An artist’s conception of the new citizenship test


Today is the first day of the controversial redesigned United States citizenship examination. For the next year, candidates who applied before today can choose whether they want to use the old test or the new one.

To help prepare for the new examination, I propose the following warm-up, which I tested (with the assistance of another United States citizen) on a foreign national, a Canadian from British Columbia, so there should be no language barrier as long as we are careful to avoid the word about.

  1. What condiment applies to French-fried potatoes?
  2. Which fires a bigger bullet, a nine or a twenty-two?
  3. Does the metric system suck?
  4. How long is a football field? (Note: Answering in metric or confusing football with soccer are automatic disqualifications.)
  5. Define class action lawsuit.
  6. True or false: You have a God-given right to drink alcohol until you pass out.

Here are the answers the Canadian gave, along with my response and additional commentary from my co-examiner in blue.

  1. What condiment applies to French-fried potatoes?
    Vinegar… no, mayonnaise… no wait, it’s that red stuff.

    No credit for not being able to name the red stuff. Negative points for even thinking of the words vinegar or mayonnaise.

  2. Which fires a bigger bullet, a nine or a twenty-two?
    That’s what the NRA’s 1-800 number is for, when you need to know, right?

    No credit. Every American knows the hierarchy of firearms.

    Least all real Americans.

  3. Does the metric system suck?
    Gol-dang right (scratch)

    Ding.

  4. How long is a football field?
    328.08 feet

    Bzzzt. Americans don’t use decimal points and feet in the same sentence. That’s treading dangerously close to that heathen metric system.

  5. Define class action lawsuit.
    When more than one American at once abuses the legal system.

    Close. It’s when one American abuses the legal system on behalf of all Americans.

    Unless I am doing it, in which case it isn’t abuse.

  6. True or false: You have a God-given right to drink alcohol until you pass out.
    False, because no state law is allowed to refer to God, right?

    Incorrect. You are allowed to refer to God, despite what the ACLU says. Americans are endowed by their Creator with several inalienable rights. Among them are the rights to drink alcohol, discharge firearms, belch, swear, and make obscene gestures.

    You left out scratch and drive.

[Raymond is currently away; this message was pre-recorded.]

Comments (69)
  1. Nonnative English speaker says:

    What’s so special about the word ‘about’?

  2. Mike Dunn says:

    In Canadia, it’s spelled "aboot".

    328.08 feet is an approximation of 100 meters (not metres), so the respondent probably put "100 m in feet" into Google, thus trying to avoid the automatic disqualification. 10 out of 10 for style, but minus several million for even considering the metric system in the first place.

  3. NUXI says:

    Canadians (atleast canadian stereotypes) pronounce about as aboot.

  4. It’s a stereotype that Canadians pronounce the word "about" differently then Americans.

  5. Juan says:

    Well. While no Canadian speaks that way. (So they say). Let’s take a look at a weird Al’s song:

    "… They think they silly accent it’s so cool

    Can’t understand a thing they’retalking ‘aboot’"

  6. Karellen says:

    But … football field lengths (and areas) are standard units of measurement. The question makes almost no sense. It’s like asking "How long is an inch?" – it’s an inch long, dummy! The length of one football field is one football field length. What else could it be?

    As for the God-given right to do anything, Americans get all their rights rights by God by default. The states merely aren’t allowed to mention God when the leftist ACLU persuades them to stomp on those rights by creating their heathen liberal laws.

  7. Rick says:

    As another Canadian from BC living in the US, I am very pleased to have passed with flying colors! My citizenship papers are on their way now, right?

    Vinegar on fries is an abomination – I blame that on the Brits.

  8. acq says:

    You have a God-given right to drink alcohol until you pass out.

    But it seems that the right is somewhat limited.

    Here in Europe a few U.S. guests were fascinated seeing somebody carrying an open beer can through the city streets and dinking from it: "In U.S. you’d go to jail for that". And that was not the only occasion I’ve heard that sentence from them.

  9. John says:

    Real Americans live in Texas, where you have the right (nay, the duty) to shoot first and ask questions later.  In fact, don’t even worry about asking questions.  See also: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/texassouthwest/stories/DN-snacks_26tsw.ART.State.Edition1.2740edb.html

  10. . says:

    "In U.S. you’d go to jail for that"

    The "cool" thing is that this is not exactly "commonly known knowledge" all around among Europeans; last time I was in the U.S. I didn’t know about it, I didn’t end up fined or jailed for a miracle (or simply because I was very tired and so I opted for caffeinated coke instead of beer almost everytime).

    You may assume one should get himself informed before travelling.. but when something is just so normal in your culture you don’t even think you should ask about it (the first time I learned it was illegal I wasn’t believing it!).

