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GRAMMAR GURU

Alter/Altar
The chicken on the altar was too big for the witch's knife. Should she alter this old altar or spare the chicken's life?

Before you vote, be advised of the following: altar -- a place where you put something to be worshipped or wiped out; alter -- change something, make it different, as in the waistband on your sweatsuit, which used to be loose.

Quiz
1. "Nothing you can say will (alter/altar) my decision to fly the coop," said the eaglet to his mother.

2. "My husband has such a big ego, he expects me to build a shrine to him and worship at his (alter/altar)," said Hera.

3. Before the airport authority (altars/alters) the city's high-volume air lanes, it's asking for input from the community.

4. "With a little nip here and a little (alteration/altaration) there, you'll look gorgeous at the affair," said the seamstress.

Answers
1. alter ("When you're fully grown and bald, don't come squawking back to me!" cried Mama Eagle.)

2. altar (Hey, you're married to Zeus, the king of the gods, remember?)

3. alters (Fly them over my house! Please!)

4. alteration ("Yeah," said the matron, "but what about the dress?")

Ellie Grossman is the author of "The Grammatically Correct Handbook." Visit her at www.thegrammarguru.com.

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