The End of the Question Mark by AQA 63336

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The End of the Question Mark by AQA 63336

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Category: Trivia
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A selection of the questions answered by AQA will have you laughing or surprised by the things that people want to know. You'll learn quite a few things too.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 160 Date: October 2006
Publisher: Profile Books Ltd
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1861978693

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It's a cruel book, you know. More than three and a half million question marks died in the making of it. Just in case you haven't heard about this modern phenomenon, I'd better explain. If you have a question, any question, you can text AQA on 63336 and they will text you an answer as quickly as they can, usually within a matter of minutes. There's a whole army of researchers slaving away to get the answer to your all-important question. This book is a compilation of some of the best - and worst - questions that have been asked and the answers given.

I've always imagined that people use the service to enquire as to the time of the last train from Leeds to Ilkley, but if AQA are inundated with such questions they don't appear in the book (23.56, change at Shipley - before anyone offers to text the answer). Opening the book at random, there's a question about the inventor of the microwave popcorn bag and whether or not he received an award for it. Another asks how many light bulbs there are on Brighton Pier. Then there's the question about which mammals have no eyebrows. I have visions of the pub quiz team with a designated member texting away under the table whilst the rest stall for time.

Some of the questions are interesting. For instance, I'd always wondered about the origin of the phrase 'cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey' and subconsciously thought that it might not be appropriate to say in nice company. I needn't have worried though. The brass monkey was a rack which stored cannonballs onboard ships. When it was cold the brass contracted and allowed the cannonballs to fall through.

There are questioners who obviously want to shock, or perhaps impress their mates. I must be getting old as spending a pound a time to give your friends a grin seems a little expensive to me, but the researchers handle the questions with tact and humour. When asked what someone should do to their bird tonight, the answer covers cooking instructions for poultry, pet advice for cage birds and a suggestion of champagne and romance for the rest. A question as to why Lady Penelope never got laid by any of the Thunderbirds makes full use of all the possibilities of 'too many strings attached' and 'complicated, tangled mess'.

A lot of the answers are useful and instructive. Did you know that car drivers in Paris aren't insured for accidents in the area around the Arc de Triomphe? I didn't either. Or that it's illegal to drive in Indiana within four hours of eating garlic? Obviously no driver should venture abroad without a copy of this useful little book. One fingered texters should be aware that they can produce a six letter word using only the three key. No, I'm not going to tell you the answer. You can buy the book for that.

I hope the man who asked 'what is my girlfriend's name?' (he was advised to call her 'love' or 'darling' for the time being and to have a peek in her handbag when he got the chance to see if that gave him any clues) wasn't misunderstood if he was caught in the act. Generally the advice and answers given to people was sensible, light-hearted (where appropriate) and concise. Well, it has to be concise as there's a 153 character limit for the reply. Just occasionally I wanted to argue about the answer. I'll give you an example.

Someone asked 'is the great wall of china visible from space?' The reply said that it was, along with the M25 and then went on to give some general information about the wall. Now, there's been a great deal of controversy about the visibility of the wall from space and I'd have preferred to know that it was visible with the naked eye from a certain height and with binoculars from the moon. I wouldn't have been too worried about the Mongol hoards which rampaged through the rest of the answer.

It's an enjoyable little book and would make an ideal stocking-filler Christmas present, but be warned - the recipient is likely to sit there for an hour an a half on Christmas morning giving the answers to questions you've not asked and not even offering to peel a sprout.

Niggles? Yes, I've got a couple. The chapter headings don't really give you any indication of what's to come. Try 'minty, liturgical and wuthering' and ask yourself what you would expect to find! The other is a little more serious. There was an excellent answer to a question about whether or not it was normal to be sexually attracted to a dog and I was impressed by the way that the researcher handled the questioner firmly, but with tact and humour. I wanted to show it to someone but I couldn't find it. There's no index and no way of finding which page the question is on short of reading through the book again. With an index it would be a useful book to look at for information.

Perhaps I ought to text those nice people at AQA and see if they know the answer? If you'd like to ask a free question and test the service for yourself, just click here.

Many thanks to the publishers, Profile Books, for sending this book to The Bookbag.

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Dave said:

This is certainly a book that amused and interested me although the headings are as you say a wee bit pointless. It is one of those books you can flick open at random and find something new.