Last week, I attended my first ever quiz at the cross-cultural quiz evening organised by the French Chamber of Great-Britain and written by Peter Alfandary. The previous two events having been seriously talked up as amazing fun evenings got my curiosity going. I must admit, that was absolutely right and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I was privileged to be a member of what was to turn out to be the winning team; need I say any more.

Quizzes take all shapes and forms and the origins of the word are uncertain. It is seen to be mentioned in 1781 meaning an odd person. Over time, its meaning evolved into making fun of something/someone. Its evolution continued to its present meaning of test, appearing in the U.S. with that meaning in about 1867.

Another possible origin for the word could be from the Latin ‘quis es?’, ‘Who are you?’

It may also come from the English dialect verb ‘quiset’ meaning to question, according to the American Heritage Dictionary.

A rather fun myth tells the story of James Daly, a theatre owner, who made a bet in 1791 that he could introduce a word into the English language within 24 hours. He hired a group of street urchins to write the word ‘quiz’ on all the walls they found in Dublin. Nobody knew what the word ‘quiz’ meant but everybody was using it, and Daly got some extra cash in his pocket.

Quizzes are used in all sorts of manner

  • Dating
  • Personality profiling
  • Education
  • Exams
  • Self-assessment
  • Love
  • Competition

One particular form, the Pub Quiz, started in the 1970s, has become a particularly British event and is now part of its culture. There is even an annual event, the Great British Pub Quiz competition. The starting date this year is in April; there are weekly quizzes with the top scoring teams going on to regional and then onto national competitions. The whole process lasts for about six months.

Quizzes as a competition are not an exclusive British ‘sport’; countries such as Australia, Belgium, Canada, India, Lithuania, the U.S. have associations and organisations promoting it.

According to the Guinness Book of Records, the largest ever pub quiz was the ‘Quiz for Life’, held at the Flanders Expo Hall in Ghent, Belgium, on the 11th December 2010 with 2,280 participants.

I would be remiss not to mention board games such Trivial Pursuits or Bezzerwizzer, the TV quiz shows and online quizzes.

To conclude, in which country did the word ‘quiz’ make its first appearance with the meaning of test? 

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