33.
The regime of President Ahmadinejad has allowed itself to intervene in the internal affairs of other
Power of Romances: Voices For and Against the Serbian Regime
Many Authors Were Only Tolerated by the Regime
Here are two definitions from the OED:
reign: Royal power or rule; kingdom, sovereignty; also transf. power or rule (of persons) comparable to that of a king.
regime: A manner, method, or system of rule or government; a system or institution having widespread influence or prevalence.
Both reign and regime suggest control, something most of us resent when other people exercise it over us. The OED entry includes this note with the definition of regime:
Now freq. applied disparagingly to a particular government or administration.
Both reign and regime can be button-pushing words. Lately I’ve noticed quite a few web headlines that use the word “reign” in connection with President Obama’s administration. This is neither ignorance nor accident.
Neutral: the Obama administration
Negative: the Obama regime
Inflammatory: the Obama reign
When used to describe the administration of a U.S. president, the word reign is a studied insult.
For fun I ran a “reign” search on four presidents. Here are the results in hits:
Obama’s reign 35,400
Bush’s reign 97,000
Carter’s reign 7,290
Reagan’s reign 19,500