Does Your English Cut the Mustard?

Your English Skills:

Punctuation: 100%
Grammar: 80%
Spelling: 80%
Vocabulary: 80%

Does Your English Cut the Mustard?

Just a quick quiz today as I’ve been planning a couple of posts for later in the week, and my writing is starting to come along at last (the writer’s block is banished!). I thought after my post on Timbaland’s The Way I Are that it might be fun to take some kind of English quiz; put my money where my mouth is, so to speak.

Well, I have to say this is one of the hardest quizzes I have ever done; don’t try it unless you’re prepared to be challenged. My results were quite good but only because I was able to take my time and think about the answers; if I’m just talking (or blogging) quickly then I make a lot more mistakes than that. If you have time, take a look and see how you go; I’d be interested to know if you found it as tricky as I did. Maybe I’m just going rusty. 😉

17 thoughts on “Does Your English Cut the Mustard?

  1. It was quite hard. I’m History’s Greatest Genius, and even I found it quite tricky.

    I won’t reveal my score… um… er… because it’s SO high, it would embarrass your other readers.

    Yes… that’s why.

    CJ: Good to know it’s not just me. That was possibly the toughest test I’ve had since school and I write every day, so I don’t think I’m too rusty.

    Thanks for commenting. And I love your username, btw. 🙂

  2. Ayyyeee! Why are you subjecting us to this excruciating thing? I thought we were friends! Is this what they mean when they say you shouldn’t trust people you meet on the Internet?

    OK, calm down. AfterRant: I’ve always been a stickler for subject/verb agreement, say, or proper spelling whenever possible. But, being a “creative” type (yup, that’s my excuse), I see punctuation and some grammatical “rules” as rather fluid, and “breaking the rules” sometimes adds to the “artistic look” of the piece. Like starting the previous sentence with “But”. Or this last sentence with “Like”. Or…
    So, I’m either delusional or stubborn. Or both. I did get the same score as you. I was tempted to cheat, but didn’t. Thanks, cj. (I think) 8)

    CJ: I’m the first to admit it: that quiz was torture. Worse, it brought back all the doubts I had in school; I could practically hear my teachers’ voices again. I felt I should do something after my post on bad grammar, but this was almost my undoing! 🙂

    And I agree with you about breaking the rules (as I’ve just done by starting with a conjunction, LOL). There are times when being grammatically correct can be a hinderance, particularly in the flow of a poem or a story; even Shakespeare used “Friends, Romans, Countrymen” without the “and”. But lately I think a lot of writers are hiding behind artistic licence when really all they’re doing is subverting the language; that was what I thought about The Way I Are, though it’s a catchy song. But I’m getting off-topic again.

    I had to double-check a couple of things, but I was quite happy with my score; as they say, great minds think alike! 😛

  3. I have a few advantages: I studied traditional grammar as a subject in itself, I was a professional writer and editor for many years, I wrote several newspaper style guides, and I was able to recognise the quiz favoured certain American styles.

    Hence, straight 100s with no cheating.

    But I would also add that supercede is not actually an error as the quiz purports.

    Supercede has superseded supersede in much modern writing, although reference works tend to list supercede as an alternative (disputed) to supersede.

    Both spellings have their roots in Latin, which also had two spellings supersedere/supercedere.

    I personally prefer supersede but recognise that supercede is often the more current form.

    CJ: Straight 100s! Congrats, Stonehead; I thought that was almost impossible. 😉

    Yes, it helps if you recognise it follows more American rules (it took me a few questions to realise that); it’s not just spelling that has differences, but even the emphases we place on certain words and I found that here.

    You’re right about supercede as well; I think that’s the one spelling error I made and I couldn’t work out why it was wrong. My dictionary has both listed as alternate spellings, so supersede might be more recognised but one doesn’t seem to be much more correct than the other.

    Ponderous is also slightly ambiguous. It could almost mean “difficult to understand”, as in a speech being slow and difficult to follow; that’s not strictly correct, but I had to read the question very closely to work out just what they meant (“gigantic”).

    All in all, more like torture than a quiz! Reminds me of school. 🙂

  4. I’m a bit chagrined when I compare myself to yoooz guyz, as I am a United States of American. (I don’t like to just say “American” as if there were only one country in North America.) So, I should be more familiar with that usage. 🙁

    cj, well done noticing and adjusting, and stonehead the editor–well, you’re just a show-off aren’t you? 🙂

    I had almost forgiven you for posting the quiz, cj, until you quibbled with the “license” taken by some of today’s “artists”. There is certainly something to be said for knowing the rules of grammar before being allowed to break them. This can be said for martial arts, for instance, or music theory as well. Language does change and evolve, however, and vernacular will creep in. {sigh}.

