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Some trivia about trivia



Its derivation is from the Roman for ‘where three roads meet’. The three roads referred to were three branches of learning which were seen as more basic – grammar, logic and rhetoric.

From that, it became a word to mean things that were commonplace, not specialized knowledge.

That, in itself, is something many people would probably consider trivia. It’s not something they would consider important in their everyday life.

However, as anyone who knows me will testify, trivia, to me, is among the most important stuff you can know.

And everyone has their own definition of what is trivia.

To a chemist, knowing all the symbols for the various elements is a crucial part of their work, and not trivial at all. To most people on the street, knowing those symbols is not something they think is overly important.

I’m somewhere in between. I don’t see a need to know all 100+ symbols and what elements they represent, but I look for interesting (to me) subsets. For instance, what do gold, silver, tin, potassium and mercury have in common?

Unlike the vast majority of the elements, none of those have a symbol which represents their name in English. Gold is Au, which is from ‘aurum’, the Latin name for the elements. Likewise, silver is Ag, from ‘argent’, another Latin word.

And that is where my ‘trivial’ mind takes off in new directions.

I remember that ‘argent’ is also where the country Argentina got its name, from the silver found there by early settlers, That reminds me that the island of Cyprus got its name the same way, from deposits of copper found there millennia ago.

And that also brings us back full circle to the symbols for the elements, because copper’s symbol is Cu, which comes from ‘cuprum’ which is where the island got its name as well.

Trivia. It’s in the eye of the beholder, and I have very big eyes.

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