The Paxman test: can you pass it?

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HOW WELL do you keep up with the news? Are you as much in touch with what's happening in the world as you should be? Could you, in brief, suddenly replace Jeremy Paxman at a moment's notice?

Well, here is your chance to find out. The following are news stories about recent events, taken from the media during September. One of them is false. Can you spot which one?

1 In an opinion poll organised last weekend for a Sunday paper, about the possibility of a British referendum on Maastricht, 60 per cent of those questioned said they did not think the present Government was up to organising the referendum and they would rather not have one at all, unless it was organised by Brussels.

2 A new find of Spanish artefacts in the suburbs of Calcutta, which suggests that Columbus did discover India after all, has been suppressed and destroyed in conjunction with the American and Spanish governments, so as not to scupper the 1992 Columbus celebrations.

3 Distressed by their conditions in Hong Kong, a slow trickle of boat people has started leaving the doomed colony and is now emigrating to the city of Bath in England, on the grounds that any place that ejected Chris Patten must hold out promise for the future.

4 The European Community language commission in Brussels has started its long-awaited plans to regulate the language of each member state. What this means primarily is that where a language has alternative words with the same meaning, one of them will have to be discarded in the interests of greater efficiency. In the case of English, we will have to choose between such doublets as 'tariff' and 'price list', 'menu' and 'bill of fare', 'dwelling' and 'home', 'lawn' and 'sward', 'site' and 'venue', and so on.

The commission also wants us to get rid of false antique words such as 'fayre', and to clean up our punctuation. High on the target punctuation list is the proliferation of misused quotation marks, leading to such abominations as 'All our produce is guaranteed 'fresh' ', and 'Why not take home a 'lovely' bunch of flowers?' All changes will have to be made by 1997.

5 The British criminal world is privately worried by the declining standards of British crime - many more crimes are, it seems, being hopelessly bungled or committed carelessly by overconfident young apprentices. As a result, many retired criminals are being pressured to come out of retirement to return to professional life and set higher standards for newcomers to follow. The police are understood to be unofficially backing the scheme.

6 An American man is suing his parents for giving birth to him. His complaint is not that they brought him into the world, but that they brought him into the world with American nationality. The young man is a linguist by profession, and claims that American society is inimical to foreign languages and that this is injurious to his trade. If he had been born European he would have had no such problem. He is consequently suing his parents for not being European. (They are counter-suing on the grounds that only an American would bring such a case, and that therefore he is not even European by nature.)

7 Post-referendum polls in France have revealed beyond doubt that Margaret Thatcher's last-minute thundering injunction to the French nation to vote 'non' was the factor that finally tipped the scales and caused many floaters to vote 'Oui', on the grounds that they were not going to do what That Woman wanted them to do.

8 It is reported that a new series of stamps emanating from Italy and showing 10 famous nude paintings and statues has been banned in seven Muslim countries, including Algeria and Saudi Arabia, on the grounds that they offend the Islamic code of female propriety. Letters bearing these stamps were, to begin with, destroyed by the postal authorities when they entered the country.

As this was in strict contravention of international postal agreements, the Arab authorities have now compromised by employing artists to colour in the offending stamps in such a way as to give the famous nudes the appearance of clothing, so that we now have, for instance, stamps of Botticelli's Venus rising from the waves wearing a one-piece bathing suit.

Which of the above is wrong? Answers on a postcard, please, to Rupert Murdoch.

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