Quizbowl 101: Jargon for the Everyday Quizbowler

This is a special preview article for Freelance Quiz Bowl University. New articles will debut every other Thursday starting January 28.

Level: Lower Division

Most courses at FQBU are going to use a lot of jargon. Because we’ve been involved for so long in quizbowl, we sometimes forget how confusing it may be for someone entirely new to the game to understand what we’re talking about. This article consists of a glossary that gives brief definitions of basic terms used in everyday discussion of quizbowl.

Bonus – a question or series of related questions on which all players on a single team can confer as to what they think their answer is. In most formats, bonuses consist of three 10-point questions on a single theme.

Bonus conversion – a statistic describing the average number of points a team earned on a bonus. A bonus conversion above 20 is considered very good.

Bracketed round-robin – a popular format for both preliminary rounds (q.v.), playoff rounds (q.v.), and consolation rounds (q.v.), in which teams are grouped into brackets and every team plays every other team in its bracket exactly once.

Buzz – as a verb, to buzz in (q.v.); as a noun, refers to the act of doing so.

Buzz in – to indicate that one thinks one knows the answer to the tossup (q.v.) by pressing the buzzer (q.v.).

Buzzer – can refer to an individual player’s signaling device (e.g. “My buzzer’s broken!”), or to the entire buzzer system (q.v.).

Buzzer check – a customary test run before a match is played, to ensure that all buzzers (q.v.) are working correctly. Often, teams will be asked to give player names for which player corresponds to which buzzer during a buzzer check.

Buzzer race – occurs when two or more players buzz in (q.v.) at almost exactly the same time.

Buzzer system – a system consisting of eight or more individual signaling devices, a console, and a reset button (q.v.). The buzzer system is the primary piece of equipment used in quizbowl matches. Also called a lockout system, after the act of “locking out” players who have buzzed in (q.v.) after the first player to do so.

Clue – any piece of information in a question that might allow a player to identify the answer.

Consolation rounds – matches offered at the same time as playoff rounds (q.v.) for teams that did not make the playoffs. In many areas, it is customary for teams to stay for the consolation rounds and play other teams of similar skill level. Some tournaments use consolation rounds to generate a final ranking of non-playoff teams.

Distribution – refers to the number of tossups (q.v.) and bonuses (q.v.) in each subject area that appear in a packet (q.v.) or packet set (q.v.). Distributions are often written as X/Y, where X indicates the number of tossups and Y indicates the number of bonuses.

For Ten Points – a phrase used at the end of tossups (q.v.) to indicate that the giveaway (q.v.) is about to be read. Alternatively spelled For 10 points or abbreviated FTP.

FTP – for ten points (q.v.).

Generalist – a player whose knowledge base covers most or all subject areas.

Giveaway – the last sentence or phrase of a tossup (q.v.), which in the pyramidal (q.v.) style contains the easiest clues (q.v.).

Hsquizbowl – the site hsquizbowl.org, which is home to the Quizbowl Resource Center. Sometimes also refers to the forums on that site.

Interrupt – neg (q.v.).

Lead-in – for a tossup (q.v.), the first sentence or phrase, which in the pyramidal (q.v.) style contains the most difficult clues (q.v.). For a bonus (q.v.), the sentence read before the first bonus part, which typically contains the words “for ten points each.”

Lockout system – buzzer system (q.v.).

Mod – moderator (q.v.).

Moderator – the chief official of any single match. He or she reads the questions, recognizes players that have buzzed in (q.v.) on tossups (q.v.), rules on the acceptability of answers, enforces all timing rules, and keeps the game moving. Sometimes abbreviated as “mod.”

Neg – to buzz in (q.v.) while a tossup is being read and give an incorrect answer. Negging typically results in a five point penalty for the team whose player gave the incorrect answer, and so the point deduction is sometimes also called a neg. Also called interrupt and Neg-5.

Neg-5 – neg (q.v.).

Packet – a set of questions used in every match that takes place during the same round.

Packet set – a set of packets (q.v.) that comprise the entirety of questions asked during the tournament (q.v.), though some contain more packets than are actually used at the tournament.

Playoff rounds – typically take place in the afternoon, and feature the best teams from the preliminary rounds (q.v.) playing each other to determine a champion.

Power – an exceptionally early correct buzz (q.v.) that earns an extra five or ten points, or the act of earning those extra points via a correct buzz.

PPG – stands for Points Per Game, a statistic computed by dividing a team or individual’s total points by the number of games played. In the standard tossup-bonus format (q.v.), very good teams typically average over 300 points per game.

Preliminary Rounds – typically take place in the morning, in which teams play a variety of teams of different skill levels. The most popular preliminary round formats are bracketed round-robin (q.v.) and Swiss pair (q.v.).

Prompt – to ask a player for additional information when the given answer is not specific enough to differentiate between a right answer and one or more plausible wrong answers. For instance, a player might be prompted upon answering “Bronte,” to differentiate among Emily, Charlotte, and Anne.

Protest – an argument that an answer that should have been accepted or prompted (q.v.) was not, or that an answer that should not have been accepted or prompted was. Protests are typically brought to the attention of the moderator (q.v.) at the end of the question on which the perceived error occurred, and ruled on at the end of the game if an upheld protest would potentially change the outcome of the game.

Pyramidal – an adjective describing tossups (q.v.) that begin with hard clues (q.v.) that few players are expected to know, and progressively give easier clues, such that players with more knowledge of the answer are likely to buzz in (q.v.) before players with less knowledge.

Quizbowl – a competition in which two teams of players answer questions on a variety of topics, often by buzzing in (q.v.) when they know the answer. Also called quiz bowl.

Quiz bowl – an alternate spelling of quizbowl (q.v.).

Scorekeeper – a game official that keeps the official score for the game. He or she keeps track of all individual and team points for both teams. Sometimes the moderator (q.v.) functions as a scorekeeper as well.

Specialist – a player with excellent knowledge in one or more subject areas.

Statkeeper – an official that collects scoresheets from every round of a tournament (q.v.) and enters their results into a statistics program, then makes team and individual statistics available to participating teams and the general public, typically by posting the statistics online.

Stats room – A room headed by the statkeeper (q.v.), where scoresheets are sent at the conclusion of every match. Sometimes also encompasses the functions of the war room (q.v.).

Swiss pair – a preliminary round (q.v.) format in which, every match, teams play other teams with identical or near-identical records.

Thirty – to earn the typical maximum of 30 points on a bonus. Similarly, “zero,” “ten,” and “twenty” are also used as verbs to describe how many points a team earned on a bonus.

Tossup – a question read to both teams, during which any play can buzz in (q.v.). The first player to buzz in and give the correct answer typically earns 10 points for his or her team.

Tossup-bonus format – a common match format for tournaments (q.v.). Each cycle begins with the reading of a tossup (q.v.). If either team correctly answers the tossup, that team earns a bonus (q.v.). Play ends either after 20 tossups have been read or after a format-dependent amount of time has passed.

Tournament – a weekend competition in which all teams play a series of matches one after another until a winner is been determined and all other teams ranked from second to last place.

Tournament director – an official in charge of all aspects of a tournament (q.v.). Sometimes abbreviated TD.

War room – a room headed by the tournament director (q.v.) in which paper copies of packets (q.v.) are stored, staff members congregate, and protests (q.v.) are resolved. Sometimes also encompasses the function of the stats room (q.v.).