News Item: Chicago Now’s Trivia Angels — Jack Silverstein, Alan Rubenstein, Kevin Kaufman, Erin Vandenberg, Jocelyn Geboy, Melanie Bowen, Howard Moore and Margaret Laing — won the Trivia Challenge tournament hosted by the Asian-American Journalists Association on Nov. 15 at Loyola University in Chicago. All of us were new to the game.
Even before our team met for the first time and began Saturday’s trivia contest, I wondered about the origins and meaning of the word “trivia.” It didn’t come up in the tournament, which was based on questions about events in 1984, 1989, 1999 and 2004, but that’s OK. That’s the beauty of life as a writer about words — everything is material.
(Not numbers, you say? But you can spell them out as words…. hmmm. But I digress!)
The word trivia, according to my dictionary, is “from the Latin trivialis, of the crossroads, hence commonplace, from trivium, a place where three roads meet (from tri-, three, and via, road).” The first definition is “trifling, of little importance.” The second is “commonplace (archaic).” The third, listed as rare, is “occupying oneself with trifles; trifling.”
More intriguing to me is the fourth definition: trivia was “relating to or of the trivium (the lower division of the seven liberal arts — grammar, logic and rhetoric).”
That grabbed my attention — those three are the lower arts! I looked up the other four under the word the dictionary mentions, quadrivium — just to save you readers a trip, of course. The other four classical liberal arts are arithmetic, music, geometry and astronomy.
There’s even a fifth definition of trivia — “in botany and zoology, (a) popular, as distinguished from technical, as the trivial name of a tree; (b) specific, as distinguished from generic.”
So there you have it, all I could catch up to about trivia. See, it is Serious!
For more fun with words, stop by the Margaret Serious page on Facebook.