The Art of Quizzing

This is my second blog of the week. However, as I didn’t blog last weekend, my first blog (Friendly Rivalry and Malfunctioning Gaydar) was really last week’s late entry, so doesn’t count. Anyway the reasons for a second blog is quite simple – I entered a second (if unexpected) quiz.

Beer: Red wine … Quiz: Results unknown

This was a music quiz held during the award ceremony bit of the work’s Christmas Do (to keep the interest of the 95% of people who weren’t nominated for anything) but as (a) no-one collected the answer sheets, and (b) I wasn’t in work on Friday (the day after the night before), I’ve no idea if any results were ever announced or, if they were, how ‘Team Mistletoe’ did.

The evening was, as ever, ably compered by The Seven Year Bitch*, and she announced that the works quiz nights will return in January. Unfortunately, she also mentioned the unsuccessful attempt to run a quiz in November and the fact that I failed to enter a team (this was mentioned twice – if I possessed any awareness of the impact of my actions on other people, I’d have guessed she may have been a tiny bit pissed off with me). On the bright side, she did manage to ‘liberate’ an addition bottle of red wine for our table/team – Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without this.
(If you didn’t see what I did then, maybe this blog isn’t for you).

The Seven Year Bitch’s dad is a former Brain of Grimsby and he writes the work’s quizzes for us. This sort of brings me to the main thrust of this weeks blog, the art of quizzing, or more specifically, the art of quiz writing. Writing a quiz is not easy, and writing a good quiz is actually bloody difficult. The tendency is that you write about things you know, and either aim the questions at a level you would find (i)comfortable or (ii)extremely challenging. The former types of quiz seem to be written by those who struggle with “Who wrote Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony?” as a question; the latter by those whose quizzes are based on random facts from Wrongipedia. If you don’t believe me, just have a go at some of the free quizzes being offered at various online sites.

As much as I have said things in the past about The Quiz, it is actually well written, even if some of the questions do sometimes slip into the Beethoven’s 5th category. The Governesses Dad* needs to be thanked for this. However, even he falls into the trap of the badly researched question sometimes. An example of this pitfall is one of this weeks spelling questions – there are two accepted spellings of the word encyclopedia, the other being encyclopædia (you have no idea how difficult it is to encode the Anglo Saxon letter ‘ash’ into a blog!). Encyclopaedia is a defunct spelling that not even the American’s (those bastions of poorly spelt words) use – this is why every team got the ‘wrong’ answer.

The other problem is that it’s easy to write questions about things you know about (although these can tend to edge toward ‘impossible for a normal person to answer’ if you know your subject too well), and virtually impossible to write good questions about something you don’t know anything about (as you have no idea how easy or difficult the question actuallyis). Having spent the last 18-months writing the best part of 100 quizzes, I’ve  confronted these problems and realised that my quizzes are generally too difficult for the ‘normal’ pub quiz team – aiming for a quiz that The Royal Blokes* would get about 75% right was setting the bar too high as it turned out.

This is not some ego trip and The Royal Blokes are by no way some über-team of quizzers. Amber Nectar* were Midlands Pub Quiz Champions and National Pub Quiz Finalists in 2011, where as the Royal Blokes were only runners-up to the Midlands Pub Quiz Champions and National Pub Quiz Semi-Finalists in 2012. This in itself sort of proves my point both ways and explains the problem. This is why I’m both rewriting the best part of 100 quizzes and looking for someone who’ll proof read and/or sell the quizzes on the vague promise of a share in any future profits.

The problem of getting it right (because as a quiz writer, the one thing you cannot do is get it wrong) is also shared by professional quizzers – for example Mark ‘The Beast’ Labbett who wrote the above mentioned 2012 quiz and completely omitted the fact there were two Boer War’s, resulting in the Royal Blokes only coming runners up (the winners were allowed Boer War as a correct answer, when the correct answer was 2nd Boer War). A wrong question like this can stick with you forever!

As a final point, one of the best quiz questions I’ve ever had the pleasure to answer was written by The Seven Year Bitch, and was in an 80s film round. The idea was to name the film from a fictitious line one of the main characters might have said. The question – “Mum, where’s my rabbit?”. Answers in the comments please.

Footnote: ‘Mistletoe and Wine’ was the best-selling song on 1988 and is one of only three Christmas songs to also be best selling song of the year – the others both being versions of ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’. The song was adapted from a song used in the musical ‘The Little Match Girl’, based on the Hans Christian Andersen story, and was originally  a lusty pub song sang by the local whore (and performed by Twiggy) – this is the only time you can link lusty whores to Cliff Richard and not end up getting sued. The opening notes of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony are also the Morse code for the letter V, and was widely used as a call sign by the Maquis (the French Resistance) during World War II – V for Victory. The same few notes are also heavily used in the Film The Longest Day, about the Normandy (D-Day) landings. There were two Anglo-Boer Wars – 1880-81 and 1899-1902. Queen Victoria’s dying words (“Oh that peace may come. Bertie!”) refer to the second war only. No, I will not let this go!

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2 thoughts on “The Art of Quizzing

  1. Er, sadly only just got round to catching up with the blog G.o.m. I take it the answer was “Fatal Attraction”?

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