reeking havoc/wreaking havoc
“Reeking” means “smelling strongly,” so that can’t be right. The phrase simply means “working great destruction.” “Havoc” has always referred to general destruction in English, but one very old phrase incorporating the word was “cry havoc,” which meant to give an army the signal for pillage. To “play havoc with” means the same thing as to “wreak havoc.” Avoid as well the mistaken “wreck havoc.”
This is the ten-year anniversary of the Common Errors in English Usage calendar. To celebrate, we are bringing back some of our favorite interesting, funny, but sometimes merely silly entries through the years before going on hiatus in 2016.
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