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WREAK

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WREAK

Postby Dr. Goodword » Tue May 11, 2010 11:57 pm

• wreak •


Pronunciation: reek • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: 1. To inflict, as to wreak our wrath on someone. 2. To vent, to express forcefully, as to wreak indignation. 3. (Ageing if not already archaic) To avenge, as to wreak the wreckage left by a divorce.

Notes: Here is a word that is in trouble. Because it implies wreckage in some sense, more and more people are saying "wreck havoc" rather than "wreak havoc". Wrecking havoc, I suppose, would mean to end the havoc. What we generally mean, however, is to inflict havoc somewhere, so wreak is the only word to use. The problem is that this word is leaking out of English, clinging for its life to havoc in the phrase just cited. Today it hardly knows its family, the adjectives wreakful "vengeful" or wreakless "forgiving".

In Play: If we are going to keep today's Good Word in the English language, we must return to using it with direct objects other than havoc: "Don't wreak your anger on me, Maddy; I didn't let the goat gnaw your straw hat!" Why this word is weakening its grip on the language is mystifying because it is so useful: "Someone please make sure that Donny Brooke doesn't wreak his political views on the guests at the reception."

Word History: Today's word is the descendant of Old English wrecan "to avenge". Looking beyond Old English we find evidence that the root of this verb originally meant "to drive hard, to punish" for while its German descendant rächen means "to avenge", the same root came to Lithuanian as vergas "distress" and to Russian as vrag "enemy". Despite all the distressful meanings of its descendants, the Proto-Indo-European base from which all these words derived seems to be *werg- "to work", the origin of English "work". This word turned up in Latin as urgere "to press, push hard", which English impressed into its own service as urge. (Lest displeasure be wreaked upon us all, let us thank Robin Heggeland for so graciously suggesting today's Good Word.)
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Re: WREAK

Postby Audiendus » Wed May 12, 2010 8:30 am

Dr. Goodword wrote:The problem is that this word is leaking out of English, clinging for its life to havoc in the phrase just cited.

It is still sometimes used with "vengeance" or "revenge".

I used to think that the past tense of "wreak havoc" was "wrought havoc". In fact it is "wreaked [or, rarely, wroke] havoc". "Wrought" is a past tense of "work". However:

Dr. Goodword wrote:the Proto-Indo-European base from which all these words derived seems to be *werg- "to work", the origin of English "work".

So there does seem to be a connection after all.
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Postby David Myer » Wed May 12, 2010 6:38 pm

Thanks for enlightening us on its past tense. I too thought 'wrought' was the word. But if that word is a past participle of 'work', the suggestion is that if you are making wrought iron, you are working iron. Fair enough, but not as picturesque as wreaking it.
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Re: WREAK

Postby misterdoe » Wed May 12, 2010 11:54 pm

Dr. Goodword wrote:(Lest displeasure be wreaked upon us all...)

Shouldn't that be wrought? :?

At a now-defunct message board I used to frequent and, eventually, moderate, someone posted a thread about the effect of certain recording artists on forms of music outside their area. After I responded by mentioning that so-called rappers now only resorted to recording what sounds good coming out of a cellphone, I ended my comment with "What hath Lil Jon wrought? Image" For some reason everyone who replied to me thought my use of "wrought" was funny...
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Postby LukeJavan8 » Thu May 13, 2010 11:58 am

Don't know what Morse would have thought, but I got
a chuckle out of it.
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Re: WREAK

Postby misterdoe » Sun Sep 23, 2012 10:16 am

I just found this page while searching for the phrase, "What hath Lil Jon wrought," and didn't realize I'd totally ignored the point the Doc had just made, about wrought not being the past tense of wreak. :oops:
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Re: WREAK

Postby LukeJavan8 » Sun Sep 23, 2012 12:23 pm

When we have words we seldom use anymore, it is so
easy to confuse their various tenses. I completely
understand.
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Re: WREAK

Postby Perry Lassiter » Sun Sep 23, 2012 1:14 pm

On "rachen" in the word history, I thought of Sherlock Holmes in "A Study in Scarlet." the word RACHE was written in blood on the wall of a murder room, and the attending detective thought a woman named Rachel would be involved. As Holmes concluded his parting remarks, he commented, "Rache is the German word for revenge, so don't look for a woman named Rachel." My favorite chapter in the Holmes works.
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Re: WREAK

Postby LukeJavan8 » Sun Sep 23, 2012 1:26 pm

Which reminds me of S.King's "The Shining" with his
'redrum' (Murder).
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Re: WREAK

Postby Philip Hudson » Sun Sep 23, 2012 6:36 pm

So, Luke, you also got that telegram from Mr. Morse did you?
Perry, does an erudite scholar like you read Sherlock Holmes? What is the world coming to?
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Re: WREAK

Postby Perry Lassiter » Sun Sep 23, 2012 9:33 pm

Hah! Fooled you didn't I? And Rex Stout and Lee Child.
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Re: WREAK

Postby Slava » Sun Sep 23, 2012 10:02 pm

I think my problem with wreak is its being a homonym.

After the storm wreaked its wrath on the sewage plant, the area really reeked.

I want wreaked to be wrought.
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Re: WREAK

Postby MTC » Mon Sep 24, 2012 6:12 am

This discussion has left us overwrought. Time for the palliative of your choice.
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Re: WREAK

Postby Philip Hudson » Mon Sep 24, 2012 10:58 pm

Rex Stout I know and greatly enjoy. I don't know Lee Child but I take Perry's word for it. I will put him on my reading list, a list that is already groaning with weight. I have been foolish enough to try to read H. G. Wells' "The Outline of History". I already knew he was an insufferable writer, so why did I start? He may have been the stupidest person ever to achieve fame as a writer. Even trying to remember that he never heard of DNA, his history is ridiculous. He believed the Tasmanian Abos were subhuman. His book is a litany of "must have", "could have", "surely" and "some people think". I will move on. Before Wells’ history, I started Michener's “Alaska”. As a pretty well informed man, Mitchner did a good job in the prehistoric phase. I lost interest when he reached history. I am reminded of a book reviewer who, in reviewing "Chesapeake", wrote: "Read it if you must, but whatever you don't drop it on your toes." Those are exactly my sentiments with all of Michener. To me Michener says, "Everybody except the Noble Savage, and perhaps Quakers are no damn good. Wait ... Quakers are no damn good either." That is my summary of Chesapeake.

I just finished Markus Zusak's "The Book Thief". Written from the perspective of a child and for a teenage readership, this man really puts you into the middle of everyday life in Nazi Germany. I highly recommend it.

I know the above is not on topic. I just need to vent sometimes and don't have the proper forum. Please forgive me.
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Re: WREAK

Postby Perry Lassiter » Mon Sep 24, 2012 11:09 pm

Before we get back to words and before you give up on Michenor, read The Source. It's another heavy book and covers the history of the Jews, beginning in a '60s archaeological dig. I found the chapter on Josephus particularly enlightening about conditions in Jesus time. It also shows the many pogroms against the Jews. Leon Uris paralleled some of this in Exodus.
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