Water Displacement

Just a very brief blog about one insignificant question, but hopefully a little insight into the thought processes of someone trying to constantly come up with good quiz questions.

There’s a squeaky door in my house. That’s where I got the idea for this. I remembered, as the door squeaked, that I wrote a question about four years ago asking “What does the WD in WD40 stand for?” The question has, to my knowledge, never been used.

For all these years, it’s sat quite near the top of the huge excel spreadsheet I keep of potential QuizQuizQuiz Friday Quiz questions, many times for my eyes to pass over it, consider it, then go “Nah, not this week”. It was in our database for Corporate Quizzes for  a couple of years but I don’t believe it was ever used. It is a question that has truly not made the grade.

Why not? Although we’re justifiably proud of the Friday Quiz and effort and thought is put into it every week, it would be untrue, I admit, to claim that every question in its seven-year history has been a top-quality thriller. There has been the odd bit of filler, and yet WD40 has never been deemed up to the job.

What’s wrong with it? It has some hallmarks of a good question. Word origin questions are usually very well received. And questions about the everyday are often very popular, questions about things which are everywhere and nowhere. Everyone uses WD40, probably very few people know what it means – the best one can hope for in that circumstance is that response of “aah, I’m surprised I didn’t know that, you learn something new everyday”. But I just don’t think it would get that response. It would get “Meh, who cares …”. I think “displacement” is somehow too dull and disconnected a word, it’s unsatisfactorily hard to work out. It would be the dampest of damp squibs. I think … many times I’ve been tempted to think I might be wrong, and that it might be a surprise hit. That’s the thing …we don’t always know. Sometimes questions we think will be great don’t work, and sometimes seemingly dull, nondescript questions get an enthusiastic response.

If I’m wrong about this one, let me know. If you’re there, going “Wow, I use WD-40 all the time and I’d never considered what it stood for. Thanks, QuizQuizQuiz. The fact that it’s so named because it was the 40th attempt to make a formula for Water Displacement is one of the great hidden gems of the quiz world”, well, more fool me.

Of course, any life the question might have had I’ve surely killed now.

4 replies
  1. James
    James says:

    Are you sure you’ve never used it, David? I knew the answer purely because I’d had the question asked at a quiz. I hadn’t known the answer then, when it mattered!

    As it’s one of the bits of trivia I know that I know because it was an incorrectly answered quiz question, is this not a signifier of a good question? I always considered it a good ‘un for the reasons you gave and the fact that the answer had stuck with me.

    And I ask whether you’re sure you didn’t use it as I was a regular at the Old Suffolk Punch all those years ago 🙂

    • David McGaughey
      David McGaughey says:

      Hi James,
      Ha, good recollection. I’ve checked the records of the OSP and it wasn’t ever used there. It was our other David (Brewis) who ran the OSP, but it’s not coming up in that database. As Nathan’s noted above, other quizmasters apart from me may well have used it, but I remain pretty confident I never have. I might now, though, with your recommendation …


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