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Don't like my answers? Then don't ask a psychopath
Gor blimey guv. I jus’ bin dahn the ol’ rub-a-dub for a pokey alright sparrah do us a lemon John.
Fret not, faithful reader. Be comforted that I have neither succumbed to Dickvandyitis nor do I have any compulsion to “do the old bamboo” – a vulgar euphemism if ever I heard one.
I am merely rejoicing in being told that I am 100% cockney, having successfully completed a painstakingly comprehensive study by the world authority known as The Internet, testing my cultural facility to speak incomprehensible bollocks.
How cockney are you? comprised 12 questions of unparalleled scrutiny, determining my ethnicity with such soul-searching conundra as “You refer to someone’s hair as (a) a Barnet, (b) an Enfield or (c) a Watford?”
It is gratifying to be recognised as a genuine Lahndahn cockney; especially so given that I’m from Yorkshire.
Proper Lundunners of my acquaintance who took the test came out with miserable results compared to mine. But then some of those questions were devilish: who’d have guessed what “Don’t kick me in the Consolidated Loan Ads” meant?
The trick, of course, is not knowing the answer but knowing how to answer it. If you get a feel for what the questioner expects, you can often calculate a probable answer without having to rely on anything so dreary as actual knowledge.
It’s fun impersonating someone else: it means I don’t need a personality of my own. I like to think that I’m not so much copying another person as busking a better known version of myself. Not a direct tribute act: more like Rammstein doing a cover of The Police’s Every Step You Take.
Back in the 1980s when I was at uni, miserable first-year Psychology students would canvas the halls of residence, knocking at our study bedroom doors in the desperate hope that we’d help them with a seminar project by answering a personality questionnaire.
Now, I’d seen this questionnaire before. My father, a clinical psychologist, had shown them to me when I was little. They were mostly based on an old Hans Eysenck test for psychopathic tendencies, and my Dad had been Professor Eysenck’s research assistant in the 1950s.
The questionnaire was littered with bizarre posers such as Do you clench your fists when frustrated? and Do you notice yourself grinding your teeth in awkward social situations? Well, obviously not, nobody does that – except for an untalented thespian on amateur dramatics open night. But I knew that if you responded in the affirmative to the weird stuff, your Psychopathy Score goes up.
I’d only have to answer a few such questions in psycho mode before the Psychology students’ eyes would begin to widen. I could just imagine the klaxxons going off in their heads. The more answers I ticked, the more their scared eyes would dart around the room, looking for butchers’ hooks.
Often they would be stuttering their gratitude in squeaky voices before I had even finished, ripping the questionnaire from under my pen and backing away to the door. Sometimes I would hear their footsteps break into a sprint after they left.
Looking back, the effect was the opposite of that demonstrated by the crap cockney test. The psychology test failed because it was filled with lots of obviously loaded questions. The cockney test failed because it didn’t ask enough questions, loaded or otherwise. If it had kept asking more, it would have caught me out eventually.
Deep learning algorithms prefer the latter, thriving on the sheer volume of data accumulated. Simple artificial intelligence can then be employed to weed out the anomalous irritants such as me who think they can play the system.
In a much weaker manner, expert survey organisations mimic these approaches by asking the same questions over and over again, slightly rephrased. By the time I have given my opinion on a product in 20 different ways, it would become clear enough to the survey experts that I had never used the product in question and was just a competitor trying to hex the results.
So I have decided to choose the piecemeal approach. By giving out snippets of false information in small doses, I have a better chance of cocking up their evil plans.
Given that my web browsing choices are being used by the Illuminati to build a picture of my consumerist proclivities and thus further inform its application of mind-control on the masses, I hereby commit to participating in as many crap 12-question online quizzes as possible.
How healthy are you?
I am super-fit, didn’t you know? … I ran five miles after writing that sentence. … I just now ran another 10 after the last one, too.
How fat are you?
Morbidly obese. I stuff my face with pizza while watching daytime TV, which I record so I can watch it again in the evenings.
How sexy are you?
Too. (For my shirt.)
How royal are you?
So royal, dahling. As inbred as they come. Ears ears, indeed.
How working class are you?
We lived for three months in a brown paper bag in a septic tank.
How middle class are you?
I was born lower middle class and will remain so forever, society having denied me the opportunity to improve myself.
How Yorkshire are you?
We lived for three months in a brown paper bag in a septic tank.
How Scottish are you?
This is funny because I am a half-Scot with 75% celtic DNA and a gaelic name that Starbucks baristas are trained to misspell, yet I speak like the Englishest person you ever heard. That said, I can do a decent Middenface McNulty impersonation. Hepmaboab!
How Viking are you?
My real name is Dabbsaxe-Thrubrayne and I have a tendency to attack monks, which would be OK if only I didn’t live in this darn monastery. I can do a decent Wulf Sternhammer, too. Vill do, ja, Johnny?
How Jewish are you?
5% according to that DNA test but I suspect it was שמאָנצעס.
How French are you?
Pendant trois mois, nous avons vécu dans un sac en papier brun dans une fosse septique.
How IT are you?
A user calls to report a non-working printer. Do you...
(a) suggest they turn it off and back on again?
(b) tell them to log a call with buildings management because stationery isn’t your cost centre?
(c) just joking, it’s (a)
How good are you at maths?
Better than you. That was 13 questions.
Alistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling IT journalism, editorial training and digital publishing. He invites you to discover how effective you are at wasting work hours completing pointless online questionnaires which are just click-bait to sucker you into looking at irrelevant ads and steal your emergency password reminders. Oh, and my first pet was a pedigree dog called Fuquor Fandai.