Quiz Bowl Lexicon

Current Lexicon

These are words and phrases which are still heard from time to time in Berkeley practices.

Abandoned pony (n.)

When a team attempts to ride a pony for the first two parts of a bonus, but chooses a different answer for the third part, only to discover that their first answer would have been correct. Abandoned ponies typically stand at the side of the road and look forlorn.

"A winner is (you/me/us)!" (interj.)

Something to say when a you or your team make a particularly good buzz on a tossup or thirties a bonus. Etymology: a poor English translation of a Japanese video game displayed this message when you won. Sometimes when you expect to hear this phrase you instead hear "You lose!"

Bagel (n.)

  1. A tasty breakfast treat.
  2. America's favorite toroidal breakfast food.
  3. Earning zero points on a bonus.
  4. In tennis, a set won 6-0 or the act of winning such a set, something with which Roger Federer is very familiar.

Botticelli (n.)

  1. Italian Renaissance painter of works such as The Birth of Venus and Primavera.
  2. Like n questions, this is another fun game to play in the car. One player thinks of a person, dead or alive, real or fictional, and tells the others the first letter of that person's name. The other players then have to ask "stumper" questions. An example would consist of one player thinking of Einstein, in which case a stumper question might be something like "Are you a Greek playwright?" A correct answer would be something like "No, I'm not Euripides" (or any other Greek playwright whose name starts with "E"). If the player who is being asked the stumper is unable to answer it correctly, and if at least one other player besides the one who asked the stumper is able to answer the stumper question correctly, the rest of the players get to ask a yes/no question about the individual that the first player has in mind. The game goes on until someone guesses what that player is thinking of. You are advised ahead of time never to play this game with Jerry.

Burden of knowledge (n.)

Situation where a knowledgeable player sees more than one correct possible answer to the question and thus waits for a distinguishing clue while a less knowledgeable player who is only aware of one possibility buzzes in and gets the correct answer. When complaints ensue regarding multiple possible answers, the offender should wave his hand dismissively and claim that he was "unburdened by that knowledge."

Dinosaur (n.)

  1. Any of a group of extinct chiefly terrestrial carnivorous or herbivorous reptiles of the Mesozoic era.
  2. Any college-bowl player who has already graduated at least once, or is over the age of 30. For example, "Nick and Jon are both dinosaurs."
  3. Anyone who remembers playing in ACF 1995 or earlier and has flashbacks when a younger, more naive club member suggests reading it in practice.

Dinosaur room (n.)

Separate practice room for senior members of the Berkeley Quiz Bowl team, so that newcomers have a reasonable chance of answering questions. See also dinosaur.

Dinosaur rules (n.)

Set of informal rules where experienced members of the club can buzz in on a tossup only after it has been read in its entirety. Designed to give newcomers a reasonable chance of answering questions. Also see dinosaur. Dinosaur rules are sometimes relaxed to only forbid dinosaurs from buzzing before the "for ten points" in the clue.

ice cold (n.)

  1. The temperature of solid water.
  2. The temperature of Jenny Tan's soul.

I've heard of this (interj.)

  1. Statement made when a bonus question is on a topic which the player is particularly knowledgeable about.
  2. Statement made when a bonus question is on something which the player has no idea about but has heard of tangentially. Coined by Steve Kaplan to refer to things he has heard of. Example: "History! I've heard of that!"

n questions (n.)

A game that's fun to play in the car when it's too dark to read packets. It has the added benefit that less thinking is required for this game than for Botticelli. One person picks a person, place, or thing, and the rest of the people ask as many yes/no questions as necessary to determine what the other person is thinking of. It is similar to 20 Questions, but the goal is to minimize the amount of time it takes to get the answer, rather than the number of questions.

Philosophy (n.)

  1. The gay science!
  2. Is it better to have buzzed and lost than never to have buzzed at all?
  3. Winning is better than losing.
  4. Knowledge is good.

Power (n.)

  1. The time rate at which work is done or energy emitted or transferred.
  2. Getting a tossup very early (upon which extra points are awarded in the NAQT format).
  3. General abilities and knowledge of a player. For example, "He's really good at trash! If only we could use his powers for good!"
  4. Also, a taunt from one team to another. For example, "My powers are beyond your understanding!"

