Testing, Testing

So, while the rest of you were watching Britney crash and burn perform on the MVA’s last night, I was engaged in something a little more, well, um…

I’m a total nerd. I was participating in Test the Nation: Watch Your Language, a 2-hour language and grammar test on CBC.

Not only was I watching and participating, but I also had the official score card for home use. And I had my pen, and I made Chris put Bee to sleep so that I wouldn’t miss any of it. How could I resist? I’m a writer and copy editor by trade and choice, and this kind of thing seriously turns me on. (Although Chris debates whether it is the challenge, or the fact that it probably isn’t a challenge and will easily award me positive reinforcement, that actually turns me on.)

Anyway, this isn’t about my tragic need to do well and be called smart. It’s about my tragic need to win.

So here I am, scorecard and pen poised and at the ready (balanced between my second helping of chicken pot pie, because winning makes me hungry), sussing out my studio audience competition, comprised of 7 groups – ad writers, word gamers, English teachers, fraternity and sorority members, comedians, romance novelists and celebrities. And by celebrities, I mean Canadian celebrities that were not a-list enough to be attending the MVA’s or TIFF or some local bocce ball tourney, so they were available for a national grammar test. So yeah, I recognized two of them.

But I digress.

So, ok, let’s get started! Spelling is the first subject, so I’m pumped. After all, I did make it all the way to provincials in the great Spelling Bee of ’86.

Question #1:
How do you spell the name of this flower:

a) chrysanthenum
b) chrasanthemum
c) chrysanthemum
d) chrysanthamum


Ok, so I get one wrong. No biggie. I can still get, like 99%, and be smarter than all but 1% of Canada (and I’ll have you know, we’re quite the nation of bright people).

The rest of the spelling test goes pretty well, until I get asked to spell this measure of time:

a) milenium
b) milennium
c) millennium
d) millenium

Oh crap. C looked right, until I saw D. One L? Two N’s? Two L’s and two N’s? Ah! Ah! Time is running out… okay, D it is.

Crap. Chris will later make fun of me for not knowing how to spell the name of the most influential spacecraft of all time (that would be the Millennium Falcon, of course), and I will owe him a ½ hour back rub, because even after I get the results of the test, I still can’t remember how to spell fucking millennium.

Anyway, I totally breeze right through the next category, Language Terms – c’mon with questions like:

What is the name for words like buzz, thud, clang and hiss?

a) Homonym
b) Synonym
c) Onomatopoeia
d) Homophobe

how could I do poorly? I even knew how to spell ‘onomatopoeia.’ (Hey, it’s no chrysanthemum). I also leave all the boomers in the dust as I ace the next section, Modern English, comprised of questions about ‘Teen Speak’ and texting (What does BRB stand for?), and am feeling very confident as we move into the next category, Everyday Mistakes. Happily, I don’t make any, and get all the questions right, except for one stupid trick question, and I bet you won’t get it right, either:

People who get what’s coming to them get their…

a) Just desserts
b) Just deserts
c) Justy zerts
d) Justazerts

Clearly we are looking to not fall into the desserts/deserts trap, right? Well, heh, heh, I am a copy editor, y’know, so, A.

Excuse me? It’s freakin’ what? Oh, so sorry that I did not know that in this instance, the word ‘deserts’ is derived from the ancient English form of ‘deserve,’ and therefore only has one S.


Plurals! Goody! I can do plurals! (And I don’t find it funny at all when the question, What is Toronto’s Hockey Team Called, comes up, and some joker in the audience yells, The Losers! Not. Funny. At. All.)

I get a perfect score on the next few categories (Euphemisms. Pfft. The Arts. Yawn. Nursery Rhymes. I could answer these in my sleep…), and then the Made in Canada section begins. This is where our national pride, and not just grammatical skillz are on the line. This is where we must step up and represent the mighty beaver. The Great White North…

Bismarks, Jambusters and Burlington Buns are all names for what?

Someone from Winnipeg is called…

In Newfoundland, a ‘vamp’ refers to…

In Saskatchewan, a ‘bunny hug’ is a…

In Thunder Bay, a ‘shag’ is a…

Seriously? This is supposed to represent my knowledge of Canada? Where are the questions about the extra ‘U?’ Where are the questions about Tim Horton or eavestroughs or The Tragically Hip or Laura Secord or Aero bars? This is getting ridiculous. My score is getting weaker with every query on regional minutiae they throw at me. Stupid CBC!

Deep breath. I think I can still achieve at least 80%, as long as the next category is something that I know a thing or two about, since obviously I know nothing about my country.

And the final category is… Word Origins. Hmmm. We’ll see how this goes. The ‘Just Deserts’ debacle kind of leaves me a bit worried about this one.

And worried I should be.

Which word is not originally a Native Canadian word?

Which word originally meant leisure?

What does Coquitlam mean?

(btw – it means STINKING WITH FISH. Gee, how did I not know that?)

So, I end the test on a not-so-glorious (or dignified if you’re from Coquitlam) note, and it is time to add up the score. I don’t cheat. Not one little bitty ‘oh, that’s what I meant to say,’ change. Nope. Totally honest.

Ok, so, here we go… carry the four…. and that would give me…


What? WHAT?

Ok, I have a huge nerd confession to make, but 74% was a very rare sighting in my academic career. Didn’t happen. At least, not often, and not in university where I was in an honours program and had to maintain at least 80%. So 74% is bad enough, but to have 74% in ENGLISH? I’m not humiliated, or worried that the freakin’ ad writers beat my score; I’m just kind of angry. Because let’s face it - those stupid Made in Canada questions? Garbage. And the word origins category?

