Not So Trivial Thoughts!

A good “trivia question” is one that initially stumps the listener, but the answer when given out, sounds familiar and worth knowing. That explains the popularity of such contests and  TV shows. 

Dr rajan philips –
rajanph@yahoo.co.uk –

Did you know? Cuba is the only Caribbean Island with a Railway; Rome was the first city to have a population of one million people; The Vatican Bank is the world’s only bank where ATM users can perform transactions in Latin; and at the nearest point, Russia and America are less than 4 km apart.
These and thousands of such other unusual facts and snippets form the staple diet of avid quizzers and TV games show contestants. They often leave the audience spellbound with their capacity to store and recall such amazing bits of information with lightning speed and walk away with handsome prizes. They provide us with excellent and exciting ‘infotainment’.
The popularity and fascination of such shows and contests can be traced to the ‘Trivial Pursuit’ that was first created in in Montreal, Canada in 1979 by Chris Haney and Scott Abbott. They did it one day when they could not play Scrabble as some of the tiles had gone missing. To their surprise, their new game became an almost instant hit and soon spread worldwide.
The word ‘trivia’ is the plural of ‘“trivium” which in Latin literally means an intersection of three paths. Originally, the word referred to something new and unusual. It was in late 19th century that the word acquired the sense of ‘something of little significance’.
Today, we know that such contests are no longer all that trivial. Smart and well-informed school and college students as well as young professionals in the corporate world compete in different forms of such quiz contests in right earnest. The stakes are often quite high.
It is not entirely surprising that in some countries, enthusiasts observe ‘Trivia Day’ annually on 4th January. They see it as a day of fun to share with friends and family their stock of odd and amazing nuggets of general knowledge!
A good “trivia question” is one that initially stumps the listener, but the answer when given out, sounds familiar and worth knowing. That explains the popularity of such contests and TV shows.
Some of the popular TV shows like ‘Jeopardy! and ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? share elements of the earlier trivia contests. Two classic programmes I enjoyed many years ago were the ‘Mastermind’ on BBC TV and ‘Brain of Britain’ on BBC Radio.
Many of these have been successfully adapted by Asian channels. The sensational Indian version of ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’ was entitled ‘Kaun Banega Crorepathi’ and anchored by the evergreen Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachan.
In Oman, we have periodic live inter-school and open quiz contests organised on a grand scale. These draw hundreds of ardent quiz enthusiasts.
To wind up, here is a sampling of some more ‘trivia’ to enthral you.
On Venus, it snows metal; 19 of the 25 of the high peaks in the world are in the Himalayas; Spain means “the land of rabbits”; when Fredric Baur, who invented the Pringles can, died, his ashes were preserved in one; the first product to have a bar code was Wrigley’s chewing gum; Thomas Edison was afraid of the dark; Saturn, has such low density, it could float in water; and finally, the longest word recognized by the Oxford English Dictionary is — pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanouconiosis’ (a lung disease caused by the inhalation of volcanic silicon dust);
Quiz contests based on the original ‘trivial pursuit’ has emerged as a healthy pastime for the young and old alike. In their endeavour to sharpen their mental reflexes, they enhance their reading habits and awareness of people and events of the past and present and the world around them. That is surely no trivial accomplishment.

Quotes :
 People call it trivia because they know nothing and they are embarrassed about it. — Robbie Coltrane
 Game shows are designed to make us feel better about the random, useless facts that are all we have left of our education. — Chuck Palahniuk