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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Could You Be a British Citizen?

One of my new favorite blogs is separated by a common language, run by an American expat linguist in Britain named lynnequist lynneguist [d'oh! I have no idea why I put a 'q' instead of a 'g' there, ruining the pun in the process; something melted in my brain --H]; it details all sorts of interesting linguistic matters, focusing on the variations between British and American usage (as well as regional variations within each). Lynnequist Lynneguist recently took (and passed) the test to become a British citizen (apparently they are now calling themselves citizens, not subjects, though they still must swear or affirm "allegiance to the Queen, her heirs and successors"). That one has to take a test at all is a recent (and some believe, suspiciously American) innovation.

So I asked her what some of the questions were on the citizenship test, but she informed me that she was sworn to secrecy, and if she revealed the questions, she could retroactively fail the test. She pointed me instead to this test put together by the BBC based on the book you have to study to prepare for the test. Try it out, Brits and non-Brits alike. Could you become a British citizen?

I think I failed: 6 out of 14 correct. How did you do?

My results
  • Correct: the name of the 1215 document outlining English rights; what it's "very important" to ask a solicitor before engaging him or her; when 18 yr-olds got the vote; what your rights are if asked to go to the police station for an "interview"; what to do if you spill a person's pint at the pub (an important one, that); where Father Christmas calls home.

  • Incorrect: what it means "to be British"; by what factor native-born English outnumber Scots and Welsh; the calendrical order of the four national saints' days (George, David, Patrick, Andrew)--calendrical order?!? that's much harder than naming the first president and the one who freed the slaves; where the myth of Father Christmas comes from (I "knew" it but thought it was a trick question); what two telephone numbers you can dial for emergency services (I only knew about 999--"London's burning with boredom now / London's burning dial 99999," but why the extra two 9s?); what or who is "PG"; what you have to do to own a dog; the minimum time you must be married before getting a divorce.
Sadly, there aren't as many historical questions as I'd hoped there would be, so BtR readers are at little to no advantage.

  • At 12/23/2006 12:27:00 PM, Blogger Flavia wrote…

    I got 7 out of 14, which I'm quite sure is still failing--although I'm pleased to say that I *did* get the order of saints' days correct: we all know when St. Patrick's Day is, but I had the secret if shameful weapon of having once, long ago, dated a ludicrously conservative anglophile (from Staten Island, natch) who took me to a St. George's Day banquet. I remembered that it was around the end of the semester, or late April.


  • At 12/23/2006 01:59:00 PM, Blogger Greenwit wrote…

    10 right! I'm more British than coronation chicken!


  • At 12/23/2006 04:30:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    Hey, I *am* a British citizen (albeit a slightly drunk one right now - Xmas has begun!) and I don't think I'd get all of them right, so I think you folks are doing fine. (Plus that first question about what it means to be British makes me want to vomit. Everyone knows that the real answer it "getting beaten by the Aussies at cricket".)


  • At 12/23/2006 05:18:00 PM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    Hi Sharon,
    Yes, it struck me that the British quiz was much harder than the US quiz.

    You can try the US Quiz here--it selects 10 questions from a list of 100 that the Immigration and Naturalization Service has long used. You can keep taking the quiz to see more questions.

    My score: 10 out of 10!! I am officially a citizen!

    You can see all 100 questions here. There's a lot of repetition, and some really strange questions in there.

    Hardest question: "How many changes or amendments are there to the Constitution?"

    Trickiest question: "Who elects the President of the United States?"

    Question that I think might have the biggest gap between ease for BtR's American readers and difficulty for our non-American readers: "Who becomes President of the United States if the President and the vice-president should die?"

    Question that is impossible for a natural-born citizen, easy for a naturalized citizen: "What Immigration and Naturalization Service form is used to apply to become a naturalized citizen?"

    Most existential question: "Who was Martin Luther King, Jr.?"

    Second-most ideologically loaded question: "Who helped the Pilgrims in America?"

    Most ideologically loaded, and historically suspect, question: "What holiday was celebrated for the first time by the American colonists?"

    Most subjective question that has only one "correct" answer: "What is the most important right granted to US citizens?"

    Question most liable to create that annoying tip-of-the-tongue feeling when you can't quite come up with the last portion of the answer: "Name the rights guaranteed by the first amendment."

    Most awkwardly worded question: "What is the supreme court law of the United States?"


  • At 12/23/2006 11:38:00 PM, Blogger lynneguist wrote…

    I'm glad you like the blog, and I am enjoying reading the test scores here, but must point out that you've failed a basic one--my name! It's a G, not a Q in Lynneguist (geddit?).

    Enjoy the festive season!


  • At 12/23/2006 11:49:00 PM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    Hi lynneguist,
    Of course it's a 'g' (gee). I've edited the post to deal with my brain syncope. I did get the pun, believe it or not, but apparently my typing fingers did not get it.

    Felicitous Boxing Day!


  • At 12/24/2006 06:36:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    PS: three of us (one English one Scot and one Northern Irish) did it together and we managed 12. We'd all be buggered if they wanted us to swear allegiance to Queen Betty and her crew though...


  • At 12/24/2006 07:58:00 AM, Blogger bdh wrote…

    Ha! 7 out of 14. Better than I expected, considering my visits to the pub tend to be motivated by music rather than beverages...

    I was tricked by the pint/fight question. I had originally picked the correct answer, but then found that the following question suggested the answer otherwise... Did anyone else get caught on that?


  • At 12/24/2006 08:00:00 AM, Blogger bdh wrote…

    I also was hoping PG was Peter Gabriel. Maybe next time...


  • At 12/24/2006 10:52:00 AM, Blogger Simplicius wrote…

    I scored an 8. I wouldn't have been surprised by a 3.


  • At 12/24/2006 10:58:00 AM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    Sharon: I think 12 would get you citizenship, but I'm not sure Britain allows tripartite citizenship.

    bdh: maybe you'd be better at the US citizenship test? It could come in handy once that diss is finished... my Aussie friends teaching in the US really hate renewing those visas... I'm just saying.


  • At 12/25/2006 09:49:00 PM, Blogger bdh wrote…

    You were right H – I got 8 out of 10 for the first US test, and 10 out of 10 for the second. I had no idea there were so many people in Congress – that's ridiculous...


  • At 12/28/2006 01:54:00 AM, Blogger Filboid Studge wrote…

    5 out of 14.
    And, bdh, yes, I fought over the spilt pint and waited in vain for the ambulance.
    Greetings to all!


  • At 12/28/2006 06:55:00 AM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    Hi Filboid, and welcome to the blog (but not to British citizenship)!


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