A Note on “Wreaking Havoc”

We all seem a little confused about this phrase, so let’s talk about it.

To “wreak havoc” means, more or less, to inflict a lot of damage.  Easy enough.  But if you’re going to cause a lot of damage, you most certainly are not going to “wreck” havoc.  That doesn’t make sense and it annoys me.

Now let’s say that after wreaking havoc you’re put on trial and you plead guilty.  You should probably say, “I confess that I have wreaked havoc”, not, “I confess that I have wrought havoc”.  Wrought is not the past participle of wreak (or wreck, for that matter).  Wreak is a weak verb.

Wrought, believe it or not, is the past participle of work.  I’m sorry if this is unsettling.

Thanks for reading!

B.

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