Words: quiz, n. and v.

ONLY NOW that I set a weekly quiz in this newspaper's magazine did I wonder about the exact origins of the word. (That way lies madness should any of us linger over every such word in a day.) A reasonable suppostion is that it is Latin. In fact, only indirectly: it is mid-19th-century American, first used by William James with a certain disdain in 1867: it yokes question and inquisitive, and also echoes the dialect quies, but is distinct from the earlier quiz, an eccentric person. It had also been used by Jane Austen of an odd- looking thing.

Meanwhile, here is another quiz, which Jo Finch, a computer scholar, asks her pupils. What is the difference between an illegal and an unlawful act? Think about it and watch this space in the morning.

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