Friday, 18 April 2014

Swings and Roundabouts

It’s probably wrong of me to say anything critical of last night’s quiz at the rugby club since we did actually win. But in the last two rounds there were just a couple of questions which illustrated some of the pitfalls the unwary question master can fall into. Last night’s question master (no names , no pack drill) sometimes has a habit of asking a greater number of what the ‘ells than the norm, and when giving the answer has been known to make the observation – “Nobody had this one right – I didn’t expect anyone to.” Well, last night’s quiz was, in my opinion a little uneven. There were quite a lot of what-the-‘ells, and too many –est questions for my liking. As the name suggests, an –est question asks for the biggest, longest, fastest etc. However, in amongst all of this, there were a couple of gems. I really liked this one : -
Who was the first English monarch following 1066 to reach the age of 70?
I like this sort of question, which you don’t know the answer to, but there’s enough in the question to allow you to use what you do know in order to have a decent stab at what you don’t. As it worked out, we didn’t have it right, for we put down Elizabeth I, who made it into her 70th year, but not as far as her 70th birthday. The answer given was King George II.

All well and good, but as I said, there were those two questions towards the end of the quiz which illustrted what can happen to the unwitting quiz master. The first one was this : -
Which US state is nicknamed The Pine Free State?
After a momentary pause for a flight of fancy about what a pine free state would actually be like, I suggested to the QM that he probably meant the Pine Tree state. As was his right, he insisted that Pine Free was what he actually had written down. I’m not proud of this, but I replied somewhat sarcastically, “Well, just have a think for a minute about which one would make sense, eh?” Now, we’ve all made similar errors in our time. However, the problem was that when the end of the round came, he gave the answer as “Vermont”. My immediate thought was “Isn’t Vermont the Green Mountain State?” My second thought was “Yes, it is.” I didn’t make an issue of it since some of the states do have more than one nickname. But I checked it up when I got home. As I’m sure that the majority of readers know, it is actually Maine.

The other question was more complicated than being an out and out wrong’un. The question was : -
In the Old Testament, in which modern day country would you find the site of Abraham’s birthplace?
You’ve probably already mentioned Ur of the Chaldees as quickly as I did last night. Now, we immediately plumped for Iraq, partly because this is the location of Sumerian Ur, and partly because this was the answer given last time I heard the question. So I was more than a little surprised when the answer was given as Turkey. This time I didn’t complain, but again, I did look it up when I got home. The problem is that there is no unanimous agreement as to where ‘Ur of the Chaldees’ actually was. Some identify it with Sumerian Ur, while others identify it with a place which is actually in modern Turkey. Mind you, other people identify it with sites in Syria and Armenia, so what can you do?

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