Hoaxes Throughout History
Middle AgesEarly Modern1700s1800-1840s1850-1890s
1900s1910s1920s1930s1940s1950s1960s1970s1980s1990s21st Century2014

Q

According to a popular story, the word 'quiz' originated in 1791 when Richard Daly, manager of the Theatre Royal in Dublin, bet his friends that within 48 hours he could make a nonsense word be spoken throughout Dublin. To win the bet, Daly sent out his employees to write the word "QUIZ" in chalk on walls throughout Dublin. The appearance of this mysterious, previously unknown word became the talk of the town, allowing Daly to win his bet, and causing the word 'quiz' to pass into popular usage. As an explanation of the origin of the word, this story cannot be true, as 'quiz' can be found in print before 1791. The word probably derives either from the Latin phrase "Qui es?" (Who are you?) or the word 'inquisitive'. More…
Seagulls have learned that they can break open quahaugs (hard-shelled clams) by dropping them from great heights onto hard surfaces such as roads or rocks. This is a well-documented behavior. But in 1932, the Vineyard Gazette reported that seagulls at Martha's Vineyard had learned an even more remarkable trick. They were killing rats by deliberately dropping quahaugs on them, and then feasting on the dead rats. The Gazette claimed that the gulls would soar aloft to an unusual height with a heavy quahaug in their beaks, then would hover and shift their position, gauge the wind, and finally "drop the shellfish with a precision that almost never fails to connect with the rodent below, knocking it unconscious or killing it outright on the spot, whereupon the gulls descend and feast on fresh meat." These so-called "bomb-dropping sea gulls" gained wide coverage in the media. However, hoax-debunker Curtis MacDougall later cited the story as an example of the kind of tall tales that were frequently printed by small newspapers in the early 20th Century. The idea was to boost local tourism by getting the name of the town or region reported in papers nationwide.