    This has been going on for centuries–nay, millennia! I believe Shakespeare said he just used any spellings he fancied, and here’s a musical example from the 1940’s. The title is my favorite of an [US of] American dialect: Is you Is or is you Aint my Baby? Now that is a beautiful use of language in my book. It’s culturally evocative, and unmatched in how it expresses the sentiment.

    I prefer the use of “supercede”, as it relates to “cede” in my imaginary etymology. As I have not quite forgiven you for the quiz, yet, here is another, coincidentally relating to the above discussion: Mnemonics “Seed” Quiz. Enjoy, you provocateur. 8) I’m off to overuse quotation marks, dashes, and parentheses. –Later, dude.

    CJ: You’re right, Muse, I make that mistake about using the “US” as “America” too often. I’ll blame the media as I get it from them, but I need to stop doing it! I might start a tip-jar; every time I say America and not US or USA, I’ll put a dollar in. 😉

    With my writing I tend to follow the British version of the language, but if I post a comment on a blog I try to match the way the blog-owner writes… sometimes I forget, but it seems neater and stops people from thinking I can’t spell! The interesting thing is that Australian (and Canadian) English actually recognises both forms (for the most part). We’re taught to spell “color” as “colour”, for instance, but “recognise” can be spelt as either “recognise” or “recognize”, and licence as “licence” or “license”. I was taught that it’s about choice and tailoring language to your market. An Australian writer, David Malouf, wrote an interesting essay on the differences in the English language, how the changes came about… I wrote a post about it earlier this year, if you don’t mind the plug! It’s a fascinating essay.

    I find artistic licence fascinating as well; where do you draw the line between someone taking liberties with language and someone who is subverting it? I often change tenses and distort grammar to maintain the flow of a work, but I try to use it for an artistic reason, to strengthen the work. That’s how I’d define “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby“, a great song. But something like “The Way I Are”, to me, subverts language; there’s no great reason for the use of language in it. I wonder what you make of that song, Muse? Sulz, Judy and I had a fun debate about it a few days ago. 🙂

    Ooh another quiz! Thanks, Muse! I got 8 out of 10 right, but the two I got wrong were supercede/supersede again. I think I’m detecting a theme! 😛

    Edit: Sorry about the delay with this… I think Akismet’s playing up again as it went to moderation. Some of the problems with commenting on WP are starting to get tiresome.

  5. Hmmm… I’m not all that surprised with my results, except the horrible vocab score. Heck, I did better on spelling, and I can’t spell to save my life.

    Grammar: 100%
    Punctuation: 80%
    Spelling: 80%
    Vocabulary: 40%

    CJ: Congrats! I thought spelling would cause me problems as well, but there’s something about the vocabulary questions that are tripping people up… you can take them a number of different ways and I really had to think about them. For a supposedly “fun” quiz, it’s very tricky. 😉

  6. 100/80/60/60

    Hrmph. I call shenanigans; there’s no way that I spell that badly.

    CJ: I’d have been happy with those results before I took it! Just blame the quiz like the rest of us – there’s definitely something a bit odd about the spelling and vocabulary. And I don’t know if I could spell “shenanigan” off the top of my head, so you’re one up on me there! 😉

  7. I will answer in reverse order: There was no delay on my end. I went to bed right after I posted my comment, and when I woke up on Tuesday, there you were! I did notice it went to moderation, perhaps because it contained two links? I think I have mine set for three or more. Askimet may have thought I wished to sell you some real estate in New Guinea, or had other nefarious plans for you. I agree with about four million forum commenters, though, that it is tiresome. I have no idea what’s in the 200 or so comments it says it’s blocked, but are not in my cue.

    Ah, yes, “The Way I Are”. I did read your discussion about it, but hadn’t heard the song yet, so I listened and then read the lyrics. Hmmm. As you said, catchy, upbeat, fun. I could do without all the “strip” and “equip” stuff, but I’m a bit of a prude about such things and the message they send. However “the way I are” seems to be “him” parroting “her” saying “the way you are”, and keeps the rhythm and the rhyming scheme of the lyrics intact. I don’t see a deliberate attempt to subvert the language here, but I do think such things occur. It seems a people or a race that traditionally see themselves as disempowered sometimes wish to deliberately create a dialect all their own. Take the movie title “Boyz n the Hood”, for example. I think artistic license must be given a large berth, and language will eventually sort itself our by usage, as it has done. Lots to consider here, thanks!

