A story dating back to the 18th century about a certain James Daly, manager of a Dublin theater who, deep into his cups one evening boldly declared he could invent a new word and overnight make it part of English language. Daly hired street urchins and beggars and sent them off with orders to mark the word on every city wall. The word was quiz, and by noon the next day everyone was asking what it meant. The ‘act of asking’ soon became the meaning of the word.
Whatever the word’s origin, etymologists aren’t certain whether to believe Daly’s story or whether it’s a corruption of the Latin quid est - meaning What is it? or even a derivation from Inquisition - courtesy of the judicial tortures of 15th century Catholic Spain - we all know what ‘quiz’ means now.
Quizzing is an endless mind game which helps individuals to keep themselves abreast of the developments in general and in their area of interest. It’s addictive. It’s inanely fascinating. It becomes delightful with a heady mix of information and entertainment. A set of questions during a quiz may go dry and slow while a number of them may reach high momentum with fast-paced questions and sharp shooting answers. The expressions of the contenders during a quiz may range from confident grins, puckered brows, bland stares, fists punching the air, mild brawls between team-mates and moving heads to hysterical convulsions especially when the quiz reaches its climax. The members of the audience too are drawn into the trance until the quiz itself comes to a grinding halt. The primary reason that ushers people into quizzing is the sheer interest to know more. “The constant urge to know, assimilate & cross link information is the main reason why I was driven to quizzing. The satisfaction one derives after working out an answer with the help of clues is enormous,” enthuses Amit Pandeya, reigning National champion at TATA Crucible and a winner of various quizzes.
Quizzing started in India 40 years ago when Neil O’ Brien conducted the first well-structured quiz in Calcutta. Today, India plays home to a fantastic body of people forming a huge quizzing fraternity. With more and more colleges, schools and even companies coming up with their own brands of quizzes, it’s almost like a whole new world celebrating this unique ‘art of learning.’ Says Rajiv Rai (winner of Brand Equity Quiz 2005 and 2007), “India is one of the quizzing capitals of the world. Parents encourage their kids to quiz and being a quizzer is seen as equivalent of being brainy. At school and college levels quizzing is a very popular pursuit, which then gradually dies down due to the pressures of professional life. Quizzing communities have used sites, groups and blogs to stay in touch.”
Over the last two decades, corporates and marketers have used Quizzing as a medium for building brands and to reach niche audiences. Increasing sponsorship and media attention have also led to its popularity. “Television and Internet have been the biggest factors for the spread of Quizzing. Popular quiz shows like KBC, Bournvita Quiz Contest, Mastermind, BT Acumen, TATA Crucible, etc., have helped quizzing gain mass acceptance,” points out AP Alagarsamy, former President of K-Circle quiz club.
Mere awareness will not fetch you success in quizzes, rather applying a fair amount of lateral thinking also becomes important. Here, knowledge and information is used as a starting point, but to get to the answer, the quizzer will have to traverse across related bits of information and string them together. The quizzer must question and discriminate. He/she must be able to tell facts from shades of facts. “For example, this happened with me in one of the general quizzes I attended recently. The question was, ‘Which Indian city is believed to have got its name when Lord Shiva showered divine nectar on it from his matted locks?’ Though being clueless, we figured out that the suitable Sanskrit/ Hindi word for ‘nectar’ would be madhu. Thus, we guessed Madhurai and it turned out to be right”, narrates Dhananjay S, a leading quizzer and budding quizmaster.
Today, access to information is at one’s finger tips. It is no more a challenge to know a lot of stuff. The real challenge though, is to apply the mind. Then again, the knowledge application part helps retain an interest in quizzing, by taking it one level higher. Thereby, the joy of Quizzing for many is not always about towering on top and clinching prizes. It’s about cracking (at least) one question by sheer application of mind, accumulated knowledge, giving in to an impulse and making wild yet intelligent guesses. And if the answer turns out to be right, the happiness knows no bounds. Narrates Pandeya, “A stamp depicting a tower cum antennae, at New Foundland (Canada) was shown. For a second it stumped me. Then, it dawned on me that perhaps its something related to Radio especially trans-atlantic transmission. After being passed by all the other teams, I replied ‘maybe this tower commemorates Marconi’s First trans-Atlantic wireless Signal.’ This turned out to be a right answer, much to my surprise!”
From beer bottles and live ducks to jeans and shoes to laptops and foreign holidays, Quizzes offer a couple of crores for grabs today. Mounting sponsorships with an intention to increase audience base, Quizzing has quite settled on the commercial couch. So, is a lot of money bad really? Will it kill the very concept? Explains Rai, “In today’s world, a certain amount of commercialization is inevitable and welcome. Corporate sponsorships have only made events more slick and glamorous. While the lowest common denominator for an event like KBC is money, the overall publicity has had a positive rub-off on quizzing. Moreover, quality of quizzing has improved over the years in spite of, or maybe because of this commercialization.”
Quizzing and setting questions for quizzes is also a full-time profession for many. The knowledge business, especially in the area of research, is a great place to be. After all, how many professions pay you to read books, magazines and watch films/TV? Says Lloyd Saldanha, a full-time researcher at Greycaps, “The scope is huge but one needs to have a passion for research. When I joined Greycaps I thought I would take it as it comes but now three years into this career, I can’t see myself having chosen a better path. What’s best is you get paid to do what you love doing.”
In 1782, the word quiz “meant an odd, eccentric person in character and spirit” and by 1807, its definition had “changed to a practical joke,” says Edmund Marsden, director of the British Council in India. But quizzing today is not a joke. It is probably the world’s most intellectual hobby, joining millions of people with an acute thirst for knowledge. Jaws hang and eyes pop out, when one sees the contestants pick off those tough questions so easily. The magic in a Quiz happens between the content and the contender. But what is more miraculous is its ability to lull everyone - even the audience - into a memorable stupor.
Cheers to this beauty of a game!
Yahoo Quiz groups - Quiznet, QFI Chennai, IBQ, Quinkie, Jigyasa, Inquizitive.