Saturday, 4 June 2011

Urban Myth - Ambiguous Questions

I mentioned Brian’s excellent quiz in the rugby club on Thursday night in one of yesterday’s posts. One thing which I didn’t mention was the reappearance of a couple of contentious questions. I’ve certainly mentioned one of these before in my “The Question Master Is Always Right” series of posts a couple of years ago. This one was : -

Charles Manson had an audition for which 1960’s TV show ?

I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve even been asked this question before yourself. If you hear the question asked, then the answer that the question master requires is The Monkees. However the consensus of opinion about this one is that its an urban myth, and that Manson was actually serving a term of incarceration when the auditions were taking place. What’s interesting is to consider how the urban myth started. I mean, who first stated this as a fact, and did they do so as a deliberate hoax ? If so it’s a work of near genius. Examples of this kind of deliberate hoax which have entered the world of accepted quiz trivia are the myths that Bob Holness played the saxophone on Baker Street – which I believe has been claimed as the brainchild of Sturart Maconie, and that Captain Pugwash ever contained characters called Master Bates etc., which I believe has been claimed as the work of Victor Lewis Smith. Of course the truth may be more prosaic and boring, that its just a genuine mistake – a case almost of wishful thinking - taking something which COULD have happened, and saying that it actually DID happen. A good example of this one is the persistent myth that Stan Laurel was Clint Eastwood’s father. Not true in the least – his father was Clint Eastwood Sr. – but you can understand where the myth came from since Clint was born in the same year as Stan Laurel’s son, who sadly died. Its such a good story that the fact that there’s no truth in it tends to be overlooked.

The other question was of a different sort , and this one was : -

What was the name of the dog in the Tom and Jerry cartoons ?

The problem with this question is that there are three possible answers. Firstly, that there were two dogs who appeared in quite a number of cartoons, namely, Spike the Bulldog, and his son Tyke. (Dat’s ma boy !) Alright, that’s fairly easily cleared up with a question to the QM – do you mean the main dog, or the puppy ? But then there’s a more difficult problem. You see, and I’m sure that you already know this, Spike is actually called Butch in some of the cartoons. So which do you go for ? Spike is more often given as the answer, but I’ve been given wrong for that in the past when the QM has Butch written down. If you write both down you are really throwing yourself on the mercy of the marker, and if the marker doesn’t actually know that there are 2 possible names for the dog, then they will probably mark you wrong for putting two answers down anyway. I don’t blame Brian for the question for one minute. He is not a devotee of Tom and Jerry – doesn’t know what he’s been missing IMHO – and he can only go on the answers in the books.

There are other questions which pose similar problems. One which we had in a quiz a while back was this one : -

Which was the last album by The Beatles ?

If you’re a fan of the Fab Four – or even if you’re not, but you know a bit about them , then you can see the problem with the question. After all – the last album to be released was Let It Be – which didn’t come out until after they had split. However the last album to be recorded was Abbey Road, which was recorded after Let It Be . So which is the right answer ? If the question master doesn’t actually say that it was the last one recorded, then Let it Be is probably a better bet – but its still a gamble.

I’ll be interested to hear anyone else’s recent experiences with similar questions.


Ben Dutton said...

Three filmic ambigious questions:

"Which actor's last role was 'The Misfits?'"

I always ask, male or female lead. I tell them there are two actors for whom this was the final film. They tell me only what they have on their answer sheet. It's usually Marilyn Monroe they are looking for, but once it's been Clark Gable.

Of course, then you got the flip of this question:

"What was the last film Marilyn Monroe appeared in?"

Of course they're after 'The Misfits', except when they're after 'Something's Gotta Give'. Admitedly, they usually ask "What was the title of the film Monroe was working on when she died?" But once they didn't.

Then, just one more film one, I've been asked:

"What is the title of Laurel & Hardy's last film togehter?"

Do you put down 'Utopia', which is how it's sold on DVD in the UK now, and how it was known in America? Do you put down 'Robinson Crusoeland' which is how it was known when it came out in the UK in 1953? Or do you put down 'Atoll K', which is how it's known in France? Three answers, all correct, for one little (and pretty poor) film. I've had 'Atoll K' and 'Utopia' given as correct so far, but never 'Robinson Crusoeland'.

Andrew B. said...

Not an "urban myth" type... but a friend of mine in our local quiz league always hates getting the question

"What does IAAF - the governing body of athletics - stand for?"

because he knows the right answer is "International Association of Athletics Federations", whereas the question setter may well think it's still "International Amateur Athletics Federation".

I remember a big argument over the Trivial Pursuit question "Which famous character died at the Reichenbach Falls?" when someone gave "Professor Moriarty" as their answer...

joe said...

Another one is the old chestnut - Where was Mother Theresa born?

Depending on the questionmaster, the answer he may be looking for will be one of The Ottoman Empire, The Republic of Macedonia or Albania. She was indeed born in Skopje, which fits the bill for each of the above.

Londinius said...

Hi Ben ,

Oh yes, that Misfits question has done the rounds, I'm afraid.

Hi Andrew

Yes, and the point is that Moriarty is, IIRC, a better answer than Holmes ! Since as we know, Conan Doyle bowed to public pressure, and brought him back ! So in one sense he didn't die there, certainly.

Hi Joe

Again, the Mother Theresa question has done for me, not once, but twice with 2 different question masters ! Ouch.