    Re: your post about language. I do not mind the plug at all. I’m not above self-referencing and self-pinging! I commented on that post in that post, if you will. I’ll just say here that I was reminded I must read more of your blog! You have a lot of worthwhile reading.

    I was not accusing YOU of overdoing the “America” thing. It’s a worldwide issue, prompted by us. or should I say US. I became sensitive to it years ago when I read something like the following in a novel: “You know, Mexico belongs to America, too!”
    “Oh, yeah? When did we buy it?”
    I realize this was “just” a novel, but a lot of people actually think this way.

    What a huge and wonderful discussion you’ve generated. Thanks, cj!

    CJ: Hm, in the forums I’m one of Akismet’s biggest defenders, so when even I start bagging it you know something’s up. As long as it goes to moderation I don’t mind, but I’d still like to see the rest… I’ve set my links to three as well, so maybe that will help.

    Thanks for commenting on the post about language. I find the way we use and accept language very interesting, so you’ve given me a few ideas for future posts! 😉 And that sort of plays back into what I mean about “The Way I Are”. The reason I have a problem with it is because I don’t think it represents a social class as much as fulfills a marketing strategy. In the clip they’re singing about being broke but are wearing $1000 suits! But I can see why people don’t mind it… and you’re right, people from different classes and ethnicities often create their own dialects… new languages are just as much works of art. Some food for thought here. Thanks, Muse! 8)

    And I knew what you meant about using “US” and “America”; you just touched on something which has been bugging me as well, so I’ve been trying to change it. If somebody could get the media to do the same, it’d help! But now I’m going off-topic again. All this discussion from a simple quiz that took 5 minutes to post – don’t you just love blogging! 😆

  8. There is an obvious hurdle to be overcome if you are going to persuade people to use “US” instead of “America”. Americanisms sounds right; US-isms sounds appalling.

    CJ: That’s a good point. A lot of the way we use language has to do with convenience; if something doesn’t sound right or seems cumbersome, we’ll find some other way to say it.

    The reason I try to use “US” more now is that we’re becoming much more of a global community, so it seems a little inconsiderate to confuse whole continents with one country. It won’t catch on, but as always I’ll be the last one to admit defeat! 😛

  9. I’m never defeated. I simply redefine victory.

    CJ: I like that! Kind of like losing the battle, but winning the war… I might have to steal that. 😛

  10. Gosh, Stonehead, how did you do on the Kobayashi Maru? 😉 With cj the “last to admit defeat”, and Stonehead “never defeated” we’ll have some good company at the end of time.

    The awkwardness of usage (USA, America, the States, etc.) is a point well taken. I’ve tried referring to myself as a “Statesian”, but that sounds vaguely political, and no one knows what I’m talking about. As a Statesian, I’m still unclear about the differences between the following: Britannia, The British Empire, England, and The United Kingdom. (see, we’re not the only ones!) I do know some of the terms include No. Ireland, Scotland and Wales, but many of my countrypeople use them interchangeably, just as they once did “Russia” and the USSR”.

    I don’t know about in your lands, but here we also have people that think Africa is a country. Help!

    cj, you are so right! Look what this has become! I do indeed love blogging.

    CJ: Well, all I can say is I would have failed the Kobayashi Maru miserably, because only one person can beat it – James T. Kirk! And I’d never compare myself to Kirk. 😉

    I quite like the sound of “Statesian”, but I can see how the formality of it might give people the wrong idea. Perhaps the answer isn’t so much a word as a context; if people know exactly what you’re talking about, then whichever form probably doesn’t make much difference. And I get just as confused! I think Great Britain consists of England, Wales and Scotland, but the United Kingdom is formed by Great Britain and Northern Ireland… and that’s right, Africa isn’t a country – it’s a song by Toto!

    But seriously, this is what people just don’t get about blogging unless they try it. It’s not just about posts and articles, it’s about the conversations you form… the discussion. It’s the new media… and who can resist a good quiz too? 🙂

  11. CJ, I hope you don’t mind if I give Museditions an example of redefining victory.

    Some years ago, I had the task of bringing a major magazine back on track. Its production cycle was seriously out of kilter, it was missing deadlines with every issue and it was incurring serious penalty charges.

    After making some changes to the production team and processes, I established that the deadlines could now be met from a clean start but there was no way the lost time could be clawed back within 12 months.

    The solution was to redefine the victory from “clawing back the lost time” to “having the correct issue at the printer on time”. I achieved that by changing one thing – the dateline.

    This meant the issue that next went to the printer on the due date bore the correct dateline for that print run. The two issues between that and the previous issue on the news stands simply vanished into the ether.