    Beside, one beer can is 0.33 dm^3 ;)

  11. Igor Levicki says:

    You forgot the 7th question:

    7. Does USA have a God-given right to invade foreign countries, install military bases and steal resources?

    [Thank you for taking something light-hearted and turning it into something mean and nasty. You must be a lot of fun at parties. -Raymond]
  12. George Jansen says:

    @acq Regulation of alcohol purchase and consumption tends to be left up to states or smaller units of the US. The Department of Transportation imposed a uniform minimum drinking age about 20 years ago, but hours of purchase, open container laws, etc. are anything but uniform. However, perhaps if Raymond expands his quiz he can work in something about the relation of beer cans and brown paper bags.

  13. Adam V says:

    @Igor: Nice try. The first 6 questions were studiously nonpartisan.

  14. dave says:

    How many points did I lose for saying a football field is 110+40 yards long?

  15. James Schend says:

    acq,

    One thing Europeans definitely don’t understand about the US is the difference between State governments and the Federal government. The closest analog would perhaps be with the EU compared to, say, France (The EU is the Federal Government, and France is the State of California), but that’s not really that appropriate either.

    Point is, states determine their own drinking laws. Some states don’t have open container laws (Nevada, most famously), but most do. It’s not enough to learn the Federal laws, you should also learn the State laws you’re likely to encounter too.

    Of course, this doesn’t help us Americans either. A couple weeks ago I rented a car in Oklahoma, and made probably 50 free right turns before it occurred to me to ask anybody there whether it was legal to make a free right in Ok.

  16. Rick C says:

    Igor’s comment wasn’t stupid at all, as all of those people who’ve regularly paid under a dollar for gas in the US in the last few years due to all that stolen Iraqi oil will attest.

  17. Richard says:

    Q1: That rules out the French – "French-fried potatoes" are an American invention.

    Q2: I don’t know, but joining the Army to play their RPGs is probably a bad idea.

    Q3: Good to see a UK-friendly question – we all think it sucks too!

    Q4: Confusing "football" (which the rest of the world calls "American Football", and is a game played exclusively in the USA that involves controlling a "ball" with your "hand") with "soccer" (which the rest of the world calls "Football", and is a game played by almost every country on the planet that involves controlling a "ball" with your "foot") is obviously a heinous crime. And they say that Americans aren’t arrogant! (Well, OK, they don’t say that. Only an American would be arrogant enough to suggest that.)

    Q5: A waste of time and money?

    Q6: This only rules out Muslims and Puritans – everyone else exercises that right on a regular basis.

  18. Rick C says:

    James Schend, it looks like, according to Wikipedia, that right turn on red is legal in all 50 states, although NYC is a notable exception.

  19. Rick C says:

    Richard, your answers disqualify you. :)

    Although it’s worth pointing out, regarding your answer #2, that here in the US, you don’t have to be in the military to own a gun.

  20. Igor Levicki says:

    @Adam V:

    Thanks! I believe that #7 is the consequence of #6 anyway ;-)

  21. Ned Holbrook says:

    I don’t buy the answer to #1 at all. Canadians have ketchup-flavored potato chips, so I’d expect one to be able to name the condiment.

  22. Josh says:

    Every Canadian knows that the proper condiments for french fries is gravy and cheese curds!

  23. KenW says:

    @Igor: "@Adam V:

    Thanks!"

    You’re not too smart, are you? (OK, since we all know you’re not smart at all, it’s a rhetorical question.) Adam obviously didn’t mean that as a compliment; he was pointing out that you had made a nice try at a stab at the US, but it failed for the obvious reason.

    As usual, you’re off-topic, wrong, and irritating. You’ve succeeded well; you’ve become an excellent troll.

  24. Maurits says:

    In lieu of the "metric system" and "decimal feet" failures, I feel obligated to point out nine is a metric measurement (9 mm) and that twenty-two is a combination of decimals and inches (0.22 inches).

  25. Other says:

    I doubt he is really a Canadian.  He doesn’t even put cheese curds and gravy on his fries?!?

    (And the metric system is all kinds of awesome)

  26. Strohm says:

    Americans are endowed by their Creator with several inalienable rights. Among them are the rights to drink alcohol, discharge firearms, belch, swear, and make obscene gestures.

    …except at a Mariner’s game.

  27. Aaargh! says:

    What condiment applies to French-fried potatoes ?

    American Frites Sauce of course! (e.g.: http://www.remia.nl/img/producten/product_52.jpg )

    Which is, as far as I know, not american at all. The reason it is called this is because it’s copy of the condiment McDonalds sells as ‘frites saus’ in the Netherlands.

