Philly Quizzo

Where’d ‘Quizzo’ come from? How Philly invented a unique name for trivia night

Turns out the original version had only one Z.

Players pore over questions at Billy Penn Philly Quizzo at City Tap House UCity

Players pore over questions at Billy Penn Philly Quizzo at City Tap House UCity

Joan Brady for Spirited Media
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If in need of something to do on any given night in Philadelphia, just drop “Quizzo” into a search field. Bam, you’re flooded with dozens of opportunities at bars across the city to remind your friends how smart you are.

The objective of Quizzo is simple: score the most points with your creatively-named team while answering questions related to the theme. Harry Potter? Game of Thrones? Always Sunny? Friends? The Office vs. Parks & Rec? Philly Past, Present and Future? General knowledge of all things kinky? Yeah, there’s a Quizzo for that.

There’s nothing particularly unique about the game — it is indeed like any other bar trivia or pub quiz. Except, that is, for the name itself, which you won’t find used outside the Philly region.

Where’d “Quizzo” come from? First of all, it’s spelled with one Z — or at least it was when the term was coined.

Billy Penn traced the history back to North Wildwood in 1992, where one Patrick Hines was bartending. A 22-year-old Kensington native of Irish descent, he’d recently visited Belfast and seen how popular pub quizzes had become, so he suggested it to his boss.

“The owner was looking for a way to attract the large Irish population who were over to work for the summer,” said Hines, now 50, “so I convinced him we could do a quiz.”

The night that Quiz(z)o came to be, per Hines, the entire crowd was made up of Irish kids spending the summer working at the Jersey Shore. There was no need for a catchy name to lure them in, he said, because pub trivia was already been well-established in British culture, and had been since the mid-1970s.

Hines and his trivia partner, an Irishman named Sean McLoughlin, were chatting quietly at a table on the small stage as the bonus round finished up. The room was full of hushed whispers, as people made sure rival teams wouldn’t hear as they wrote out the answers.

A different woman walked in to pick up a six-pack and looked around. She took in the unusual quiet, the focused looks on the faces of patrons, the golf pencils in their hands, frantically scribbling down answers. Puzzled, she approached Hines and McLoughlin, recognizing them as the people in charge

“She walked up to our table and asked us, ‘Is this Bingo?'” Hines recalled. “Without missing a beat, my friend Sean answered, ‘No, this is Quiz-o!'”

Hines and McLoughlin told the story frequently over the next couple of weeks, and then just started referring to the game — and writing it — as “Quizo.”

“The spelling came from the fact that ‘Bingo’ only has one ‘G,’ I guess,” Hines said. Now a high school teacher in Lisburn, Ireland, he still owns the trademark on the name, and the original logo he developed for it.

The second “Z” came into play when the competition rolled its way into Philadelphia proper.

Per Johnny Goodtimes, the city’s best-known quizmaster and host of the annual Quizzo Bowl, a man known as “Irish John” was the one to popularize the current name in Philly. Wanting to avoid legal drama after Hines trademarked the term, Irish John added another Z.

When Goodtimes came onto the scene in 2002, he kept the second Z “because I think the more Zs you add to any word the better.”

And there you have it. “It’s like hoagie, jimmies, and water ice,” Goodtimes said. The rest of the world can have their pub quizzes and trivia nights, but in Philly it’s Quizzo or bust.

Want some more? Explore other Philly Quizzo stories.

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