Can You Complete These Commonly Misued Phrases?

Estimated Completion Time
4 min
Can You Complete These Commonly Misued Phrases?
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About This Quiz

Are you a master of English? Can you cut the mustard and pass muster? Or should you cut muster and pass the mustard? If you have the confidence and skill to separate these common phrasing mistakes and deliberate puns from the correct English phrases you should use in public, then take this quiz.

Are you a font of knowledge, like Times New Roman, or are you a fount of knowledge, like the Trevi Fountain in Rome? Take this quiz, then everyone will know which one you are.

Some of us have a deep-seeded fear of public speaking, due to the worry that we might misspeak. Or is that a deep-seated fear? Is it a shoo-in that you will make a mistake, or a shoe-in, like putting your foot in your mouth? And is that related to hoof-and-mouth disease? Who's to say, or whose is it to say?

For all intensive purposes, or for all intents and purposes, this quiz might wet or whet your appetite for finding fault with the phrasing of others. Don't home in or hone in on the mistakes of others, though, because that's just rude.

Instead, take this quiz for the piece or peace of mind that comes with knowing you truly are a master of English.

Tina Turner, after living as an _____ in Switzerland for more than 20 years, became a Swiss citizen.
ex-patriot
expatriate
An ex-patriot would be a person who used to be a patriot but no longer is. A person who lives outside of his or her native country is called an "expatriate," or "expat" for short.
expert
export

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There's no evidence that you'll get sick if you go out in the cold with wet hair - that's just an _____.
all wise tale
old wise tale
old wives' tail
old wives' tale
Old wives' tales are superstitions. They're commonly believed to be true, and some of them are, but most aren't based on any actual scientific evidence.

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She didn't expect her knowledge of the _____ would help her save a choking man during dinner.
Heimlich improvers
Heimlich maneuver
The Heimlich maneuver, invented by and named after Dr. Henry Heimlich in the 1970s, is an emergency procedure performed to dislodge an object, such as a piece of food, that's obstructing a person's windpipe. The technique is done with a combination of a bear hug and abdominal thrusts.
Heimlich movers
Heimlich remover

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It's a _____ world out there - you'd be smart to look out for yourself.
dog-eat-dog
A "dog-eat-dog" world is one that's ruthlessly competitive. It's used to describe an environment where some people feel they need to lie, cheat and steal in the name of looking out for their own self-interest.
doggy-dog
dog-e-dog
hair of the dog

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He was charged with _____ when the officer clocked him driving in excess of 30 mph over the posted speed limit.
reckless driving
Laws vary from state to state, but reckless driving can include excessive speeding, texting behind the wheel or illegal passing, among other punishable offenses - resulting in jail time, probation, license suspension and/or high fines. "Wreckless" driving, a common misspelling, is just that -- a misspelling.
restless driving
stressless driving
wreckless driving

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_____, this conversation is over.
for all immensive purposes
for all intensive purposes
for all intents and purposes
Meaning, "for all practical purposes," "for all intents and purposes" is frequently and incorrectly confused with "for all intensive purposes." The phrase, "to all intents, constructions and purposes," from which the expression is derived, dates back to the 16th century, in particular 16th-century English law.
for all intrinsic purposes

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Because of their carbohydrates, potatoes get a _____, but they can be healthy for you.
bad rap
While a "bad wrap" might be used to describe gift wrap gone wrong or an unsavory sandwich, a "bad rap" comes from the 14th century, and meaning to strike or blow. If you have a "bad rap," you have a bad reputation as a result of false or unjustified charges.
bad rep
bad wrap
mad rap

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She wore an itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow _____ bikini.
polka-dot
In 1857, a women's lifestyle magazine called Godey's Lady's Book described a scarf as, "muslin, for light summer wear, surrounded by a scalloped edge, embroidered in rows of round polka dots" -- the first known use of the phrase "polka dot." In 1928, Walk Disney introduced Mickey's steady girl, Minnie Mouse, in a red polka-dot dress and matching bow. Today they're often still seen on fabric and clothing, as well as furniture, toys and more.
polka-knot
polka-pot
poke-a-dot

