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No, millennials, the yen is NOT the official currency of China

[NEW YORK] The minds behind HQ Trivia just learned that when they want to truly stump their smartphone audience, they need only turn to the currency market.

In the Thursday night edition of the daily interactive game-show app, an early question asked the 857,623 contestants remaining: "What is the official currency of China?"

For denizens of Wall Street, it's an easy answer. For the droves of millennials and non-finance types participating - not so much.

Almost 720,000 players, or 84 per cent, chose the yen, rather than the correct answer: renminbi. The third option, the non-existent "Chinese dollar", received almost as many selections as renminbi.

In the parlance of HQ Trivia, it's a "savage question". (Savage is millennial lingo for harsh or vicious.) But it appears to have gone beyond the usual degree of toughness for the nearly six-month-old game.

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HQ spent "time and energy coming up with that question about Chinese currency and making our educated guesses about how our mass audience will react to it," Rus Yusupov, the chief executive officer, said in a statement.

"We also love being surprised - we anticipated losing 1/3 of the players and we lost 85 per cent." 

In hindsight, all the ingredients were there to stump a wide swath of viewers. The Chinese currency is often referred to (even in the foreign-exchange world) as the yuan, which is just a denomination of the renminbi.

Yuan, of course, sounds somewhat similar to Japan's yen, which has been grabbing headlines in the US$5.1-trillion-a-day currency market for rallying to the strongest level against the US dollar since November 2016.

You could even almost forgive someone for selecting "Chinese dollar". After all, there's the Hong Kong dollar, Singapore dollar and Taiwanese dollar.

It's perhaps no coincidence that Google searches for "renminbi" surged around the time of the game Thursday night. Some of those queries may have even come within the 10 seconds allotted to answer each question, providing the correct response and preventing an even more lopsided result.

Those who advanced still had to answer several more questions - including one that revolved around the history of fast food - to get a share of the US$2,500 cash prize. Thanks in no small part to the purging of the currency newbies, winners took home more than US$80 apiece, a tidy sum for a weeknight game.

"The Savage Question is the particular moment where almost everyone was wrong and we take a little moment there to learn and appreciate what it reveals about how people think," Mr Yusupov said.


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