Quizbowl lingo

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See also: Category:Quizbowl lingo

This is a page compiling information on lingo that people in quizbowl use: jargon about the game which may be difficult to understand for people who are not familiar with the game or the community. This includes the concepts that quizbowl is founded on, slang, and references to community in-jokes.



Main article: A-team

The term A-team generally refers to the best team from a school which fields multiple teams, referred to as [School Name] A. The following teams would be B-team, C-team, etc.

It is possible for a team to not follow this convention, either maliciously or because their teams do not have a strict hierarchy of strength. Stanton College Prep B in 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 deliberately deviated from the convention, but it was universally known and communicated to tournament directors well ahead of time. Sometimes, even when a school's A-team is intended to be stronger than its B-team, the B-team finishes higher. This notably happened to Chicago at the 2012 ACF Nationals and Penn-ance.

Some schools may also choose to denote teams with a different term - commonly a color - rather than a letter, often due to an aforementioned lack of hierarchy or a potential harm to team morale (e.g. Maryland Black, Gold, Red, and White at recent iterations of NASAT).


Tournaments sponsored by state athletic associations and TV show tournaments often only allow one team per school. When inviting programs who participate in these events to independent events, it is useful to explain that registering multiple teams is possible in order to maximize student participation and minimize excessive substitutions.

National tournaments

Only one team per school was permitted to qualify for/participate at NCT and at all high school nationals prior to the establishment of NSC and HSNCT. The ICT and ACF Nationals have always allowed B teams and beyond, provided they were able to qualify.

NSC and HSNCT allowed multiple teams from the start. The NAC began allowing B teams in 2000. NASAT began allowing B teams in 2016.

Several B teams have finished highly at the nationals which permitted them:

Allowing multiple teams from the same school into national fields that turn away some A teams due to field capacity remains an occasionally controversial issue.


Main article: Academic

The term academic has two meanings in quizbowl:

  • In collegiate quizbowl, "academic" tournaments are those tournaments which are not trash tournaments.
  • In general, "academic" material is what mainstream quizbowl thinks questions should be about. Academic material means important facts about important topics in liberal arts fields that are relevant to understanding the context and importance of the topic in the way one might digest it in an upper-level interpretive class. It excludes not only trash but also trivia, riddles and trick questions, memorization of irrelevancies, and math calculation and other performance-based or not strictly factual knowledge. See trivia.


Main article: accessibility

Accessibility is a somewhat nebulously-defined term that describes two things:

  1. For a question, the percentage of games in which a certain question was correctly answered.
  2. For a tournament, the average skill level of a team at the tournament, as measured by conversion metrics.

There is no objective scale of accessibility; if a tournament has an 85% tossup conversion rate, it does not necessarily mean that the tournament is "85% accessible".

In recent years there has been a huge movement toward higher accessibility as the circuit has expanded, with many new teams playing events of regular difficulty or higher.

Laypeople should have it explained to them that "accessibility" more or less means "answerability", and has nothing to do with the unrelated phenomenon of cheaters obtaining improper access to questions that they intend to play later on.

ACF Cabal

Main article: ACF Cabal

The ACF Cabal is a term for the editors of ACF tournaments that was popular in the early 2000s as a sarcastic reference to the supposed secretive nature of that group. Sometimes also used, by synecdoche, to refer to all fans of the ACF format/question style.

almanac clue

Main article: almanac clue

An almanac clue is a type of clue used in geography questions that focuses on a relative trivial piece of geographic information, such as the exact length of a border, the exact latitude and longitude of a country, or the average temperature at a location. Writers are discouraged from using almanac clues in questions due to their focus on a relatively insignificant piece of information like the precise length of a river that mostly rewards rote memorization of facts from almanacs rather than more in-depth understanding of various geographic features and concepts.

Andrew Hart Champion

Main article: Andrew Hart Champion
Not to be confused with an Andrew Hart Grail.

The Andrew Hart Champion of a tournament is the team with the highest points per bonus, regardless of win-loss record. The term derives from the affinity Andrew Hart has for the bonus conversion statistic.

This is not currently in use.

Andrew Hart Grail

Main article: Andrew Hart Grail

An Andrew Hart Grail is a term used when a team hears at least 10 bonuses in a packet and has a bonus conversion of 30, implying they answered all of the bonus questions correctly. The term derives from the affinity Andrew Hart has for the bonus conversion statistic.

Arthur's paradox

Main article: Arthur's paradox

Arthur's Paradox is an observation about quizbowl made by Bruce Arthur. It states that while quizbowl players adore concepts that are doubly-, triply-, or otherwise poly-eponymous, virtually no concepts created by quizbowl players to describe quizbowl are poly-eponymous.


Bad Negs

Main article: Bad Negs

A Bad Neg is a particularly comical or ridiculous neg which has been documented for the purposes of sharing.

Bad quizbowl

Main article: Bad quizbowl

"Bad quizbowl" is a term used to refer to various forms of quizbowl competitions and questions that do not follow the practices used in good quizbowl (namely, an emphasis on rewarding greater levels of knowledge and the pursuit of fairness in question structure and competition formats).

Canonical examples of bad quizbowl include the now-defunct College Bowl and the still-running National Academic Championship as well as a number of state-specific formats.


Main article: bagel

The term bagel has two equivalent definitions:

noun. The zero points received by a team that fails to correctly answer any parts of a multi-part bonus question. By analogy to the shape of the number 0.
verb. The process of failing to answer any parts of a multi-part bonus question correctly, thereby: receiving no points on the bonus. Synonymous with the verb "to zero" in this context (i.e. "We bageled that bonus on the Franco-Mongol alliance in the first finals match.").

Beast Frosh

Main article: Beast Frosh

Beast Frosh was a term used by Dominic Machado in 2008 to describe Dartmouth freshman James Shinn; presumably to describe his unusual quizbowl prowess for one so young. The term saw brief ironic and non-ironic use in hsquizbowl.org discourse for a short time after, with a few instances as recent as 2018.

Persons called "Beast Frosh" include James Shinn, Chris Manners, James Harden, and unidentified players on Culver Academies and Western Toronto.

Big Three

Main article: Big Three

In quizbowl parlance, the Big Three are the categories of literature, science, and history. The Big Three are so named because they each take up a comparatively large share of the distribution (and take up a majority of most packets when taken together), and are therefore viewed as particularly important categories to the game.


Main article: biking

Biking is a slang term for cheating in online quizbowl matches. Usually, the term refers specifically to cheating that occurs by searching up the answers to questions using the internet, but may also refer to cheating in general.

burden of knowledge

Main article: burden of knowledge

The burden of knowledge is an often-invoked excuse for why a player did not correctly answer a tossup in a subject area s/he is well-known for liking and/or being good at. Generally speaking, the burden of knowledge arises when a player believes that a clue applies to two or more possible answers, leading that player to wait for a clue to disambiguate the answers, while another player who only knows the clue in connection with one possible answer immediately buzzes and is correct.

This often happens as a result of vague or non-unique clues that are common in bad quizbowl, although sometimes players will invoke it while playing normal pyramidal questions just to save face.

buzzer fake

Main article: buzzer fake

A buzzer fake is a tactic where one player pretends that he is about to buzz, in the hopes of luring a player on the other team into buzzing early in order to "beat" the faker out, thus inducing a neg.

buzzer rock

Main article: buzzer rock

A buzzer rock is a player with a low points per game average who generally does not buzz in more than a few times per tournament. A stereotypical buzzer rock will have a stat line of something like 2 tossups and 0 interrupts in 10 games for a 2.00 points per game average. Use of this term is largely discouraged due to its negative connotations and suggestions that a player's value is directly tied to their scoring ability.



