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.
How do you spell the name of this flower:
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:
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?
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
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…
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.