Sunday, 14 December 2008

The Question Master Is Aways Right - Part Four

Section 6 : Geography

I think it was Peter Tinniswood who once wrote “ men are buggers for geography”, and its certainly one of the most popular categories in pub quizzes. And as we have seen, the more times questions are asked on a particular topic, the greater the likelihood that there will be wrong’uns lurking within. Here are some choice selections.

Which 2 European capital cities are the closest together ?

This is a little oddity of a question. I have often heard the answer given as
Rome and the Vatican City

There’s no other two closer, certainly , being as the Vatican is clearly inside Rome. But does the Vatican City, which is an independent state in its own right, count as its own capital ? Especially when its only one small part of another city ? The mind boggles. If you discount this, then the two closest are
Vienna and Bratislava

Although admittedly this is nothing like as good a question .
Advice : - make it clear in the question what you want. If you want the Vatican as an answer , then go ahead, and don’t complain when the arguments start flying around your ears. If you want Vienna and Bratislava as the answer – then make it clear when you ask the question that you personally do not count The Vatican and Rome.

What was the former name of the island on which the Statue of Liberty stands ?

OK, its not the most common question to be asked, but I've heard it asked, and I've heard the wrong answer given too. So, lets begin. I hope that we all know that the
Statue of Liberty in New York Harbour stands on an island which is now called Liberty Island. Many people think that the former name of the island was
Ellis Island

But that's wrong. Its easy to see how the confusion arises. Ellis Island was where immigrants coming to make a new life in America were processed, and then sent out to make their way in the great new country. But it wasn't the same island. Liberty Island was once called,
Bedloe's Island

And that's it really.
Advice - there's no argument, and no room for doubt.

Section 7 : Language, Literature, Art and Music

In the original version of Cinderella, what were her slippers made of ?

I guarantee that you’ll amaze and impress your less knowledgable team members when you smile and supply the answer to this one :-
Fur / ermine

The reasoning goes like this. It’s a mistranslation . The most famous version of the Cinderella story was that written by Frenchman Charles Perrault. In french – verre – glass, sounds the same as – vair – ermine/fur.
However – we have a problem. In Charles Perrault’s original manuscript he uses – verre – glass ! In older versions of the story it wasn’t a slipper at all. It was a gold ring which had to fit the right( correct ) finger.
Advice – its such a terrific story it’s a shame to cast doubt, but it’s a very dodgy question. One to avoid, I’d say.

What are the three common words in English which end with the letters GRY ?

I’ve been asked this one many times, although never in a quiz, but just in case
Angry – hungry and . . . er. . .

The fact is that there is no other COMMON word, which isn’t a hyphenated compound ending in either angry or hungry. Once again, if you don’t believe me, then check in the OED.
Advice: - There’s a reason why you’ve never heard the third word when this one has been asked. That’s because there IS no 3rd word.

Why is sirloin called sirloin ?

Ah, the vagaries of the ruling classes ! If you get asked this one, then the question master will probably say : -
It was knighted by King James Ist ( and VIth of Scotland )in a particularly jocular mood one day

What a charming story ! What a load of old rubbish ! The fact is that different versions of this story exist with Henry VIII or other kings in place of James. However, the old spelling of sirloin is surloin, as in surname. So the far more prosaic and far more accurate answer is
Its from the French pronoun – sur – meaning over.

Not so funny or charming really, but that’s life, isn’t it.
Advice – a false for a true or false question.

How did the Lovers in the Opera Aida die ?

This is a very special type of wrong’un. Its still possible to go to quizzes, where you will be asked this question, and be told the answer is that they were
Burned alive

Its wrong, and its all due to a printing error. Like many question masters I’ve had my favourite sources for questions over the years, and one of them has been The Pears Quiz Companion. Its been superceded by bigger and better books over the years, but its served well over the years. However, it does state that the lovers were burned alive, rather than the correct answer
Buried alive

Its only one letter, but it makes all the difference. For some reason, as well, this error from the original 1987 edition was never picked up in the new editions of the mid nineties, and the year 2000. So two generations of quiz masters have asked it, and given the wrong answer in all good faith. Me included.
Advice – no one can blame you for taking the answer from the Quiz Companion, but now you know the truth, you’ve no excuse. Get it right.

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