wreak » wreck

Chiefly in:   wreck havoc

Classification: English

Spotted in the wild:

  • With our skills at intrusion, and the ability to wreck concentrated, disciplined havoc among computer systems, with said skills even possessing the ability to wreck chaos outside of cyberspace, it could be said that the possession of such skills is the equivalent, literally, of the militial skills of those historic knights. (link)
  • This will wreck havoc with Lunatics and Werewolves, won’t it? (link)
  • Mayor Michael J. McGlynn said over the past few years, the area has been assaulted with a number of difficult winters which have wrecked havoc on several of the city’s streets. He said he is in the process of putting together a list of roadways that have been hardest hit and which ones are in need of the most attention. (Medford Transcript, February 24, 2005)
  • But in Southern California, the heavy rains have wrecked havoc. (San Francisco Chronicle, February 21, 2005)
  • Like alien bugs from some futuristic sci-fi movie, the microbes literally chew metal and armour to pieces - in record time. Known as chemical metal-embrittlement agents, these are composed of substances that alter the crystal structure of metals, wrecking chaos with every mouthful. (link)

Analyzed or reported by:

This addition to the topsy-turvydom that reigns around the verb _wreak_ runs counter to our rule that eggcorns are (quasi-)homophones of the original terms. We need to be circumspect when dealing with a shift in a fixed figure — many of them are related to eggcorns, but not necessarily the real thing.

Still, in the case of words people are likely to have encountered in writing first, before actually hearing them spoken, the reanalysis can start from the written sign.

Here, it is the sense of _havoc_ that has become even more obscured than that of _wreak_. And since the expression as a whole refers to what _havoc_ alone signifies — destruction — the intrusion of _wreck_ makes a lot of sense.

See also reek havoc.

| link | entered by Chris Waigl, 2005/02/25 |


  1. 1

    Commentary by Murdoc , 2005/02/26 at 2:22 pm

    Wow. Thanks for the link. I think.

    Very cool site you’ve got going here. I’ll keep an eye on it.

    I also linked to the post which mentions one of my eggcorns at http://www.murdoconline.net/archives/002039.html, so be prepared for a Murdocalanche of at least 6 and maybe as many as 10 additional readers over the next few hours.

  2. 2

    Commentary by Arnold Zwicky , 2005/04/20 at 6:26 pm

    The opposite substitution, “wreck” >> “wreak”, is also attested, but is probably just a spelling error. As in: “… of the town and just outside of town was a burning wreak of the escape truck…. There was also no bodies found inside the wreak of the escape vehicle. (www.ajstories.com/lgc12.h…).

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