item 1 >>> There’s a funny thing that can happen with Popular Culture: your personal chronology or timeline can be out of sync with reality. This can happen with movies, for example. You see the sequel first, then are motivated to go back and watch the original. But to you, the sequel will always seem like “the one that came first”…you may even like it better, opposite of how many who saw them in their correct order might rank them. This especially happens with a long series…Star Wars, for instance. And it happens to everyone sometimes: like the James Bond movies, which did not follow the same chronological order as the novels they were based on, so really, everything’s all mixed up there. Then there was “Road Warrior”…after it became a big hit, the earlier Australian movie “Mad Max” upon which is was based became available worldwide. And sometimes people will really believe the 2nd one came first, until someone puts them straight.
item 2 >>> And so, hard as it might be for you to fathom how such a thing could happen, I actually heard the Beatles “Magic Mystery Tour” LP before I heard “Sgt. Pepper.” As a result, I’ve always liked MMT much better, and viewed Pepper as sort of a knock-off, good as it is. And altho I obviously…obviously…know that isn’t how it happened, it doesn’t matter. That’s how they came to me, and that’s how they’re locked in my brain. What got me thinking about this was the “invention” of Trivia back in the 1960s.
item 3 >>> Edwin Goodgold and Dan Carlinsky, students at Columbia, started quiz contests about nostalgic topics…old movies, radio and TV shows, comic books, what-have-you…and their on-campus popularity lead to the publication of the Dell paperback “Trivia” in 1966, followed by “More Trivial Trivia” later that year. They were careful to differentiate between “the flower of Trivia and the weed of minutiae.” The latter, like which state consumes the most Jell-O, is interesting but relatively dry. But the former, like what was the name of the Mayor on “Fibber McGee and Molly,” brings a smile of remembrance and shared enjoyment. And yes, I bought the 2nd book first, so naturally, to me the original is the sequel. BTW, it was Mayor LaTrivia.
item 4 >>> So what was Trivia before it was “What is the Phantom’s horse’s name?” Would you believe it was part of the Liberal Arts? In ancient Rome, the Artes Liberales were divided into 2 parts…the lower, or “undergraduate,” was called Trivia, literally “where the 3 ways meet.” And those 3 were Grammar, Rhetoric, and Logic. The upper, or “graduate,” was called Quadrivia, namely Arithmetic, Geometry, Astronomy, and Music. Thus trivia or trivial came to signify “of lesser importance” and over time the meaning devolved into “commonplace” or “vulgar.” By the time of Shakespeare, trivia was the equivalent of trite, unimportant, a trifle. Oh yeah, the Phantom’s horse is Hero, his dog is named Devil.
item 5 >>> But of course, nothing is simple, and Trivia was also the name of the Roman goddess of witchcraft, as personified by a 3-way crossroad, which represented her ability to perceive the past, present, and future. As with the Greek Hecate before her, she was often portrayed with 3 faces. And her motto was: If I had 3 faces, would I be using THIS one? Sorry, just kidding about that last part…
item 6 >>> Switching topics, what is wrong with the above illustration of Santa’s 8 reindeer? Well, 3 trivial things, actually. The first is the antlers. Now it’s true that reindeer are practically unique in the deer world in that both sexes have antlers. The trouble here is they are portrayed way too small…as a factor of body size, reindeer have the largest antlers of any deer species, even moose, as seen below. So if your kid or grandkid is drawing reindeer, advise them to be liberal with the antler size.
item 7 >>> Yes, reindeer and caribou are essentially the same animal. Caribou refers to the North American variety, which is wild, while reindeer live in Lapland and Siberia, and are domesticated. But the second problem are the hooves. Here they are small, almost dainty, while real reindeer have large, splayed hooves that serve as small snowshoes. And the 3rd quibble is the fact that there are 8 of them. Where reindeer are used extensively for transportation, clothing, and yes, food, the rule is: one per sled, because they are basically not “team players.” Putting even 2 together is asking for trouble. Rudolph says: Ain’t it the truth!
item 8 >>> And you will note in item 6 I stated that reindeer are “practically unique” for the females having antlers. I said this because you still might not accept that reindeer are caribou, which is your right, in this country anyway. Also because I seem to recall there is one other very rare species where the females have horns, but Uncle Wiki says no, so maybe not. And finally, as deer-hunters know, white-tail does, as with several other species, occasionally grow antlers due to an overproduction of testosterone.
item 9 >>> And while I’m thinking about it, besides the great Reindeer vs. Caribou debate, you have Elk vs. Moose. Neither is really a debate, since both are scientific and linguistic facts, but some people seem to resist. Moose are the largest species of deer in the world, and in Europe are called Elk. American Elk, or Wapiti, were so-named by explorers because they reminded them of the Elk (= Moose) back home, and I’m thinking they were familiar with American Elk long before they met up with American Moose, hence the name confusion. And this conjecture does make sense, considering Elk are herd animals, while Moose are solitary. A similar thing occurred when American maize was named “corn,” a word that referred to grain in general in the Old World…as in the blue Cornflower that grows in wheat and barley fields…they didn’t have “corn” as such, till they found it over here.
item 10 >>> From yesterday…Michael Dukakis was born in Brookline, which is a city separate and distinct from Boston. Unlike neighboring Allston, Brighton, Roxbury, Dorchester, and others, Brookline resisted annexation. JFK was also born in Brookline, as were the 7 oldest of the 9 siblings in the Kennedy clan. The 2 youngest, Jean and Edward came along after the family had moved to New York City…biographies generally give Jean’s as Boston, and Ted’s as the Dorchester section of Boston, but then again, Robert’s, the 3rd youngest, is sometimes given as Boston rather than Brookline, and when we get to item 10, sadly, my enthusiasm for research sometimes begins to wane…But I can tell you this: Jimmy Carter was the first President to be born in a hospital, the Wise Sanitarium in Plains GA, 1924, known at the time as the “Mayo Clinic of the South.”
As you can see, by the time the 2nd volume of “Trivia” came out in late 1966, the authors were making a stab at trademarking the word. They didn’t in the first book…but by this time the cat was apparently out of the bag, intellectual property-wise.
Resume and audio samples at http://home.rr.com/mastolfi