Yesterday, I posted on facebook: Pet peeve for the day: ‘reeking havok’ and ‘nerve wrecking’
I’m not one, but for you grammar fanatics out there, I’m sure a shudder goes through you when you see these idioms stated like this:
“The weather has been reeking havok again” and “What a nerve wrecking experience!”
It doesn’t exactly give me the hives, but it does make me cringe when I see the misspelling and misuse. So for the record, and because my daughters asked what then, is the correct way to say it? If you have teens, then you know how they’ve learned to turn the table on you by asking to clarify everything you say… just to be clear that you know what you’re talking about, you know? So here are a few facts:
HAVOK is spelled HAVOC (look it up in the dictionary)
‘reeking havok’ should be WREAKING HAVOC (I originally wrote wrecking… my bad 🙂 although, I think you can use either way because they essentially mean the same thing but wreaking with the a is the proper term – thank to my cuz for catching it.)
‘nerve wrecking’ should be NERVE-WRACKING
When you mean to say (or write) wrecking havoc, just remember that it usually means that something is destroyed or ‘wrecked’.
While something can actually wreck or break your nerves, the correct word to use is ‘wrack’. It is derived from the word wreck and they pretty much mean the same thing, but when you’re using it in the context of putting stress on your nerves, then the proper term is ‘nerve-wracking’ with the hyphen in between. I’ve seen it without the hyphen too, and either way is ok.
1. Destruction or ruin.
2. A remnant or vestige of something destroyed.