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Word Puzzler: Wrack vs rack usage

“Wrack” was used as a demo word in a Car Talk word puzzler recently, Ray showing that you can remove the W, leaving “rack”, or remove the “r” leaving wack. Both are valid words, but rack doesn’t sound exactly like wack, so “wrack” didn’t work for the particular puzzler.

Ok, but I got an issue. Ray said you’d use “wrack” in the phrase ‘The patient is wracked in pain.’ But isn’t that usage incorrect? Shouldn’t that phrase be “The patient is racked in pain” ? What do you think?

wrack v.

Often confused in this sense since 16c. with rack (v.) in the sense of “torture on the rack;” to wrack one’s brains is thus erroneous. Related: Wracked ; wracking.

Hmm, how about it ffing hurts, fits the criteria!

"Flirty Fishing (FFing) was a form of religious prostitution practiced by the Children of God/The Family cult from 1974 until it was officially discontinued in 1987 (due, in part, to the AIDS scare). Its etymology can be traced to Matthew 4:19 where Jesus says “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

to make, do, or manipulate something. From the Latin verb “Fingere”, meaning to shape or create. This is what fingers do.

I don’t think so. “ffing” does not appear in the Oxford English Dictionary

But “wracked in pain” doesn’t appear in the OED either … lol … so maybe you got a point!



Figurative senses of the verb, deriving from the type of torture in which someone is stretched on a rack, can, however, be spelled either rack or wrack...

insightful: I think that sums it up.

Maybe it’s a case of American English vs British English. I guess this is something folks can agree to disagree.

This is what Paul Brian’s book Common Errors in English Usage says

"If you are racked with pain or you feel nerve-racked, you are feeling as if you were being stretched on that Medieval instrument of torture, the rack. You rack your brains when you stretch them vigorously to search out the truth like a torturer. “Wrack” has to do with ruinous accidents, so if the stock market is wracked by rumors of imminent recession, it’s wrecked. If things are wrecked, they go to “wrack and ruin.”"

And Mignon Fogarty – aka “Grammar Girl” — says

"I rarely take a Grammar Girl podcast live without at least quadruple-checking my main thesis, and Common Errors in English Usage has quickly become one of my most valued fact-checking resources. When the corners of this book are worn off, the spine is broken, and the fuzzy edges are spiked with Post-it notes marking your most used pages, don’t forget to write Brians a note of thanks. By distilling reams of rules and opinions into a usable, entertaining reference book, he’s made all our lives a little easier."

—Mignon Fogarty (“Grammar Girl”)

When is it a word is accepted, and who decides.

That’s a good question. I have no idea. Maybe there’s some committee somewhere. Has anyone seen the phrase “wracked in pain” in book’s they’ve read?

I’ve seen ‘wracked with pain’ many times.

I dug out my trusty 1975 Random House dictionary, one of the last ones before they dumbed up our schools.

wrack: noun, ruin or destruction; gone to wrack and ruin.

wrack: 1. wreck or wreckage 2, remnant of something destroyed; leaving not a wrack behind 3. seaweed or other marine vegetation cast on the shore 4. rack

Today I ran into wont or won’t I have always used won’t as a contraction of will not. Spellcheck accepted both.

wont has a different meaning than won’t .

won’t is the contraction of will not, wont refers to a habit. “It is my wont to like girls in bikinis.”

Vs “My wife won’t like me looking at girls in Bikinis”. @GeorgeSanJose

The drool on my shirt always gives me away!!!


I make wine and we “rack” the wine from the fermenter to the “carboy” (not an automotive term) where it matures further. Racking leaves undesirable sediment behind and eliminates the need for filtering which often takes away some taste. Racking is done with a siphon.

GeorgeSanJose: Thank you. I remember wont verses won’t now. I guess it’s been to many decades since I have attended an English class.

Not having English as my native language still puzzles me from time to time as to which word or phrase is most appropriate. The English language has so may nuances and expressions it can make for embarrassing situations.

For instance, you can tell a woman she is so beautiful, it makes time stand still! You can also tell her she has a face that would stop a clock!! The outcome is decidedly different!

I once worked for Swedish company making Industrial equipment. The marketing manager in Stockholm, who spoke several languages, at the head office, was planning a user conference where various equipment owners discuss applications. It helps everyone, including the manufacturer. Unfortunately he sent out a letter inviting users to a “Meet Your Maker Conference”.

And we drive on the parkway, and park on the driveway…


English as a second or third language is so common around here . . that I’ve learned to just go with the flow and you can generally know exactly what they’re saying if you wait for the context to play out at the end of their sentence or paragraph.
This works 99% of the time whether their first language is Navajo, Zuni, Spanish, Arabic, French, Indian . . etc.

“As passengers, you blindly place a huge amount of trust in your airline crew to ensure that you’re safely hurdled through the air about 35,000 feet up.” I don’t recall ever being “hurdled” through the air, safely or otherwise. I have been “hurtled” in fast aircraft, trains, and cars. I suspect Proofreader is no longer a position in many publishing operations.

Ahhh, this is all a mute point by now…