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Word Police by Barbara Wallraff
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Confused? Take a peek at a sample exam before you try your hand at the real thing.

Read about the new Word Police training manual, Word Court, by Word Police Commissioner Barbara Wallraff.

Join a conversation on Word Police and Word Court in Atlantic Unbound's reader forum, Post & Riposte.

Read recent Word Court columns from The Atlantic Monthly, and browse the Word Fugitives archive, in The Court Record.

Meaning Detectives (A-M)
Entrance Exam


In each case, assume that the speaker is a highly articulate person -- a Word Police officer, for example -- and is using all words in their strict senses. Choose the answer that you most nearly agree with. Once you've answered all five questions, press the "Submit answers" button to have your responses scored. If you're not sure of the answer to any question, why not take your best guess? (No points are deducted for wrong answers.) You'll need to get at least four answers right to be allowed to proceed. On the next page, you will be asked a final question that you must answer correctly in order to pass the exam. (On that page, you will also find the answers to these five questions explained.)

1. "Please don't compare me to Dudley Do-Right"

means that the speaker doesn't want to hear that he or she is like Dudley Do-Right.
means that the speaker doesn't want to be told how he or she is similar to or different from Dudley Do-Right.
means that the speaker feels that others have no right to judge his or her relationship with his or her horse.
2. "She is completely disinterested in the outcome"

means, essentially, that she is bored.
means that she is going to be disinterred.
means that she has no personal stake in what happens.
3. "What an enormity!"

means that something is really, really big.
means that something is monstrously wicked.
means that something is confusing.
4. "He is smart, if not brilliant"

means that he isn't brilliant.
means that he might well be brilliant.
demonstrates how ambiguous if not can be.
5. "This is literally a dog's breakfast"

means that the thing in question is what a dog eats for breakfast.
means that the thing in question is tasteful.
means that the thing in question is a mess, a farrago, a jumble.

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