Wednesday, 27 October 2010


If you regularly or semi-regularly set the questions for a quiz you’ll maybe understand the affliction I’m going to write about now. Even though my youngest children are both 16 they were still up for a family half-term outing today, and so we all piled in the car, and drove into deepest West Wales to Folly Farm near Narberth. If you’re ever visiting the area, and have children its well worth a visit . Its competitively priced , and has many attractions including a petting zoo, an undercover old time funfair, and a small zoo. My kids have loved the place for years. I was pleased to notice that the zoo part of the farm keeps expanding each time that we visit. In particular there was a definite Madagascar-theme going on there today. There were colonies of ring-tailed lemurs, pot bellied lemurs, and what really caught my eye, two fossa.

The fossa is the largest carnivorous mammal indigenous to Madagascar. If you’re like me , the only previous knowledge of the beast you’ll have is from the animated film Madagascar, where they were called something like foussa, as I recall.

OK – I can almost hear you thinking – so where am I going with this ? Well, its at this point that what I grandiloquently call ‘the question instinct’ kicked in. This is the sort of mental process that took place.
“Fossa, eh ? I didn’t know that they were a real creature . Say, there’s got to be a quiz question there : - let’s see – what is the name of the largest carnivorous mammal on the island of Madagascar ? – no , probably too obscure for a natural world question. Alright, lets turn it into an Entertainment question – Featured as the villains in the film Madagascar , what is the name of the largest carnivore on the island of Madagascar ? – hmm, that’s better, but yet. . . Say, what does it say up there on the cage ? Ghost hunters ? Oh, that’s clever, since the word lemur actually means ghost. Ooh, maybe that’s it – What does the word lemur mean when literally translated into English ? – Is it – small man – ghost – noisy spirit ? That’s it !”
Now, maybe you’re thinking, well, so ? What’s the problem with that ? Well, what you have to consider is that I was totally oblivious to everything going on around me while this was going through my mind, even though Mary and the girls had been trying to get my attention for some time. Not only that, but I’m not even preparing a quiz at the moment. You see what I mean ? Affliction.

OK, so we could say that this was a special case, since its not every day that you do something like visiting a zoo, which is bound to spark off some question ideas. True enough. But the problem is that it happens all the time. Yesterday evening we all went to see “Despicable Me” at the cinema. Its not ‘Toy Story’ or ‘Shrek’ , but it had its moments. Yet what did I find myself paying most attention to ? What else, the credits telling me who provided which voices, and why ? That’ll come up in a quiz, I told myself, mentally stowing away the fact that Russell Brand provided the voice of Dr. Nefario. Steve Carrell provided the voice of Grue, for that matter.

It might just be that I compiled the quiz for the rugby club for the last two weeks in a row, but at the moment I find it incredibly difficult to just accept a new fact without assessing either how I might turn it into a question for a quiz, or how likely I am to be asked to provide it in answer to a question in a quiz. Maybe there’s a psychological term for the condition. Come to think of it, that gives me an idea for a question . . .


LisaH said...

We took my 2 (12 and 4) and my nieces (8 and 6) to Folly Farm when we were staying with their grandmother in Ferryside in the Summer. It was great!!!! Thoroughly recommended

Londinius said...

Hi Lisa

If the good people of Folly Farm are reading, these are completely unsolicited testimonials ! Mind you, if you WANTED to offer free admission on a future visit, I would never be so ungentlemanly as to refuse !


paulphi said...

I've been writing a quiz question blog for the last couple of months. I try not to throw in many 'chestnuts' , so my day is spent looking at anything at home or work for inspiration (including makes of computer monitor!). I thought I may be going mad, but I'm pleased it has now got a name.

Londinius said...

No madder than the rest of us, Paul. I've been over to check out your blog, and I like it a lot. I hope you don't mind, but I've added it to my recommended links.


cwj said...

I have a section on my phone for so called "notery". Everytime I see something potentially quiz interesting I take a note of the basic keywords (in Dave's example: Fossa) and then do the creative thinking when I am actually quiz writing.

I've always found the hardest thing about quiz writing is getting the ideas, not actually creating nice questions from the ideas.

Londinius said...

Hi cwj

There's a lot of truth in that, that the ideas are where all really good questions start. Personally I'm just too lazy to write them down as and when they occur !