Do You Know the 'Bear' Facts of Usage?

Rob Kyff on

Who said fairy tales were simple? See whether you can choose the correct words on this quiz about Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

1. Mama Bear's entreaties to buy a home security system had been in (vain, vein). 2. Papa Bear (trolled, trawled) for salmon with a huge net.

3. After Goldilocks awoke, she (bid, bade) farewell to her ursine hosts. 4. The girl's intrusion proved especially (nerve-racking, nerve-wracking) for Mama Bear.

5. A girl breaking into a home inhabited by bears is not something you see (everyday, every day). 6. Goldilocks' brazen intrusion was clearly beyond the (pail, pale).

7. Papa Bear was very angry and threatened to (extract, exact) revenge. 8. When Papa Bear confronted Goldilocks, Mama Bear tried to (diffuse, defuse) the situation.

9. Goldilocks' willingness to leave after what the bears would eventually come to call "the incident" (obviated, vitiated) the need to call the police. 10. As she fled the cottage, Goldilocks had to (hurdle, hurtle) several trees lying across her path.

11. The bears didn't notice the maimed body of Goldilocks' brother, Flaxenthatch, lying on a (palate, pallet) in the attic. 12. But, soon enough, the bears went up to the attic and made the (grizzly, grisly) discovery.


1. vain (futility), not vein (blood vessel). 2. trawled (fished by dragging a large, cone-shaped net), not trolled (fished by dragging a lure or bait from a moving boat).


3. bade (pronounced "bad"), past tense of "bid" (to offer a greeting), not "bid," past tense of "bid," (to offer a bid). 4. nerve-racking ("rack" means "to torture, strain"), not nerve-wracking ("wrack" means "to destroy everything, wreck").

5. every day (adverb), not everyday (adjective). 6. pale (bounds of civilized behavior), not pail (small bucket).

7. exact (to demand and obtain by force), not extract (to pull out forcibly, draw forth). 8. defuse (to remove the detonating device from a bomb, to render a system less dangerous or volatile), not diffuse (to disperse something from a single source, e.g., "the dye will diffuse in the water").

9. obviated (to make unnecessary), not vitiated (to impair the quality or reduce the value of something). As usage expert Bryan Garner writes, "You can vitiate something only if it's neutral or good." 10. hurdled (leapt over), not hurtled (moved speedily or forcefully).

11. pallet (small bed or platform), not palate (roof of the mouth). 12. grisly (ghastly), not grizzly (graying, sprinkled with gray), as in "grizzly bear"


Rob Kyff, a teacher and writer in West Hartford, Connecticut, invites your language sightings. Send your reports of misuse and abuse, as well as examples of good writing, via email to or by regular mail to Rob Kyff, Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

Copyright 2020 Creators Syndicate Inc.



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