Sunday, June 07, 2009

My New Catch Phrase

I had planned on writing a brilliant, well thought out piece on Shakespeare here, but after spending an hour writing what turned out to be a pretty awful movie review, I've decided that my brain isn't capable of the rational thought required for such a thing at the moment so that will have to wait for another day. Instead I will share some poorly conceived nonsense. I really don't speak any Spanish, other than learning some rather useless things like food names and phrases like please remain seated. Thank you Disneyland for repeating that over and over in both English and Spanish in the interminably long Matterhorn line. Sadly I have no idea how to spell it. Anyway, after seeing the above clip my new favorite saying is, "usted baila como un hombre que vive como mujer."

And just to add a little more interest, today's useless trivia revolves around the etymology of the word trivia itself. It is derived from the Latin for three roads. Had I known this earlier, I think I may have called my blog The Three Ways instead. The more I think about it, the more appropriate this name seems since, according to Wikipedia, the place where three roads meet (an intersection or street corner) suggests that which is commonplace and vulgar - two of my defining characteristics. The true gem gleaned from Wiki though is the quote from two Columbia University students who popularized the current usage of the word and criticized practitioners who were "indiscriminate enough to confuse the flower of Trivia with the weed of minutiae." How profound.

The etymology of the word trivia seems to start with Latin tri- = "three", and via = "way", "road", thus trivium, which has been treated in three ways:

Where three roads meet, especially as a place of public resort. The Latin adjective triviālis, derived from trivium, thus meant "appropriate to the street corner, commonplace, vulgar." The first known usage of the word "trivial" in Modern English is from 1589; it was used with a sense identical to that of triviālis. Shortly after that trivial is recorded in the sense most familiar to us: "of little importance or significance." Gradually, the word trivia came to be used in English for what in Latin would have called "triviālia", for anything information or concern which is treated as everyday and unimportant.

The Three Ways (first known used in English in a work from 1432–1450). This work mentions the "arte trivialle", referring to the trivium, which was the three Artes Liberales (Liberal Arts) that were taught first in medieval universities, namely grammar, rhetoric, and logic. (The other four Liberal Arts were the quadrivium, namely arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy, which were more challenging.) Hence, trivial in this sense would have meant "of interest only to an undergraduate".

The Roman courier network Cursus publicus which was set up by Emperor Augustus. Messengers traveled the Roman Empire taking messengers from one province to the next. At crossroads notice boards would display gossip or news from Rome....hence 'trivia'. This is where the term trivia comes from 'tri' 'via' means 'three roads'.

The word trivia was popularized in its current meaning in the 1960s by Columbia University students Ed Goodgold and Dan Carlinsky, who created the earliest inter-collegiate quiz bowls that tested culturally significant yet ultimately unimportant facts, which they dubbed "trivia contests". The first book treating trivia of this universal sort was Trivia (Dell, 1966) by Goodgold and Carlinsky, which achieved a ranking on the New York Times best seller list; the book was an extension of the pair's Columbia contests and was followed by other Goodgold and Carlinsky trivia titles. In their second book, More Trivial Trivia, the authors criticized practitioners who were "indiscriminate enough to confuse the flower of Trivia with the weed of minutiae"; Trivia, they wrote, "is concerned with tugging at heartstrings," while minutiae deals with such unevocative questions as "Which state is the largest consumer of Jell-O?" But over the years the word has come to refer to obscure and arcane bits of dry knowledge as well as nostalgic remembrances of pop culture.

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