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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.

Pronunciation Patrol
Entrance Exam

In each case, choose the sentence 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. The Pronunciation Patrol's headquarters at the Word Police station need some sprucing up, and so a painter has been hired. He arrives and introduces himself to you, pronouncing the word for what he does "painer."

You think what an elegant person he is to know not to pronounce the silent letter.
You find his pronunciation substandard, though perhaps you are too polite to point this out.
You say irritably, "Well, if you pain us, you can take a hike."

2. Unfortunately, the painter is very inexperienced at his work. As he gets ready to apply an undercoat to the wall, you see him reading from a little book on how to paint. He stops you to ask how the word primer is pronounced.

You tell him "primmer."
You tell him "prime-r."
Before answering, you ask whether he's referring to the undercoat or to his book.

3. Gesturing at the cans of paint he is to use, he asks you where the instructions are for the paint. You say, "The instructions for the paint?"

You pronounce the first the "thee" and the second the "thuh."
You pronounce both thes "thee."
You pronounce both thes "thuh."

4. He asks if you would pick up a brush and help him. You say, "I'm sorry, painting is not my forte."

You pronounce forte "FOR-tay."
You pronounce forte "fort."
You pronounce forte "for-TAY."

5. The painter, who for reasons best known to his parents is named Geoffrey Valet, asks if you would introduce him to the Word Police Chief. When you make the introduction, you pronounce the painter's name

"JEF-ree VAL-it."
"ZHOF-ree Va-LAY."
However Mr. Valet pronounces it.

Back to introduction

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