Are You Quizzing Me?

QUIZ. — Very few words ever took such a run, or were saddled with so many meanings, as this monosyllable; and, however strange the word, it is still strange that not one of our lexicographers, from Bayley to Johnson, ever attempted an explanation, or gave a derivation of it. The reason is very obvious. It is because it has no meaning, nor is it derived from any language in the world, ever known, from the Babylonish confusion to this day.

When Richard Daly was patentee of the Irish theatres, he spent the evening of a Saturday in company with many of the wits and men of fashion of the day.

Gambling was introduced, when the manager staked a large sum that he would have spoken all through the principal streets of Dublin, by a certain hour the next day, Sunday, a word having no meaning, and being derived from no known language; wagers were laid, and stakes deposited. Daly repaired to the theatre, and despatched all the servants and supernumeraries with the word “Quiz,” which they chalked on every door and every shop window in town. Shops being shut all next day, every body going to & comming from their different places of worship, saw the word, and every body repeated it, so that ‘quiz’ was heard all through Dublin.

The circumstances of so strange a word being on every door and window, caused much surprize, and ever since, should a strange story be attempted to pass currant, it draws forth the expression — you are quizzing me.

The Peoples Press (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) Jun 5, 1835

Is it true? I don’t know, but if not, the author of the above article sure had a vivid imagination. Notice below in the word history, it is stated that the first recorded reference was in 1782, but then the next wasn’t until 1867. My reference, albeit just a mention in a newspaper, was from 1835.

From Yahoo Education online dictionary entry for QUIZ:

WORD HISTORY:

The origins of the word quiz are as difficult to pin down as the answers to some quizzes. We can say that its first recorded sense has to do with people, not tests. The term, first recorded in 1782, meant “an odd or eccentric person.” From the noun in this sense came a verb meaning “to make sport or fun of” and “to regard mockingly.” In English dialects and probably in American English the verb quiz acquired senses relating to interrogation and questioning. This presumably occurred because quiz was associated with question, inquisitive, or perhaps the English dialect verb quiset, “to question” (probably itself short for obsolete inquisite, “to investigate”). From this new area of meaning came the noun and verb senses all too familiar to students. The second recorded instance of the noun sense occurs in the writings of no less an educator than William James, who in a December 26, 1867, letter proffers the hope that “perhaps giving ‘quizzes’ in anatomy and physiology . . . may help along.”

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2 Responses to “Are You Quizzing Me?”

  1. Brea Says:

    Thank you! I love word etymology, and this is fascinating!

  2. Friday Fun Facts 6/18/10 | Brea's Air Says:

    […] *posted quote from: https://yesteryearsnews.wordpress.com/2010/06/16/are-you-quizzing-me/ […]

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