How Strong are Your Grammatical Habits?

When I was in the military, I wondered why the protocol for firing an artillery round required two soldiers to stand behind the gun and to the left. To me, the soldiers served no discernible purpose. Tracing the function back with the help of military historian, I learned that these two once had a function–holding the horses.

But habits also often box us in. Face to face with an obstacle, your mind may fill with the strategies you always try–and only those. Following is a game to test how ingrained your habits are with letters and words.

There is the name of a color concealed in each of the following sentences. For example, the colors RED and BLACK are concealed in the following two sentences:

Newspaper editors decided to go on strike. (Red)

The cab lacked proper brakes to stop at the intersection. (Black)


Now try these. See if you can name the color concealed in each sentence?

  1. A big, old, hungry dog appeared at our door every morning.
  2. The cop persuaded him not to create a disturbance.
  3. The Brazilian student Paulo lives around the corner from us.
  4. You shouldn’t let an upstart like him bother you.
  5. He let out a big yell, owing to the injuries he received when he fell.
  6. La Jolla venders decided to cut their prices in half.
  7. Long rayon fabrics were loaded on the truck.
  8. The Austrian physicist Wolfgang Pauli lacked the requisite documents to enter the U.S.  
  9. You shouldn’t sell this fossil very cheaply because it is a rare specimen.
  10. The new law hit everybody’s pocketbook pretty hard.

In order to identify the hidden colors, you have to disregard the signs that say “stop”—such as word spacing, periods, and commas. People who are grammatically habit-ridden will find this exercise very difficult. (Scroll down for the answers.)


Michael Michalko is the author of creative thinking books and cards Thinkertoys, Cracking Creativity, Creative Thinkering, and Thinkpak (A Brainstorming Card Deck). Visit










Answers: 1. Gold 2. Copper 3. Olive 4. Tan 5. Yellow 6. Lavender 7. Gray 8. Lilac 9. Silver 10. White


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