Questioning ones facts is not an assault on your integrity, until your actions make it so…

One of the Facebook groups that I’m a member of was celebrating its first year anniversary this weekend. To celebrate they held a competition with the winner being awarded a copy of around 40 books each published by individual members of the group.

Being an avid reader, a former English Literature student and being home housebound made this competition pretty appealing. It consisted of 30 questions on English Literature, plus two bonus questions that were intended as tie-breakers. As it turns out they had two people successfully answer all 30 questions and both tie-breakers so they’re having an extra round for those two people.

In the meantime, they posted the correct answers today.

Now, I should state that I did actually question one of the questions before the competition closed and was assured that the question was accurate.

Anyway, I was reviewing my answers today against the correct ones having been previously informed that while I had answered the two bonus questions correctly I had four of the actual questions wrong.

One of these I already knew about as I had not been able to answer it at all. One of them was the one that I had questioned. A third, I had simply not answered the question fully. Which my students would be very amused by as I constantly remind them to make sure that they answer all elements of a question! The fourth was one that I’ll comment on in a minute.

So the one that I couldn’t answer was:

In Hiding in Plain Sight, what book does the main character wish he was a part of?

I could think of about 4-5 books titled “Hiding in Plain Sight“. Not least the version by Nuruddin Farah. As Farah has been awarded several prizes in literature and is often nominated for the Nobel prize in literature I thought at first that the question had a typo in it and that it should read “she was a part of” but I couldn’t find any reference to the main character wanting to be part of a book.

The same issue held true for all the other books that I could find with the same title. They all had a female as the main character and none of them referred to wanting to be a part of a book.

The correct answer turned out to be a short story with the same title in an anthology of short stories titled ‘Through the eyes of another’  by one of the authors of the quiz, Christopher Ryan Broom.

I did previously ask if there were any trick questions when I questioned one of the other questions and was assured that there wasn’t. I disagree with that answer as I do feel that this was a trick question as the only way to know the answer would be to own, and have read, a copy of this modern book.

The anthology is no longer available on Amazon and so the only place that you could acquire the book  from is the author’s own page. Nowhere can I find a list of contents for this anthology so knowing that it contains a short story titled ‘Hiding in Plain Sight’  is not something that you could identify even with a lot of research unless you previously owned the book!

However, fair point to the quiz developers.

This question did make a very important point to me. As, and when, I ever write a novel I will make very sure that the title is not identical to that of other work!

The fourth question that I had wrong was this.

Which of these sentences’ punctuation is correct?

  1. “Put me down!” She said.
  2. “Put me down.” she said.
  3. “Put me down,” She said.
  4. “Put me down,” she said.

I knew that a and c were definitely incorrect as the word ‘she’ was not a proper noun or the start of a new sentence. So that left me with b or d. I would actually have written it as

“Put me down!” she said.

So given that there was no continuation of what was said after the phrase ‘she said’ I went with answer b.

The correct answer was d.

This was accurate and verified in a number of grammar guides. Apparently, when a sentence should end with a period but is a direct quote and followed by the statement like ‘she said’ then the period should always be replaced with a comma.

The Oxford Dictionaries Guide provide much better examples.

Another fair point to the quiz developers.

The question that I just didn’t answer correctly was, ironically, the very first question!

This poet only wrote 1 novel, which was published the same month she committed suicide. Who was the poet/author and what was the novel?

The answer being Sylvia Plath and “The Bell Jar”. As I have studied the work of both Sylvia Plath and her husband Ted Hughes extensively this was very annoying as I had no doubt about the answer and knew the name of the book! However, I only provided Sylvia Plath’s name as my answer.

Third point fair and square to the quiz developers.

Then we come to my ongoing point of contention; that I’m going to explain and then leave as a challenge to you, my readers. This is the question that I queried from the start. It was written like this:

Which Victorian author wrote the plays ‘Frozen Deep’ and ‘No Gobblins’? [sic]

Now, many people would provide the answer Charles Dickens to this question and in fact, if you google it, this is the answer you will find repeatedly. It is a question that is used in literature quizzes often.

