Fri Dec 27, 2002

Quintessence of Trivia

Roger Ailes links to the King Williams College General Knowledge Paper, which is apparently administered to pupils of the school each year. I have mixed feelings about these kinds of quizzes. On the one hand, I hate them, because—- and this is especially true in this case—- they represent little more than accumulated cultural capital. Any quiz with 10 questions on different Archbishops of Canterbury and 10 more on different mistresses of monarchs really is not worth getting into. Unless you have precisely the right kind of schooling (the sort that gained and later lost Britain its Empire, essentially) you are bound to do very badly indeed. Besides, it’s completely meaningless. George Orwell has the best critique of this sort of crap in his essay “Such, Such Were the Joys”:

There was in those days a piece of nonsense called the Harrow History Prize … At Crossgates we mugged up on every paper that had been set since the competition started. They were the kind of stupid question that is answered by rapping out a name or quotation. Who plundered the Begams? Who was beheaded in an open boat? Who caught the Whigs bathing and ran away with their clothes?

On the other hand, it’s an unfortunate fact that I am much better at these sorts of questions than I am at useful things like, say, algebra. So I can never resist having a crack. Here are the ones I think I got about right, along with some guesses. Correct me if I’m wrong.

1. “In 1902” 1-1. Trick question. Edward VII is the wrong answer. I don’t know the right one. 1-6. Thorneycroft.

2. In which town or city: 2-1. Bah. Should know this one. 2-4. Istanbul. (Haga Sofia.)

3. Who lost: 3-3. Tycho Brahe, I think. 3-5. Douglas Bader, maybe? (Definitely lost the legs, but I thought he survived the war.) 3-10. Lord Nelson.

4. [No Title] 4-3. Dick Turpin. 4-9. Don Quixote.

5. [No Title] Nope, sorry, haven’t a clue.

6. Numerically, what or where: 6-2. Are they looking for a particular one here?

7. Which Archbishop of Canterbury: You’re joking, right? On principle, though, St Thomas a Beckett must be the right answer to one of these.

8. Who depicted himself: 8-4. Van Gogh.

9. What: 9-4. Some kind of fancy cheese, I imagine.

10. With whom did the following share his majesty’s bedchamber: Hahahahahaha. Sorry. Move along.

11. Ossify: What? If I knew the rule I’d have a go.

12. [No title] 12-1. Nora. 12-3. Alec Guinness. 12-4. Errol Flynn. 12-5. Dunno. Molesworth? William?

13. [No title.] 13-5. Chuck Berry. (Right?) 13-8. The thing they used on D-Day. I think it was called the Mulberry. 13-10. Strawberry Fields.

14. What: 14-2. The Sirocco? But I thought that went the other way. 14-9. El Nino?

15. Where, in Europe, is: Not a clue on any of these, alas.

16. At what time: 16-4. At noon, I think. (When mad dogs and Englishmen go out, etc, right?) 16-8. In the morning sometime. 16-9. Don’t know. Check your Jules Verne. 16-10. 8pm. (Thank you Patrick O’Brian. And why are they called dogwatches? Because they are curtailed, of course.)

17. Where: 17-6. At Oxford? Is this the Pepys library? 17-8. It was on a spike outside the tower for several years I think. Now probably on Ebay.

18. In 2002: 18-1. England (one hopes). 18-3. Probably Ronald McDonald. 18-7. Spain, I think.

That’s too many questions and not enough answers. Oh well.