Et tu, Brute?

From the “This Is Why They Call It The Daily Fail” Department:

In the UK there’s a long-running TV show called University Challenge, in which teams from universities – especially posh schools like Oxford and Cambridge – answer ridiculously difficult questions for points. The team with the most points at the end of the show continues on in a knockout tournament not unlike March Madness.

Since 1994, the show has been hosted by TV personality Jeremy Paxman. And if you thought Alex Trebek was “snooty” and “condescending” when a Jeopardy! contestant gives a wrong answer… let’s just say that Paxman puts him to shame. This article in the Daily Mail refers to Paxman’s “withering put-downs” and “goading” of incorrect answers.

But it seems that Paxman got a comeuppance of sorts recently. A team from Claire College Oxford was asked to identify the composer of a snippet of classical music. They guessed, incorrectly, that it was by Bedrich Smetana. Paxman replied that it was Antonín Dvorak.

The problem? The music was from a piece by Dvorak, but the specific snippet the show played was actually an ancient plainchant (or, if you prefer, a Gregorian chant).

To give a modern analogy, it was as if the show played the first ten seconds of the Fugees’ “Ready or Not” (which is nothing but a sample of an Enya song called “Boadicea”), and the team answered “Enya” but were told they were wrong because it was the Fugees:



Anyway, the Daily Fail wrote the linked article, gloating that Paxman had gotten it wrong. But within their article – ABOUT HOW PAXMAN WAS WRONG – lies this whopper:

(Click to embiggen)

For those too lazy to click the thumbnail, the Mail asserts that “St Gregory the Great is said to have standardized [plainchant] in the mid 18th century”.

Pope Gregory I lived from around AD 540 until March 12, 604. Which, you’ll note, is not the mid 1700s. I’m not sure how the hell the Mail managed to make such a huge error. At first I was thought “maybe the author was thinking ‘seventh’ century and accidentally added the ‘-teenth’ at the end”. But then, most of what Pope Gregory did – if he did what he did – would have been done in the sixth century. And although traditionalists have long asserted that Gregory was the man who made them part of the Western Church, many scholars are convinced that the chants weren’t invented until AD 750 (and in France, no less), and that the chants weren’t standardized until the 9th or 10th centuries, well after Gregory passed.

Either way… good job, Daily Fail!

UPDATE: They have since corrected the error, and added another Paxman screw up on University Challenge to the linked article.

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