  28. Poochner says:

    French fries are not an American invention.  The exact origin is somewhat unclear, but they’re definitely European.  They also predate the American Revolution.

    What Americans call potato chips, OTOH, are of American origin.

  29. Aaron G says:

    Oh come on, Canadians put ketchup on EVERYTHING.  Fries, potato chips, hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, deli sandwiches, chicken fingers… hell, give me enough time and I’ll bet I can find you someone who squirts it on their sushi.  Anyone who can’t answer #1 isn’t a Canadian either, he’s probably English.

    And we have mass torts here too, unfortunately.

  30. Aaron G says:

    Oh – the exception to my comment above would be a Canadian from Quebec, who would most likely say that the correct condiment is gravy with cheese curds.  Those aren’t real Canadians though.

  31. Son of Norman Diamond says:

    Better than the american IQ test:

    1.  We should change it so that George W. Bush can get a 3rd term as president:

        A.  Yes

        B.  Yes

        C.  That thar prezident iz mah hero.  He killz them terrrerists.

    Idiots.

  32. Rick says:

    AaronG:

    It can’t be on everything. I’ve never seen ketchup at a Tim Hortons.

    Other US-Canada notable differences:

    Smarties are not Smarties (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smarties_(Ce_De_Candy)

    Toque = stocking cap

    University = college

    Grade N = Nth grade

  33. Jo Mamma says:

    @Karellen

    "As for the God-given right to do anything, Americans get all their rights rights by God by default. The states merely aren’t allowed to mention God when the leftist ACLU persuades them to stomp on those rights by creating their heathen liberal laws."

    Is that satire?  Surely you know that the ACLU is working to protect your right to worship how you want, by helping prevent the government from making religious statements?  It does NOT prevent individuals from saying "God", or praying when and where they want, except when those individuals are acting as agents of the government.

  34. Erm… as an Englishman living in the Netherlands, I have to say that all those questions left me standing. Note that although I live in a predominantly immigrant neighbourhood, I don’t count as an immigrant (allochtoon) because I’m white and come from a neighbouring country which is all first-world and whatever. I’ve lived here 10 years, I don’t speak the language, and no-one has ever asked me to take a citizenship test.

    Having said all that – what the heck do you need to know the sizes of guns for? If someone’s pointing one at you, it probably doesn’t matter. For the rest – why not take up civilization?

    Oh – and vinegar in England and mayonaise in the Netherlands

  35. For the real answers:

    1. Ketchup.

    2. 9mm, by 86 thousandths of an inch.

    3. No, because it makes physics programming a lot less confusing.

    4. 110 yards, not counting the end zones.

    5. When a whole bunch of people choose a single person to bitch on their behalf.

    6. True, where God is a variable with value provided by the user.

  36. Karellen says:

    @Jo Mamma

    YHBT. HAND.

    :-)

  37. Good Point says:

    @John:

    Why do you have to slam a law-abiding citizen of Texas?  I mean, ignorance of the law is no excuse for those hooligans.

  38. Grant says:

    Hey, Canadians almost have real football.  They know the difference between that and soccer.  That puts them miles ahead of the rest of the heathens out there.

  39. Fred says:

    here in France, we are generally convincted that French fries were invented by Belgian

    Q1:mustard or just salt and peper, definitively

  40. Ian says:

    Ketchup = Vinegar + Salt + Red Stuff.   So he wasent too far off.

    If you think the red stuff is tomato’s, then think again.  Artificial flavors, artificial food coloring, sugar, & stuff that tastes like tomato’s (but isn’t) more like it.   We eat fake food, fake ketchup & we’re proud!  

    So in actuality, it was a trick question.

    I’m glad I happen to like vinegar on my fries.   Yum…

    — Ian

  41. Aaargh! says:
    1. True, where God is a variable with value provided by the user.

    That’s not really safe, it’ll nullpointer for a lot of people.

  42. Tom says:

    @Karellen

    That’s why I asked if it was satire.  Use of the word "heathen" was the only reason I thought it might not be real, though.

  43. igorsk says:

    Every Belgian knows they invented fries.

  44. Karellen says:

    @Tom

    :) It was because of the "Is that satire?" question that I missed out the almost-obligatory "YHL".

    That said, mine /was/ a childish response, for which I apologise. I just couldn’t resist. It’s been a while since I’ve had the opportunity.

    Still, I find it amusing to see Poe’s Law[0] in action. (I find it applies to general right-wing Conservatism almost as much as actual Christian fundamentalism.)