Main article: canon

The canon is the set of answers and clues which can be reasonably be expected to come up again at quizbowl events of a given level in the future based on repeatedly coming in the past. It comprises much but not all of what one will hear in a given quizbowl packet. Being able to ask about an entirely new (and thus, non-canonical) topic in a way that does not compromise the accessibility of a question is a valuable skill for a writer and leads to some of the most well-received individual questions.

Canon expansion refers to the process of getting a subject into the canon by repeatedly mentioning it in packets.


Main article: captain

The captain is the nominal head of a team during match play.

In national formats, the only role of the captain is to designate an answer on bonuses if multiple, distinct answers are simultaneously directed at the moderator.

In some state-specific formats the captain takes on additional roles, e.g. being required to give bonus answers absent explicit deferral or being the only player allowed to call timeouts or lodge protests.

The captain can also refer to the administrative lead of a team.


See: flashcarding

Carding is a shorthand for "flashcarding".


Main article: chicken

Chicken, also called buzzer chicken or playing (against) the packet, is a game-within-a-game. In this game, players recognize the most obvious answer from a clue or set of clues and then must decide whether or not to buzz. It takes its name from the real game of chicken, in which participants drive cars at each other and must choose to veer away.

circle of death

Main article: circle of death

Circle of death is a strange, archaic term for the common tournament occurrence of "three-way tie." It is also possible to get a five-way tie, where everyone is 2-2 among the tied teams.


Main article: civility

"Civility" is the act of agreeing with or, at least, passively assenting to, terrible ideas about Quiz Bowl. It should not be confused with the non-quizbowl use of the term, which refers to interacting with all other people in an even-handed manner, and has nothing to do with what proponents of "civility" in quizbowl actually want to see.

This term is no longer in common usage.


Main article: clear

The term clear has two primary uses in quizbowl:

  1. the status of a question set being "clear for discussion" and thus able to be discussed in public settings like the forums
  2. an interjection used during gameplay to indicate that the moderator needs to reset ("clear") the buzzer lock-out system

clock-killing neg

Main article: clock-killing neg

The clock-killing neg was a strategy employed during tournaments that used a clock to prevent the other team from answering the final question. The 2008 change in the NAQT timing rule, requiring a tossup-bonus cycle to be completed if time expires after the tossup is begun, has eliminated the clock-killing neg from pretty much all good quizbowl.


Main article: closed

Closed tournaments have explicit eligibility requirements detailing who can play at the tournament.

By definition, any tournament that is not an open tournament is a closed tournament. Tournaments that do not explicitly state that they are open are assumed to be closed, and thus the term is rarely used in practice.

Closed tournaments require that:

  1. Each team consists of players who attend the same school.
  2. Only teams of college students can attend college tournaments; similarly, only teams of high school students can attend high school tournaments and only teams of middle school students can attend middle school tournaments.

Colvin science

Main article: Colvin science

Colvin science was a question that claimed to fill part of a science distribution, but that was fraudulently answered by players who know nothing about science. It was named for Matt Colvin.

The presence of these materials in a "science" question will usually identify it as Colvin science:

  • biographical clues about scientists
  • taxonomy
  • the geologic time scale
  • clues about Greek and Latin roots privileged over clues about actual science
  • pseudosciences and antisciences, such as creationism, Velikovskyism, and cryptozoology

This is not currently in use.

common link

Main article: common link

Common link questions (or common links) are pyramidal tossups whose answer is a word or phrase that happens to be common to several distinct entities that are otherwise unrelated and not linked by a theme of any significance.

Common links are not to be confused with list tossups, an obsolete form of question that simply lists different things and expects the player to somehow deduce a common attribute without any clues.


Main article: clear

The term clear has two primary uses in quizbowl:

  1. the status of a question set being "clear for discussion" and thus able to be discussed in public settings like the forums
  2. an interjection used during gameplay to indicate that the moderator needs to reset ("clear") the buzzer lock-out system


Main article: confer

To confer is to provide verbal or nonverbal signals to one's teammates about one's knowledge of the answer.


Main article: conversion
Not to be confused with downconversion (editing questions to be shorter and easier to use them for another purpose) or upconversion (the opposite).

In quizbowl jargon, conversion (or converting a question) is the act of getting a question correct. The term can be understood as taking the words of a question and "converting" them into points for one's team. When discussing tossups, the term "conversion" can be contrasted with powering to entail getting a question for 10 points rather than 15, or to represent that a team answered a question correctly at any point. In the context of a bonus question, converting a part simply means answering it correctly.

In most contexts, "conversion" refers to aggregate conversion (or conversion rate), usually across an entire tournament. So for example, bonus conversion generally refers to performance on all bonuses played across a tournament.

conversion metrics

Main article: conversion metrics

Conversion metrics are a measure of how hard a given tournament is compared to the field it attracted based on how many questions were converted. While no single conversion metric has been promoted as the best indicator of difficulty, several different conversion metrics combine to give an overall picture of the tournament.

curved yellow fruit

Main article: curved yellow fruit

Curved yellow fruit refers to unnaturally easy giveaway clues, or questions that contain them. In the strictest sense, the preceding material must be sufficiently obscure, non-uniquely identifying, or convoluted that almost every buzz on the question will occur on this clue; thus, the entire text of the question reduces to one line that most elementary school kids would be able to answer.


Dairy Queening

Main article: Dairy Queening

Dairy Queening is the act of participating in the social aspects of quizbowl while minimally engaging in the competitive side. A stereotypical "Dairy Queener" attends HSNCT as a fourth-scorer on a school's B or C-team, goes 4-6, and spends the remainder of the tournament enjoying the sights and other people also attending while frequently visiting Dairy Queen or other restauraunts over the course of the weekend.

This term is rarely used.


Main article: dead

Going dead is the process of a tossup not being answered correctly by any eligible player (either due to all attempts being incorrect or no attempts being made). A dead tossup is one that is not converted.

A question set is probably overly difficult if it regularly features multiple dead tossups per game when played by its target audience (i.e. it has low conversion statistics).


Main article: difficulty

Difficulty can refer to either or both of the following:

  1. How hard the questions at the tournament were for the players to answer, as measured either subjectively by the players themselves or objectively through conversion statistics.
  2. How hard the writers or editors of the tournament expect the questions to be, by analogy to a previously-played tournament or general standard. This is often denoted target difficulty.

difficulty cliff

Main article: difficulty cliff

A difficulty cliff results when a tossup instantly transitions from "difficult" to "easy" without any intervening middle clues.

Difficulty cliffs are found more commonly in NAQT than ACF due to its shorter questions. While difficulty cliffs are almost always present in bad quizbowl, these mistakes are typically viewed as less egregious than transparency or the use of bad clues.


Main article: distribution

In quizbowl packets or sets, the distribution (or "distro") of categories is the set of fixed ratios in which categories will appear within a given packet or question set.

