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Greenland is not a Country

Editor’s Note: This post was written by hejman, a Sporcle moderator who occasionally graces us with amazing blog posts.

BREAKING NEWS: The citizens of Greenland are valiantly hanging on in their fight to remain dependent.1

The best way to get an error fixed on a Sporcle quiz is to use the ‘Report Game’ feature in the informational box at the bottom of the quiz. Those reports go directly to Sprorcle’s World Headquarters in Seattle, Washington where they are reviewed, around the clock, by a team of geographers, historians, underpaid interns, Pulitzer Prize winning writers, sleep-deprived volunteers and military trained dolphins armed with atomic weaponry2.

As a ‘moderator’ for the site, I get to see, and occasionally act upon, the reports that errors exist on quizzes. For the most part, the reports are made by well-intentioned quiz takers who see a genuine issue. Some, however, are made by those who are, shall we say, less well informed. Others appear to have been made by a well-trained parrot or, perhaps, a kitten walking across a keyboard3.

Nowhere is this clearer than on Sporcle’s flagship quiz- Countries of the World. The kind folks at Sporcle HQ prepared a spreadsheet of all the reports filed on the quiz between the end of June 2010 and the middle of March 2013. A great many of the reports relate to the Countries of the World version of the ‘Axis of Evil’- Kosovo, Taiwan and Palestine4.

Between the U.N. vote on November 29th, 2012 and Sporcle’s announcement on January 14th, 2013 that it was adding Palestine to the quiz, there were no fewer than 18 reports requesting that Palestine be added. In the two months following, there have been 14 more complaining about its addition5. Taiwan gets reported frequently enough that I’m becoming convinced that the Communist Party of China has hired someone solely to serve that function6.

The vast majority of reports are in relation to countries that simply aren’t and the largest number of those reports- more than Palestine before its addition, more than the constituent “countries” of the United Kingdom7, more even than any overseas territory is the heavily populated super-power of Greenland8.

In the last two months of 2012 alone, reports that Greenland was “missing” from the quiz came in at a rate of nearly one every nine days. During the entire reporting period, Greenland received three times as many reports as Scotland and five times as many reports as England and Wales. Maybe it’s because Greenland is so big9. Maybe it’s because it is so sparsely populated10. Maybe, it is because Greenland has had home rule since 1979 and self-government since 2009. But the island is not independent and does not handle its own foreign affairs, national defense or monetary policy.

In that way, Greenland is substantially similar to the situation of the constituent countries of the United Kingdom. Indeed the second and third most frequent reports come in relation to Scotland and England, with Wales and Northern Ireland just further down the list. The confusion in understandable and is, frankly, more semantic than substantial. When we Americans say “country” we mean a fully independent entity that is in charge of all aspects of its own governance and self defense. We seem to have some opposition to the concept of a Kingdom.11Several other frequently reported areas (many of them islands) are also overseas territories, states, constituent countries or otherwise part of a larger nation including places like St. Maarten, Curacao, Catalonia and French Guiana.

Other reports are somewhat more difficult to comprehend. Puerto Rico is a frequent reportee. The Falkland Islands have been reported as ‘missing’ as well12. Sarah Palin appears to have been taking Sporcle quizzes as Alaska has been reported as missing- multiple times13. Disputed states, like Western Sahara and North Cyprus are also reported from time to time.

Every few weeks someone will complain about a country that clearly is a country. I’m never sure whether they’re kidding or not. In September of 2010 there was the report, “Germany isn’t a real country14.” Then there was the December 2010 report, “Georgia is an American state, like Hawaii15.” People also sometimes miss countries that are actually there. The map gets pretty full by the end, so this is understandable when the countries are small, like Costa Rica, Belize and Monaco16 How a user missed Afghanistan17 is beyond my comprehension.

The best reports come from users who knew that a country was there, but just didn’t know how to spell it. You know, like Libia18. Or maybe Bosnia & Herzagovina19. Mama New Guinea was really upset that Papa New Ginuea20 wasn’t accepted. Togo and Tonga got together and had a baby- Tongo21. But when the name of the continent is in the name of the country it’s hard to fathom how the error occurs. But there it was, February 9, 2011- “It wouldn’t accept South Afica.”

I should hope not.

Footnotes:
  1. Actual Breaking News may be broken. []
  2. Reviewers may vary by geographic district. []
  3. I’m serious about the last one.  Sometimes the reports are just random letters: “sdfkjsdfjkrtuiy” []
  4. They’re not evil, but ‘Axis of Countries of Disputed International Status that Give Sporcle a Headache and Cause Lots of Quiz Reports’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it. []
  5. Two written in all upper-case letters- closed captioned for the hearing impaired. []
  6. Deputy Undersecretary of the Central Commission for Trolling. []
  7. Constituent countries of the United Kingdom are subject to change without notice of Scottish voting []
  8. Note: Population of Greenland may settle during shipping. []
  9. If it was a country, Greenland would be the 12th largest nation in the world. []
  10. Greenland is 1,828 times larger than the Ohio county I live in, but my county has more than three times the population and we’re considered “rural.” []
  11. See, generally, Independence, Declaration of, T. Jefferson, 1776. []
  12. What, you don’t remember the 1982 headlines in which the bold citizens of the Falkland Islands, armed only with fishing poles and rabid sheep repelled the combined oppressive forces of the Argentine military junta and the Iron Lady in order to maintain their self-governing independence?  Me neither. []
  13. I kid. For tonight’s performance, the role of Sarah Palin will be played by a grizzly bear with a Big Gulp. []
  14. Erich Honecker playing from the grave? []
  15. To my knowledge no has ever complained that “Turkey is a bird and a food, not a country.” []
  16. Reports from August 2012, October 2012 and January 2013, respectively. []
  17. Report from June 2012. []
  18. Hey, there are 31 ways to spell Gadaffi.  Quiz report September 2010.  There was also a report on Lybia in January of 2013. []
  19. June 2012. []
  20. June 2011. []
  21. June 2012. []

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