This blows. No, this stinks like fish.

Forget it. I’m omitting the last two categories. They shouldn’t have been in there. They didn’t have anything to do with anything, and I’M THE GRADE 6 REGIONAL SPELLING CHAMPION! HELLO!

Get rid of those two. Now the test is out of a score of 50, and I get…


That is better. That is a better indication of the kind of scholar I am.

The creative kind.

Now, let’s see what Britney’s up to. I know I’m smarter than her.



  1. I laughed so hard at this, and even shared it out loud with my in-laws. We did this last night (without the score cards mind you) and four university educated individuals also ran into the same problems. We are all well-read and know a fair bit about our country, but still. What??? The program should be renamed to "Give the Nation a Complex".

    I like your method of scoring. We should have done the same!

  2. you are completely hilarious. and i think i spelled that correctly, er, i hope anyways.

  3. 90% see you are also good at math.
    The only two I would have had a chance on were the first two. Can we play in teams?

  4. How is it POSSIBLE that I missed that show? *slapping myself upside the head for not watching more TV*

    *slap! slap!*

  5. See, I just skipped it altogether because I want to maintain my illusion that I'm still smrat.

  6. Oh RATS!!! As soon as I saw your post, I remembered me telling myself all weekend long to set the VCR (yes, we're still in last MILLENNIUM's technology!) to tape this... and I still forgot.

    This is a hilarious recap, though, and I'm not sure my ego could have stood my own results.... the two things I most pride myself on are my language skills and my Canadian-ness!!

  7. *snort* That was CLASSIC! LOVE it!!

  8. Ha - I totally did the test too, and got hung on the desserts/deserts, too for the same reason, performed with Britney-like success on the word origins, and was totally annoyed by how extremely regional a lot of things were. I mean, how would you know that stuff unless you were FROM there? I think they put those in to make those regions feel good and take down the scores of the regions that were more likely to score high, myself.

    I got a 61/70. pah.

  9. On the upside, you're not as nerdy as you thought.

  10. Damn I wish I caught that show! It's right up my alley. I would have spelt Millennium wrong too. And the Canadiana crap? Completely unfair IMHO. You should disregard that entirely.

  11. I guess there are some good things on TV, after all.

    I love that Canadian regional weirdness...I don't know what a 'vamp' is, but i'm surprised that the hardened s'katch people have such a cutesy name for a hoodie.

  12. blah, blah, blogSeptember 10, 2007

    Spurious categories aside, you need also take into account the 'placenta effect'...

    Where have I been?!

    I had no idea the CBC was airing such a program(me) and me a linguistic anthropologist.

    (I didn't happen to know about Britney's appearance either, but that's kinda fostering a sanctimonious sense of superiority.)

    Had we know, my brother and I would have made it the television event of the year: the score cards, the snack-planning, the feverish re-reading of Warren Clements' Word Play columns.

    Alas, we probably would have sustained a serious blow to our lexiconfidence so perhaps it is for the best.

  13. Poor Brit. I say we stage a blogger intervention.

    And by the way, or BTW, just what is 'a shag' in Thunder Bay?

  14. You're such a nerd! I love that about you. Please put together your own test. Puh-leeze.

    And a bismark is a donut that has a cream and red jelly filling. And now I am craving one. Dammit.

  15. kelly - it's a cross between a wedding shower and a stag. important stuff.

    mrs. c - i'm giving you my passport. where the hell were you when i needed you?

  16. chris the husbandSeptember 10, 2007

    You get a A+ in my book, boo. good grades get you laid. :)

    Lexiconfidence. Best. Word. Ever.

  17. Oh honey. The thought of you hunched, gripping pencil in hand over your second helping of pot pie...just makes me laugh.

    sorry. snort.

  18. Oh, this is way too funny for words (well, actually, I have a few that I'm afraid to type for fear they'll be returned to me, corrected with red ink). Thanks so much for the laugh!

  19. LMAO. I'm soooo glad I didn't take that test. I would have taken my English Lit BA off the wall and thrown it at someone.......

  20. One more reason to love you, baby.

  21. Dude. I feel like such a failure now.

  22. Dang! I wanted to do this but the girl stayed up too late. BTW, I'm wearing my bunnyhug as I type.

  23. Pretty good score! How did everyone else compare?

    I'd like to think I would have done well on it, although I'd have failed the Canada section for sure. Wonder if the US will have a test like this?

  24. this was really funny!

    and what the hell is a bunny hug?

  25. Those are the weirdest, most obscure questions about Canada. Are you sure that it wasn't some strange immigration test? They seem to know more about Canadians than us Canadians do...

    And I actually know less and less now, since I moved away 10 years ago.

  26. LMAO. Loved this post!

    As a former English major and winner of my 6th grade spelling bee I can tell you that a) I would have done just as poorly as you on this test and b) I would DEFINITELY feel better about myself after realizing that, "hey, at least you're not Britney. Life could be worse. "

  27. Well I was obviously handing out the medals at the local bocce ball tourney that's why I couldn't be on the celebrity team...

    Oh who am I kidding... my fear of failure prevented me from playing along (but I watched my bro do it and he wouldn't reveal his score... damn Canadians are smart).

    You make me laugh kgirl, you totally crack me up.

  28. Hey baby!
    Don't feel blue. We're a two teacher household. And although we are super dorky and we each got perfect in 5 categories, we still only came in at 76 percent. (okay, Nicholas got a bit higher...but who cares?)
    I thought that last section was bunk. I also flunked plurals and spelling.

    We were pleased, however, that we ranked in stride with the Romance novelists...That brought a certain sexiness to our Sunday night with CBC.


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