It is the original and correct version of this phrase to say, “Racking my brain.” However, over time, the English spelling of this specific phrase, ‘wracking my brain,’ has also gained acceptance as a valid way of spelling the phrase in question. This is a common practice in English, and words’ spellings have changed over the course of millennia because of this practice.
Continue reading below to learn more about the differences in spelling between the phrases wracking my brain and racking my brain, what this phrase means, and how to correctly use this phrase within a sentence.
Racking My Brain, Defined
It is implied that you are trying to recall something or that you have been thinking very hard in order to come up with an answer when you say “racking my brain.” When you rack your brains, you are mentally exerting yourself in order to recall or understand something.
The rack, referred to in this phrase, was a type of medieval torture device in which the victim’s arms and legs were tied to the rack and then practically torn from their bodies as if they were being ripped apart. While, fortunately, this device no longer exists, we still have the phrase left over from this time period.
Same Phrase, Different Spellings
Sometimes words are misspelled so often that the dictionary eventually includes both the original spelling and the new, widely accepted spelling alongside the original. This is what has happened to the phrase ‘racking my brain,’ as the years have passed. As a result of the long period of time that this phrase has been spelled incorrectly, only strict language and spelling traditionalists would consider it a spelling mistake today.
How to Use Racking My Brain in a Sentence
When writing a sentence, you can use either spelling you want as long as it is appropriate for the context. This section has several examples of how to properly use this phrase in a sentence, including examples with both spellings.
- He was racking his brain to figure out where he lost his keys.
- She was racking her brain to remember where she knew the police officer from.
- You are going to need to wrack your brain if you want to remember her order.
- My father would wrack his brain trying to remember his Army friends’ names.
As you can see, it is quite easy to use either spelling in a sentence. If you want to stick with traditionalism, you should use the ‘rack’ spelling. However, using the ‘wrack’ spelling is acceptable as well.