Category Archives: Quizzes

In the news … March 25


TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky. In this month’s language usage news, we have a high-profile hold-out on the use of the singular “their”; the word okay and its origins; a list of horrid words; a vulgar word finds its way into the OED; a spelling mistake that thwarted a bank heist; bad spelling used for effect in an ad campaign; Donald Trump’s 6th-grade linguistic skills; and a spelling quiz from a fine New York institution. (Warning: explicit vocabulary ahead.) Continue reading

In the news … (Feb 5)

Sarah Palin gets in a 'squirmish' with coherence/HuffPostUK Politics

Sarah Palin gets in a ‘squirmish’ with coherence/HuffPostUK Politics

That Gerund Is Funky — Feb issue. Recently in grammar and language news: a Palin portmanteau that NPR’s Ari Shapiro can’t let go of; Oxford Dictionaries faces an accusation of sexism; a grammar quiz from The Independent; how to pronounce the name of a Dutch musician with a Swedish-sounding surname; the new legitimacy of the singular ‘they’; and the end of the road for a punctuation mark? Continue reading

It’s National Grammar Day: take a short grammar quiz

It’s National Grammar Day! To celebrate the occasion, take Glosso’s short quiz to find out if you know your grammar. Have fun and good luck!

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How many of the eleven images below depict a grammatical mistake? Post your number (no spoilers please) in the comments section; the answer, with explanations, will be published tomorrow. Continue reading

In the news … (Oct 10)



TGIF. In language usage and abusage news this fortnight: Hugh Grant’s new character offers an English lesson; David Remnick talks about the New Yorker‘s copy-editors; a French MP is fined for using sexist grammar; a new documentary about grammar; and the superiority of paper over digital in book-reading … Continue reading

In the news … (June 20)

tiny grass

TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky. Words and language in the news this week include a schoolboy pointing out BMW’s bad grammar; a prime minister’s spelling error and a president’s incorrect pronunciation; the relationship between texting and bad (or good) spelling; and some real Nazis who are also grammar nazis. Continue reading

A-verbing we will go


Benjamin Franklin called it “awkward and abominable” in a letter to the lexicographer Noah Webster in 1789. He was talking about “verbing”: the hijacking of nouns for use as verbs — a practice that dates back many centuries. Even Shakespeare was doing it back in about 1595 when the Duke of York reacted angrily to his nephew Bolingbroke’s greeting: “Grace me no grace, nor uncle me no uncle!” Continue reading

In the news … (Oct 11)


Where language was in the news this week …

Grammar Girl (aka Mignon Fogerty) appeared on the Today Show on Wednesday. Take her quiz that contained all the discussion topics she suggested to the producers. (I couldn’t find a correct answer to Question No. 2; please comment below if you think one of the answers to that question was grammatically correct – and why…) Continue reading

Celebrating the most misbehaved punctuation mark on International Apostrophe Day

Today is International Apostrophe Day!


As Sam Tanner tweeted earlier this morning: “An apostrophe is the difference between a business that knows its shit and a business that knows it’s shit.”

Here’s a round-up of apostrophe news and celebrations on its auspicious day. (This particular awareness day was conceived last year by The Guardian‘s production editor, David Marsh.) Continue reading

BBC English: a flawed quiz – the questionable question


I wrote in yesterday’s post about the BBC’s English quiz, which wasn’t up to scratch in my book. My score was docked because of my answer to question number 3, concerning a certain androgynous sibling called Hilary, which went as follows:

“Read this sentence carefully. “I’d like to introduce you to my sister Clara, who lives in Madrid, to Benedict, my brother who doesn’t, and to my only other sibling, Hilary.” Which of the following is correct?

1) Hilary is male

2) Hilary is female

3) It’s impossible to tell from the context”

Well, it’s not just impossible to tell from the context, but the sentence itself doesn’t make sense. Given the way it’s punctuated, it states pretty clearly that the speaker has more than one sister (“my sister Clara” means that there is another sister; “my sister, Clara” would have identified Clara as the only sister) and more than one brother (“Benedict, my brother who doesn’t” identifies Benedict as the only one of two or more brothers who doesn’t live in Madrid). So the speaker is kidding himself if he thinks he has only one other sibling: it just doesn’t follow logically. Either that, or he doesn’t understand how to punctuate.

And it seems that I’m not the only one who found fault with the quiz, which was doling out 9/10s by the dozen to undeserving souls. And it wasn’t just question 3 that raised eyebrows and tempers. The internet lit up with confusion and outrage; linguist Peter Harvey had a field-day with the quiz on his blog; and there was a lot of healthy discussion among Facebook fist-shakers who felt similarly wronged.

The moral of the story seems to be this: check your own proficiency before testing others’ …