Rebound (v.)

  1. To spring back on or as if on collision or impact with another body.
  2. To recover from setback or frustration.
  3. To answer a tossup after the other team has already negged on it.
  4. To hit the buzzer with such gusto as to make one's arm fly into the air after buzzing, causing those on the player's right side to duck for safety. Perfected by Steve Kaplan.

Ride a pony (v.)

When a team with very limited knowledge of a subject being asked in a bonus chooses one answer that they do know and answers it for all three parts. Consternation occurs when the answer turns out to be correct, forcing the team to scramble for a new mount. See also abandoned pony.

Scientist (n.)

What a humanities major who correctly answers a science tossup is, especially when real scientists are present, resulting in the triumphant cry of "I'm a scientist!" "Scientist" may be substituted with "economist," "mathematician," "sociologist," and so on. Usually happens when someone lacks the burden of knowledge.

Slavs! (n.)

A hit musical soon to be penned by Brett Hallahan, including such numbers as "The Famousz Czeslaw Milosz" and "Dragostea Din Tei."

There is no shame, only points (interj.)

An expression uttered by or to a player who has just correctly answered a question on a particularly embarrassing topic, such as crappy bands, pornography, or long-forgotten TV shows.

Valhalla (n.)

Etymology: German and Old Norse; German Walhalla, from Old Norse Valholl, literally, hall of the slain.

  1. The great hall in Norse mythology where the souls of heroes slain in battle are received.
  2. The Berkeley Quiz Bowl team's list of alumni.

"Victory is (mine/ours/yours)!" (interj.)

A triumphant cry, usually from Elise, used to punctuate a successful venture.


  1. (n.) any of various large, carrion-eating birds
  2. (v.t.) to interrupt a dead duck deliberately before the question is finished, denying your teammates an opportunity to add to their PPG.
  3. (n.) the act of interrupting a dead duck
  4. (n.) a player who interrupts a dead duck

Vulturing is considered a serious breach of quizbowl etiquette (yes, there is such a thing) and will often be mocked by the moderator and/or other players making cawing noises at you.

Sometimes also called a swoop.

"You have chosen...poorly." (interj.)

A phrase often uttered by Paul Lujan when he is moderating and the tossup has offered enough information to winnow the list of possible answers to two, and a player buzzes in with the wrong choice. A reference to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, where the Nazi chooses the exceptionally flashy cup, believing it to be the Holy Grail, and instead instantly withers to dust. The knight guarding the Grail comments, "He chose...poorly."

"You lose!" (interj.)

A phrase often uttered by Paul Lujan when he is moderating and the tossup turns out to be a hose, or a player makes a particularly poor buzz in practice. This phrase is often heard in situations where one expects to hear "A winner is you!"

Retired Lexicon

These words and phrases used to be common around Berkeley quizbowl, but now are rarely heard, due usually to their proponents graduating.

Amazon addiction (n.)

Recent phenomenon arising around Amazon.com, whereupon a person spends too much money on books.

Annapencia (n.)

Mythical Queen of the Goths who Jon once dated.

Aniston (ANN-ihs-tahn) (n.)

A boson recently discovered by Usher and Pennington with energy levels around 36 million electron volts. Most of its properties have yet to be deduced, but it is certain that it induces men to salivate.

Arkansas (ar-CAN-ziz) (n.)

Legendary place where everyone is allowed to mispronounce foreign words.

Ass (adj.)

Term used to designate particularly atrocious questions. Questions may either be so poorly written that the answer is unrecognizable or so magically obscure as to prevent anyone but the question writer from answering correctly. May also be used in reference to things other than questions, such as tournaments and so on. Example: "This question is ass!" Also: "This question is full of ass!" Also: "That tournament sucked my ass!"

Ass-easy (adj.)

Exceptionally easy. See also find your ass.

Baby in the well (n.)

A current events question about an event that will be forgotten by everyone within the next couple of weeks.

Baby seals (n.)

Players new and inexperienced in quizbowl. Dinosaurs playing against baby seals will typically result in the clubbing of said baby seals.

Ben-Hur (n.)

Honorary title bestowed upon Jeff Good for his driving style. With his aura alone, he gestures cars out of his way and refuses to have his car passed by Messala on the right.

