12 November 2010

Universally Challenged: “Quiz answers that prove Britain really is dumbing down”

As a continental European proud of her free quality secondary education, it has always been a mystery to me why in a country as supposedly economically developed as the UK, the general knowledge of the average population can be as shockingly non-existent as can be its command of its native language, let alone its knowledge of any second language. Parallels with Bush Jr.'s visit to the obscure “country” of Africa come to mind, as well as getting asked by an English lady in the academic section of a book shop how to spell “catastrophe”, only to see it misspelled with y at the end on the cover page of The Times (yes!) the very next day. You also wouldn't believe how many people in England believe I'm from Australia or who ask me what language is spoken in Austria. Or the times I went to my London GP (London having a very different socio-economic composition than most cities in the rest of the UK) and was treated with an attitude of “What would YOU know?” when, being used to the more collaborative patient-doctor partnership in continental Europe, I demanded more detailed and comprehensive information than “I can see too that this is sore. Go back to Boots and buy this over-the-counter pain killer. I don't even get why you came to see a doctor. Is there anything else I can do for you?” (in essence). I won't even start with home improvement standards or health and safety notices. Or the BA student who did not know that Northern Ireland was one of the four states of the country she is a citizen of ("I have wondered why it is always on the map in the weather forecast").

All of this is hilariously demonstrated in a dedicated book called “Universally Challenged” by Wendy Roby*, featured in an article by the Daily Mail on 11 November 2010 titled “Quiz answers that prove Britain really is dumbing down”.

The article says, “Despite ever-improving school exam results, proof of how Britons are dumbing down can be seen every day in the embarrassingly wrong answers given on television and radio quiz shows. TV show QI has even conducted its own quiz on the streets of Britain and found that we are, broadly speaking, a nation that doesn't make full use of its brain power. Now, a new book has collected some of the funniest and most witless quiz show answers...”

I was shaking with laughter when I read the excerpted examples and am still amused by them!

Host: Of which hot drink is “eat” an anagram?
Contestant: Hot chocolate?

Host: Was the Tyrannosaurus Rex a carnivore or a herbivore?
Contestant: No, it was a dinosaur.

Host: What is the name given to the condition where the sufferer can fall asleep at any time?
Contestant: Nostalgia.

Host: Name the German national airline.
Contestant: The Luftwaffe.

Host: Do you know where Cambridge University is?
Contestant [laughing]: No, geography is not my strong point.
Host: There's a clue in its title.
Contestant: Er... Leicester?

Host: In sport, the name of which famous racehorse was the word “murder” spelled backwards.
Contestant: Starter gun.

Host: What is Hitler's first name?
Contestant: Heil.

Host: What is the capital of Italy?
Contestant: France.
Host: France is another country. Try again.
Contestant: Oh, um, Benidorm.
Host: Wrong, sorry, let's try another question. In which country is the Parthenon?
Contestant: Sorry, I don't know.
Host: Just guess a country, then.
Contestant: Paris.

Host: With whom did Britain go to war over the Falklands?
Contestant: Err...
Host: It's a South American country.
Contestant: Iran.

Host: In which European country is Mount Etna?
Contestant: Japan.
Host: I did say which European country, so in case you didn't hear that, I can let you try again.
Contestant: Er... Mexico?

Read some more on the original Daily Mail article or get the book - I definitely know it will be on my Christmas wish list this year! ;)

*Universally Challenged refers to the long-running TV quiz show University Challenge where universities compete against each other. It is quite popular with UK students. You can stream the episodes on BBC iPlayer HERE (at least within the UK). This week: Oxford Brookes vs. University of the Arts London. See also its Wikipedia article HERE.

2 courageous comments!:

kat said...

The Luftwaffe :D. somebody's still stuck in the 1940s, right?

Heidi said...

war-interrupted education would be an excuse but sadly, this is a contemporary...