    [0] http://rationalwiki.com/wiki/Poe‘s_Law

  45. KenW says:

    Richard,

    You’re wrong about your thoughts on Q1 and Q4. Remember that this is a *US* citizenship test that Raymond made up. As such, you’re expected to know enough that the "French" in French fries doesn’t confuse you, and to know that *in the US* football means "American football" and not "soccer". No "American arrogance" involved (but of course there’s no such thing anyway <g>).

    Q2 you’ve off-track too. Both because of what Rick C. said, and because the Army here doesn’t use .22s for anything.

  46. Rick C says:

    Maurits, well, those are probably historical artifacts.  It seems like most calibers, especially older ones, are expressed in decimal (.357, .38, .44, .22, .45, etc), and only a relative handful (9mm, NATO 5.56mm (which is also .223), the 7.62mm used by AKs, and so on.)  Or perhaps the issue is that older calibers are fractional and newer ones are metric?

    Either way, 328.08 feet was the wrong answer, since both American and Canadian football fields are measured in *yards*, not meters.

  47. Merus says:

    Guys, I can’t remember how many rods are in a hogshead.

    At least with metric system the answer is always a power of ten. How many centimetres in a metre? Centi’s a hundred. Bam. How many millilitres in a litre? Milli is a thousand. Bam. How many dudes are doing your wife? I don’t know, but it’s a power of ten. Bam.

    Thanks, metric system!

  48. Joe says:

    @Dominic Cronin

    re: bullet choices

    .22 what you shoot when you are paying for ammo. 9mm or .45 what you shoot when you are involved in a serious social encounter.

  49. Krenn says:

    Personally, I like vinegar on my fries far more than ketchup. Especially the garlic vinegar that Ivar’s has.

    That or Frank’s Red Hot…

  50. Ens says:

    I admit I do like vinegar — WHITE vinegar, not MALT — on my fries, but ketchup is obviously the usual response.  Mayonnaise is horrific.

    I also assert that ketchup chips are DISGUSTING but ubiquitous in Canada.  Everything Aaron G says is true, except — CHICKEN FINGERS???

    Have you been to Canada?  You stick plum sauce on chicken fingers.  Plum sauce.  End of story.  The remaining option is to eat it with nothing.

    I nearly fainted when I went to Seattle and they offered me RANCH DRESSING for chicken fingers.  And I couldn’t find plum sauce in a small corner store, and even in one fairly large supermarket (the next one had it tucked away in the Asian foods section).  I still burst out laughing when somebody offers me ranch dressing for something other than a salad.

  51. . says:

    I think mayonnaise is a more US vs EU difference than Ketchup.

    Hell, everyone brings both ketchup and mayo. (I love mayonnaise).

  52. Dear Mr. Chen says:

    You are required to remove this blog post as being hazardous to readers’ health due to them splitting their sides with laughter.

    Yours sincerely,

    Suem, Grabbit and Runn

  53. @Grant: Canadian football > American football. Larger field, fewer downs. Means our players have to have a lot more skill.

    TL;DR Canada wins.

  54. George Jansen says:

    @James Schend: I think that the right-turn-on-red is also imposed by the US Department of Transportation, with road money as leverage. The notion is that it saves gasoline. Many years ago the District of Columbia succumbed to the pressure, not before putting up a lot of "No Turn on Red" signs here and there.

  55. Redneck says:

    Integral millimeters are often used

    Not in mah house^H^H^H^H^Hcabin!

  56. MadQ says:

    @James Schend: "One thing Europeans definitely don’t understand about the US is the difference between State governments and the Federal government."

    I don’t think that’s right. Germany consists of a bunch of states. And the state of Bavaria (like the state of Texas) still has the option to cecede from the union. In they did, Bavaria would revert to a kingdom and the prince-regent Luitpold would no longer be a pretender (I wonder if he’d have to give up brewing beer.)

    Hmm… come to think of it, Bavaria and Texas have a lot more in common. They are the southern-most states. Their people wear strange leather clothing. They’re into country music. They ride lots of horses. And good golly, can they drink beer!

    I vaguely remember reading on some NASA web site that the USA has actually been officially metric since 1954. They did this by declaring an inch to be exactly 2.54cm. Also, AFAIK the USA does not have an official language, nor do any of its states (Floridians did try to make Spanish their official language once.) So how come I have to be able to read and write English to become a citizen then?

    Of course, I’m just a darn forn’er, so I could be wrong about all that. I have considered becoming a US citizen ever since the Netherlands changed its policy to allow dual citizenship. Unfortunately, the oath of citizenship is a deal-breaker for me. Don’t get me wrong, I would be proud to declare my allegiance to America, but I cannot in good conscience "absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity" to the place I was born. Why would my allegiance have to be exclusive? I would be as proud to be American as I am proud to be Dutch¹ (Zeeuws, actually, for those in the know,) and even more so if I were both.