Division I and Division II

Main article: Division I and Division II

Division II (DII) is a designation used in in collegiate quizbowl. The exact definition varies (NAQT has one definition and ACF has another) but essentially, a player is eligible for Division II if they have relatively little experience or success in collegiate quizbowl (though they may have extensive experience in high school and/or middle school quizbowl). A team is eligible for Division II if all of its players are eligible for Division II.

Division I (DI) generally indicates any collegiate quiz bowl team that is not eligible for Division II (i.e., contains at least one player who is not eligible for Division II, though it may also contain some players who are). A Division II-eligible team can choose to play in Division I.


Eric Mukherjee final

An Eric Mukherjee Final is a somewhat mean-spirited name for a game or series of play-in games to determine second place at a tournament. They only plausibly can occur when the first place team clears the field, and since second place is rarely played off, they tend to only happen during ACF Nationals. They are so-named for the fact that Eric Mukherjee participated in two sets of them, at 2014 ACF Nationals and 2018 ACF Nationals. In spite of Jacob Reed having also done this, they are named for Eric due to his frequent references to the 2018 instance, which he won, as "the finals" of ACF Nationals, which somehow overwrites the fact that he has played in several actual ACF Nationals finals and won the 2015 instance.



Main article: flashcarding

Flashcards are used by some quizbowl players for studying. A flashcard is an index card with one piece of information on the front side (e.g. a clue pointing towards a potential answer, a title) and a related piece on the other (i.e. the answer corresponding to said clue, the author of that title). The use of flashcards for study, or the writing of information on such devices, is sometimes referred to as flashcarding or carding.

football coaches

Main article: football coaches

Football coaches are two different types of people who affect high school quizbowl negatively:

1) A high school quizbowl coach who insists on developing "strategies," substituting players frequently, yelling at his team, and coming up with practice approaches that involve anything besides learning clues that are likely to come up, is generally acting like a football coach instead of a quizbowl coach.

2) Football coaches are the people who run state athletic associations. They are responsible for single-elimination tournaments, "language arts" questions, three-weekend, 11-match state series, restrictions on out-of-state participation, and generally everything that is bad about "officially sanctioned" high school quizbowl. Whenever someone gets frustrated about the problems with IHSA, MSHSAA, or VHSL quizbowl, they should be reminded that those organizations are run by football coaches, not quizbowl coaches or players, and thus do not necessarily understand or care how to run a good quizbowl tournament (and in many cases will be actively opposed to doing so).

This is not currently in use.


Main article: format

Format is a term with multiple meanings in quizbowl discussion, including but not necessarily limited to the following:

  • (rarely) the typographical formatting of text in a quizbowl packet or other quizbowl-related documents

format war

Main article: format war

"Format war" was a magic phrase used to cast a spell on quizbowl discussion fora, causing them to stop the folly of discussing quizbowl.

This term is no longer in common usage.

freelance packet

Main article: freelance packet

A freelance packet is a packet submitted to a tournament by a group of writers who will not participate in the tournament or any of its mirrors and are completely uninvolved in the editing process. The typical reward for a freelance packet is a complete set of the edited questions.

Freelance packets are typically used as playoff packets or tiebreaker packet because they are blind to all teams in the field. They can also be used to allow teams that did not submit packets to still play in the tournament.


Main article: FTP

The acronym FTP in a packet stands for "for 10 points," the standard phrase which marks the beginning of the giveaway clue to a tossup question.

Due to its potential for confusing newer moderators, it is preferred to always write out "for 10 points" instead of the acronym "FTP."

full-body buzz

Main article: full-body buzz

The art of full-body buzzing is practiced by various players who seem to feel that involving spastic leg, arm, and head movements is absolutely integral to the act of pressing a button. Waving the buzzer itself is also a common flourish. Having a natural full-body buzz can aid one when attempting a buzzer fake.

Full-body buzzing also applies to a technique used by a number of players, in which one actually exerts the force of their full body in the process of buzzing, deafening the room and perhaps exciting a fountain of sparks that will electrically burn anyone near the system. Jonathan Thompson exhibits almost the precise converse of full-body buzzing, wherein he slowly descends one spindly finger to lightly tap the buzzer.

Fundamental Difficulty Error

Main article: Fundamental Difficulty Error

The Fundamental Difficulty Error, also known as the Freshman Fallacy, is a very easy error to make when editing or discussing a set. Simply put, it states, "If I know the answer to a particular question, then the question is too easy. If I don't know it, it is too hard." Much like the [fundamental attribution error] that it takes its name from, it is to be avoided, as it is often wrong.

A corresponding Fundamental Difficulty Error for clues states, "If I know the answer to a tossup off a particular lead-in or middle clue, then the clue is too early. If I do not know the answer off a later clue, that clue should be moved earlier." This Fundamental Difficulty Error is largely responsible for the dearth of actual middle clues in many tossups.

An unnamed corollary to the Fundamental Difficulty Error states, "If a question was answered in my room, it must not have been too difficult for the field as a whole."


Main article: funn

Funn is the property exhibited by things in quizbowl that meet all of the following three conditions:

  • they violate good quizbowl and/or standard quizbowl practices
  • someone obviously thought that their violation of good and/or standard practices was more than made up for by how fun they are
  • they are not actually fun



Main article: generalist

A generalist is a player whose knowledge extends to all parts of the canon, and thus is capable of buzzing on any subject. Good generalists are often among the scoring leaders at invitational tournaments.

Gentlemen's agreement

Main article: Gentlemen's agreement

A gentleman's agreement is an informal type of eligibility rule that has been used for events like the Early Fall Tournament and ACF Fall. Instead of explicitly barring people based on experience or educational progress, individuals are encouraged to personally evaluate whether they are the appropriate audience for a tournament.


Main article: gimmick

A gimmick is some kind of action in quizbowl that departs from directly testing knowledge recall in a normal fashion. Typical examples include lames, "Fifty or Nothing" bonuses, and wagering in the style of Final Jeopardy! They are often found in Trash or bad quizbowl tournaments.

golden chicken

Main article: golden chicken

"Golden chicken" is a term that originated in the Bay Area college quizbowl circuit of the early 2000s for a successful player with an exceedingly high ratio of questions gotten to negs [1]. The term has since been used to describe the highest-scoring player at a tournament who did not put up any negs at all.

This is not currently in use.

Good quizbowl

Main article: Good quizbowl

Good quizbowl is a designation which refers to quizbowl conventions, questions, and tournaments that reward teams for demonstrating differing levels of academic knowledge in a fair and consistent manner. Necessary features of good quizbowl include:

  • Questions that consistently reward knowledge of a topic over buzzer speed, as exemplified by tossups that contain many clues arranged in rough order from most obscure to least obscure (pyramidality) and bonuses/team rounds that contain "easy", "medium," and "hard" parts
  • Questions whose clues uniquely point to their desired answer(s) and which are written clearly
  • A range of topics that the target audience should and does know much about, supplemented by subjects that are not as well known but nevertheless demonstrably important and answerable (the canon for that level)
  • An emphasis on the academic nature of quizbowl and eschewal of questions on excess general knowledge or trash, spelling, and other non-academic "fluff" (see trivia for a discussion)
  • A tournament structure and management that is fair to all teams, allows all teams to play many matches, follows rules that are announced in advance, and preferably does not eliminate a team from championship contention for losing one match

Competitions which deviate from the fairness and competitive spirit of good quizbowl by lacking the above are bad quizbowl or not quizbowl.

