(Most People Couldn’t)
If you took part 2 of our most recent spelling quiz and were embarrassed by 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
- The sad testimony will definitely test one’s medal/metal/mettle/meddle.
❌ WRONG – medal: What Olympians get if they’re in the top three — bronze, silver, and gold. Medals are sometimes made of metal (see directly below).
❌ WRONG – metal: Steel, copper, nickel, bronze, iron, gold, and silver, for example.
❌ WRONG – meddle: This is what the town gossip or your nosy family does. “Meddle” in your affairs. Get all up in your business. Butt in. Ugh!
✔️ RIGHT – mettle: This is the stuff you’re made of: your stamina, grit, temperament, and strength of spirit. Warriors prove their mettle in battle. Parents of toddlers prove their mettle at bed and meal times.
- Isner was ceded/seeded fifth at Wimbledon.
❌ WRONG – ceded: Meaning “to grant or yield, typically by treaty.” You can also cede (or assign) something to another person, as in the transfer of stock or assets to a child when a parent dies.
✔️ RIGHT – seeded: With apologies to gardeners and farmers, we’re not talking about sowing seeds. In this instance, “to rank (a contestant) relative to others in a tournament on the basis of previous record” is meant. This term can also mean “to schedule (tournament players or teams) so that superior ones will not meet in early rounds.”
- Collins and Mitchell sought to create a voting block/bloc in the Senate.
❌ WRONG – block: There’s a block of ice or cheese, a butcher’s block, a chopping block (think beheadings), and alphabet blocks. (As a verb, it’s used to mean to obstruct, hinder, interfere or shut off.)
✔️ RIGHT – bloc: In this context, “a temporary combination of parties in a legislative assembly,” generally for the purpose of uniting voting efforts to pass pending legislation. The real conundrum isn’t the definition of “bloc” but whether Congress is capable of getting anything done besides paying themselves.
- Your courtroom outbursts don’t phase/faze
❌ WRONG – phase: Children often go through a biting phase, a lying phase, a “my parents don’t know anything” phase (also known as adolescence), and so on. “Phase” means a part in a “course, development, or cycle.” In other words, it doesn’t make any sense in the quiz sentence.
✔️ RIGHT – faze: Have you ever met someone who keeps their composure, even under extreme pressure? Nothing “fazes” them. Disturb, daunt, disconcert — those aren’t in their vocabulary, so to speak.
- The judge’s words struck a responsive chord/cord.
❌ WRONG – cord: An umbilical cord. Electrical cord. Spinal cord. Charging cord. Even a bond between two people.
✔️ RIGHT – chord: “An individual emotion or disposition.” When something tugs on your heart strings or “hits you in the feels,” it has “struck a chord” as if you hit three lovely notes together on a piano keyboard.
- He’s hail/hale and hardy/hearty.
❌ WRONG – hail/hardy: “Hail” is a frozen ball of ice that falls from the sky. “Hardy” means brave and able to withstand harsh conditions, usually in reference to plants that thrive in severe weather.
✔️ RIGHT – hale; hearty: As a phrase, this refers to a person in great health. If your great grandmother is still water skiing, chances are she’s healthy and strong, or “hale and hearty.”
- We are delayed by fowl/foul
❌ WRONG – fowl: Any kind of bird fits this descriptor, though I’m partial to “chickens” and other barnyard birds when using it.
✔️ RIGHT – foul: We often use this word to describe a gross smell, but it’s also used to refer to “wet and stormy” weather. Which is still sort of gross (if you hate rain).
- Trouble is, her arguments were all in vain/vein.
❌ WRONG – vein: This is a hollow noodle in your body that carries blood toward your heart. I’m not sure how an argument could exist inside one.
✔️ RIGHT – vain: In this context, it means “useless” or “unsuccessful.” What she was hoping to accomplish by arguing didn’t happen. Bummer.
- You’re a real trooper/trouper to wait so long!
❌ WRONG – trooper: A soldier, cavalryman (horse-riding soldier), a mounted police officer, or a state policeman. You don’t want to see any of them in your rearview mirror.
✔️ RIGHT – trouper: This means “a person who deals with and persists through difficulty or hardship without complaint.” A compliment given to very few toddlers.
- I’ll make the jury toe/tow the line.
❌ WRONG – tow: To haul or drag along behind. A tow truck hauls a car. A tug boat tows a large ship. A mother racoon tows her unruly children. And so on.
✔️ RIGHT – toe: Yes, this is most often referring to the little tootsies on the front of your feet. Most people have 10. But the phrases “toe the line” or “toe the mark” mean “to conform rigorously to a rule or standard.” A teacher’s pet toes the line. Your legal department ensures you toe the compliance line. Literally, it means you step up to the line drawn on the floor (put your toes right up to the line) and follow orders.
If you’re still a little wobbly on these terms, shoot us a comment below, and we’ll expound further.
All definitions are summarized (some with extreme creative liberty) from Merriam-Webster.
We have hundreds of free resources, including mini grammar lessons and additional quizzes, to help you learn, practice, and ace any spelling puzzlers in your future.
Check out a few here:
- Can You Ace This Spelling Quiz? Part 2
- Can You Ace This Spelling Quiz? Part 1 (and the answers)
- Misused Words. A great way to ensure you ace our next spelling quiz.
- Are you guilty of using “everyday” as a noun? Don't do it. Check out our adjectives quiz for practice with other common adjectives that throw most people for a loop.
- 10 Cringeworthy Grammar Fails. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll judge (and so will we).
- 5 Tips to Become a Better Speller. Simple, quick, effectives strategies to up your spelling game.
- We’re Grateful for Grammar Mistakes…As Long as They’re Not Ours. The title says it all. But we still encourage you to read this entertaining post.