June 14th, 2007

English Quiz

Years ago and over a long stretch of time, a couple of my friends and I mulled the vagaries of the English language. From those ponderings sprang a list of nearly 200 “choose the right word” sentences suitable for any aspiring teachers to use. I share twenty of them with you now.

Directions: choose the correct word to complete the meaning of each sentence. (It sometimes helps to say them out loud.)

  1. The attitude of the class was (discussed, disgust).
  2. The pastry manufacturer finally got its business off the ground after several (false starts, false tarts).
  3. While at the restaurant, Superman had trouble getting his (capon, cape on).
  4. It is very easy to view the fish in this (manner, manor).
  5. The (stares, stairs) we received from the carpenters were not pleasing.
  6. The new thumb (tacks, tax) will hurt the average American.
  7. The wayward minstrel absconded with the (loot, lute).
  8. In the school play about the four food groups, my brother played a silent (roll, role).
  9. His favorite class was (band, banned).
  10. This is our (nuclear; new, clear) bomb.
  11. Though the contract negotiations were going well, his personal life was in shambles, and he couldn’t wait to reach a (happy medium, happy medium).
  12. While on his virtual reality vacation, the poll-taker took leave of his (census, senses).
  13. I should call the Guinness people and tell them about my brother’s incredible (feat, feet).
  14. There in (abasement, a basement) the mighty “king of the hill” mourned his downfall.
  15. On this airline, each vulture is allowed one (carry-on, carrion) bag.
  16. Madeline was hungry and disillusioned, and what she really needed at that moment was a (hero, hero).
  17. She soon came to regret her (birth, berth) on the train.
  18. While traveling abroad, the shoe salesman discovered that his (Polish, polish) wasn’t quite up to par.
  19. “I will now go (fast, fast),” stated the speedy ascetic.
  20. I would like to make the salad dressing, but I don’t have the (time, thyme).

How’d you do?

June 5th, 2007


I had occasion to have a meal with friends over the weekend when I heard a phrase I’d never heard before. Its utterer was a farmer, a salt of the earth, say-it-like-it-is kind of guy, which is the best kind of guy to hear phrases from, I think. Here’s what he said:

“I knew she was nine miles of bad road when I met her.”

Understand, I love a good colloquialism. I use them all the time, even if I don’t know their origin. “The bee’s knees,” for instance. I don’t understand why that equates to a good thing, but I like it. I sort of understand “like a mule looking at a new gate,” but it took some time pondering it for me to get it, as I’ve never been around mules. Eventually I understood that a mule wouldn’t necessarily like a new gate being installed and would probably be somewhat dumbfounded by one.

But I got “nine miles of bad road” instantly. It’s such a great word picture! You ever driven on a bad road? You feel every pothole and bump. You wince as you feel the damage your car is taking. You have to drive much slower than usual and you don’t feel like you’ve got the control of your vehicle that you normally would. Every bounce, drop, and noise add up to frustration and irritation that lasts long after you’re off that road. “This should be fixed!” you think. If there’s something worse than driving on a bad road, it’s driving on nine miles of it.

None of the rest of us had heard the phrase before, but we all agreed it was a good one. Just not one you’d want applied to you.