Though use of the tossup-bonus format is not essential to good quizbowl, an overwhelming majority of good quizbowl tournaments use that format.


Main article: Grail

In quiz bowl, a grail is a term used to refer to the rare feat where one team correctly answers all tossups heard in a game. Generally, this implies a team answering 20 correct tossups, though in a timed match this can vary. The team does not need to answer all of the bonus parts correctly to achieve a grail. Grails almost always occur in situations where the teams playing are heavily mismatched. This may be due to one team missing its best players/being shorthanded, being a novice team, or playing a tournament where the questions being read are too difficult for them, even if they are not novices (e.g. ACF Nationals-level questions). As such, getting a grail is both dependent on chance -- that is, getting a match scheduled against a far weaker opponent -- and skill.

Guerrilla tournament

Main article: Guerrilla tournament

A guerrilla tournament, in the strictest sense of the term, is a tournament in which the host school provides no staff, no buzzers, and no packets, only a set of rooms in which to play and (occasionally) a tournament schedule. Participating teams bring one self-written packet each, figure out who is going to bring buzzers, and moderate on bye rounds (sometimes this involves multiple byes in a single round to provide adequate staff). Tournament fees are minimal (usually only enough to cover the cost of the rooms), if they exist at all.



Main article: Hose

A hose is a quizbowl question that deliberately punishes a player for having greater knowledge of the topic being asked about in the question. Hoses are considered the cardinal sin of quizbowl questions, as they specifically punish players who possess uniquely identifying knowledge of the correct answer at the time the player buzzed.

Hoses are one of the most prominent, though not necessarily the most common, hallmarks of bad quizbowl. Hoses are related to swerves.

A player who falls victim to a hose is said to have gotten "hosed."


Main article: housewrite

A housewrite is a question set produced independently by a team or multiple teams for their own tournament. Housewrites can be written by and for both high school and college teams, and they are often mirrored in several places.


Main article: hybrid

Hybrid is an adjective frequently used to modify either teams or tournaments:

  • Hybrid teams are teams composed of players associated with (usually) 2 schools. Hybrid teams are often formed when attending teams' rosters are filled out with players from the host school. A team composed of players associated with more than 2 schools is occasionally called a hybrid team but have also been called a bastard team and is synonymous with the more recent term chimera.
  • Hybrid tournaments are tournaments that are typically in mACF or NAQT format, but consist of a heavier mix of trash (pop culture) questions than regular tournaments.



Main article: illiterature

Illiterature is a question that attempts to fill the required literature distribution of a packet with things that aren't literature, or any attempt to perform such action.

This term is not currently in use.


Jerry Kill

Main article: Jerry Kill

A Jerry Kill occurs when a tossup goes dead between two good teams and is named in reference to Jerry Vinokurov.

This term is not currently in use.


Main article: juniorbird

In late-90s and early-2000s collegiate quizbowl, a juniorbird tournament was a tournament designed for novice players, typically with easier questions and stringent eligibility restrictions. In general, all freshmen and sophomores were eligible, and older students could play with the permission of the tournament director; however, the admission of a player with more than two years of experience was rare.

Because there are only minor, if any, differences between a juniorbird tournament and a novice tournament, the term has since fallen out of use; however, in the past, tournaments run on NAQT IS questions were more likely to call themselves "juniorbird" while ACF-style tournaments with similar eligibility requirements were more likely to call themselves "novice".


Keyzer Soze rule

Main article: Keyzer Soze rule

The Keyser Soze rule is a periphasis of a line from the film The Usual Suspects employed by Seth Kendall when asked about the way to become good at quizbowl, in which it is noted that to became powerful all one needs is "the will to do what the other guy wouldn't".

Kidder's Law

Main article: Kidder's Law

Kidder's law is attributed to Dwight Kidder and states that "there is no shame, only points."


Ladder Theory of Quizbowl

Main article: Ladder Theory of Quizbowl

The Ladder Theory of Quizbowl was first elucidated by Jonathan Magin to quizbowl luminaries Rob Carson and Hannah Kirsch on IRC. It is best known for being mentioned a single time and then promptly added to the wiki.

This term is not currently, and has never been, in use.


Main article: laming

Laming was a quizbowl rule found at some trash tournaments which allowed a team to dismiss a bonus (by saying "Lame" or some such) if its subject was not to the team's liking and the next bonus in the packet would then be read.

length limit

Main article: length limit

Many packet sets set a length limit on their questions. There is considerable variation in method of limiting the length, the actual limit, and the strictness with which the limit is enforced.


Main article: lexicon

Before the centralization of quizbowl information into sites like the wiki and the database, many teams maintained a lexicon: a dictionary-like group of terms and their definitions, which would span common quizbowl terms and team in-jokes. This practice began to fade away around 2005 and the inexorable passage of time means that many of these sites are now lost to the sands.

list bonuses

Main article: list bonuses

A list bonus is a single question with more than one answer that is used for an entire bonus, with points given based on how correct answers can be enumerated by a team. This is in contrast to the bonus format more common today, in which there are three separate questions, each of which has a single answer. List bonuses are rarely used in modern quizbowl with their usage fading away around the year 2000 due to many players feeling that they were less interesting than other bonuses.

list tossups

Main article: list tossups

A list tossup consists entirely of a list of things with something in common which the player must deduce. There is typically little to no other structure in a list tossup, though there may be an FTP.

Common conceits for list tossups include: things listed in "We Didn't Start the Fire", months of the French revolutionary calendar, and names of novels by an author.



Main article: m

"m" is a phrase that is frequently used in the high-school quizbowl Discord community to express a sense of affirmation.

m stock m

Main article: m stock m

"m stock m" is a humorous[citation needed] variation on the phrase "m" that is often repeated in the highschool quizbowl Discord community. The phrase is ostensibly used to point out the presence of stock clues in the modern meaning, though it is also used as a general expression of affirmation like "m" itself.

Magin's law

Main article: Magin's law

Magin's Law, formulated by and named for Jonathan Magin, states that over time, the percentage of competent and dedicated people in quizbowl increases, resulting in a corresponding increase in the quality of tournaments.

mainstream quizbowl

Main article: mainstream quizbowl

Mainstream quizbowl consists of teams which are permanent enough to hold regular practices and compete in Saturday tournaments featuring academic content. Not included in this category are participants in other formats, those who play inappropriate difficulties, and those who play predominantly pop culture questions.


Main article: mfwlife

:mfwlife: is an emoji created by Josh Rollin which is frequently used in the high school quizbowl Discord community. It is commonly used to express a sense of disappointment or exasperation, whether in an ironic or in a serious manner. The phrase "mfwlife" may also be used by itself in place of the emoji.

Its name is derived from the slang term "mfw", meaning "my face when", and depicts a profile portrait of Fat Ed, an ill-tempered character from the mature TV puppet show Fur TV.


Main article: mind-reading

Mind-reading is the process of attempting to figure out where a question is going based off of context. It differs from lateral thinking in that the player relies not on past factual knowledge or deductive thinking but rather from heuristics and gut feeling.

Minnesota Effect

Main article: Minnesota Effect

The Minnesota Effect described the tendency for teams with major knowledge holes to finish poorly at mainstream national tournaments but still win CBI NCT.

This term is no longer in use, as CBI is defunct.


