"We like camping better!" --Raymond Alexander Kukkee

view of the north shore Critter Pond, KOA Canandaigua NY [c] 2009 jcb

Tuesday: Root of all Trivia

Let's keep it pure and simple this Tuesday for trivia. Did you ever wonder where the word 'trivia' comes from? Seems to me that's the most basic trivia question there is. To find the source of this little word, you have to go way back. Back before Podcasts and weblogs, before Pay-per-View and Sirius radio. Now go back even further, before cable TV and car stereos, back to the time of radio theatre and single-sponsor television variety shows. (Your eyes are getting heavy now...) Keep going back, back to before the telegraph and party-line telephone, then so far back that there are no daily newspapers. Now we're getting somewhere. Where could folks have gotten their life-giving doses of trivia before Gutenberg invented the printing press? Could it have been nomadic gypsies? From wandering minstrels? Nope, you have to go back much farther than those.

When the Roman Empire ruled the western world, civilized people experienced advances unlike those ever before available. Rich men had villas and tiled baths. Regular city-folk owned small businesses. Pipes made of clay delivered fresh water. Paths and streets were paved or at least kept cleared. Of course there was modern-level writing from scholars and politicians, despite the lack of white paper. The Romans loved to tell stories and spout off about current events. Their language was pristine, and a bit constrictive, but poets thrived none-the-less. Certainly the public markets were filled with gossip of all sorts. Those ancient but highly advanced citizens probably loved their trivia just as much as we do today. It just wasn't called trivia yet. Trivia, you see, came not from the city centers but from the far-flung regions around the ever-expanding Empire. Roads made it possible for men to travel great distances, by foot or by horse. News traveled along these roads, much of it small tidbits of information. To spread the word a simple system developed over time. Wherever three roads met or crossed, news was posted on tablets or similar signs. Three roads, that's the key. Three roads... in Latin, "tri" and "via." Trivia. There you have it.

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