Bogosity (n.)

Level of inaccuracy or stupidity in a science question. For example, "Chronobiology? What the...?!! That has a bogosity level of five!"

Bogus (adj.)

Stupidity or outright inaccuracy in any question, although usually used in reference to science questions. Often found in packets by East Coast teams whose only exposure to science comes from walking past the physics building on their campus.

Book of lies (n.)

Legendary source where all false facts and bad questions come from. Sometimes (rightfully) confused with the Pink Book.

Burgundian pronunciation (n.)

An attempt to pass off an incorrect answer as a mispronunciation of the correct answer. For example, "Oh, Budapest is so the Burgundian pronunciation of Bucharest!"

Cheese melter (n.)

  1. A device for melting cheese.
  2. A close match. (Coined after a comment made by Kubi.) The correct response to hearing someone say "Cheese melter" is to say, "Mmmm... cheese..."

Chenault (n.)

The maximum number of points which may be earned during a tossup/bonus cycle. This is 40 points for ACF or mACF formats, 45 points for NAQT-style formats due to powers, and 50 points in TRASH. Coined by Jeff Good after a classmate of his. Historic Berkeley Chenaults have included one against Chicago B at Penn Bowl, which tied the game and allowed us to win on a tiebreaker, and two by Berkeley C against Stanford to come back from 110 points down with 90 seconds to go to win an NAQT SCT match 430-420.

Child molester bonus (n.)

A term (coined by Charles Meigs of UCLA) to refer to a bonus which shows an unhealthy fascination with children's TV shows.

Conan (n.)

Resident of Cimmeria portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger in movies. Most well-known for his quote: "Conan, what is best in life?" "To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of the women!"

Dart-throwing monkey (n.)

A hypothetical bonus-answering construct which answers parts of a bonus by randomly picking one of the acceptable answers. For instance, on a 6-part bonus (5 points each) with four possible answers per part, the dart-throwing monkey's score is expected to be 7.5. Being outscored by the dart-throwing monkey on a bonus is cause for shame and humiliation. A bonus on which the dart-throwing monkey can score 10 or more is almost certainly a poorly-designed bonus. Binary bonuses (i.e. bonuses on which each part has only two possible answers) are especially kind to the dart-throwing monkey and should be shunned whenever possible.

Dead duck (n.)

  1. A deceased version of any of various swimming birds of family Anatidae.
  2. A tossup already incorrectly interrupted by the other team.

Easy-Bake Oven (n.)

  1. Award given to player scoring most tossups in a single round.
  2. Something Hentzel doesn't know. Etymology: R. Hentzel once went 19-0 against some poor team. The answer to the one question that prevented him from having a perfect round was "Easy-Bake Oven." This term, therefore, is now enshrined in legend, though rarely, if ever, actually used.

Egyptian river (n.)

  1. A river found in Egypt.
  2. The Nile.
  3. A question where the country and noun are sufficient to uniquely identify an answer. For example, "This Finnish composer..."
  4. A psychological defense mechanism.

El fuego (n.)

  1. Spanish phrase meaning "the fire".
  2. A syntactically incorrect compliment given by Fred Carpenter. For example, "Three tossups in a row! She's el fuego!" Complementary to el frio.

El frio (n.)

  1. Spanish phrase meaning "the cold".
  2. A phenomenon complementary to el fuego, occurring when a player negs three times in a row. Achieved several times by Jerry Vinokurov.

Fijian rules (n.)

A quizbowl variant devised by Mike Usher (see also Modified Prussian). Two or more teams play against each other. On every tossup, each neg causes a deduction of twice the points of the previous neg, but the point value of the tossup doubles as well. This frequently causes score differences in the thousands, especially in the situation that a tossup comes up to which only a single player knows the answer. In this case, everyone on that player's team negs, causing the team to then accumulate vast amounts of points when that player gets the tossup.

Find your ass (n.)

A question which is so easy that answering it is approximately as difficult as the aforementioned activity.

Fun for the children (interj.)

A phrase of reassurance, frequently repeated by Steve Kaplan. Generally taken to mean that everything will be well. Often invoked on the appearance of a particularly ridiculous bonus.

Is it delicious? (interj.)

