How good you talk English: a quiz!

Post your answers in comments below! The correct solutions shall be revealed in Friday’s post!

NB. I could not figure out how to embed the quiz so that you could tick your answers! If anyone knows how to do such, please get in touch.  Enjoy!


Is it…..

a) I can’t be asked or
b) I can’t be arsed

a) He did it off his own back or
b) He did it off his own bat

a) Out in the styx or
b) Out in the sticks

a) He immigrated to Ireland or
b) He emigrated to Ireland

a) The missile homed in on its target or
b) The missile honed in on its target

a) To wait with baited breath or
b) To wait with bated breath

a) to whet your appetite or
b) to wet your appetite

a) Prostrate cancer or
b) Prostate cancer

a) Do Diligence or
b) Due Diligence

a) For all intensive purposes or
b) For all intents and purposes

a) It’s a moot point or
b) It’s a mute point

a) I nipped that problem in the butt or
b) I nipped that problem in the bud.

a) I went towards him or
b) I went toward him

a) Hunger pains or
b) Hunger pangs

a) You have another think coming or
b) You have another thing coming


3 thoughts on “How good you talk English: a quiz!

  1. That’s a lot questions.
    1. a (Maybe b in prison) 2. no idea/what does that even mean? 3. b
    4. a 5. a (one of my pet peeves) 6. b
    7. a 8. b 9. b
    10. b (I have seen choice a used online. painful.) 11. a 12. b
    13. b 14. b 15. b

    Do people really say “out in the styx?” Are they referring to the band or to the river? Or do they just not know how to spell sticks?

    Most of these are eggcorns, which are similar-sounding plausible substitutes, like pain vs pang, as opposed to malapropisms, which are nonsensical, like prostrate cancer. They seem to occur with greater frequency now, perhaps because people read less professional writing, instead reading other people’s posts. So they mishear (Hunger pains) or misinterpret (Do diligence) spoken words that don’t trigger any neural links back to something they have read.

    Interestingly, these people may feel quite confident in their tragic use of English due to the Dunning-Kruger effect:

    People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains. The authors suggest that this overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it. Across 4 studies, the authors found that participants scoring in the bottom quartile on tests of humor, grammar, and logic grossly overestimated their test performance and ability. Although their test scores put them in the 12th percentile, they estimated themselves to be in the 62nd. Several analyses linked this miscalibration to deficits in metacognitive skill, or the capacity to distinguish accuracy from error. Paradoxically, improving the skills of participants, and thus increasing their metacognitive competence, helped them recognize the limitations of their abilities.


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