Can You Correct These Commonly Misheard Sayings?

About this Quiz

The English language is full of idioms and expressions. On average, everyday we use or hear dozens of idioms. Despite knowing these common phrases and using them in the correct situations, we often don't know the origins of these phrases, and even more often may be saying them completely wrong, in very subtle ways, without even knowing it! The origins of these phrases are often old, and original spellings and outdated circumstances often lead to the mis-use or mis-understanding of these phrases. If you would like to clear up that understanding, and start using these idioms correctly, you've come to the right place!

Test your knowledge by completing the test below and share your improved skills with your friends on Facebook! Learning these is fast and fun and will allow you to have better conversations with your friends and family, or to gently correct them when they get them wrong, as we all often do. Go on! Try to get as many right as you can!

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1. What do you say before eating?

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  1. Bon appétit!
  2. Bone apple tea!
This French phrase literally translates to, "good appetite!" and is said to someone to wish them a good and enjoyable meal. "Bone apple tea" sounds like something you should not drink.
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2. How do you describe the latest technology?

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  1. Steak of the art
  2. State of the art
"State of the art" means the status of the technological "arts". It is used to describe something cutting-edge and best-in-class, two other phrases that are maybe sometimes misheard, too!
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3. What do you call clothes you would give to your little sister?

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  1. Hand-me-downs
  2. Hammy downs
"Hand-me-down" describes the literal act of handing down old clothes to someone younger or smaller than you. Hopefully there is no Ham involved in the transfer.
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4. What is the name of the famous Spanish dance?

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  1. Flamingo
  2. Flamenco
Flamenco dance originates from Andalusia, Spain. Women performing the dance often wear beautiful, brightly-colored dresses with large flowing skirts and ruffles, so you would be forgiven for mistaking them for the beautiful, brightly-colored bird, the flamingo!
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5. Where did Michaelangelo paint his famous ceiling?

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  1. Sixteenth Chapel
  2. Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel is the home of the Pope, located in the Vatican City. The Chapel is named for Pope Sixtus IV, so mis-hearing "Sistine" as "Sixteenth" is not so far off!
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6. What do you call the peak of something?

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  1. Pinnacle
  2. Pineapple
If you climb to the top of a mountain, you will reach the pinnacle of the mountain, but you probably won't find any pineapples there. Unless that mountain is in Hawai'i, maybe.
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7. What's another word for rain?

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  1. Precipitation
  2. Participation
Precipitation falls from the sky. Participation happens when you join an activity. Both can happen at the same time!
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8. What does the doctor give you to get medicine?

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  1. Subscription
  2. Prescription
The "PREscription" is what the piece of paper the doctor gives you to pick up your medicine, though actually the "SUBscription" is the part of the prescription that shows directions for compounding the drug.
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9. What keeps a sheep warm?

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  1. Fleece
  2. Fleas
The fluff on a sheep is called its "fleece", but when it is sheared off and woven into thread for clothing, it's called "wool". Sheep probably think it's pretty weird that humans like to wear its fluff.
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10. What's something that's never happened before?

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  1. Unpresidented
  2. Unprecedented
The election of the current U.S. President is quite unprecedented...
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11. Who is your mother's sister?

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  1. Ant
  2. Aunt
To be fair, the common pronunciation of "aunt" sounds more like the insect, making them homophones, meaning two words that are pronounced the same but have different meanings. Unless you are talking about a literal ant, in which case an ant's aunt is actually also an ant.
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12. What do people do when they're sad?

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  1. Morning
  2. Mourning
This is another homophone, where two words are pronounced the same but have different meanings. To help with spelling, you might remember that "mourning" comes from the Old English word, "murnung", meaning grief or complaint.
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13. What document started the Revolutionary War?

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  1. Declaration of Independence
  2. Decorations of Independence
The Declaration of Independence "declared" the "independence" of the United States from England. But imagining decorations on the document is also fun. * t i n y t r a s h ! *
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14. When you are anxious, what do you wait with?

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  1. Baited breath
  2. Bated breath
Neither "baited" nor "bated" are very commonly used words, so the mix-up is understandable. But keep in mind that "bated" is short for "abated", meaning that your breath has been lessened.
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15. How do you describe someone voted off American Idol?