A key question which needs to be asked when attempting to differentiate between sand and sugar. It originated on the car trip back from NAQT SCT 2003 at Caltech, during a game of n questions. Jerry had picked "sugar" as his item and Seth, noting that previous questioning had yielded the information that the substance was edible, asked "Is it delicious?" Hilarity ensued.

Fine player with much merit (n.)

Title bestowed on anyone who makes a major contribution to winning a match. Coined by Steve Kaplan.

French-Canadian (n.)

The practice of not bathing when on the tournament warpath. Developed by Steve Kaplan, much to the chagrin of his cleaner teammates.

Four Dinosaurs of the Apocalypse (n.)

Jason Hong, Steve Lin, Nick Meyer, and Jon Pennington.

Golden chicken (n.)

  1. (Usually) complimentary name for the player with the best tossup to interrupt ratio.
  2. A hypothetical prize for the above achievement. Often seen in the possession of former Berkeley player Selene Koo.
  3. Someone that gets many tossups without any interrupts at all.

Hamster (n.)

  1. Any of a subfamily (Cricetinae) of small Old World rodents having very large cheek pouches.
  2. One of Jon Pennington's mighty weapons.

Hentzel (n.)

A force of nature.

Heresy man (n.)

Honorary title given to those that can answer those infernal Christian heresy questions. First bestowed upon Dhammika (Dr. D.), a man who knows his heresies.

Inter-uterine device (n.)

Birth control aid invented by Lev Osherovich at practice. More details probably not wanted.

Kaplan's law of averages (n.)

  1. Statistical law that states that if something hasn't happened yet it must be about to happen.
  2. Statistical law that states that once something has happened it will never happen again.

Keep grinding (interj.)

In close matches, an instruction to teammates to continue answering tossups and playing well in general. Often heard in cheese melters.

Knowledge vacuum (n.)

A term used to refer to the region of knowledge space from which no questions should ever be drawn for quizbowl purposes. Coined by Steve Kaplan after a CalTech bonus at Quesadilla demanded that UCLA identify the fruit given its sticker code. The physics of the knowledge vacuum are poorly understood, but it is believed that, like black holes, it does not destroy information, and may sometimes emit it spontaneously. At the center of the knowledge vacuum is the city of Liberal, Kansas.

Lawnmower (n.)

  1. Device used for trimming grass lawns.
  2. Occasionally used in taunts from one team to another. For example, "Your ass is grass and I'm the lawnmower!"

Levinson's corollary to Gresham's Law (n.)

Bad questions drive out the good ones.

Magically obscure (adj.)

Something so mindbogglingly obscure that no one in a room full of top scorers at a tournament is able to come up with it. Such questions are usually deemed ass. Coined by Nick Meyer.

Mammal (n.)

  1. Any warm-blooded vertebrate having the skin more or less covered with hair; young are born alive except for the small subclass of monotremes and nourished with milk.
  2. Title bestowed upon a young undergraduate that is quick and has amassed a wealth of knowledge. See also dinosaur.

Modified Caprivian (n.)

A quizbowl format developed primarily by Andy Penner, best used with a small number of players on a packet of dubious quality. It's every player for themselves, and every player gets two buzzes per tossup and bonus part*. The packet is read straight through. As in Fijian rules, each neg doubles all subsequent point values on that tossup or bonus part. Thus it is possible for a player to intentionally neg on a tossup they know, then buzz in again and earn a total of 15 points (-5 and +20) if they're the first one in. As an added twist, the moderator reads only every other word of the questions. This often leads to impressive psychic buzzes or blank looks, as questions sometimes turn into the likes of "This German birth to during War. His often on search themselves a of values, him Nobel in. His works, Peter and the, soon way works the and, especially by works Carl. This can seen in novel. Name author Glass Game, and."

*except on 30-20-10s, where every player gets one buzz per part, and neg-doubling carries over from one part to the next. Accidentally buzzing twice on one part of a 30-20-10 is a CP violation and should be noted accordingly if anyone is keeping score.

Modified Prussian (n.)

