Let's (not) get quizzical

Written by Tom Gillingham, Associate Partner

Edited by Laura Hamilton, Managing Partner

Good morning,

Love them or hate them, the humble quiz seems to be emerging as one of the few winners from the current coronavirus crisis.

Searches for ‘Zoom pub quiz’ hit a new high last week, marking a 5,000% increase in interest on the same time last month. Northern Ireland leads the pack in terms of quiz-mania, with Scotland following close behind. England and Wales seem slightly less fussed but are still keen to compete - bless.

Despite becoming the preferred accompaniment for evenings spent convincing yourself it’s totally fine to be drinking in the pale glow of distant friends on a laptop screen, the true origin of the noun ‘quiz’ is disputed.

The most simple - and boring - explanation is that the noun was adapted from the verb, quiz. For the verb, the dictionary says: Quiz (v.) 1847, “To question,” quies, perhaps from Latin qui es? “who are you?”

Who are you? That’s an existential question that even the most dedicated quizmasters might steer clear of in these challenging times.

But if it didn’t evolve from the verb, there is speculation that the noun came from slang for an ‘odd person’ in 1782 (again, perhaps a little too on-the-nose), or perhaps via a “schoolboy prank or joke played at the expense of a person deemed a quiz”, with this particular definition growing in popularity in the 1840s.

Even if the word’s origins are murky, the UK has previous in its populace’s fondness for being proven right in front of pals.

Our current Zoom facsimile’s boozier older brother, the good old fashioned sit-in-the-same-room-and-share-potentially-lethal-germs pub quiz may have first started back in the 1970s (although, like the word itself, this is disputed), as a way of filling those establishments on quieter nights.

It certainly seems true that a combination of our nation's obsession with fair play, nostalgia and being able to show off in a controlled environment all contribute to the runaway popularity of the video chat quiz.

Personally, I prefer the more lyrical explanation offered by Robin Dunbar, a psychologist at Oxford University. He says quiz questions represent “a shared folk wisdom” that binds us together.

So, if quizzes have become an inexplicably overwhelming feature of your social Zooming too, remember that you can find hand-picked trivia at the bottom of each of our daily briefings to help you out. Binding folk wisdom from all of us to you.


Prime minister Boris Johnson will today give the televised coronavirus briefing for the first time since returning to work. He will give an update on the fight against the disease and the steps being taken to defeat it, but significant additional detail on plans to lift restrictions is not expected.

After British jets were scrambled to intercept Russian BEAR bombers over the North Sea, the head of the Royal Air Force (RAF) issued an unusually barbed comment dismissing the two Russian patrol aircraft as “relics of the Cold War”.Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston added that the bombers “do not comply with international air traffic regulations and are a hazard to civilian and military aircraft.” Russian aircraft regularly ‘buzz’ the UK, prompting the RAF to scramble typhoon fighters to intercept and escort them, even though they stay in international waters.

Captain Tom Moore, the retired army officer who raised more than £29m for NHS charities by walking lengths of his garden, will be promoted to the rank of honorary colonel on his 100th birthday.

Business and economy

Cautiously positive reaction continues to a study from Gilead that suggests its drug Remdesivir, which was originally developed to treat Ebola, may help coronavirus patients recover more quickly. The company’s stock increased rapidly on the news, but the positive results contradict the findings of another study using the same drug. Global efforts to find a vaccine or effective treatment continue.

Yesterday’s US GDP figures show that coronavirus caused the American economy to shrink at its fastest pace since the 2008 financial crisis in the first quarter of the year. The contraction of 4.8% was worse than the 4% forecast by analysts. This gloomy news comes amid expectations of a 7.1% decline in the eurozone’s economy and widespread predictions of a global recession on par with that seen in the 1930s. (£)

UK car production fell by more than a third in March as the coronavirus pandemic closed factories. 78,767 vehicles left factories in last month, 47,428 fewer than the same period in the previous year, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

Columns of note

Writing in the Spectator, Lloyd Evans reflects on the changing backgrounds of yesterday’s PMQs video call attendees. In terms of matters inside the chamber, he posits that Starmer seemed to lack “killer instinct” in pursuing Johnson’s stand-in, foreign secretary Dominic Raab, despite his background as a barrister.

In the Atlantic, Ed Yong outlines why the coronavirus pandemic is so confusing. The fact some people get very ill, while others do not and broader questions about how transmissible it really is all add up to give the disease an air of impenetrability. He warns against not simply doubling down on our biases in search of an explanation, but instead focus on collective action.

Source: The New Yorker


What happened yesterday?

The FTSE 100 ended up 2.63% at 6,115.25, even as investors digested the United States’ worst GDP figures in 12 years, with analyst predictions of worse to come. This gloom was partially offset by some more promising news in the race to find a potential treatment for Covid-19. The FTSE 250 also finished up, by 3.34% at 16,835.34.

Shares of biotechnology company Gilead Sciences were temporarily halted after the company notified markets of positive data emerging from a clinical trial being conducted by the US government's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for the use of its Remdesivir as treatment against the Covid-19 coronavirus.

In London, cruise operator Carnival rose sharply by 16.47%, while Barclays surged 12.7% even after profit fell by more than a third in the first quarter. Standard Chartered was also up 11.57%.

Sterling gained 0.05% on the dollar to reach $1.24, but simultaneously weakened 0.29% against the euro to €1.15.

What's happening today?


Morses Club

Ocean Out




Up Global

Q1 results

Apax Global

Rds ‘A’

Rds ‘B’


St James’s Place


Admiral Grp   

Billing Service

Blackrock Wld



Fisher(j)& Sons

Globaltrans S

Grn En S

Greencoat Uk

Grupo Cl.s

HikmaKaz Minerals


Mobile Streams

Network Intl

Octopus Aim 2

Phoenix Copper

Rockrose Energy

Rps Grp.


Smurfit Kappa


UK economic announcements

(7:00) Nationwide House Price Index

Int. economic announcements

(07:00) Retail Sales (GER)

(08:55) Unemployment Rate (GER)

(10:00) Unemployment Rate (EU)

(10:00) GDP (Preliminary) (EU)

(12:45) ECB Interest Rate (EU)

(13:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)

(13:30) Continuing Claims (US)

(13:30) Personal Income (US)

(13:30) Personal Consumption Expenditures (US)

(13:30) Personal Spending (US)

(14:45) Chicago PMI (US)

Source: Financial Times

Did you know?

There are eight planets in our solar system, but there are also five officially recognised dwarf planets: Pluto, Ceres, Haumea, Makemake and Eris.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

No business scheduled

House of Lords

Oral questions

Protecting the prosperity and wellbeing of UK citizens from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on UK GDP and the global economy - virtual proceeding - Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle

Oral questions

Steps taken to ensure that any fruit and vegetables ready for harvest during the COVID-19 pandemic are harvested - Baroness Boycott


Challenges facing the charitable and voluntary sector, in terms of fundraising and organisation, during the COVID-19 pandemic - virtual proceeding - Lord Addington

Short debate

Support to people who will be living in poverty or unable to meet their basic needs as a result of COVID-19 - virtual proceeding - Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle

Scottish Parliament

Members’ Virtual Question Time (Education and Skills)