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  1. Eliminated
  2. Illuminated
Contestants are "eliminated" from the competition, though to be fair, they are probably also "illuminated" by a spotlight as they stand on stage, bidding farewell to America one last time.
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16. What kind of bed do kids sleep in?

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  1. Bump bed
  2. Bunk bed
The word "bunk" is of unknown origin, but perhaps is related to the word "bunker", describing a reinforced shelter from danger.
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17. What is another word for having hopes and dreams?

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  1. Aspirations
  2. Aspersions
Dreamers have "aspirations" to do or become something, while "aspersions" are quite the opposite, meaning an attack on someone's character or reputation. Aspire to aspirations, not aspersions!
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18. What happens to people who violate laws?

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  1. Prosecuted
  2. Prostituted
To "prosecute" means to start legal proceedings against someone, in particular in relation to a crime. In places where prostitution is illegal, one might be prosecuted for prostitution.
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19. What is the exercise where you do a push-up, then jump up?

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  1. Burpees
  2. Burt's Bees
Burpees are a fun activity for both strength training and aerobic exercise. Burt's Bees is a line of natural skin care products. Both great for self improvement!
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20. What is the feeling when you think you've seen something before?

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  1. Deja view
  2. Déjà vu
"Déjà vu" is a French phrase literally meaning "already seen", though in some cases the thing you already saw might very well be the view!
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21. How do you describe when movements don't match up?

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  1. Out of sink
  2. Out of sync
"Sync" is short for "synchronized", which describes movements that occur at the same time or at the same rate.
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22. What kind of tape does a handyman use?

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  1. Duct tape
  2. Duck tape
"Duct" tape was originally used in the 1970's to repair leaky ducts, hence the name, though today there is a brand of duct tape called "Duck Tape" so you would be forgiven for the mix-up.
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23. What do you use to hold candles?

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  1. Candle opera
  2. Candelabra
The word "candelabra" derives from the 19th century Latin word "candela" meaning candle, though the image of a candelabra does invoke thoughts of Phantom of the Opera.
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24. What bacterial infection can you get from undercooked meat?

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  1. Salmonella
  2. Salmon vanilla
Despite having the word "salmon" in the name, a salmonella bacterial infection can in fact originate in foods other than fish, including meats and eggs.
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25. What is the front page of the internet called?

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  1. Reddit
  2. Read it
Reddit.com is one of the most visited websites on the world wide web. Its name does in fact derive from the pronunciation of "read it", which is appropriate for a website where you read things!
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26. What do you call a good deal?

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  1. Bank for your buck
  2. Bang for your buck
The origin of this phrase may come from military spending, where Generals were persistently looking to get more "bang" (or ammunition) for their money.
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27. What is under a man's chin?

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  1. Adam's apple
  2. Atom's apple
The origin of "Adam's apple" to describe the lump in mens' throats comes from the imagery of the forbidden apple becoming stuck in Adam's throat.
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28. What do you call a superhero's buddy?

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  1. Sidekick
  2. Psychic
The term "sidekick" comes from early 20th century slang, when "kick" meant the front pocket of the pants, and thus the safest pocket from thieves. By extension, a "sidekick" means a person's most trusted companion. Your sidekick might also be psychic, if he or she can also tell the future.
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29. What do you call someone to can't get off the internet?

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  1. Addict
  2. Attic
An "addict" is someone who can't get enough of something. An "attic" is somewhere you put all the things you've had enough of, but are too lazy or sentimental to throw away.
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30. What do we call outlets like CNN, MSNBC, and FOX?

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  1. Mainstream media
  2. Main street media
"Mainstream" means the main current of a river or stream, and is commonly used to describe something that is widely popular. "Main street" refers to the primary street in a village or town, and is used in America to describe traditional working-class values, in contrast to "Wall Street", which represents large corporate interests.
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31. How do people show respect to each other?

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  1. Fist bomb
  2. Fist bump
A traditional "fist bump" involves bumping your first against your friend's first, though in a modern variation, you might then also blow that fist up like a bomb.
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32. What does a magician say at the end of a trick?

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  1. Wahla
  2. Voilà
"Voilà" is a French word, literally meaning "look there".
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33. What are the islands off the coast of Florida?

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  1. Caribbean
  2. Carry Beans
"Caribbean" is often mis-spelled due to its double "b"s, but now you know! And knowing is half the bbattle.
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34. How do you describe people who can't drink milk?

