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'Wreak not, lest you be wreaked'



Wreak not, lest you be wreaked:

Ed Prell asks, "Can one wreak anything besides havoc, and can havoc come about by any means other than wreaking?"

Wreak and havoc do seem to belong together, although I vaguely remembered somebody crying havoc. Turns out it was Mark Antony In "Julius Caesar": "Cry 'Havoc!' and let slip the dogs of war." (When I say I remembered this, I mean I remembered reading it or maybe hearing Marlon Brando say it in a movie. I'm pretty sure I didn't hear the original oration.)

Havoc is "destruction or devastation" and to cry havoc is "to warn of destruction or devastation." There once was a movie actress named June Havoc. That may not be relevant here.

Havoc also can be used for recreation, as in the phrase play havoc with, which means either "to create confusion or disorder in," or "to destroy": The dog played havoc with my tax return.

So havoc does step out without wreak on occasion. What about the other way around? Wreak means "to inflict or execute (punishment, vengeance, etc.)." The first example of wreak's usage given by Random House is, sure enough, "They wreaked havoc on the enemy." But wreak can also mean "to carry out the promptings of (one's rage, desire, etc.)": He wreaked his anger on the careless barber.

n Softball is women's version of baseball, so in the interest of gender equality I've declared Gidget Pambianchi eligible for our annual Best Baseball Name Award. She (I hope that's the right pronoun) coaches the Arkansas Tech softball team.

The uproar in Africa has been instructive in more ways than one. A few weeks ago, I learned that residents of the Ivory Coast are Ivorians. More recently, I've discovered that people in Niger are Nigeriens, not to be confused with Nigerians, who are from Nigeria. This set me wondering what people from Zimbabwe are called. The official name, according to on-line sources, is Zimbabwean; the slang term is Zimbo.

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