Friday - - MIND GAMES -

Word con­fu­sion Even the most self-as­sured scholar of English is tripped up oc­ca­sion­ally by con­fus­ing spellings. The phrases be­low may be as fa­mil­iar to you as your old stamp­ing (or is it stomp­ing?) grounds, but when it comes to spell­ing them, you may be in dire straights (or is it dire straits?).

Like the cat that ate cheese and then breathed into the mouse hole, I’m sure you’re wait­ing with baited breath (or should that be bated breath?) and chomp­ing (or per­haps champ­ing?) at the bit.

So let’s have a lit­tle quiz. Can you iden­tify the cor­rect choice for each of these well-known phrases? Hope­fully you won’t miss the cor­rect an­swers (given be­low) by a hare’s breath (hare’s breadth? hair’s breath? hair’s breadth?).

At break­fast I ate a Welsh rarebit/rab­bit (a dish of melted cheese served over toast).

She served juice to wet/whet our ap­petites (to stim­u­late the ap­petite).

A friend in need is a friend in deed/in­deed (a friend who helps in ad­ver­sity is the true one).

I wracked/racked (strained with ef­fort) my brains but couldn’t re­mem­ber his name.

The judge sen­tenced him to life, en­sur­ing that he got his just desserts/deserts (pun­ish­ment that is de­served).

The star was busy, but in a short in­ter­view we man­aged to get a sound bite/sound byte (a brief, strik­ing re­mark or state­ment ex­cerpted from an au­dio or video­tape for in­ser­tion in a broad­cast news story).

The fly was am­bushed and eaten by a large pray­ing/prey­ing man­tis (a car­niv­o­rous in­sect).

The best re­sponse to teas­ing is to grin and bear/bare it (put up ad­ver­sity with good hu­mour).

The princess al­ways had an aura of royalty, be­ing to the man­ner/manor born/borne (used to a high po­si­tion from birth).

At the Ken­tucky Derby the favourite horse was a shoo-in/ shoe-in, and it won eas­ily.

Now let’s see how many you got right: Stamp­ing grounds, dire straits, bated breath, champ­ing at the bit, hair’s breadth, Welsh rarebit, whet the ap­petite, a friend in­deed, racked the brains, just deserts, sound bite, pray­ing man­tis, grin and bear it, to the man­ner born, shoo-in.

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