Saturday, 15 November 2008
Rack: thoughts of a pedant
One of the most frequent typos I come across while reading unpublished writing is wrack when it should be rack. I've come across it three or four times in the past month alone, in expressions such as:
racked with sobs/coughing
to rack one's brains
I think it happens when writers reach for a word or expression without fully imagining what they are describing, because of course the reference is to the torture rack; a horrific device for extracting a confession by subjecting the victim to graduated pain and destruction. Just looking it up to find an illustration for this post made me feel sick.
And I had an additional thought; why is torture viewed as entertainment, if it happened long enough ago? Surely no one would regard IRA knee-capping or the torture of American soldiers at the hands of the Vietnamese as ghoulishly fascinating? But otherwise normal parents take their children to the London Dungeon, or the basement of Madame Tussaud's, for a merry outing learning about the ingeniously cruel tortures humans devised a few hundred years ago. Very odd.
(N.B. An interesting case is rack and ruin, where the reference is not to torture, but to wrack, an old spelling of wreck. But it's still spelled rack.)
Posted by Lexi at Saturday, November 15, 2008