    And here’s some nit-pickery: Doesn’t the oath of citizenship break itself by first revoking any other allegiance, but then invoking the help of a deity at the end? Granted, the "so help me god" bit is optional, but… uh… geez! I’ve been denying myself to nit-pick for so long, I just couldn’t stand it anymore!

    ¹And by Dutch I mean as in From the Netherlands, as opposed to, say, Amish, in which case "Dutch" would be derived from "Deutsch", which would make me of German descent. Which I am, actually. My mother was German. But then she gave up her German citizenship to become Dutch¹†. OK, I’ll shut up now.

    †Heh! Recursion!

    P.S.: Everybody knows that the perfect dip for french fries is apple-sauce.

    P.P.S.: Is the answer to #2 the five-point-seven?

  57. John says:

    @Good Point:

    I don’t think most reasonable people would conclude that shooting an unarmed 13-year old (who was down on his knees) in the back with a shotgun is self defense.  Then again, we are talking about Texas…

    I’m not against using deadly force as an option; I’m against using deadly force as the first option.  This law allows that and that’s what happened in this case.

  58. Stephen Jones says:

    I put salt and pepper on my french fries; I suspect there’s a difference between BrE and AmE in the interpretation of the word condiment.

    Incidentally an excellent site on the differences between British and American English is http://www.separatedbyacommmonlanguage.com

  59. Stephen Jones says:

    I put salt and pepper on my french fries; I suspect there’s a difference between BrE and AmE in the interpretation of the word condiment.

    Incidentally an excellent site on the differences between British and American English is http://www.separatedbyacommmonlanguage.blogspot.com

  60. Charlene says:

    @George Jansen

    When it became law in Massachusetts, Boston put up a lot of "No right turn on red" signs, that had to be taken down again when threatened with a review of the placements.

    At the same time, passing on the right was instituted.

  61. Kzinti says:

    "Vinegar on fries is an abomination – I blame that on the Brits."

    Ketchup is vinegar + sugar + tomatoes.

    Canadian put ketchup on their fries. Quebeceers will also use ketchup or vinegar + salt. Some people in Montreal will use mayonaise, but that isn’t that common.

  62. Mr Cranky says:

    Sheesh.  Nobody has yet got the length of an American football field yet.  It’s 120 yards, including *both* end zones, 100 yards between the goal lines.  

    Re calibers:  Calibers typically are specified in inches, traditionally 2 decimal places in USA (.22, .30, .45), but usually 3 decimal places lately (.223, .357, etc.).

    Integral millimeters are often used (6, 7, 9, & 10) when they apply.  Fractional mm calibers are typically just conversions from a decimal inch caliber (5.56 (.223), 7.62 (.308)).

    Note that calibers aren’t always accurate measurements for various reasons.

  63. Ash says:

    I am amazed that the US government now requires all female candidates for a Green Card to get a herpes vaccination.  Seems like they’re focusing on the wrong constituency – it’s well known that US girls get more herpes than anybody else.  Of course, people trying to get into the US aren’t really a constituency, and they have very few rights, so perhaps it’s to be expected.

    Is this also required of existing permanent residents before they can become citizens, one wonders?

    This used to be a free country.

    1 Vinegar

    2 Civilized people don’t need to know

    3 Only Luddites don’t use the metric system

    4 Whatever FIFA says

    5 Americans trying to uphold freedom against institutions that are allowed to abuse citizens

    6 Only in private

  64. Cheong says:

    I heard that some American think they should only put salt on potatoes (In one of the books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, I think her father said it, but I cannot remember which one…). Other seasoning will ruin the real taste of it.

  65. David Larsen says:

    French Fries must be American, but maybe not North American since potatoes are from the Americas.  They weren’t taken back to Europe until the mid 1500s.  You think no one cut up and fried a potato until then?

  66. Whatever says:

    > Bavaria would revert to a kingdom and the prince-regent Luitpold would no longer be a pretender (I wonder if he’d have to give up brewing beer.)

    In *Bavaria*? Get real. It would probably be made compulsory.

  67. Igor Levicki says:

    KenW said : "Adam obviously didn’t mean that as a compliment; he was pointing out that you had made a nice try at a stab at the US, but it failed for the obvious reason."

    Really genius?!? By explaining it to me you have just shown that you aren’t that smart either because you haven’t sensed sarcasm :-P

  68. Bubba O'Reilly says:

    @MadQ:  Texas isn’t the southern-most state.  You’d better hope geography isn’t on that test!

Comments are closed.