Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, and try your hand at Whack-a-Blunder! Can you find 25 usage errors in this story about a literary contest gone horribly wrong? Don't be shy! It's first come, first serve ... er, first served.
Wilky Winkerby was considered a shoe-in for the prestigious Blunderbuss Literary Prize, which is given each year to the writer who has used the most cliches in a new novel. After all, Wilky had a real flare for platitudes, which may explain why some critics called his work "illuminating."
All tolled, Wilky had packed an amazing total of 1,288 trite phrases into his novel, "A Tough Road To Hoe." In terms of the contest standards, he had certainly performed do diligence, and this augered well for his chances of winning the prize in one foul swoop, especially since the murder weapon in Wilky's novel was a carpenter's tool.
His competitors, however, had also towed the line by cramming hundreds of banal expressions into their novels, and they didn't want to make due with second or third place.
As the head judge rose to announce the award's recipient, everyone was chomping at the bit to see who would win. The room was filled with nerve-wracking suspense. All the writers waited with baited breath, especially those who had written about fishing.
When Wilky was named the winner, some of his rivals, instead of entering a veil of tears, were unphased. They scrubbed it off and, for all intensive purposes, forgot the whole thing, chocking it up to experience.
But other writers expressed deep-seeded anger at Wilky, especially those who had written about farmers. Calling the claim that Wilky had written 1,288 cliches a bold-faced lie, they vowed to reek havoc and extract revenge.
"This contest is all just smoking mirrors and slight of hand," they shouted. "It's chalk full of corruption." Then, in the throws of anger, they threw every cliche in the book at Wilky.
1. shoo-in 2. real flair 3. all told 4. "A Tough Row To Hoe" 5. due diligence
6. augured well 7. one fell swoop 8. toed the line 9. make do 10. champing at the bit
11. nerve-racking 12. bated breath 13. vale of tears 14. unfazed 15. shrugged it off
16. for all intents and purposes 17. chalking it up 18. deep-seated anger 19. bald-faced lie 20. wreak havoc
21. exact revenge 22. smoke and mirrors 23. sleight of hand 24. chock full 25. throes
Rob Kyff, a teacher and writer in West Hartford, Conn., invites your language sightings. Send your reports of misuse and abuse, as well as examples of good writing, via e-mail to [email protected] or by regular mail to Rob Kyff, Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.