GrammarPhile Blog

Did You Ace Our Spelling Quiz?

Posted by Sara Richmond   Feb 15, 2024 9:15:00 AM



(Most People Couldn’t)

If you took our most recent spelling quiz and were disappointed with your score or confused by the answers, this post is for you.

Keep reading for a full breakdown of the right answers, the wrong answers, and definitions/examples of both.


A Breakdown of the Spelling Quiz That Tripped Up a Bunch of Smart Professionals

  1. Anchors away/aweigh, my boys!

WRONG – away: The captain isn’t telling sailors to put the anchor in their pocket.

✔️RIGHT – aweigh: To “weigh anchor” means to lift an anchor in preparation for sailing (and in doing so, you find out how much the anchor weighs, hence the saying). In other words, “Let’s go!”

  1. She has a flair/flare for impressing juries.

WRONG – flare: That thing you light when your ship is headed to Davey Jones’ locker or your car is disabled. Please don’t use them in court.

              ✔️  RIGHT – flair: A unique talent or style.

  1. This case will whet/wet your appetite for criminal trials!

WRONG – wet: I’m not sure why and more importantly how you’d dunk your appetite into water.

✔️ RIGHT – whet: To sharpen by rubbing, or excite/stimulate. In other words, you’ll be binge-watching criminal trials!

  1. Give us a quick sound byte/bite, Your Honor!

WRONG – byte: To quote our beloved Merriam-Webster, “a unit of computer information or data-storage capacity that consists of a group of eight bits and that is used especially to represent an alphanumeric character.”

✔️ RIGHT – bite: A “sound bite” is a brief recorded statement that’s usually broadcast on a TV news program, sometimes completely out of context for the sake of ratings and needless drama. And it’s just a little bit, instead of a huge mouthful.

  1. The defendant will just have to grin and bare/bear

WRONG – bare: Naughty defendant! There will be no public nudity in this courtroom!

✔️ RIGHT – bear: We’re not talking about huge, furry, roaring defendants, but the word “bear” can also be a verb meaning “to accept.”

  1. We need to stanch/staunch the flow of misinformation posthaste!

WRONG – staunch: This means “steadfast or loyal in principal” or “watertight,” but it’s often conflated with “stanch.”

              ✔️ RIGHT – stanch: Meaning “to stop or check the flow of,” often blood from a wound.

  1. She’s a shoo-in/shoe-in to make partner.

                WRONG – shoe-in: Teehee. This fake phrase means absolutely nothing.

                ✔️ RIGHT – shoo-in: A certain, easy winner. Just usher them right onto the winner’s                           platform.

  1. It was a solemn rite/right of passage.

WRONG – right: We didn’t mean the opposite of “left,” “wrong,” “genuine,” or “power/principle,” to name a few.

✔️ RIGHT – rite: We did mean a ceremonial practice, sometimes religious or cultural (adolescent rites of passage into womanhood/manhood are common examples).

  1. The storm reeked/wreaked/wrecked havoc on the crime scene.

             WRONG – reeked: Stinky. Unless the storm broke open a septic tank, no.

WRONG – wrecked: To destroy, which seems to relate, but does “destroy destruction” make any sense? Nope.

✔️ RIGHT – wreaked: In this sense, “to bring about” or “cause.” Precisely. The storm is entirely at fault.

  1. Your story does not jive/jibe/gibe with the defendant’s version.

             WRONG – jive: Silly, senseless talk or swing music (and dancing to it).

WRONG – gibe: This is very often confused or conflated with “jibe,” but it actually means “to taunt.”

✔️ RIGHT – jibe: “To be in accord with.” If accomplices “get their stories straight,” then their testimonies will jibe.

  1. He worked his slight/sleight of hand as a master litigator.

              WRONG – slight: “Flimsy” or “frail” of hand makes no sense in this context.

              ✔️ RIGHT – sleight: But “deceitful craftiness” does!

  1. I’ll sic/sick my lawyer on you!

WRONG – sick: I don’t think your lawyer would agree to sneeze or cough on anyone. Not even for lots of money.

✔️ RIGHT – sic: In this sense, “to urge or incite to attack.” People sic their dogs on trespassers, for example. “Sic ’em, Rover!”

  1. Milly’s baby was born a towhead/toe-head.

             WRONG – toe-head: The baby did not have toes where its head should be, thank                        goodness.

✔️ RIGHT – towhead: A person with light blond, tousled hair. So cute! (That’s because the noun “tow” is another word for “flax,” and flax, when growing in a field, is almost white.)

  1. With the recent loss, it was clear the firm was in dire straights/straits!

WRONG – straights: It doesn’t sound like the firm was free from bends, irregularities, or along a direct course.

✔️ RIGHT – straits: “Dire” would imply “a situation of perplexity or distress.” And when the weather is very bad, the Straits of Magellan can be quite dire if you’re in a sailing ship.

  1. The defendant waited with bated/baited

             WRONG – baited: I doubt the defendant put a piece of cut fish or a worm in his                           mouth.

✔️ RIGHT – bated: It’s more likely he held or restrained his breath in anticipation of the jury’s decision.

Any questions?

All definitions are summarized (some with extreme creative liberty) from Merriam-Webster.


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