Wreck Wreak Reek

Yesterday I heard one of the nation’s top health experts on national television say the pandemic has wrecked havoc on the economy, etc. That’s wrong and I hear it often, but you’d think a top doctor would be better educated. It has wreaked havoc. The havoc isn’t wrecked at all; it’s the normalcy (not normality!) that’s been wrecked. The havoc is doing just fine.

Wreak sounds just like reek, but one can’t reek havoc since reek just means stink. I suppose you could say it stinks to have all the havoc wreaked, so in a way it reeks, but reek is an intransitive verb. I’ll throw in that grammar lesson for free: intransitive means it doesn’t take an object.

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