Queries in quizzing

From rummaging up the answer to that one particularly piquing question managing to evade a single correct response to amusedly ticking off options from a list that claims to reveal the real you, quizzes has been a popular way in acquiring knowledge and relaying information. Curiosity is indeed what marks the premise of this scheme of questioning and answering whether it be one taken to quite competitively or indulged otherwise in recreational basis of it. Seen often as quite inquisitive a way in availing the up-to-date tag in general awareness while testing also one’s knowledge and aptitude and other aspects of their know how, with sometimes prize money to be won out of this exercise in wisdom or at other times gaining insight into one’s own self as might be the case with personality quizzes or other fun modes in dwelling upon their individual preferences as well of as diverse character as possible, these common plays almost of racing the mind happen to be a necessary aspect of lives in various mannerisms of them.

Unlike so many other continuing modes in testing wisdom of the largely exalted intelligence possessed by the human species, it however is much of a dilemma to come to dwell on the exact basis of how and when and perhaps even why quizzing came to be. Contrast that to the many other pursuits in learning and relaxation alike say of teaching or painting or singing or dancing and just about any random expression of what has characterised human living since antiquity and quizzes happen to be a fairly recent phenomena despite not very conclusive evidence substantiating its claim in origins.

Away from the conventional mode in having to thank the early innovativeness of the ancient Greeks and Romans for almost every single invention and discovery in experience and in things that continue to define some chunk of our current existence, quizzes has not made us any more indebted to our ancestors than what we already are. That’s because of the very obscure origin of quizzes as such in the sense we know them today which is quite a matter of intrigue since a quiz on the history of quizzes should have been great ground for further eking out categories out of the questioning and answering fetishes loved by the incredibly intelligent humankind.

To make matters even more apt in catering to the quizzical buzz, it isn’t just the concept but also the nomenclature of quizzes and quizzing et al that has refused to conform to a logically coherent scheme of arguments and reasoning in explanation. The term itself rests in quite a couple of distinct interpretations today that though related in their meanings still tend to be rather individually alluding to certain definite contexts. But in its very basic form wherefrom quiz evolved to take on its current context, this short and simple four letter word stood for a certain type of person. Type as in the nature of their personality, as one that personified the adjectives of odd and eccentric and absurd and weird in a manner of its usage not so much in prominence today.

That itself is a case in description not much ancient itself with examples particularly drawn out of a 19th century vocabulary. But the prevalence of it in that sense have been noted since at least times of the second half of the 1700s. What has remained common through all its emergence in history and its subsequent coming to acquire and characterise newer dimensions though is the fact of the origin of quiz being rather unclear to warrant a precise outlining of its etymology. Speculations persist though of the term being a jocular derivation from the Latin pronoun quis meaning ‘who’ and one that referred also, by extension of its profiling of an eccentric person, to a joke or a hoax or some such rounding up of harmless fun.

To say that the exact instance of the quiz coming into existence cannot be really dug out from the pages of the many a number of references time and again explored and examined should however occur as a farce in the face of it. And yet what turns out to be more farcical is also the tale that has for long attempted to substantiate the origin of the term in as definite manner as possible. More than often reiterated a version of what however is for some reason not considered as the greater reality is a very prominent 1791 account involving Irishman Richard Daly as the propagator of this term in particular popularity. As part of a bet that he made of introducing a new word into the English language that would be all the buzz, the word quiz would be supposedly born from scribblings all over walls in Dublin. The bet was won and quiz established as a definite word with a definite meaning. But what eluded still this basis of explanation had been the validity that somehow refused to set in despite very concrete presentation in the physicality of the facts and the figures.

From its setting in a jocular dimension to its subsequent coming to command importance as something definitely related to the intellect in as plain or as profound manner of assertion as the case might be, the nature of what is embodied by quizzes has seen a sea change of ideologies and thoughts ascribed to it. The more current, long continuing meaning of it as a test or exam or something along those lines of arousing is a mid 19th century establishment though and one that is what substantiates also the other associated connotations of it in being an alternative term for questioning or interrogating or intent studying of someone or something.

Cutting to times almost a century later and the even current context of quizzes as being a concept in competitive play comes to dawn upon the world as a novelty surprisingly eked out of the not most conducive of circumstances. From its 1850s and after steeping in an academic scenario to its embarking in the 1900s along a route regarded more in relaxation to its more esteemed stature as something having to do with knowledge and intelligence and wisdom, quizzes might have been long capturing of the collective world imagination but the basic premise of its bearing tends to be as depraved as far as its claim in certain origins is concerned.

Putting aside all that concern in what ultimately is ‘only’ the dynamic change of its definition and the quiz as we know it today as a format in questioning and answering has to be a definite English exploration. Emerging from times rather turbulent as what would characterise indeed the period of the Second World War would be a certain strain of the quiz that still finds expression across some strata of their existence as ‘bee’, though spelling bees had already been in existence since long back, from times of the early 19th century in fact. Even in allowing for such diversity though, it had been from some such bees broadcast by the BBC from which competitive quizzing had its nascent beginnings.

A 1938 Transatlantic Spelling Bee organised between students of Harvard and Radcliffe colleges and students of Oxford as well as some Air Raid Warden Bees designed to test random knowledge of random civilians of that period therefore can be hailed as the beacons wherefrom quizzing gained acceptance as a mass medium in furthering knowledgeable entertainment. The war era went down in history as the years that effected a great deal of change in the whole world but retaining the by then sufficiently popular format in quizzing, rather enhancing their appeal through offering of prizes and monetary rewards.

This format of the quiz established in all ‘worthy’ bearings of it also spawned another universe altogether of quizzical identities. The quizmaster is the one to most logically follow perhaps even as quirky identities of the quiz kid or whizz kid manifests as more striking a derivation of sorts. Even the module of conducting quizzes led to the emergence of so many diversely relevant concepts like those of rounds and teams and buzzers and time limits, while methods in presenting the questions themselves in innovative ways so as to break the monotony as well as to make allowance for variety have continuously been devised to help quizzes retain their popular charm and appeal.

To outline the importance and/ or benefits of quizzes both in the competitive strand of their credibility as a learning aid as well as in the enriching pursuit of it as leisure is something that one does not even require to proceed with in all evident awareness of their essence. An integral part of the school and college curriculum where it passes off as extracurricular activity even with definitely ingrained academic notions has already made the case strong enough for quizzes to not be at the mercy of detailed discourses of their need. Dwell otherwise though on the fun nature of them as being recounting from pop culture and drawing upon personal inferences and quizzes still are as important in all dynamics of what one chooses to extract out of them. With the two ultimate elements of intelligence and logic at our disposal, human beings sure are more than better off with the current context of the quiz than the early considerations of them.