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 The origins of these phrases are often old, and original spellings and outdated circumstances often lead to the mis-use or mis-understanding of these phrases.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!

Start Quiz!
Resume Quiz

1. What do you say before eating?

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on
  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.
scroll to continue

2. How do you describe the latest technology?

Photo by from Pexels
  1. State of the art
  2. Steak 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!
scroll to continue

3. What do you call clothes you would give to your little sister?

Pixabay at Pexels
  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.
scroll to continue

4. What is the name of the famous Spanish dance?

  1. Flamenco
  2. Flamingo
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!
scroll to continue

5. Where did Michaelangelo paint his famous ceiling?

Image by kai kalhh from Pixabay
  1. Sistine Chapel
  2. Sixteenth 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!
scroll to continue

6. What do you call the peak of something?

Pixabay at Pexels
  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.
scroll to continue

7. What's another word for rain?

Photo by Nguyen Nguyen from Pexels
  1. Precipitation
  2. Participation
Precipitation falls from the sky. Participation happens when you join an activity. Both can happen at the same time!
scroll to continue

8. What does the doctor give you to get medicine?

Photo by from Pexels
  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.
scroll to continue

9. What keeps a sheep warm?

Photo by Trinity Kubassek from Pexels
  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.
scroll to continue

10. What's something that's never happened before?

Photo by Jose Moreno on Unsplash
  1. Unpresidented
  2. Unprecedented
The election of the current U.S. President is quite unprecedented...
scroll to continue

11. Who is your mother's sister?

Photo by Guillaume de Germain on Unsplash
  1. Aunt
  2. Ant
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.
scroll to continue

12. What do people do when they're sad?

Photo by Anastasia Dulgier on Unsplash
  1. Mourning
  2. Morning
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.
scroll to continue

13. What document started the Revolutionary War?

  1. Decorations of Independence
  2. Declaration 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 ! *
scroll to continue

14. When you are anxious, what do you wait with?

Image by karmasprenger from Pixabay
  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.
scroll to continue

15. How do you describe someone voted off American Idol?

Photo by Rahul Pandit from Pexels
  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.
scroll to continue

16. What kind of bed do kids sleep in?

  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.
scroll to continue

17. What is another word for having hopes and dreams?

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash
  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!
scroll to continue

18. What happens to people who violate laws?

  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.
scroll to continue

19. What is the exercise where you do a push-up, then jump up?

Image by Keifit from Pixabay
  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!
scroll to continue

20. What is the feeling when you think you've seen something before?

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay
  1. Déjà vu
  2. Deja view
"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!
scroll to continue

21. How do you describe when movements don't match up?

  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.
scroll to continue

22. What kind of tape does a handyman use?

Image by kerttu from Pixabay
  1. Duck tape
  2. Duct 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.
scroll to continue

23. What do you use to hold candles?

  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.
scroll to continue

24. What bacterial infection can you get from undercooked meat?

Photo by Changyoung Koh on Unsplash
  1. Salmon vanilla
  2. Salmonella
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.
scroll to continue

25. What is the front page of the internet called?

Pixabay at Pexels
  1. Read it
  2. Reddit 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!
scroll to continue

26. What do you call a good deal?

Pixabay at Pexels
  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.
scroll to continue

27. What is under a man's chin?

Photo by Rafael Barros from Pexels
  1. Atom's apple
  2. Adam'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.
scroll to continue

28. What do you call a superhero's buddy?

Image by aitoff from Pixabay
  1. Psychic
  2. Sidekick
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.
scroll to continue

29. What do you call someone to can't get off the internet?

Photo by from Pexels
  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.
scroll to continue

30. What do we call outlets like CNN, MSNBC, and FOX?

  1. Main street media
  2. Mainstream 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.
scroll to continue

31. How do people show respect to each other?

Photo by Surajit Das on Unsplash
  1. Fist bump
  2. Fist bomb
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.
scroll to continue

32. What does a magician say at the end of a trick?

  1. Voilà
  2. Wahla
"Voilà" is a French word, literally meaning "look there".
scroll to continue

33. What are the islands off the coast of Florida?

Image by NeuPaddy from Pixabay
  1. Carry Beans
  2. Caribbean
"Caribbean" is often mis-spelled due to its double "b"s, but now you know! And knowing is half the bbattle.
scroll to continue

34. How do you describe people who can't drink milk?

Photo by Fa Romero on Pexels
  1. Lack toes intolerant
  2. Lactose intolerant
"Lactose" is the compound in milk that some people cannot tolerate. Most people would probably also not tolerate lacking toes.
scroll to continue

35. What do you call someone in costume?

Photo by Donald Tong from Pexels
  1. Cosplay
  2. Cost play
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.
scroll to continue

36. How is the President of the U.S. elected?

Photo by Element5 Digital from Pexels
  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.
scroll to continue

37. What number is 1 followed by 100 zeros?

Image by geralt on Pixabay
  1. Google
  2. Googol
The internet company "Google" derived its name as an intentional mis-spelling of the number "Googol", to convey the vastness of the internet.
scroll to continue

38. What do you say when someone has wronged you?

Photo by Craig Adderley from Pexels
  1. You've got another thing coming!
  2. You've got another think 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.
scroll to continue

39. What do we call something that gets blamed unfairly?

Photo by sergio souza on Unsplash
  1. Scapegoat
  2. Escape goat
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.
scroll to continue

40. What do we say when something goes unused?

Photo by Agnieszka Palmowska at Pexels
  1. Fall by the wayside
  2. Fall by the waste side
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.
scroll to continue

41. What do you have when you're hungry?

  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".
scroll to continue

42. What is something that is firmly rooted?

  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.
scroll to continue

43. How do you describe a ruthless situation?

Photo by Chevanon Photography from Pexels
  1. Dog-eat-dog world
  2. Doggy-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.
scroll to continue

44. How do you describe cutting something off?

Pixabay at Pexels
  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.
scroll to continue

45. What do you call something no longer relevant?

  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.
scroll to continue

46. What do lawyers do when they review a business deal?

  1. Do diligence
  2. Due 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.
scroll to continue

47. How do you summarize something's purpose?

  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.
scroll to continue

48. How do you describe a calm mental state?

Photo by Sunyu on Unsplash
  1. Piece of mind
  2. Peace 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.
scroll to continue

49. What is something you find interesting?

Photo by mali maeder from Pexels
  1. Peaked my interest
  2. Piqued 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.
scroll to continue

50. What do we call a brave act?

Photo by Alexander Dummer at Pexels
  1. Derring-do
  2. Daring-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".
scroll to continue

Just a sec, we're calculating your result!