Quiz: Completely Acceptable Words People Think Are Wrong

Staff

Is "supposably" or "supposedly" correct in the following sentence: "(Supposedly or supposedly), supermarkets stock sugary cereals that appeal to kids on the bottom shelf, at their eye level.

Supposably, is a word, although it doesn't mean what you think it means, and it's definitely not interchangeable with supposedly. It's an adverb derived from supposable, which means it's something you find conceivable. An example is when you begin a sentence with "for the sake of argument ..." Supposedly, on the other hand, is something you assume to be the case, although you have no specific evidence to support it. For example, supposedly, the concert tickets will be available before the show.

Which is correct: anyway or anyways?

Anyways wasn't wrong when Old and Middle English was spoken, but today we don't use it. Stick with "anyway."

If you "renege" on something, what have you done?

If you renege on something, you've broken your word or backed out of a deal.

Is it a "moot" point or a "mute" point?

A moot point is one that is irrelevant or unimportant. Muteness is an inability or unwillingness to speak, which makes a "mute point" kind of funny, don't you think?

Which one is a portable platform used to move or stack things?

Your palate is the roof of your mouth and your ability to recognize flavors. A palette could be a range of colors or the tool on which an artist mixes color. But it's a pallet that is a portable platform for moving things.

If you're feeling a bit of agitation or confusion, you're feeling …

Feeling flustrated? Don't worry, whether you're flustered or you are frustrated, you definitely aren't "flustrated" or "frustered." They're not real words.

True or false: A "juggalo" is a male escort who is financially supported by an older woman, usually in a long-term relationship.

False. That's the definition of "gigolo." "Juggalos" (and Juggala or Juggalette, in reference to women) are what the fans of the band Insane Clown Posse are known as.

Which is the correct spelling: "grey" or "gray"?

While you don't want to mess with the spelling of any proper nouns, "grey" and "gray" may be used interchangeably. The only difference in today's English is that Americans prefer gray with an "a" and the Brits an "e."

True or false: A "chigger" is a type of mite.

True! The word is harmless, but the bites may be itchy.

True or false: When George W. Bush appeared in Arkansas to give one final speech on the eve of the 2000 presidential election, he said his rival, John McCain, had "misunderestimated" him.

Here's one we think is right but is completely wrong. You can misunderstand or misestimate. You can underestimate or overestimate. But you can't "misunderestimate." A former president of the United States used this word, but that doesn't mean it's real.

Is "impactful" just a meaningless buzzword?

The word "impactful," like "irregardless," may make some cringe, but bear with me. It began as a made-up corporate buzzword that arrived on the scene at the end of the 20th century and has stuck around as a slightly different take on "powerful" or "influential." It's used to describe something that has impact. While it's not adopted by all, including dictionaries, its staying power is, yes, impactful.

True or false: "Different" and "differently" are interchangeable.

The "think different" ad campaign may be to blame for our confusion about adverbs and adjectives. Different is an adjective; "the anesthesia made me feel different." And differently is an adverb; "I felt differently about it after I met them."

Niggardly doesn't mean what you think it means. What's the correct definition?

Niggardly is not a racial epithet. It's a completely acceptable word that means miserly or ungenerous.

A "dongle" is …

A dongle is a piece of hardware that connects your computer to another device.

True or false: Cabotage describes the destruction hungry critters do to a garden.

Nope, nothing to do with cabbage sabotage. This word means to transport passengers and goods between two points along the coastal waters or in the airspace within a country.

What's a potentiometer?

A potentiometer isn't a tool used to measure your potential, but it isn't a made-up word, either. It's a voltage divider, used in things such as a volume control knob.

When you're lost in a strange neighborhood, do you stop to "orient" or to "orientate" yourself, based on American English?

You could use "orientate" if you wanted, as the two are interchangeable, but in American English "orient" is considered the better choice.

Is "macaronic" a real word or a misspelling?

Macaronic means mixing two languages together. For instance, "<i>donde esta</i> the party?" is a macaronic example, mixing Spanish and English.

Which is correct: mischievous (MIS-cha-vus) or mischievious (mis-CHEE-vee-us)?

Americans are more likely to say and use "mischievious" (mis-CHEE-vee-us), but "mischievous" (MIS-cha-vus) is correct. Mischievous has three syllables and is pronounced with emphasis on the first syllable.

Which is correct, toward or towards?

"Toward" is more commonly used in American English and "towards" in British English, but using either one is completely acceptable.

Which refreshing dessert is lighter than ice cream yet contains dairy for a creamy texture?

Despite often being mispronounced and misspelled as "sherbert," the word is "sherbet" — just one "r" (like "sorbet," which includes no dairy ingredients).

First things first — or is it firstly?

First, second and third are ordinal numbers and can be used as adjectives or adverbs. When you make these into adverbs, you get firstly, secondly and thirdly. It's correct, but it's not used as often as secondly or thirdly.

True or false: Crapulence describes that sick feeling you have after a night of gluttony.

Whether it's from eating too much or drinking too much, crapulence describes how you feel the morning after a night of gluttony. Plus, it's not vulgar or slang.

Is "snuck" the past tense of the verb "to sneak"?

Similar to how "freaked" is the past tense of the verb "to freak," and "squeaked" is the past tense of the verb "to squeak," it's "sneaked" that is the past tense of the verb "to sneak." "Snuck" is a fairly new word in American English. It started out with just some regional usage and has gained some popularity over the decades. Although among some it could be totally acceptable to use, experts still recommend using "sneaked."

Darkle: real or just a made-up mashup of "sparkle" and "dark"?

Those familiar with Stephen King's "The Dark Tower" series know that "darkle" is a real word: “Death, but not for you, gunslinger. Never for you. You darkle. You tinct. May I be brutally frank? You go on.” Darkle means to become dark, indistinct or gloomy.

If you're somewhat mad, you're …

Yes, "maddish" is a real word. It's an adjective meaning you're somewhat mad.

True or false: If you're nauseous, you feel you could throw up at any time.

False. Being "nauseated" means you feel you could throw up at any time. Being "nauseous" means you make other people feel sick.

How is "prerogative" pronounced?

It was Bobby Brown's "PUR-rog-uh-tiv" in 1988, but he was wrong. Actually, it was his "PRE-rog-uh-tiv" — just follow the spelling, which begins with "pre" not "per".

"Irregardless" of whether or not you think it should be a word, is it?

It's a portmanteau, or a blend, of the words "regardless" and "irrespective." You might find it listed as nonstandard usage in recently updated dictionaries, though, because it gets used so often. But let's defer to Merriam-Webster’s advice and use regardless instead.

A "nibling" is a …

Nibling is the gender-neutral term for nieces and nephews.

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About This Quiz

Sure, we all know that new words are being added to the dictionary all the time, but as linguistic purists, we here at How Stuff Works prefer to support the correct way to use language. If you're with us, take this quiz to see if you can identify if these 35 words are wrong... just wrong.

Ok, so the first word that comes to mind when we think about words that are used incorrectly is "valentimes." What is that, exactly? Seriously, "valentimes?" Does that mean it's time for Valentine's Day? The word is "Valentine's" Day, folks, not "valentimes."

So, now that we've gotten that one out of our system, we want to have a short rant about the word "irregardless." Frankly, "irregardless" is just not a word, no matter how hard people try to make it one. The word is "regardless," not "irregardless." Honestly, the day the word "irregardless" is added to the dictionary is the day we're going to just give up.

So, if words like "valentimes," "irregardless," and "alot" (don't even get us started on this one), make your head want to explode (literally), then this quiz is for you.

Let's find out how much you really know about words.

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