Regimen vs. Regiment

Today’s entry is often more of a spelling issue than a grammar issue. But a mistake in this regard can be pretty amusing.

A regimen is a systematic plan or regular course of action to achieve a specific goal. Usually we’re talking about eating healthy food, exercising with a certain regularity, or following a plan for taking certain medicines when we use the word. For example,

I follow a daily regimen of exercise and physical therapy to maintain my strength as an athlete.

My condition means I have to follow a particular regimen of this over-priced drug.

A regiment, on the other hand, is a military unit usually made of several large groups of soldiers.

Example: Before the battle, the regiment staked out a strong position behind the hill.

So if you follow a daily regiment, you might get shot in the process.


Who and whom

This one may seem hard at first, but isn’t all that difficult to figure out. Probably the biggest problem is people who think that using “whom” sounds more elegant and sophisticated than simply using “who.” Not good, and not accurate. The two words are not interchangeable.

Think of it as the difference between using “he” and “him.” If someone is doing the action, we would say “he” is doing it. (We’d never say “him” is doing it, though we still have intelligent people sounding less so by saying “Him and I are doing….”) So if the action is being done BY someone we don’t know, we’d say “who.”

For those who remember the distinction from English class, “who” is used when it’s the subject, and “whom” is used when the person is the object of some action. So anything before the verb has to be “who.”

These are correct:

Who is that woman?

Who is coming to the party?

Who did that?

Who shall I say is calling?

Still keeping “he” and “him” in mind, when something is being done for someone, or to them, or with them, we would say it’s being done to “him.” In the same way, when something is being done by, for, or to someone we don’t know, we’d say “whom.”

These are correct:

To whom do we give the note? (Or, We give the note to whom?)

Whom should I vote for this crazy election season? (There is no good answer to this question, BTW.)

The home improvement company whom you recommended hasn’t returned my calls. (Of course, many people simply drop the “whom” these days in such a sentence.)

Whom do you prefer? In this case, “you” is the main subject, “prefer” is the main verb, and “whom” is the object of your preference. You could just as easily have said, “You prefer whom?”

“For Whom the Bell Tolls” (Thank you, Ernest.)

The distinction between the two words may well disappear by the end of the century. But for now, it still exists, and figuring out which to use is a good exercise for the brain.



I am, among other things, a film professor (see My students have to do a few papers that analyze some aspect of a film. Some choose to write about color, and I’m often treated to an analysis on pallets, palates, and palettes. Of course, only one of those is correct; the other two, to be fair, are amusing to visualize, and provide the occasional guffaw.

This is a palette:


It’s what painters use to hold their paints. It also refers to the range of colors in an image or film.

This, on the other hand, is a palate:


This is also referred to as the roof of your mouth.

And finally, this is a pallet:


A pallet can also be a straw mattress or a makeshift bed.

My students, of course, usually mean “palette” when they write, even when I’m reading “pallet” or “palate” or even an interesting variation of one of these three words.

The biggest thing to remember is that there are three words that sound exactly the same but mean very different things. And in the spirit of full disclosure, I confess that sometimes I have to look up the word to make sure I’m writing down the right one!