Twice recently, I noticed a system of healthful habits being described as a regime.
The first reference was in a rerun of The Dick Van Dyke Show, in which Sally Rogers referred to her new diet regime. My ear twitched a bit, recognizing a potential misuse of regimen, while I also considered it might have been a colloquialism of its time some half a century ago.
Then yesterday, I read the same use in the Washington Post’s Health & Science section, in which the author of a recent book assured readers that, in order to age healthfully, they needn’t “go all out with a major fitness regime…” Prior to this, the only regimes I’d read about in the Post were systems of governmental power. I made a note to investigate.
My first scratch into the matter had me feeling pretty cocky. Indeed, the definitions I located defined a regime as a form of government (e.g., a fascist regime), a government in power, a prevailing social system or pattern, a period during which a particular administration or system prevails.
My cockiness wilted when I read an alternate definition—“a regulated system, as of diet and exercise; a regimen”—but I had just enough left to fuel one more regimen-related peeve.
I have a friend who likes to refer to her “regiment” of eating fruits and vegetables. My friend is not alone; the internet has no shortage of references to healthy regiments.
No matter how you slice your produce, there’s no room to rationalize that one. A regiment is an army unit. Period.
One of my favorite sources of analysis on such matters, the Visual Thesaurus, has a thoughtful explanation of regime v. regimen, pulling from various medical publications and etymological authorities to compare the two. They explain that regimen and regime are known as “doublets,” two words that have entered the language from the same source by different routes. They further advise, “If you use regime, you can be confident that you have a couple of centuries of accepted usage on your side. But if you want to make sure you don’t set off anyone’s pet-peeve alarms, stick with regimen.”
So technically, Sally Rogers and the Post are correct, though regime in this context appears to still bother many healthcare professionals. And me.
Nevertheless, Visual Thesaurus states, “Anyone who confuses regimen and regiment betrays ignorance of an elementary verbal distinction.”
They said it, not I.