Main article: mirror

A mirror tournament (or mirror) is a tournament where the host obtains the question set from a different tournament ("mirroring") rather than writing the questions itself. Such a tournament can obtain packets from a housewrite or a vendor like NAQT.

A mirror is contrasted with the main site, which is the tournament run by the school which wrote the set. However, the meaning of the term has largely expanded to mean "any site where a question set is used," including the main site.

Morlan's Law of Quiz Bowl Writing

Main article: Morlan's Law of Quiz Bowl Writing

Morlan's Law of Quiz Bowl Writing" states that "Typos are bad, but they're better to have than bad questions."

muddy battlefield

Main article: muddy battlefield

The muddy battlefield hypothesis most generally states that tournaments that meaningfully distinguish between two teams of a given skill level do not meaningfully distinguish between teams of significantly higher or lower skill levels.

Mukherjee's Laws of Organic Chemistry

Main article: Mukherjee's Laws of Organic Chemistry

Eric Mukherjee's Laws of Organic Chemistry:

  • No tossup on a functional group that has two or more words in its name can turn out well.
  • No tossup on a functional group which is a combination of two or more different basic functional groups can turn out well.
  • Stop writing on Markovnikov's Rule for difficult tournaments.


NAQT Customer Service

See: NAQT Customer Service

NAQT Customer Service is the assertion that NAQT intentionally ignores complaints of mainstream quizbowl participants and/or makes business decisions based on what it thinks a mythical group of casual players wants, rather than what a group of dedicated players is telling them.

NAQT Customer Service complaints were most prominent in the early- to mid-2000s. They have been greatly reduced, though not completely eliminated, since the appointment of Jeff Hoppes as the NAQT Vice President for Communications.

neg prize

See: Neg prize

Neg prizes are awards given (usually) in jest during a tournament's awards ceremony to the player with the most total negs. When multiple players tie for the award, ties are broken by lowest tossup/interrupt ratio. While most team and individual prizes consist of various trophies and books, neg prizes can be, and often are, just about anything.


An unfortunate quizbowl team gets caught in a negstorm

A negstorm is a situation where the negging of one player on a team causes other players to neg more than they otherwise would to make up the scoring deficit. Because the initial neg puts the team at a point disadvantage, other players, believing that points are desperately needed, will buzz earlier during tossups, increasingly the likelihood that they too will neg. The process can become self-perpetuating and lead to a lot of negs by a team in one round, even if it does not usually neg.

More broadly, the term can be used to describe any situation where a quizbowl team negs more often than usual, especially if the negs end up costing the team a game against another school that they expected to beat.


Novice is an adjective that may refer to a tournament or the difficulty of the packet set used at the tournament.

A novice set or novice-difficulty packet set is one that is intended to be significantly easier than a standard, regular-difficulty set. At the collegiate level, novice sets traditionally include "easy"-level sets ("1 dot" on Ophir's scale) like ACF Fall and Minnesota Undergraduate Tournament, though some community members contend that these sets are too difficult for true novice players. NAQT also produces a yearly Collegiate Novice set that is easier than ACF Fall ("0.5 dots" on Ophir's scale), intended for players who are new to collegiate quizbowl and were not as dominant in their high-school playing career.

At the high-school level, SCOP Novice sets and NAQT IS-A sets are the most widely played examples of novice sets (though the latter are not explicitly billed as such). Recently, some middle-school sets like RAMS and ERIS have expanded their markets by doubling as high-school novice sets.

A novice tournament is one that uses novice sets and has severe eligibility restrictions. Novice tournaments typically restrict eligibility to players who (1) have played mainstream quizbowl for fewer than two years and/or (2) are freshmen or sophomores academically. In college, typically both conditions must be met. In high school, many tournaments require one and disregard the other; tournaments that only use the second restriction are often referred to as junior varsity.


one-man team

A one-man team is a team with multiple players on it whose fate is perceived to be entirely tied to the scoring abilities of one player. Because that player need not be male, the term one-person team has also gained currency in recent years. The term is usually mildly derisive, and often implies that the star player would not look as good while sitting next to stronger teammates. These teams cannot usually succeed against well-balanced attacks from multiple good players at the highest levels of either high school or collegiate quizbowl.

Because of the derogatory connotations, and especially the implied insult to the teammates of the "one-man," it is not a good idea to use this term in reference to any team in your tournament when you are the TD or moderator.

If there is literally one person playing at a team tournament, the term "one-man team" or "one-person team" does not apply and the person is instead playing solo.


See: Open

An open tournament is a quizbowl tournament in which anyone may play, as opposed to a normal collegiate tournament which limits its field to teams consisting of players representing the same school, in which all such players are enrolled. Nonstudents of all ages and mixed-school teams are encouraged at open tournaments. However, most open tournaments see a good deal of their field comprised of traditional school teams, since this is the best way for most people to arrange funding and transportation for quizbowl tournaments.


Osmosis is the act of learning a fact through its repetition in quizbowl. Knowledge gained from osmosis is gained when people play many packets as a studying method. Facts learned through flashcards or notes, even if they are made from previous quiz bowl questions, are not generally considered to have been osmosed.


Outreach is the act of seeking to provide more information about quizbowl competitions to teams that may not be aware of a quizbowl competition and schools that may not yet have quizbowl teams.

Outreach can take many forms including emailing, phone calling, going to league meetings, or anything that helps spread information about quizbowl to people who did not know about it. Outreach can also include trying to convert teams from bad quizbowl to good quizbowl.

Outreach is most needed in areas where there are few quizbowl competitions and in areas where there are mostly bad quizbowl formats like Questions Unlimited or Academic Hallmarks.

Some quizbowl organizations such as MOQBA have been founded to help promote outreach within a geographic area by coordinating players and coaches from an area to help change institutions and inform new teams about quizbowl.



A packet is a document containing the questions used in a particular round at a given tournament. In most tossup-bonus format tournaments, an edited packet consists of 20 tossups and 20 bonuses, followed by one or more tiebreaker tossups and one or more extra bonuses. The collection of all the packets for a given tournament is called a set.

At packet-submission tournaments, teams are asked to write a packet of questions and send them to the editors, who convert them to their final forms.

For some reason, quizbowl players in Canada usually say "packs" rather than "packets"; some Canadians make matters even more confusing for American listeners by using the word "packet" to refer to an entire question set. The word "packs" is filtered and automatically replaced with "packets" on the hsquizbowl forums.

packet feng shui

See: Packet feng shui

Packet feng shui is the art of constructing appealing quizbowl packets. While there is no consensus on what constitutes good packet feng shui, there are general rules on what not to do.

packet reading

A packet reading (or colloquially, packet) is a type of open practice or scrimmage held on Discord, in which someone reads a question packet to other people over voice chat. Most quizbowl servers have a #packet channel reserved for this purpose. They are usually held in a shoot-out format.

packet sub

See: Packet submission

A packet submission tournament is a tournament that requires many participating teams to write questions (usually an entire packet, hence the name) if they are to play. Packet submission tournaments, while declining in frequency from their height in the early 2000s, are still a common feature of How Collegiate Quizbowl Works. The packet-submission model is not used for high school tournaments.

packet swap

See: Packet swap

Packet swap was a college quizbowl procedure in which tournaments increase the number of packets blind to participating teams by exchanging with a tournament run on a similar date in a different region. A packet swap was differentiated from a mirror by the presence of packets originally submitted by teams participating in the tournament.