However, Charles Dickens is another author that I studied extensively. So I knew that the correct answer to the first part of the question, referring to the play ‘Frozen Deep’, was actually Wilkie Collins under the guidance of Charles Dickens. Charles Dickens produced the play Frozen Deep, but Wilkie Collins was actually the author of it.

Given the fact that ‘Frozen Deep’ is often attributed to Charles Dickens, and some sources say that they co-authored it the quiz developers accepted both answers.

However, while Wilkie Collins had nightmares about goblins due to the medication he was on, to the best of my knowledge neither he or Charles Dickens, ever wrote a play with the title “No Gobblins” [sic].

In fact, I don’t believe that there is even a Play with the title “No Gobblins” [sic], let alone a Victorian play.

So I asked the quiz developers to provide me with a citation for their question simply because I’m curious.

Well, this is where it gets interesting.

Their first response was that as 90% of the people who answered the quiz got it right (including me), why was I questioning it at all.

I explained that I really would just like to know their source for this second play.

Then I got told “I’m not doing your homework for you. That’s part of the game. Do your research. Google doesn’t always have the answer.” [sic]

To which I responded that I wasn’t referring to Google as Google kept coming up with this question and answer as used in multiple literature quizzes; I was looking for a citation to the play itself.

The next response, contrary to their first was that “It took me two seconds to find the answer regarding No Gobblins on Google.” [sic]

I again asked for a citation to the play itself. I have yet to receive an answer… but apparently, I have impugned the integrity of the quiz developers by asking any of the questions that I have.

So this leaves me with two issues. I’m obviously not continuing this argument because it’s the only question standing between me and winning as I had several others wrong. I’m asking because I genuinely want to know the answer.

The second issue is why do people take it so personally when you question factual issues? I can understand it if I was continuing to question the question that I consider a trick question, as it was the author’s own work.

However, I’m questioning something that is based on fact (or should be) from the Victorian era! I have always believed that if I don’t know about something that I’m interested in that I should find out about it and that the best way of doing that is often to ask questions.

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It has always astounded me how often people won’t question and make assumptions. However, given the response that I’m getting from ‘professional’ writers and editors I can understand why people would stop questioning. I have been very careful to ask respectfully and without making anything personal. I’d just like to know their source.

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However, their response is actually now making me question their integrity. For how hard would it be to post a link to the citation for “The Gobblins” [sic] if it actually exists?

Perhaps they didn’t do their research and simply used a question set in several literature quizzes that had been proven to be incorrect already. In fact, 7 of their 30 questions (including this one) were directly quoted from a literature quiz that was available online.

I personally found this very disappointing as I had been enjoying the challenge of new questions. I also consider it plagiarism and any student that submitted something to me with over a 1/4 of the work being plagiarized would be asked to provide an explanation and likely would be placed on academic probation, if not expelled!

However, the fact remains this is a fiction writing group and the rules seem to be quite different to that which I subscribe to being an academic author for over 20 years before I joined this genre.

It will be interesting to see if they ever provide an answer to my question. Curiously, other members are now calling them out on not answering my question too!

So I will continue to question everything as I do not believe that there are stupid questions. However, I will finish with a challenge to you – can you identify a source for a play titled “The Gobblins” [sic]? I’ll take one called ‘The Goblins’ too, and by any author at this point. However, surprisingly I still can’t find a single reference to such a play. Can you?

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 UPDATE: One of my readers contacted me to provide this reference to a play called ‘The Goblins’. So we’re a step closer but unfortunately, this one was produced and published 200 years before Dickens and Collins!

One thought on “Questioning ones facts is not an assault on your integrity, until your actions make it so…”

  1. omg I love this! Absolutely! I find people just don’t ask those questions and when you do the people who should have the answer but don’t get angry “How dare you question me” kind of attitude … I am always baffled and amused because that’s when you caught someone with their pants down. Good call!

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