General Question

occ's avatar

How do I spell "wracking my brain" and what does "wrack" or "rack" mean anyway?

Asked by occ (4005 points ) February 28th, 2008

is ir wrack or rack? where does that phrase come from, and can I rack anything else besides my brain??

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15 Answers

GeauxTigers's avatar

“rack your brains”

To pull from Merriam Websters: “to stretch or strain violently <racked his brains>”

And some other uses: (again, from M-W)
“to cause to suffer torture, pain, anguish, or ruin <racked with jealousy> <a company racked by infighting>”

nikipedia's avatar

Racking was a form of torture used back in the golden days of the dark ages.

simone54's avatar

or was it the dark days of the golden age?

gailcalled's avatar

And, aha; wrack means the same thing: “to subject to extreme mental or physical suffering; to disturb violently or convulse.” Webster’s Second Collegiate. “Rack one’s brains” is more common w. brains, however.

gailcalled's avatar

Drugs, sex and rack and roll?

bobolink's avatar

When I googled “racking my brain” I got 295,000 hits.
When I googled “wracking my brain” there was only 107,000.
Most of these, by the way were people asking which of the two was the correct spelling.
So clearly, more people thought “racking” was the right answer, even though none of them were sure.

gooch's avatar

you can get racked in the nuts also.
nuts = testicals
racked = hit

Zaku's avatar

Interesting, I only ever thought of wracking brains, not racking them, except in films about brains in jars on racks.

samkusnetz's avatar

racking is also a carpentry/shop term… it means to force a rectangular shape into or out of squareness.

gailcalled's avatar

@sam; after today’s discussions of Fluther’s purpose, http://www.fluther.com/disc/7817/how-do-we-fix-fluther/#quip43717, I feel as though my brain HAS been forced into another shape…

samkusnetz's avatar

well, then it’s clearly the right term! i love english…

gailcalled's avatar

@Sam; O that we were not in the minority. (Where have you been, BTW?)

samkusnetz's avatar

(real life… also a little frustrated with the signal to noise ratio on fluther, so i don’t put in quite as much an effort….)

Zen's avatar

My guess, without having looked it up, but because I love looking up the origins of phrases and idioms, is that it might have to do with rake. Many words have changed and evolved over the centuries from how they were once used; sometimes phonetically or linguistically, sometimes in spelling.

My guess is that raking, like combing, for example, was used to imply searching your memory banks as carefully as you would rake the lawn of leaves – or like using a “fine-tooth comb, to use another metaphor.

Raking = racking.

Perhaps.

beachwriter's avatar

I wonder if “rack and ruin” is supposed to be “wrack and ruin”?

A “wrack line” is the line the tide makes after it peaks and recedes.

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