Miss Simpson was not universally loved by the pupils of Elthorne High School in Hanwell between 1976 and 1982, my time at the school. I suppose that this was in part due to her position , since she was one of the Deputy Headteachers. Partly as well it may have been due to her very strict and disciplinarian manner. In all my time at the school I never heard any other pupil accusing her of being a good teacher. However I must pay tribute to her now, for something she said back when my friends and I were in the lower sixth form. I can’t remember the context , but she was running a lesson with some of us who were studying different A Level subjects, and she was making a point about thinking . She asked us this question : -
“What does this word say –“ and she wrote it on the board, “- PECTOPAH ?”
Now, if like me your answer was the phonetic equivalent of peck – toe – par , then I’m afraid that, like me, you are wrong. She went on to explain that although it looks like this word is written in the latin alphabet, it is actually in Cyrillic. The word is Russian for restaurant, and it’s pronounced . . . well, it’s pronounced ’ restaurant’. The point being that sometimes you have to think outside the box, I suppose.
Last night it was the turn of Dai Norwich to be question master in the club. Dai is one of our semi regulars, and I don’t think you could call him a serious quizzer. Which means that he usually asks at least a few questions that are a little bit, how should one put it, out there. Last night one of the questions he asked was this : -
“Which latin letter does the letter H stand for in the Cyrillic alphabet ? “
My initial reaction was – How the hell is anyone in here supposed to know that ? Then my second reaction was – Hang about a moment. I think that I might know the answer to that myself.- Dredging up the word pectopah I first went for T – then realized that T was already there in the middle, in the position that T in the latin alphabet would be. So , bearing in mind that the T is silent in the original French word restaurant, I went for N. We got the point . Thanks Miss Simpson.
I quote the question above as an example of the dangers of asking questions from left field. I say out of left field because I don’t recall ever being asked a question about letter equivalents in Cyrillic before. Now, if by some combination of circumstance like the one I described above, teams manage to answer correctly then it will be hailed as a great question. On the other hand, if, like I imagine most of the other teams, you haven’t a clue and are reduced to making a wild stab in the dark, then it will be hailed as a ridiculous question. Quizzers’ double standards ? Don’t get me started
In the interests of fairness I ought to pay tribute to another question Dai asked last night ,
”Which is the only song which reached the top 10 in the UK in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s ?”
– Great question – I thought – and why have I never heard it before ? We didn’t get the right answer. Dai gave the answer “You Sexy Thing” by Hot Chocolate. My admiration for the question, mind, is slightly tempered by the fact that I googled it this morning to check , and found that while it’s true that You Sexy Thing was in the top 10 in those three decades – so was John Lennon’s “Imagine” . We lost nothing because we didn’t even come up with that as an answer. But I do wonder if any of the other teams came up with Imagine . Well, it’s one of the pitfalls of making your own quiz that even if you take a lot of care you can end up making mistakes. I still think it’s a great question, as long as you say “Which two songs etc. etc. “ or give one and ask for the other one.