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  1. Lactose intolerant
  2. Lack toes intolerant
"Lactose" is the compound in milk that some people cannot tolerate. Most people would probably also not tolerate lacking toes.
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35. What do you call someone in costume?

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  1. Cost play
  2. Cosplay
It is reasonable to assume "costume" would be shortened to "cost", but is more popularly shortened to "cos" and joined with "play". It was first coined by a Japanese journalist who preferred to create a new compound word in English to describe those in costume at the 1984 World Science Fiction Convention in Los Angeles.
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36. How is the President of the U.S. elected?

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  1. Electrical votes
  2. Electoral votes
The Electoral College is the official body in the United States whose members cast votes for the office of President and Vice President. The atmosphere surrounding such vote casting is no doubt electric.
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37. What number is 1 followed by 100 zeros?

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  1. Googol
  2. Google
The internet company "Google" derived its name as an intentional mis-spelling of the number "Googol", to convey the vastness of the internet.
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38. What do you say when someone has wronged you?

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  1. You've got another think coming!
  2. You've got another thing coming!
Surprise! This might be the trickiest of the bunch. It really is "thinK" and not "thinG". It follows from the full context, "If you think X, then you've got another think coming", as in, you will need to think again.
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39. What do we call something that gets blamed unfairly?

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  1. Escape goat
  2. Scapegoat
Though the goat in the photo might very well want to escape, the term "scapegoat" is derived from an ancient Judaic ceremony in which a goat is cast off into the wilderness carrying on its back the sins of the people.
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40. What do we say when something goes unused?

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  1. Fall by the waste side
  2. Fall by the wayside
The "wayside" refers to the side of a road, so something falling to the wayside means it is no longer on the main path and therefore not useful or used. In a sense, it has gone to waste, but that is not the correct saying.
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41. What do you have when you're hungry?

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  1. Hunger pains
  2. Hunger pangs
The term "pang" actually means a sudden sharp pain, but the correct phrase is "hunger pang" and not "hunger pain".
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42. What is something that is firmly rooted?

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  1. Deep-seated
  2. Deep-seeded
Another homophone where two words sound the same but mean different things, but in this case not that different. "Deep-seated" is the correct phrase, meaning to sink deeply into an arm chair for example, but planting seeds deep into the ground invokes somewhat similar meaning.
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43. How do you describe a ruthless situation?

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  1. Doggy-dog world
  2. Dog-eat-dog world
The correct phrase, "dog-eat-dog", is indeed a strange one, since dogs don't actually eat other dogs... in this world, anyway.
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44. How do you describe cutting something off?

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  1. Nip it in the butt
  2. Nip it in the bud
Nipping something in the "bud" refers to cutting off the bud of a flower before it has a chance to bloom. Cutting something off in the butt is something else entirely.
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45. What do you call something no longer relevant?

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  1. Mute point
  2. Moot point
A "moot" point means a point that is worth debating on an intellectual level, but that does not have any practical consequences. The term is also used in legal education to describe "moot court", or a place where lawyers practice debating points, but those debates have no real-world effect.
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46. What do lawyers do when they review a business deal?

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  1. Due diligence
  2. Do diligence
The word "due" means "of proper quality", so "due diligence" means research and review of proper quality. In business deals, lawyers do due diligence, but probably not with magnifying glasses.
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47. How do you summarize something's purpose?

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  1. For all intensive purposes
  2. For all intents and purposes
The correct phrase, "intents and purposes", is a bit repetitive, since "intent" is the same as "purposes"... for all intents and purposes.
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48. How do you describe a calm mental state?

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  1. Peace of mind
  2. Piece of mind
"Peace" refers to being calm, but when you are angry with someone, you may in fact want to give them a "piece" of your mind. In those cases, you would do well to find your "peace" of mind.
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49. What is something you find interesting?

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  1. Piqued my interest
  2. Peaked my interest
"Pique" means to excite, whereas "peak" is the top of something. "Pique" is also the name of FC Barça's star centre-back, who is married to Colombian popstar, Shakira.
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50. What do we call a brave act?

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  1. Daring-do
  2. Derring-do
The correct phrase is technically "derring-do" as has been referenced in English literature since the 19th century, though "derring" is just an old word for "daring".
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