Welcome to the Kinky Shrek Epoch

A trivia fact-checker shows, tells, and overshares his findings.

Published September 20, 2023

Have you ever sent a tersely-worded email to a newspaper or blog editor? Do you seethe over the word “irregardless”? Are you fated to eternal damnation for breaking the eleventh commandment, “Thou shalt not say “um, actually”

Turns out, you can get paid to do that! (And here you’ve been sending emails for free!)

As one of the fact-checkers for Geeks Who Drink, I analyze north of a hundred trivia questions each week for inaccuracies and clarity. Each week, I’ll dive into rabbit holes and share some stories and overly pedantic insights inspired by the previous week’s questions. 

(Disclaimer: Everyone misses things. I definitely miss things, even though my job is to not miss things. Nothing in this column should be construed as criticism against folks who write questions.)

Citation Needed

There’s a friendly “Renaissance Faire Kinksters” group with over 6,800 members, on what social network whose logo is a heart with cute little devil horns? FetLife

For the vanilla among you, FetLife describes itself as the most popular social network for the BDSM, fetish, and kinky community. A round on Ren faires included a question on the site’s “Renaissance Faire Kinksters” group… which you can’t access without an account. So I made one! I had to verify that the Ren Faire Kinksters group exists. (It does.) I had to verify that it has over 6,800 members. (It does.) I had to verify that it was reasonable to call the group “friendly.” (If anything, that’s an understatement.)

The potential overlap between kink and Ren faires is obvious. There’s lots of bodices and corsets. You might see a guy with a whip. There may be flogging. And as a fact-checker, I have to admire the website’s robust “Kinktionary,” an open wiki defining a buffet of jargon and acronyms. Its style guide has just one note: “Use an Oxford comma.” Maybe there’s some overlap between good BDSM and good fact-checking too—it’s all about communication.

Finally, yes, I checked: FetLife does host a small but consistently active trivia community. The quizzing content itself is not risqué; in fact, the whole community seems remarkably chaste. Sometimes people have multiple hobbies.

Rabbit Holes

When I fact-check, I inevitably come across myriad factoids that never make it into the quiz, but I can’t help sharing. Thank goodness for this column! (Did you know Vin Diesel has a twin brother?)

Not counting spin-offs, how many “Shrek” films have we been blessed with since 2007’s “Shrek the Third”? One (Shrek Forever After)

Sure, you’ve got the big four Shrek movies, but there’s all sorts of extra Shrephemera out there. You’ve got the original picture book, the Universal Studios 4-D ride, and the two TV holiday specials, Shrek the Halls and Scared Shrekless (which includes a parody called “The Shreksorcist”). But my favorite bit of the Shrek Extended Universe might be the Shrek 2 DVD featurette that sends up American Idol, complete with a snarky Simon Cowell giving his “ogreall impression.” Puss in Boots’s “These Boots are Made for Walking” is particularly inspired. (Also, is it grammatically possible to construct a more 2004 phrase than “Shrek 2 DVD featurette parodying American Idol”? All we need now is Howard Dean and a Livestrong wristband.)

On 3rd Rock From the Sun, John Lithgow’s character taught what subject that spacefaring aliens would have to know a lot better than humans? Physics

I’m not familiar with 3rd Rock, so I didn’t know that most of the episode titles include the word “Dick,” the name of John Lithgow’s character. It’s an example of what the rabbit-chasm TVTropes describes as “Idiosyncratic Episode Naming.” Archetypal examples include “The One With the…” on Friends, “The Gang…” on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and the simple elegance of starting every Seinfeld episode title with The. Well-executed examples of the phenomenon tell their own story:

A military coup recently deposed Ali Bongo from the presidency of what West African nation that very nearly anagrams to “Bongo”? Gabon

There’s a Wikipedia disambiguation page for Ali Bongo, in case you’ve ever confused the recently deposed president of Gabon for the pretty racist alias of an apparently legendary British magician. (A fez AND a turban? I wouldn’t. He’s better without the imperialist get-up, anyway.)

Pedantic Predicaments

Spanning about 4 billion years, what earliest chunk of Earth’s geologic history anagrams to CRAP IN AMBER? Precambrian

Well, you can call it pedantic. Maybe even pretentious. I’ll call it precise?

Anyway: Be careful with geologic time! The question above initially asked for the “earliest period of Earth’s geologic history.” “Period of time” is a perfectly fine descriptor… unless we’re talking geology, where “period” has a precise definition, as in “the Jurassic Period.” Geologic time is split into hierarchical units: Eons have eras, eras have periods, periods have epochs, and epochs might have subepochs or ages. Thing is, we can’t describe the “Precambrian” as any of those units; it’s an informal catchall term for the three eons before life exploded in the Cambrian period. (Note our editor’s non-technical workaround: “chunk.”)

In case you need to give directions to stray time travelers, we’re in the Holocene (or Anthropocene) epoch of the Quaternary period of the Cenozoic era of the Phanerozoic eon. If they see people jousting, they’ve gone too far back—unless there are also turkey legs and credit card readers.

Mark Gartsbeyn is a resident fact-checker at Questionist’s parent company, Geeks Who Drink. He writes a weekly column on the idiosyncrasies of his work, which appears on Questionist each Wednesday.