Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Want to be smarter than Mensa? Read on ...

Living with a highly gifted child can be exhausting. Especially for someone like me, who is not gifted in any way -- except maybe at putting away large amounts of dark chocolate. (And by "putting away" I do not mean "putting away, back in the cupboard" -- ooh no.)

Keeping our little guy's very active mind busy is difficult, but if we get lax in providing mental stimulation, he often gets the opposite of lax -- in sassy brattiness born out of boredom.

So, recently I checked out the Mensa for Kids website for some new ideas. Under "Games and Activities" I found a quiz on country capitals that I thought would be perfect for our little geography whiz.

Well, it wasn't perfect. For one thing, it was way too easy. And repetitive -- the same questions kept appearing on each supposedly higher level.

But the biggest imperfection was the misspelling of the South American country Colombia. That's right: it was spelled Columbia. Multiple times. So it can't be excused as a typo.

Now, I would give the average person some leeway on this since Columbia is such a common name, especially here in the U.S., where we see it all the time, along with Columbus, as a city name. Both derive from Christopher Columbus' name -- also with the "u" spelling.

But guess what? The country Colombia is also named after Columbus, but being that its name is Spanish, it happens to have a different spelling. It's one of those things that copy editors need to know and always look out for. I would expect a geography quiz on a Mensa site to have the same high standards.

Be careful not to go too far with correcting Columbia to Colombia, though. I've seen this mistake by people who have learned the difference but then applied their knowledge erroneously to another term: pre-Columbian -- referring to the period before Christopher Columbus' voyage to the "New World" --  by writing it pre-Colombian. Although, as we learned above, since the country also was named after ol' Chris, this may not be as inaccurate as it may seem. But still. Don't do it.

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