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Frank Hovis

Use Of English Test In The Telegraph

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It's surprising how many mistakes people make when they use the English language.

A linguist from Harvard University is here to help - he has created a list of the words we misuse the most.

In his latest book, "The Sense of Style," Harvard cognitive scientist and linguist Steven Pinker explores the most common words and phrases that people stumble over.

It is reminiscent of Strunk and White's classic "The Elements of Style," but is based on linguistics and updated for the 21st century.

In the English language, there is no definitive body governing the rules, so grammar can be up to interpretation.

Do you make the most common errors? Take our quiz!


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/12027638/quiz-do-you-make-the-most-common-english-language-errors.html

I had ten out of thirteen, quite a tricky quiz.

The full article is at:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/12026653/The-51-most-commonly-misused-words-and-phrases-do-you-get-these-wrong.html

Here's one that I certainly get wrong (not in the quiz):

  1. Staunch means loyal, sturdy and does not mean to stanch a flow. Correct: "Her staunch supporters defended her in the press." / "The nurse was able to stanch the bleeding."

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As the original Spelling and Grammar Nazi, I'm horrified that I attained only 10 out of 13. I'd be interested to know how others fared. The fact that English is allowed to evolve without a governing committee ruling on what is and isn't correct is, I think, a good thing on the whole. On the other hand, it galls me to think that 'alright', 'would of' and 'less' in the sense of 'fewer' will become accepted norms. I believe if grammar, punctuation and spelling were properly taught, most of the errors would be rarer. ?

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As the original Spelling and Grammar Nazi, I'm horrified that I attained only 10 out of 13. I'd be interested to know how others fared. The fact that English is allowed to evolve without a governing committee ruling on what is and isn't correct is, I think, a good thing on the whole. On the other hand, it galls me to think that 'alright', 'would of' and 'less' in the sense of 'fewer' will become accepted norms. I believe if grammar, punctuation and spelling were properly taught, most of the errors would be rarer.

"would of" is firmly entrenched IMO. I see it in emails from people who I would of ;) thought would know better.

I did actually try to explain it to somebody that it is a diminutive of "have" that happens to sound the same but they weren't convinced, they thought that the correct phrase was actually "would of" and viewed my explanation as no more than an interesting theory such as you hear on QI.

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"would of" is firmly entrenched IMO. I see it in emails from people who I would of ;) thought would know better.

I did actually try to explain it to somebody that it is a diminutive of "have" that happens to sound the same but they weren't convinced, they thought that the correct phrase was actually "would of" and viewed my explanation as no more than an interesting theory such as you hear on QI.

It's not a diminutive, it's a contraction.

Normally I would fight my inner pedant, but not on this thread.

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In that case I am expecting you two to score perfect marks in the quiz which you should of taken by now. Off you go.

Stop it now.

I only got 9, although some were a bit odd. It wouldn't be correct to use "fortuitous" for something negative that happened in an unplanned or coincidental way, would it? Lucky or fortunate, the wrong answer, seems to cover unplanned or coincidental with an additional positive qualifier, so seems like a better answer.

Stephen Pinker's books: "The language instinct" and "how the mind works" are excellent.

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"would of"

Is just simple illiteracy. A mistranscription of the perfectly correct verbal contraction would've.

Unless perhaps you're suggesting some kind of archaic spelling of something different? Wood? Woad? ...?

Normally I would fight my inner pedant, but not on this thread.

Exactly. There's a time and a place.

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Here's one that I certainly get wrong (not in the quiz):

  1. Staunch means loyal, sturdy and does not mean to stanch a flow. Correct: "Her staunch supporters defended her in the press." / "The nurse was able to stanch the bleeding."

Not so! Oxford Dictionaries (scroll down a bit for "Definition 2"):

(chiefly US also stanch)

...

Stop or restrict (a flow of blood) from a wound: he staunched the blood with whatever came to hand

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I couldn't even find the button to work the quiz. :huh:

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Wasn't it Clive James who made a poem of playful usages? Windows am shutting down?

Yes:

Windows is shutting down, and grammar are

On their last leg. So what am we to do?

A letter of complaint go just so far,

Proving the only one in step are you.

Better, perhaps, to simply let it goes.

A sentence have to be screwed pretty bad

Before they gets to where you doesnt knows

The meaning what it must of meant to had.

The meteor have hit. Extinction spread,

But evolution do not stop for that.

A mutant languages rise from the dead

And all them rules is suddenly old hat.

Too bad for we, us what has had so long

The best seat from the only game in town.

But there it am, and whom can say its wrong?

Those are the break. Windows is shutting down.

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What a silly test :) "Verbal" means..."written down"...apparently :)

Whenever I used to do those Verbal Reasoning tests, at school or pre-employment I scored pretty highly (top thousandth percentile by what I was told), but had to stop there and think what they were asking and why...designed to prove the point the article was already trying to make :)

P

I thought 'verbal' was a verb meaning 'to give a warning to'.

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What a silly test :) "Verbal" means..."written down"...apparently :)

Whenever I used to do those Verbal Reasoning tests, at school or pre-employment I scored pretty highly (top thousandth percentile by what I was told), but had to stop there and think what they were asking and why...designed to prove the point the article was already trying to make :)

P

Is this complaint a way of avoiding the disclosure of your score Paul? I think we should be told.

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Ha! Without pretence I ended up looking for trick questions, and apparently scored 3 :) I think this particular test is still very flawed...data/datum as above being one more example.

Genuinely surprised me...having taken Graduate level and above VR tests, which I normally finish in the time with full scores. I was led to believe this put me in a very high percentile of the population...not a thickie, honest ;)

I NEED this...it compensates for my poor spatial awareness and disastrous Emotional Intelligence :)

P

Good afternoon Jesus. I am sure you did OK! :huh:

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Ha! Without pretence I ended up looking for trick questions, and apparently scored 3 :) I think this particular test is still very flawed...data/datum as above being one more example.

Genuinely surprised me...having taken Graduate level and above VR tests, which I normally finish in the time with full scores. I was led to believe this put me in a very high percentile of the population...not a thickie, honest ;)

I NEED this...it compensates for my poor spatial awareness and disastrous Emotional Intelligence :)

P

It's very specialist knowledge these days; I even congratulated somebody the other day for saying "champing at the bit" as I am so used to hearing incorrect phrases. My current favourite is "mute point".

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I really expected to do better than 10 out of 13. I got an A level in English in 1973 and I have used no other language since.

Ten seems to be the maximum.

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