No more racking my brain!

I take a certain amount of pride in my knowledge of proper word usage. I’ve been a word nerd since I was three. But I have never ever ever in my life been able to figure out whether it’s “wracking my brain” or “racking my brain.” The internet was no help; it told me both ways. I tried a dictionary, but it didn’t help either. I could see either word working based on the definitions I found.

So I was flipping through my Chicago today, looking for fun editing tidbits. (Yeah. You thought I was joking when I said I was a nerd.) I started reading through the Glossary of Problematic Words and Phrases (5.220 in the sixteenth edition), and lo and behold:

wrack; rack. To wrack is to severely or completely destroy {a storm-wracked ship}. (Wrack is also a noun denoting wreckage the storm’s wrack}.) To rack is to torture by means of stretching with an instrument {rack the prisoner until he confesses} or to stretch beyond capacity {to rack one’s brain}.

I don’t know how I never saw this in my hours of poring over Chicago, but there you have it. Now I’m headed back to RACK my brain over that clump of 70,000 words that I call a manuscript.