Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: “reek havoc.”

reek; wreak (1). Today: “reek havoc.”* These homophones are occasionally confused. “Reek,” vb., = to give off an odor or vapor {the house reeked of gas}. “Reek,” n., = an odorous vapor {the reek of garlic spoiled our conversation}. “Wreak” = to inflict, bring about {to wreak havoc}. The misspelling “reek havoc”* is a frequent blunder — e.g.: o “Past hurricanes have reeked [read ‘wreaked’] havoc on this small fishing community of east Apalachicola.” “The News in Brief,” Christian Science Monitor, 6 June 1995, at 2. o “Pesticides and mite infestations already have reeked [read ‘wreaked’] havoc on the population.” “Across the USA: News from Every State,” USA Today, 7 May 1996, at A8. Language-Change Index — “reek havoc”* for “wreak havoc”: Stage 1. *Invariably inferior forms. Next: “wreak” for “reek.” ——————- Quotation of the Day: “Dialects are not deviations from an accepted modern standard, but all have a history stretching right back through the centuries.” Stanley Rundle, “Language and Dialect,” in A Linguistics Reader 86, 87 (Graham Wilson ed., 1967).
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