See: Paperless

A paperless tournament is a tournament for which packets are distributed to tournament staff electronically and read off of laptops, tablets, or other electronic devices.

A paperless tournament may still use paper; for instance, scoresheets and schedules may be printed out, or in formats with computation, scratch paper may be provided to the teams.

playing under a pseudonym

Sometimes, a quizbowl team may play under a pseudonym, using a fake name for their team. This is most commonly to prevent their school and/or state organization (e.g. MSHSAA, KSHSAA) from realizing that they are violating certain rules, such as geographic or temporal restrictions on tournament attendance. Teams may also play under pseudonyms in hopes of reducing or eliminating their school's liability for problems at tournaments at which they are improperly supervised. Occasionally, the purpose is just to be "funny"—in this case, an in-joke of some kind is often involved.

In the early and mid-2000s, individual players sometimes played under pseudonyms as well, whether to be "funny," to help facilitate cheating, or for other reasons. Sometimes, player pseudonyms were rotated among teammates within a tournament to render individual statistics irrelevant. Both of these practices have largely died out.

The use of pseudonyms damages the usefulness, accuracy, and completeness of statistics. Generally speaking, both of these practices are considered hallmarks of bad quizbowl (although the use of pseudonyms by individuals is generally looked down upon more than if teams do it).

See also: NAQT's policy regarding this whole thing.


See: Poasting

Poasting is a slang term for an exaggerated means of typically content-less posting akin to shitposting. It can occur on the forums, the meme group, the Discord, or any other quizbowl social media. Originating as a more general internet term for "post", the concept of poasting gained prominence in quizbowl via prominent Midwestern quizbowler (and avowed poaster) Jakob Myers. It is the means of fulfilling a "need to poast," referring to situations that are particularly susceptible to be poasted in, like the creation of a controversial forum thread or post.


See: pronoun

In quiz bowl, the word pronoun is used to describe the words or phrases that refer to the answer in each clue of a question. This is a very broad interpretation of the standard English usage of the term.


See: protest

During a quizbowl match, a team may lodge a protest to dispute the acceptability of an answer to a question or the application of rules and procedures. If the protest is upheld, the effects of the original decision are usually undone and some resolution procedure implemented, such as adjusting the scores and/or playing an additional question.


question recycling

See: Question recycling

Question recycling is the practice of reusing questions at more than one tournament. In general, question recycling is only acceptable under the limited provision that it is stated outright and that no one who could have heard recycled questions would be able to attend a tournament where recycled questions are being used without knowingly committing a violation.

Examples of acceptable question recycling include

  • The use of questions at a multi-site tournament where the sectionals are held on the same day.
  • The reuse of a portion of the questions for different divisions of a tournament, held on the same day.
  • The reuse of packets during the same season for different regions, where the questions are prohibited from being discussed in the interim.

Unacceptable question recycling includes

question set

See: Question set

A question set or packet set (or simply, "set") is a collection of all the question packets that are used for a tournament. Most question sets are mirrored at multiple sites across the U.S., Canada, and (sometimes) the world.


See: Quizbowlese

The pejorative term "quizbowlese" is used to refer to formulaic phrases or words that occur much more often in quizbowl question writing than anywhere else. Overuse of quizbowlese makes quizbowl questions harder to read, and makes it more difficult for new players to understand what their moderator is asking them.



Real quizbowl is a shorthand used for playing well-written academic questions. Other forms are known as "fake" quizbowl.

At the college level, real quizbowl refers to all tournaments played on academic, written-for-college questions; that is, NAQT SCT and ICT, the ACF series, and independent mACF tournaments. It excludes tournaments that use trash, hybrid, College Bowl, Honda, or NAQT high school questions.

real knowledge

Real knowledge is actual knowledge of a subject, as opposed to word association and stock clue knowledge, "quizbowl knowledge". Real knowledge implies a higher degree of conceptual knowledge that may also be applicable in tasks such as writing research papers, laboratory work, and critical analysis. Due to the nature of buzzer competition, real knowledge cannot truly be tested under the auspices of good quizbowl. Thus is the case that especially at higher levels of play, successful players have real knowledge as opposed to just memorizing many facts. Taking classes in school is often how real knowledge is obtained, although there are notable exceptions to this. Question writers who have a lack of real knowledge on a subject tend to use inappropriate terminology and constructions, a term that is known as "Quizbowlese".

See also:


See: repeat

A repeat is pair of questions, either tossups or bonuses, in the same question set that share an answerline or are substantively similar (or, more rarely, identical). It can also refer to the second question of such a pair to be heard.

regular difficulty

See: Regular difficulty

Regular difficulty is the difficulty level at which any eligible closed team across the whole range of skill levels can play meaningful games against any other eligible team. I.e.: A regular-difficulty high school set will have a distribution, selection of clues/answers, etc. that allows the more knowledgeable high school team in a given match to consistently win, regardless of whether it's a match between weak teams, average teams, or strong teams.


RMP is an acronym that stands for Religion, Mythology, and Philosophy. Until 2018, these categories were grouped together in the ACF distribution and in the distributions of typical mACF events. Since 2018, it has become more common to divide RMPSS into Belief (encompassing Religion and Mythology) and Thought (encompassing Philosophy and Social Science).

An RMP subject tournament called RMPFest was produced in 2008 and 2009 by Bruce Arthur and others.

NAQT has separate categories called "philosophy" and "theology," and has both "mythology" and "religious literature" categories as parts of its literature distribution.

The question of what to do with topics on the borderline of religion and mythology, such as Hindu deities, is an ongoing discussion within quizbowl. The question of how much space to give to RMP in ACF-format packets remained relevant through c. 2010, with some tournaments having 2/2, some having 3/3, and some alternating 3/2 and 2/3 between RMP and arts.


RMPSS is an acronym that stands for Religion, Mythology, Philosophy, and Social Science. It is frequently used to describe the corresponding sections of many mACF question distributions, especially for high-school sets.

Despite the large differences between the four subjects, high school players often treat "RMPSS" as a single large category similar to science, history, literature, or fine arts.

RMPSS is sometimes subdivided into "RM" (Religion and Mythology) and "PSS" (Philosophy and Social Science), as each of those subject pairs actually have substantial overlap.



A player or team is said to scale on a particular category if their ability to get good buzzes on questions in that category does not diminish when the difficulty increases. The ability to scale is a hallmark of a good specialist.


SCIENCE! is an exclamation, derived from Magnus Pike's spirited interjection in the Thomas Dolby song "She Blinded Me With Science," which denotes one or both of the following situations:

  • a poorly written science question or a science question on an answer that is borderline science at best (science biography, the Leidenfrost effect, names of programming languages with "Codey McWhitespace invented it in 1968" type clues)
  • a person with no real knowledge of science getting a science question through some kind of fraudulent play

SCIENCE! is closely related to its sub-disciplines PHYSICS! and GEOSYSTEMS!?, the latter of which is the name of actual classes at TJHSST and Wilmington Charter.

See also CLOOS and illiterature.


See: Question set

shadow effect

The shadow effect occurs when two players each score less points by playing on the same team than they would playing solo. It is a direct result of the fact that every question can be answered by, at most, one player on a team.

