If you’ve been with us for these nearly 700 episodes then you’ve probably picked up some useful knowledge along the way.

Some people refer to it as trivia, though I think these facts are more useful than the word “trivia” suggests.

Nonetheless, if you come to this show for trivia, this episode is for you, because we’re going to tell you all about the word “trivia.”


There’s a Latin word trivium, which refers to a place where three roads meet.

Most people would need to go through a spot like that from time to time, so the adjective form of trivium was trivialis, meaning something that’s common, something public, something found everywhere.

Over time the word “trivial” came to associate the common and the familiar with things that aren’t that important.

Shakespeare uses the word “trivial” in this way in “All’s Well That Ends Well.”

Now, in the 15th century, the word trivium had another meaning: it referred to three of the seven liberal arts, grammar, logic and rhetoric.

The thinking was that these three disciplines were the foundation for the other four, so something that was trivial was a piece of information that belonged to the trivium, a piece of foundational knowledge.

In the early 20th century Logan Pearsall Smith wrote a book called “Trivia” where he talks about how his mind is full of information that’s interesting but not very useful.

(Interesting trivia about Smith: he was known for spending weeks on a single sentence just to get the wording right.)

And in the 1960s, there were news reports about how college students used to play “trivia” by asking each other questions about pop culture.

Today, trivia is all around us.

Though if history had played out a little differently, if the Romans had focused more on the places where four roads meet, we might all be meeting up at pubs and board game stores to play quadrivia.

Today in 2010, the Burj Khalifa opened.

It’s 2,716 feet tall, the world’s tallest, and so tall that at the top you can see the sun even when it’s dark at the bottom.

Clerics have actually told Muslims that during Ramadan, if they’re at the top of the tower they have to wait two extra minutes to break their fast.

trivia (n.) (Online Etymology Dictionary)

Where Does the Word ‘Trivia’ Come From? (Merriam-Webster)

Dubai Burj Khalifa: Ramadan fast ‘lasts longer high up’ (BBC)

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Photo by Manuel J. Prieto via Flickr/Creative Commons