I’ve decided to revisit the Lost Column Archives with this reprise of a 1987 column I wrote about Mensa. Enjoy.

Mensa Bumblers

Why would anyone join a club where people brag about their intelligence? This has to be the most irritating and boring group of people imaginable.

And, of course, I’m talking about Mensa, the most famous club of smarties. The funny thing is, now I’m not so sure that they’re smart

Well, at least that’s the impression I get when I see a Mensa mini-test in a recent issue of Cosmo.

Cosmopolitan, this month, had one of those “”theme” features where it discusses all aspects of intelligence. In one of the sidebars there was a mention of Mensa and a sampler of a Mensa smartness test. Let’s take it.

There are five questions. They are:

1) Unscramble the following word: HCPRAATEU

2) What number is one half of one quarter of one tenth of 400?

3) The same three-letter word can be placed in front of the following words to make a new word: LIGHT, BREAK, TIME.

4) Pear is to apple as potato is to…(a) banana (b) radish (c) strawberry (d) peach (e) lettuce

5) If two typists can type two pages in two minutes, how many typists will it take to type eighteen pages in six minutes?

You’ll be astonished at the bogus answers given by Mensa. They got four out of five wrong. I couldn’t believe it. Their answers were as follows: 1) PARACHUTE, 2) five, 3) DAY, 4) b. both grow in the ground, and 5) six.

How could these people be so mistaken? And they purport to be geniuses. Give me a break. The correct answers are:

1) A trick question with no answer. HCPRAATEU is not a word. The question says that it is. If they asked you to “”make a word from the following scrambled letters” then it would spell parachute. That’s not what they said.

2) This question is so easy it’s dumb. Take a calculator and put in .5 X .25 X .1 X 400 and you get 5. A ten year old could do it. Big deal. Is this the mathematical prowess needed to join Mensa?

3) Add the word DAY to these words and you get NO “”new” words. You get a bunch of old words that date back to the 16th century. What’s so “”new” about the word DAYBREAK, for example? The real answer is “”BUD.” You get BUDLIGHT, BUDBREAK, and BUDTIME. All are “”new” words.

4) The answer is lettuce. Both a potato and a lettuce make salads. While a potato and a radish both grow in the dirt they are both served differently. Since all the references are to food, one must assume food aspects. Therefore, where something grows has nothing to do with it. Otherwise the word “”gopher” would be picked if listed. Obviously, the correct answer is lettuce.

5) Another trick question. The answer as to how many typists does it take to type doesn’t exist. It’s a variable. It depends on how long they chat with each other, who is the supervisor, and whether they get a break during the job. Six typists (the MENSA answer) may take forever.

So MENSA gets four out of five wrong on its own test. I sure don’t want to have anything to do with a group that gives these naive and fallacious answers to sometimes complex questions.


Column © 1987 by John C. Dvorak. This column first appeared in the San Francisco Examiner on Sept. 15, 1987.

  1. J says:

    # 120 bobbo

    “I agree. I overstated my case”

    Well we are making progress.

    “Note the issue I tried to get you to focus on was “negativity” and not attack–so ”

    That’s because you knew that your original statement was false and were trying to parse his words and label some of them negative in an attempt to give more foundation to your original claim! LAME FUCKING ATTEMPT!! Just because an article has SOME out of context negativity does not make it an “attack piece” nor does it make it a negative article. The out of context “negative elements” are a device used to fool the reader so that the joke works. If you noticed he doesn’t completely reveal his final punch line until his response to question 5. He gradually builds to it with a slight bump in the middle as to hint of what’s to come and then hits it home with the response to question 5. Then he wraps it up. It wouldn’t have worked if he came out of the gate saying it was a joke.

    “A persons own statement is proof only of his private intent==not what was actually posted. ”

    Are you trying to be philosophical? Even if JCD had never posted his intent it doesn’t matter. The article is CLEARLY written in a tongue-in-cheek manner.

    “The KKK cop is proof of that.”

    I have already dispelled this silly strawman argument.

    “Why was that so hard? When you won’t admit to simple truths, how much of an argument on more complicated issues should you fairly expect?”

    Perhaps I wasn’t clear on that! It was late. I was tired. YES there are negative statement if taken out of context!!!! So no victory for you.

    “The negativity in Johns article was noticed by many of those who posted in response to that negativity before or instead of reading in greater depth to see the humor. ”

    There wasn’t negativity unless you take it out of context. That is what my 2 original posts were all about!!!!!! Are you that much of a dumb shit?

    “That’s why humor is dangerous”

    Wow that has to be the most crazy thing you have ever said!!!!

    “Your continuing failure to see the parallel between John’s piece and the KKK cop and characterizing your opinion on the comparison as “fact” is erroneous.”

    Your continuing failure to see that there is NO parallel between JCDs piece and the KKK dress up cop is why you have NO credibility in this debate. What I pointed out is FACT. The definitions of Satire and Tongue-in-Cheek are all the evidence I need to back that up. JCDs piece easily fits the definition of Tongue-in-cheek and the KKK cop easily fits the definition of Satire. Tongue-in-cheek is not meant to be taken seriously. Satire is an attack on something with or with out humor. I personally don’t think the KKK cop was funny. I know you do because you said so.

    “Given the response by the readers—it certainly does. ”

    Just because the readers didn’t get it or didn’t read it completely doesn’t mean it has two meanings. The only way it would have two meaning is if JCD himself intended it to. He claims he did not intend that. He used a form or written that very CLEARLY positioned his article as one from the tongue-in-cheek style.

    “To the degree the piece had negative elements, it was also an attack on Mensa.”

    HOW FUCKING DUMB ARE YOU?????? Just because it’s uses a tongue-in-cheek humor doesn’t mean it is an attack. Why can’t you grasp that? If it was an attack it would be SATIRE. The very definition of SATIRE precludes JCDs article from being described that way.

  2. Mister Mustard says:

    >>Perhaps I wasn’t clear on that! It was
    >>late. I was tired.

    Uh-oh. Is Hillary posting incognito on Dvorak dot org slash blog????

  3. J says:

    # 122 Mister Mustard

    Good one now back to your racist cage.

  4. bobbo says:

    J==when I agree that “attack” was wrong, further discussion about it is a waste of time. As is further responding to issues already raised and discussed as much as we are going to. I’m happy with my position and arguments as corrected and stand by them. Thanks for sharpening them up.

  5. J says:

    # 124 bobbo

    Well as long as you admit you were wrong. Ok


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