Is Your Mettle Forged From Metal? Take This Quiz!

Rob Kyff on

Let's put the "you" in usage! See whether you can choose the correct word from each pair of oft-confused words:

Even people to the 1) (manner, manor) born can't 2) (hone, home) in on all the usage distinctions that make English a 3) (tortuous, torturous) language.

People trying to 4) (stanch, staunch) the 5) (horde, hoard) of usage errors sometimes lie 6) (prostate, prostrate) for hours as they 7) (pour, pore) over grammar textbooks.

Testing their 8) (metal, mettle) and 9) (racking, wracking) their brains, they break sentences down into their 10) (discrete, discreet) parts. They hope their new knowledge will 11) (compliment, complement) what they've already learned in high school.

Sometimes they discover the grammar principles they were taught don't 12) (gibe, jibe) with contemporary usage. Some old rules have begun to 13) (lose, loose) their luster, and once-cherished dictums have been 14) (waved, waived). In this new age, writers and speakers must take a new 15) (tack, tact) and strike a new 16) (chord, cord).

Shifting standards 17) (phase, faze) some people but other folks are real 18) (troopers, troupers) who strive to change with the times. They go 19) (farther, further) in their study of grammar than ever before and are soon 20) (flouting, flaunting) their knowledge of contemporary usage.


1) manner, meaning a style or way; 2) home ("Hone" means to sharpen, though some argue "hone in on" is now acceptable because it suggests a gradual narrowing in on one's target.) 3) torturous ("Tortuous" means winding, twisting.)


4) stanch ("Staunch" means firm, steadfast, though it's now begrudgingly accepted as a synonym for "stanch.") 5) horde (A "hoard" is a supply or cache.) 6) prostrate ("Prostate" is the male gland.) 7) pore, meaning to read carefully;

8) mettle, meaning strength, ability; 9) racking ("Wrack" means to ruin or wreck.) 10) discrete ("Discreet" means prudent.) 11) complement, meaning to complete;

12) jibe ("Gibe" means to jeer.) 13) lose ("Loose" means not tight.) 14) waived, meaning to give up something; 15) tack, meaning a course of action; 16) chord, meaning a combination of notes;

17) faze, meaning to disturb; 18) troupers, meaning performers or any people who endure hardship without complaint; 19) further ("Farther" relates to physical distance.) 20) flaunting, meaning showing off ("Flout" means to defy).

Scores: 14-20 right: You sage! 7-13 right: You trouper! 0-6 right: You flouter!


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 2021 Creators Syndicate Inc.



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