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The _____ continued to address the large crowd of protesters, even as tear gas was dispensed.
rabid-rouser
rabble-rouser
Agitator, instigator or revolutionary, a "rabble rouser" is a person who intentionally stirs up the crowd (the "rabble"), usually for political reasons.
rebel-rouser
unravel-rouser

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It's been said that because of how impactful it's been, the invention of the Internet is the _____.
best thing since diced bread
best thing since life's bread
best thing since overpriced bread
best thing since sliced bread
Before the 1920s, this saying wouldn't make much sense - the first effective bread-slicing machine wasn't put to use until 1928, by the Chillicothe Baking Company in Missouri. The now-common phrase, "the best thing since sliced bread," has one variation - sometimes it's heard as "the greatest thing since sliced bread."

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The mayor made a _____ to the award winner.
curtsey call
courtesy call
When you make a "courtesy call," you pay a visit - on the phone, in person or otherwise - only because it's the polite thing to do. Some offices, like your doctor's office, may make courtesy calls to remind patients of upcoming appointments, too.
courtesy haul
wordless call

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Just six weeks into their _____, they decided to elope.
Gershwin romance
world spin romance
world wind romance
whirlwind romance
A "whirlwind romance" may make you feel like the world is spinning, but really what it means is that the relationship you're in has been passionate and moving fast - sometimes out of control.

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When we opened the first restaurant, it was _____.
on a purse string and a prayer
on a wink and a prayer
on a whim and a prayer
on a wing and a prayer
It means that you only have a small chance of succeeding, and "on a wing and a prayer" likely originated among RAF pilots in World War II.

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Whether the chicken or the egg came first is a _____.
mint point
mood point
moot point
A "moot point" is one that's open to discussion, has no practical value, or is hypothetical. The term comes from British law.
mute point

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The accused New York mobster was _____ for more than two decades before being found by the FBI.
on the sham
on the lamb
on the lam
When you're "on the lam," you're fleeing, and trying to avoid law enforcement. Originally, back in the late 1800s, it mean "to run off."
on the flimflam

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A human thumb is called ____.
a posable thumb
a deposable thumb
an opposable thumb
Opposable thumbs, thumbs that can be placed opposite the fingers of the same hand, are a characteristic of primates. That's right, they're not unique to humans. Other animals, including gorillas, possums, and even certain frogs have them. They allow us to grab and manipulate objects.
an opposable plumb

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To quote author Kurt Vonnegut, "I am _____for my knack of finding in great books, some of them very funny books, reason enough to feel honored to be alive, no matter what else might be going on."
eternally faithful
eternally grateful
If you're "eternally grateful" for something, you're emphasizing how much you appreciate a kindness, and that you'll be thankful for a long time.
internally graceful
internally grateful

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To be at a person's _____ means you're available on a moment's notice.
back and call
beckon call
beck and call
Although it originated from being at a person's "beck" or "beckon" - that a servant could be beckoned at any time, the correct expression today is "beck and call."
beck and fall

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Be careful; he's no stranger to telling _____.
bald-faced lies
The original expression, coined near the end of the 17th century, was actually "barefaced lie," but during the 17th century, "bare" meant "bold." Today, the expression is "bald-faced lie" and means to show no guilt in bad behavior.
bear-faced lies
bold-faced lies
cold-faced lies

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The dog, _____, sat at the foot of the tree waiting for the squirrel.
biting his time
biding his time
When you're "biding your time," you're waiting - patiently - for your opportunity or a further development. For instance, you might intern while you're biding your time waiting for a permanent position. Or you might be a dog, waiting for a squirrel who left the tree hours ago.
dividing his time
riding his time

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With two small children at home, she found law school to be a _____.
rough road to hoe
tough road to hoe
tough road to hold
tough row to hoe
While many of us aren't farmers with "rows to hoe," a "tough row to hoe" describes a universal challenge: you're faced with a large, difficult task.