When more than one player is on a team, each player's knowledge base overlaps, however slightly, with each other player's knowledge base. However, only one player on that team can buzz in and earn points on a tossup. Therefore, two players whose knowledge bases overlap significantly will each see a large decrease in their PPG relative to if they had been on separate teams, while two players who specialize in different areas will each see a smaller decrease. This decrease in PPG is known as the shadow effect.

The shadow effect is a function of each player's knowledge base and each player's aggressiveness. However, as a player's knowledge base cannot easily be quantified, an exact formula for the shadow effect cannot be derived.

The assumption that the shadow effect is roughly the same for all groups of two players is a fundamental flaw in PATH. Nevertheless, PATH is often considered a more accurate indicator of a player's ability than PPG, which does not account for the shadow effect.


The shoot-out format refers to an alternative to team-based quiz bowl play in which each player plays individually; it is roughly equivalent to each player acting a separate team. Unlike conventional formats, more than two incorrect buzzes are allowed (though the specific amount varies from event to event).

Many informal events will be run as shoot-outs, as well as many side events. The rounds of Festivus and the Internet Charity Tournament are run as shoot-outs.

side event

See: Side event

A side event is a small tournament ran in conjunction with a quiz bowl tournament, usually after that "main" tournament is completed. Typically, a "side event" is partnered with an academic tournament so that it can draw in more players.

Subject tournaments are an example of a side event.

Silberman's axioms

Silberman's Axioms concern the effective operation of a quiz bowl tournament.

1. Axiom of Quality: Never run a tournament for which you lack sufficient competent moderators. (Which is to say, the number of competent moderators available should be the limiting factor on field size.)

2. Paradox of Availability: All the good moderators are probably playing the tournament. (Matt Weiner notes that "they probably shouldn't be playing.")

This is not currently in use.


See: Slapbowl

Slapbowl occurs when a tournament has insufficient functional buzzer systems to play every scheduled game with one. Players thus slap the table (hence the name), yell "buzz!", or otherwise make some kind of noise to indicate that they know the answer. Any moderator in a so-called "slapbowl room" should be as impartial as possible and sit as close to the exact middle of the two teams as possible, since all buzzer races will be determined by which sound the moderator claims he/she heard first. It is the duty of the tournament director to ensure that slapbowl is avoided if at all possible or minimized if unavoidable.

small school

Some tournaments recognize the top-placing team that is from, by some definition, a small school. Some tournaments only allow teams from small schools.

External links:


A specialist is a quizbowl player who focuses on depth of knowledge in a single subject, and can almost always get "their" questions on that subject. These subjects range from minor (quizbowl-wise) subjects like psychology to wide swaths of the canon like literature or history. Specialists typically have some knowledge outside of their area(s), but not enough to be considered a generalist. Many specialists later fill in knowledge gaps in all subjects to become full-fledged generalists, and most successful college quizbowl players develop themselves to a point somewhere along the pure generalist–pure specialist dichotomy.


Spite is an emotion that fuels the drive for success in many quizbowlers. Spite often takes root when annoying people are better at quizbowl than the afflicted person, which can often spur dedicated improvement to rectify the situation.

Notable proponents/users of spite include Mike Sorice, who employed spite-related puns for the subtitles of several incarnations of Illinois Open.

stock clue

See: Stock clue

The term "stock clue" originally referred to clues that have been used since approximately the days of the GE College Bowl radio show, or at least the 1990s. For a long time, those clues were recycled as lead-in clues by inexperienced teams who did not know any better, and passed through the final editing stage by editors who should have known better. Such stock clues were often biographical clues, and could also have resulted from excessive name-dropping of a term of actual importance for continuous years.


Subapalooza is a pejorative term for the practice of teams making many substitutions during a game.

This is not currently in use.


See: Swerve

A swerve is related to a hose, in that the question punishes players who buzz in with knowledge of the answer. Unlike with hoses, the player is not the victim of blatantly wrong information (or information that "uniquely" identifies multiple answers); rather, the question "swerves" to a new direction by asking something tangentially related to the rest of the question.

Swerves are considered anathema to good quizbowl because they specifically inhibit players with knowledge from buzzing and/or punish players for not waiting until the end of the question.


Taco Bell Soap

See: Taco Bell Soap

Taco Bell Soap denotes any tossup which contains uninformative, useless, and usually asinine lead-in clues from which no player would be able to even hazard a rational guess. "Taco Bell Soap" lead-ins and "curved yellow fruit" giveaways are considered the pinnacle of bad question writing.

The original "Taco Bell Soap" question appeared as Tossup 3 in the "Fair Game" Theme Packet by Shaun Cassidy & the Grapico Kid for Ghetto Warz III. It was later revealed by the question's author, Dwight Wynne, that this question had in fact been submitted as a literature tossup.

the circuit

See: The circuit

The circuit is the collective name for the group of schools and teams that regularly participate in weekend quizbowl tournaments. By general consensus, "the circuit" does not include schools that only participate in local quizbowl leagues. When referring to the circuit or one of its divisions, it is proper to call it by its name of "the circuit" or "the [insert geographic division here] circuit", rather than just saying "circuit".

Due to obvious geographic restrictions, "the circuit" is divided into several more-or-less autonomous areas, each of which is connected by common national tournaments that teams travel to outside their primary area.

The Knot

The Quiz Wizard II, usually known to quizbowlers only as The Knot, is an infamous and ancient 16-player buzzer system sold by Creative Electronic Design, Inc. [2].

It gets its nickname from the ridiculous number of wires in the system, which is difficult to transport in anything less than a medium-sized plastic storage tub as a result. Because there are no lights corresponding to the individual players' paddles, each paddle has an (often illegible) alphanumeric label etched into the plastic, and a small basketball-scoreboard-like display in front of the moderator displays that paddle's label so it can be read out for player-recognition purposes. As such, matches played on The Knot often include loud interruptions from the moderator calling out utterances such as "D2" or (high school player favorite) "C4".

"The Knot" was a long-time fixture of tournaments and shootouts at the University of Maryland, which owned one for the better part of two decades until around 2013. The University of Chicago also owns a Knot.

The packet wins again!

The Packet Wins Again! is an exclamation often heard after a particular type of hose. In essence, this phenomenon occurs when a player is negged due to not having specific insight into the mind of the packet-writer. An excellent example is a tossup on the Niebelungenlied which leads in with a clue about A, B, and C texts; said clue is applicable more canonically to Piers Plowman.

While this phenomenon can occur in any tournament (as set theory dictates that no set of editors can have knowledge of the applicability of every single clue), it is much more common in tournaments edited hastily by non-superstar teams. The occurrence of this phenomenon is roughly proportional to <math>C*e^(-a*t)</math>, where t is the collective number of good tournaments edited by the group of editors, and C and a are constants.

This is not currently in use.


"Titular" is an English adjective meaning "in title only, as opposed to reality." E.g.: "Following the Glorious Revolution, the descendants of James II were the titular monarchs of England."

It has a rarely used (in formal written American English) secondary meaning, "of or pertaining to the title of something." E.g.: "Binx Bolling is the titular character of Walker Percy's novel The Moviegoer." The much more common and clear way to write this sentence is: "Binx Bolling is the title character of Walker Percy's novel The Moviegoer."