A quizbowl format developed by Mike Usher. It involves every player playing for himself on tossups. If a player gets a tossup, he has a chance to either take the bonus on his own or to nominate a champion to help him out on the bonus. If the player takes the bonus on his own, whatever points he doesn't get on the bonus accrue to the moderator. If the player elects to split the bonus with a champion, he and the champion split the points evenly (if there is an odd number of points, the player who got the tossup gets the odd point). Points for dead tossups are also given to the moderator. The goal is to beat the moderator, as well as the other players. Due to the prevalence of greed, the moderator frequently wins. See also Fijian rules.

Nauvoo (n.)

  1. Town in Illinois, founded by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1839 after they fled from persecution in Missouri.
  2. Coolest town name in the United States, right after Paducah, Kentucky.

Paul Lujan School of Driving (n.)

An institution where one learns to drive like Paul Lujan, i.e. with speed, authority, and confidence. Coined by Jerry Vinokurov during a trip to Penn Bowl to refer to Paul Lujan's prodigious driving skills. Paul was not on the trip.

Pink Book (n.)

Pejorative name for (the rather poorly written) work An Incomplete Education, source of many poor quizbowl questions.

Ride or die bitch (n.)

  1. One who meets the following four (4) criteria:
  2. A title held by former Berkeley Quiz Bowl player Seth Teitler.

Sethy goodness (n.)

A certain ineffable quality possessed by a packet, tournament, or indeed anything which former Berkeley and current Chicago quizbowler Seth Teitler has had a hand in, ensuring that it will be enjoyed and appreciated by all.

Shaftesbury (n.)

  1. An earldom in Dorset. The Earl of Shaftesbury was represented by Achitophel in John Dryden's Absalom and Achitophel.
  2. Where you are when ass questions are being read.

Six-pack of whupass (n.)

  1. Mythical elixir occasionally opened by four gods and poured upon four hapless whelps.
  2. Taunt from one team to another. For example, "We're going to open up a six-pack of whupass on you!"

Speed bowl (n.)

Quiz bowl played using questions with such easy clues that getting tossups is less a matter of skill than buzzer speed.

Static (n.)

  1. Noise produced in a radio or television receiver by atmospheric or various natural or man-made electrical disturbances; also the electrical disturbances producing this noise.
  2. Useless facts in the beginning of a tossup, which results in everyone in the room buzzing in on the one useful clue in the question. For example:
    He was born in a log cabin in the wilderness of New York State. He took his first job as an apprentice to a cloth-dresser, but left after four months "tearful and terrorized." When the village of New Hope, New York opened a circulating library, he discovered the joy of self-discovery and in town met his future wife, Abigail Powers. For ten points, who is this person who became a vice-president under Taylor?
    Answer: Millard Fillmore

Swoop (v.)

An alternative term for vulturing (q.v.).

Syphilis (n.)

  1. chronic contagious usually venereal and often congenital disease caused by a spirochete (Treponema pallidum) and if left untreated producing chancres, rashes, and systemic lesions in a clinical course with three stages continued over many years.
  2. Aggressive, as in: "We haven't scored in a while, it's time to get syphilis." Can also be fired from a canon. Term coined by Steve Kaplan after he got syphilis by being aggressive.

Token undergraduate (n.)

  1. An undergraduate playing with three grad students.
  2. Something that legitimizes a Berkeley team.

Towel (n.)

  1. An absorbent cloth or paper for wiping or drying.
  2. A generally useful item in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
  3. A common item generally not found around the Pasadena area.

Trash queen (n.)

  1. Honorary title given for greatness in playing trash questions.
  2. Aspiration of former Berkeley player Fred Carpenter to know all of the gossip and innuendo about otherwise legitimate individuals.
  3. Something that former Berkeley player Guy Branum also aspires to be.

Voltron (n.)

  1. A team of five robot lions that combine to form an unbeatable super robot.
  2. Ability of a quizbowl team to combine and form an unbeatable force.

Web page (n.)

Repository of knowledge for the Berkeley Quiz Bowl team, often used as a threat by former webmaster Jason Hong to other team members to keep them in line. For example, "Hmm, that's going on the web page!"

Yummy (adj.)

Sarcastic comment made after one's team scores a bagel on a bonus: "Zero points on that Argentine gaucho literature bonus. Yummy!" (or "That was yummy!").

If you're looking for the 30-20-10s that used to be here, they are now on their own page. Similarly, the early history has been moved to the Club History page.