Saturday, 26 October 2013

To Correct , or not to Correct?

Last week I followed an amusing Facebook debate about whether you should correct an innocent member of the public if he (or she) comes out with a piece of information, obviously wrong, that they’re very proud of.

On Sunday evening I was playing in a quiz – now there’s a surprise – and I found myself in a similar dilemma, but this time it was the question master who was wrong. The question in question was -
” Which are the only two countries to have hosted the football World Cup twice?”
Now, I’m quite sure that you, as did I, are thinking to yourself – hang on a minute! There’s more than 2.- and you would be right to do so. For the record, they are: -

Mexico – 1970 and 1986
Italy – 1934 and 1990
France – 1938 and 1998
Germany – 1974 and 2006

Now, OK, you could argue that 1974 was strictly speaking West Germany, but even so the fact is that you can’t argue with France.

No, here was the dilemma. John and I worked out that the answers he must have were Mexico and Italy since the chances were that he was working from a quiz book written before 1998. That’s what we wrote down. For the rest of the round I wrestled with my impulse to explain to the question master so that he would have the chance to accept France or Germany also, and thus not leave himself open to the accusation of not knowing what he was talking about. To cut a long story short, I lost. In the lull between questions I wrote out a list of the hosts of every world cup since 1930, and showed it to him in the interval. His response was an interesting one. Had he said ,
”Sorry – you may be right, but my book only said two, and so that’s the answer I have to stick to.” then I wouldn’t have said another word – well, not until afterwards, on the way home in the car, anyway. But what he actually said was,
“Yes, I thought that when I copied the question down, I was sure that France had held it twice as well.”
Which begged the question – well, why didn’t you go and check it then? No, I didn’t ask him that – I felt I’d pushed my luck far enough by correcting him in the first place. To be fair to him,
”You can have any two out of Italy , Mexico, France and Germany”. I give him a lot of credit for doing that, and not taking umbrage at being put right in that way. If I’m honest I can’t put hand on heart and swear that I would have allowed the other two answers had the situation been reversed. Mind you, had it been my quiz I would have checked the answers beforehand anyway, whether I thought they were right or not.

It was a good quiz, but we had one wrong, and I’m almost ashamed to tell you what it was. Still, we’re all friends here, so I guess I can let you into the secret. This is the question.
“A mother is preparing a meal for herself, her husband and their son (I know, but it was from an old book, I think) . She has five potatoes to share between the three of them. Without using fractions, how can she ensure that each of them gets an equal share?”
I can’t remember exactly what convoluted nonsense it was that we wrote down, but it wasn’t the correct answer. Mash them. Oh, the shame of it.


George Millman said...

I would correct it in an ordinary conversation, but I absolutely would in a quiz! You need to use recent quiz books, or check any information that may change. 1998 is 15 years ago now, why should quizzes allow out of date questions like that? I think having information so obviously out-of-date is completely unacceptable.

I remember reading a quiz question, 'Who is president of the NSPCC?' in a quiz book, the answer being Princess Margaret. Now of course, that question is completely out of date now, not only because she is no longer the president, but in fact is no longer alive at all. It would therefore be completely wrong to have that question in a quiz - it would have to be edited so that either the answer was different, or so that the question asked 'Who was president of the NSPCC from this year to this year?' In a quiz, I expect the quizmaster/mistress to know the answers to the questions that he or she is asking. I think that is pretty essential.

Londinius said...

Hello George, and welcome to LAM

I certainly wouldn't automatically correct an ordinary member of the public. Depending on how mischievous I was feeling I might make an oblique reference - for example the one mentioned on Facebook was a person who believed that the creator of Dr. Who's Daleks was a man called Stavros. While I wouldn't correct him, I would be tempted to drop into conversation that I preferred watching Kojak and his brother Davros.

I know where you're coming from regarding quiz masters, and it can be extremely frustrating. But then playing Devil's Advocate a lot of quiz masters are purely doing it for the love of the game, and get little or no remuneration. So the occasional mistake is all part of the game.

It's when they make a habit of it that it becomes unacceptable.

George Millman said...

I tend to correct people generally when they make statements that I know to be incorrect. I don't see it as being malicious, merely adding to the conversation. If people want to do the same thing to me, I have no qualms about them doing that; it will mean that that person knows more about it for the next person that they say it to.

For the purposes of quizzes, yes they are doing it for the love of the game, but I still think that it's imperative that answers are correct, and I'd reserve the right to point it out if I knew better. I used to present an annual quiz based on Dale Winton's In It To Win It on a campsite - myself and my friend did seven over as many years, and there was only one occasion on which we got a question wrong. The question was 'People of which profession are sometimes informally known as peelers?' and for some reason we had written doctors instead of the actual answer, police officers. I think I must have just copied down the wrong option as being right by mistake. It was highly embarrassing, particularly as we were on a campsite with no Wifi and no means of checking, so we HAD to go with what we had written down. But, that was my own fault, and it meant that on future occasions, I was even more careful to make sure that I had all the answers correct - and that never happened again, so we learned from the experience.

I think that it's completely possible to point out incorrect information without causing trouble. It was politely pointed out to me and my friend, and we have no hard feelings about it - it was our mistake, and we would have pointed it out had we been taking part. Had we been in a location where it was possible, we would have checked the facts online there and then.

I really like your blog, by the way. I've just discovered it recently, and I'm enjoying it. I like quizzes, especially those on the BBC. I watch a lot of Perfection, Pointless, Eggheads, Only Connect, Mastermind and University Challenge (though I'm not watching the current series of UC, because I missed the early episodes and I like to follow the heats properly, so didn't see the point of trying to catch up after that.) I'm planning to listen to Brain of Britain when it starts - I've never followed that before.

Londinius said...

Hi George

Thanks for your kind comments about the blog. I won't lie, it makes my day when people tell me they enjoy it.

Brain of Britain is a great show, and judging by your other likes I'm sure that you'll enjoy it.