    The accountants had no problems, just the opposite. The company still produced the required number of issues in the year, still generated the predicted income and had no further penalty or overtime costs to pay.

    My immediate line manager had no problems either, but there were quite a number of people in the company who couldn’t understand how I’d pulled it off.

    I did try to explain that it was down to redefining victory, but they found it a very difficult concept to grasp.

    As for the Kobayashi Maru scenario, what’s needed is the big picture and not just the detail of the immediate “disaster”. Instead of trying to achieve the impossible, you look for the possible – no matter how unlikely – and do that instead.

    CJ: I don’t mind at all. I’ve been busy all day so I didn’t get a chance to see your or Muse’s comments until late, but that’s a fascinating account, Stonehead. It sounds like it was about prioritising as well; if you set yourself an unrealistic goal, you have a much higher chance of failure, especially if it’s only the first part in a larger plan. By reprioritising and focusing on a more possible goal, you were able to get things back on track. All the more remarkable if the others didn’t quite understand what you were doing.

    And I agree about the Kobayashi Maru as well. The whole idea of that scenario is that it’s a no-win scenario, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from it. Beating it might be fiction, but changing your perspective so that you have gained something from it means you don’t really lose. I think gaining knowledge is an advantage, a step forward, and that’s one way of looking at the possible.

  12. Ah, that’s where everyone else started getting tangled up, too. It’s not about reprioritising or refocusing, it’s about changing the rules entirely.

    The way to redefine victory starts with being able to identify the difference between an arbitrary or notional reality and physical reality.

    In the case of the magazine, the arbitrary reality was that issue 33 had just arrived at the printers and it should have been issue 35. It was one day before the allocated print run, so we were two weeks late.

    The physical reality was that we were expected to produce 52 weekly issues in the financial year, plus two specials, and had a contract with the printer to that effect.. At that precise point in the financial year. it was week 35, 34 issues had been printed and a 35th was ready to be plated.

    So, I simply shifted one reality (the arbitrary) to match the other (physical). Bingo, and we were on target. (In actuality, it was better than that as the efforts to catch up meant we were ahead of schedule for the next few issues.)

    The reason accountants understand it is because they deal with arbitrary and notional concepts all the time. It’s the way the money system works after all.

    Take a three-year-old £10 note. It’s exactly the same note as it was when printed and has the same face value, but it’s actual value is much less because of the effect of inflation. If you physically redefined the note, it would become an £8.50 note (or so!).

    That would not be acceptable so what we all do is subconsciously redefine the value of the note day by day, month by month, year by year. We automatically redefine the victory conditions – the amount the £10 note purchases.

    It’s also the reason I don’t gamble. The house is in control of defining reality so if the gambler starts to edge ahead, the house changes the rules. And it doesn’t have to be the rules of poker, for instance. It can be anything that affects the reality within which the gambler is playing.

    Something else that has to be understood is that you can only redefine the victory conditions or shift reality a finite number of times, with the number of potential redefinitions becoming smaller but more disruptive as the situation simplifies.

    The final key to redefining victory is belief. People observing the situation have to believe the outcome, even if they can’t believe the methods used.

    In the magazine example, everyone could see it was now on deadline and everyone could see we were about to print issue 35 in week 35. The victory made sense, even if my methods were apparently kooky.

    That’s why George Bush is having no success in redefining victory in Iraq. He has not redefined the arbitrary reality in a believable way, so his new notional reality looks even more out of step with reality than his previous one.

    CJ: So it’s more about shifting a capricious reality to a definable one? Interesting. I can’t say I’ve thought about it in that way before, but it makes sense; you match something arbitrary (definable) with the physical to create an achievable outcome.

    And like gambling, that would be why exchange rates are always fluctuating, because they’re determined by other influences and not always definable. Whereas the value of the note is defined by the market.

    Thanks, Stone. I might not have got it all yet, but you’ve given me something to think about. 🙂

  13. cj: I knew I forgot one. Yes, what is “Great Britain”? I think Britain is great, except for the fact that it has too many names. And “Africa” is great song! Thanks for the reminder.

    stone: A fascinating account of redefining reality. I enjoyed reading your publishing story. They were obviously lucky to have you and your “out-of-the-box” thinking at the time. I was particularly struck by your example of the £10 note. I never thought about how we redefine the value of currency really on a minute-by-minute basis. The value is practically imaginary these days, anyway. There’s a lot of talk over on my side of the ocean about money being all “paper and pixels” since we “came off the gold standard” some years ago, and with the advent of technology and electronic transfers. Going even further off the off-topic here, but your comment allows me to realise that the value of anything is consensus, not intrinsic.

    cj again: I think Stonehead and I are close to appropriating your blog–or at least this post. The post should be in the running for the longest comment section on the shortest post (measured in centimetres).