In quizbowl, the word "titular" used where "title" would have been much more appropriate became a meme around 1998, possibly due to HILARIOUS! evocation of a slang term for the female breasts. The intentional use of the word to provoke giggles (or, perhaps, tittering) subsided by 2003. Unfortunately, ever since 2010, a non-ironic use of "titular" has once again exploded as part of the quizbowlese phenomenon. In literally every case, it is better to use "title" as an adjective or consider whether multiple references to "the titular/title character" in your question are helpful in the first place.

Neither word is appropriate to use when referring to "the titular event" or "the title phenomenon" in history or science questions that are not on formal and unambiguous published titles of creative works; the proper remedy when tempted to do this is to jump off a bridge.


See: Transparency

Transparency is one of the hallmarks of bad question writing. It is generally defined as a mismatch between the distribution of points where the question is answered and the distribution of places where the question should be answered.


See: Trash

Trash is the common name for popular culture (sports, movies, TV, video games, non-classical music, comic books, etc) in quizbowl. Though probably a derogatory term when it was first coined, it has been embraced by the most vocal supporters of popular culture content in quizbowl, and the term no longer contains any value judgment.

triple crown

See: Multi-championship achievements

The term "Triple Crown" was popular circa the year 2000 to describe a set of three tournament titles: the NAQT ICT overall championship, the ACF Nationals championship, and the College Bowl national championship. Teams or players might be described as winning a "Triple Crown" in a career or a single year

A modern interpretation of the Triple Crown might refer to winning the NAQT ICT, ACF Nationals, and Chicago Open in the same year, as those are clearly the three most prestigious and popular hard tournaments. No single school's team has done this (nor has any team composed of players from a single school ever won Chicago Open at all).


See: Trivia

The distinction between what is and is not trivia is one of the most difficult and subtle parts of becoming a good question writer for quizbowl. Trivia is knowledge based solely on memorization of an arbitrary fact, divorced from the context of why that fact is important. Knowing that Zachary Taylor won the Battle of Buena Vista is academic, because it relates to why Zachary Taylor is important and is integral to understanding the Battle of Buena Vista. Knowing that the Battle of Buena Vista took place before the Battle of Veracruz is academic, because the relative order of battles is important to understanding why the battles occurred and why the Mexican War turned out as it did. Knowing that the Battle of Buena Vista took place on February 23, 1847 alone is trivia, as its absolute date means nothing out of the context of the other battles' dates. Thus, a question asking on Taylor mentioning that he was the victorious general at Buena Vista, a question on Veracruz mentioning that it took place after Buena Vista, or a question on Buena Vista itself is academic. A question that just asks what year Buena Vista took place is trivia, and therefore not academic.

trophy whore

Trophy whoring is the act taken by a team/coach to intentionally attend a tournament for the purpose of increasing their odds of placing or winning (a trophy) over a weaker field of teams, rather than attending a tournament with a stronger field of teams that might be more commensurate with the team's ability or readiness to improve.

This practice is greatly frowned upon in the good quizbowl community.

Similarly, players or coaches can engage in stats whoring. This is a practice where a player may decide (or a coach may decide for the player) to play an easier tournament, or to intentionally play down a level (B instead of A team or JV instead of Varsity) for the purpose of improving their season statistics for one reason or another. Like with trophy whoring, this practice is frowned upon in the good quizbowl community.

However, it should be noted that in an attempt to make a team more well rounded, it is not uncommon for a program to play a very good player on their B team in order to move up a player who may, after-the-fact, convert fewer tossups, but will make the A team more well rounded and more successful. This is especially the case if two good players have a strong overlap in knowledge base. This is not considered stats whoring.


underground packet trade

The underground packet trade (also known as the underground packet railroad) is a mythical agreement between several prominent quizbowl players and/or clubs that allows these players and clubs to freely obtain packets that have not been made freely available to the public.

The exact workings and connections of the underground packet trade are a well-kept secret. In general, it is assumed that one or more participants in the underground packet trade obtain the packet set used at a tournament (by virtue of attending the tournament, paying for the questions, or writing a freelance packet). These questions are then sent, usually with the implicit understanding of future reciprocation, to one or more contacts, upon which the packets are quickly distributed to all members of the underground packet trade.

Many clubs also have somewhat secret private archives of packets generally not available on more public archives like the Stanford Archive. According to Zeke Berdichevsky, Michigan apparently had an extensive private archive in the early 2000s that they hid from other clubs in order to gain an edge on other clubs by practicing on packets with "good clues".


vanity tournaments

"Vanity" tournaments are side events whose distribution or subject matter is altered massively from standard quizbowl categories or combinations thereof. This can be done to suit the whims of the event's author, point out an underexplored category, or simply for fun/funn. The label "vanity" is sometimes used as a pejorative for regular tournaments that alter a standard distribution to better suit the knowledge of the writing team.


See: Vulching

Vulturing or vulching is the act of racing to beat out teammates to a tossup after the other team has negged. Though many vultures still have the courtesy to wait until the end of the question to engage in the activity, some will interrupt the question. Due to CBI's archaic policy on nonverbal conferral and the vast number of negs piled up in these tournaments, vulturing was allowed and encouraged on CBI questions to ensure you beat your teammates to the buzzer when you had the right answer and didn't know that they did. Since no one plays CBI tournaments anymore and NAQT now allows a tossup begun before the end of a half to be completed after the buzzer sounds, most acceptable reasons for vulturing have been eliminated in the modern game.


Watkins Pole

To be hit with the Watkins Pole is to encounter a category edited to be so difficult in a given packet set that it is all but unanswerable even by the top active players in that category. The name derives from the 2010 Chicago Open, at which the Andy Watkins-edited science proved too much for the second-place team (containing Seth Teitler and Selene Koo) and the third-place team (containing Mike Sorice and Ray Luo), effectively eliminating the science category from the tournament and enabling a relatively science-poor team to take the championship.

Weiner's Law #2

See: Weiner's Laws

Weiner's Law #2 states that no one who announces their retirement from quizbowl ever stays retired; all such people actually have played in at least one further tournament after their announced retirement date.

Westbrook Limit

The Westbrook Limit is the biological cap on the number of times a quizbowl editor can work on easy tournaments before they become monstrously tired of finding new leadin clues for Margaret Mead and insists on only contributing to standard collegiate material or above.

The ability to avoid the Westbrook Limit is sometimes known as Weiner Escape.


Young's Law

Young's Law is an axiomatic observation about quizbowl that states that all good male quizbowl players are Asian, Jewish, and/or gay. It is named for former Dartmouth and GWU player Tim Young. In recent years, the rise of dull heterosexual WASP types like Rob Carson, Andrew Hart, and Matt Bollinger (Hong Kong modeling career notwithstanding) has called the accuracy of Young's Law into question.


zone out

To zone out is to fail to pay attention to the tossup until magically becoming alert at the sound of "For ten points". Players often zone out on questions about areas that they have no knowledge in. This is particularly problematic on science questions, where occasionally every humanities player in the room will zone out off the mention of things that sound like boring science.

Zoning out is generally considered bad quizbowl because players who zone out learn nothing from the question, so that they not only will not get this question, but are guaranteed not to get subsequent questions on that topic.

It has been suggested that on a team with, say, a physics specialist and three players with limited knowledge of physics, it is more beneficial for the three non-physics players to zone out on physics questions to conserve mental energy for tossups in their areas of specialty than it is for all four to listen to the question. However, this argument in general only applies to major national tournaments where fatigue may become a factor in a team's ability to win pivotal games.