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Don't expect too much, he said, telling the audience to _____.
perturb their enthusiasm
disturb their enthusiasm
curb their enthusiasm
Curbing one's enthusiasm means that you're holding back or lowering your expectations, tempering your excitement or other feelings.
curve their enthusiasm

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Walking out now will only makes things more difficult in the long run. Don't _____.
cut off your nose despite your face
cut off your nose despite your race
cut off your nose to spite your face
To "cut off your nose to spite your face" means, essentially, that you're over-reaction to the situation will end up hurting you more than anything else.
cut off your nose alight your face

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_____, with that game, the team wrapped up a fantastic season.
all and all
all in all
On the whole. All things considered. All in all. They're all basically the same thing - meaning, "with everything taken into account." The expression comes from the Bible, 1 Corinthians 15:28: that God maye be all in all.
awl and all
not all

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A good magician should have good _____.
flight of hand
light of hand
sleight of hand
Impressively quick "sleight of hand" is the secret to pulling off many magic tricks, especially card magic. "Sleight" means to use your cunning, craftiness, and dexterity - usually to deceive.
slight of hand

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Some people say that we're voting for the _____ in the election.
aggressor of two evils
lesser of two equals
lesser of two evils
If you have to choose between what you consider to be two bad choices, the one you think is less objectionable is the "lesser of two evils." It dates back to the ancient Greeks, and has been found in English as long ago as the 14th century.
lesser of two refills

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_____ to tell you what to do, but I think you should go on the blind date.
as far as it goes
be it unto me
far be it for me
far be it from me
The phrase has been around for centuries, and can be found several times in the Bible -- including 1 Samuel 12:23, "as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you." "Far be it from me" is used to express criticism by saying you don't want to criticize.

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When you feel anxious, angry or stressed, you may notice you've _____ your brow.
whirled
furrowed
The phrase, indicating a worried or puzzled facial expression, is to "furrow your brow." "Furl," which is commonly misused in this phrase, describes rolling up a sail or flag - it's typically a nautical term and not anything to do with the human anatomy.
furloughed
furled

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When the stock market crashed, many fortunes - and 401ks - were wiped out in _____.
one fell swoop
This phrase can be traced back to Shakespeare and his play, "Macbeth," when the character MacDuff learns his family has been killed - felled - in one swoop, meaning a sudden attack. Although no one is sure if he coined it or just popularized it, it's at least hundreds of years old.
one foul scoop
one foul swoop
one fowl swoop

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After the divorce, she legally took back her _____.
trade-in name
mistaken name
mating name
maiden name
If a woman legally changes to her partner's surname when they marry, her former surname - that's her parents' last name - is then known as her "maiden name." Some women now join both surnames with a hyphen.

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Our relationship ended soon after I realized she was _____.
taking me for granite
taking me for granted
If you're a geologist you might take something for granite, but the expression for the rest of us is that we've taken someone or something for granted - which means we've failed to appreciate or pay enough attention to them (on purpose or not).
taking me for landed
taking me for red-handed

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He's the best quarterback to ____ in years.
come down the hype
come down the pike
The noun "pike" in this expression is short for turnpike, an expressway or toll road. If something "comes down the pike," it's something new - an idea, person or something else - that's arrived.
come down the pipe
come down the stripe

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Even though he couldn't clean the plate, he was _____ to leave with leftovers.
gabby as a clam
happy as a clown
happy as a clam
Popularized in the early 19th century, "happy as a clam" may seem a bit of a strange expression - after all, how does one know when a clam is happy or sad? The actual full phrase, though, is, "(as) happy as a clam (at high tide)" - which does make sense when you realize that clam digging only happens during low tide.
happy as a lamb

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If you're speaking in _____, you're explaining a complex topic in a way that the average person can understand.
lame man’s terms
lamest terms
late man's terms
layman’s terms
When you explain a complex idea in such a way anyone, especially someone who isn't an expert, can understand, it's known as putting it "in layman's terms."

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The literary professor was a _____ on the subject of art and books in the middle ages.
croissant of knowledge
flaunt of knowledge
font of knowledge
fount of knowledge
A "fount of knowledge" is actually a shortened version of "fountain of knowledge" - and it's a saying that dates back as far as the 16th century. You could also be a "fount" of wisdom, ideas, advice and so on.

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