    CJ: Well, I think technically Britain is another name for the United Kingdom, but Great Britain only includes England, Wales and Scotland (not Northern Ireland, which makes the UK)… now I’m confused! But really, Britain and Great Britain are used interchangeably now, whether it’s strictly correct or not. 😉

    The value of currency is a big issue here too, especially since the GST tax was introduced. Our notes are the same but the values are very different, and we’ve cut out most of our coins which has changed the value again… I wonder if we did become a republic if the currency would change, become more inline with the Euro? It might be an advantage in some ways.

    Well, I could always make you guest contributors! It’s great, though, I love seeing how discussions form. This must be pretty close to my most commented post now. And just imagine if I added my responses as separate comments too – it’d be longer than the Magna Carta! 😀

  14. This is too tempting to pass up, so I shall put on my style writing cap…

    Great Britain is an island, the eight largest in the world and the largest of the British Isles.

    While Great Britain is neither a country nor a nation, politically it can be described as being made up of England, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Wight, Anglesey, the Isles of Scilly, and the isles that make up the Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland. It does not include the Crown Dependcies of the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands, which form a federacy with the United Kingdom.

    The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Island grew out of the Statute of Rhuddlan in 1284, which brought the Principality of Wales under the dominion of the English Crown. In 1603, the Union of the Crowns brought the Crowns together in one person, James I and VI.

    The political union of England and Scotland came about with the Acts of Union in 1707, which created the United Kingdom of Great Britain.

    The Act of Union in 1800 united the Kingdom of Great Britain with the Kingdom of Ireland to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801.

    The partition of Ireland in 1922 resulted the present political entity of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

    England is the largest (and most populated) of the four countries that make up the United Kingdom.

    Scotland is next largest country and includes about 800 islands as well as the mainland.

    Wales, a principality, is the third country and Northern Ireland is the fourth. but the latter is contentious and referring to it as one of the Home Nation (outside sport) or as Ulter can be very contentious!

    And don’t get me started on the 14 British overseas territories, which are legacies of the British Empire – and an entire post in itself.

    CJ: Thanks, Stone. For what it’s worth I looked it up in Wikipedia before my last comment, but sometimes even Wikipedia’s little help.

    I know the difference between the UK and Great Britain (my parents are British-Australian), but the alternating use of “Britain” and “Great Britain” still puzzles me; I always thought Britain was a political synonym for the United Kingdom, but that doesn’t seem to be how it’s used these days. Maybe it’s just caught on.

    On a side note, though, we love it when the British and Irish Lions come to Australian shores; we love beating four combined countries in rugby! 😉

  15. Maybe longer than “War and Peace”.
    Stonehead, thanks for the history lesson. I could have looked all that up I suppose, but you wrote such a succinct account I’m glad I didn’t have to. I did have to poke myself with a stick once or twice in order to get through it all, but it was worth it! 🙂
    We colonists really should know these things, but it does get confusing.
    cj, thanks for continuing to indulge the never-ending post.

    CJ: Ah, but if we colonists did know these things, Muse, we’d still be under colonial rule. We forget in rebellion! Freedom! 😀

    Now let’s see if I can find a quiz for the British Isles… that should be fun. 😛

  16. I am a colonial. I’m an Australian of Scots, Irish, Cornish and Swedish descent. Vagabonds all.

    I like the never-ending post concept. It meanders like a burn, with strange eddies and back currents in the most unexpected places.

    And now to the quiz, which famous US comedian was born in Dalton-in-Furness?

    CJ: I’ve tried to trace my ancestry but I seem to get lost about 400 years ago. Apparently I’m Australian by way of English, Irish, Russian and Polish descent (I think). I’ll have to have a proper go at some stage; it’s fascinating, seeing how families (and nations) formed. But then I’m a history buff! 😉

    Well, I know Keith Tyson comes from Cumbria, but I’m not sure I’ve heard of many comedians… maybe someone like Lenny Bruce? I’ll have to Google it…

    Edit: Congrats, Stone, you got me – I’d never have picked Stan Laurel. 🙂

  17. ah, fellow colonial, did not know.
    re:concept: very poetic, love the imagery!
    re:quiz: didn’t know, cheated and googled. won’t deprive cj of the fun, though.

    CJ: It was very poetic, wasn’t it? Almost made me think of a nice curry. 😉

    And that makes two of us for the quiz. Sometimes I wonder if there’s anything you can’t find on Google? Actually, there’s a site for that

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