When “General Knowledge” Became “Trivia”

Dublin……been there. Bought the T-shirt. Well to be totally honest it was Mrs Fitzjames Horse who bought me this T-shirt…in Grafton Street.

 Unfortunately the “Blue” and “Green” do not show well in this pic but the slogan says “Why Google……..Ask Me!” I think it describes me to the literal T (pun intended).

You see…..back in the 1960s…..there were a lot of General Knowledge Quiz Shows on TV. …Criss Cross Quiz…..being my favourite. I have that kinda “Rain Man” memory. When I was about 8 years old, there was a set of 80 bubble-gum cards……..Flags of the World. And some day I will buy them again thru ebay. The cards featured not just the Flag but the capital and currency of the nations and how to say “Hello” and “Goodbye”. Around the same time, I became a very young Stamp Collector. And I was always watching the News.

There are some things that you just dont forget……EVER.

But Attitudes change. In 1988, quiz machines started appearing in Bowling Arcades and other amusement arcades. I was a Quiz Machine Bandit. Memorably in one summer month I raided Superbowl in my nearest town, Ballymena(!), Belfast (!!) and Bangor(!!!). Frankly I cleaned up. And because of me….and a handful of other “professionals” the machines were removed. There was one glorious month when I did not even use a “bank machine” (ATM)….which is pretty good when you are the father of a 5 year old and a 3 year old.

Around then…..Trivial Pursuit was the “must have” Christmas present. And in the early 1990s it was he era of the Pub Quiz. My employer had a team but I was always just a semi-detached member living outside Belfast. The other three were regular bandits at Pub Quiz events around Belfast. And only used me when they needed a fourth person. Actually they were quite dismissive of me…they “knew” stuff like Russian literature and classical music but they rubbished me as the kinda person who would know Elvis Presley’s shoe size.

Thats the thing about General Knowledge and Trivia…in a competitive context. We won regional events because someone got the “Mozart” answer or we won because I buzzed in, interupting that  Kenny Jones replaced Keith Moon as drummer in The Who.

But we won some prizes in Glasgow, Liverpool and Norwich (all expenses paid by employer) and met interesting people including a hard-nosed team of loyalists from Lisburn….led by the son of a well-known loyalist terrorist.

But here’s the thing……although the Pub Quiz has recently made a return as a fun event in itself…or as a fundraiser…….it went thru a period for the best part of twenty years…ridiculed as a form of……..nerdiness.

In 1965…….knowing that Stockholm is the capital of Sweden was considered a social skill……of sorts. But by 2005, knowing that Santiago is the capital of Chile was regarded as a social stigma. Why so? Well in part General Knowledge DID become a form of Trivia as people searched for more obscure questions to ask. But I think that knowing ANYTHING beyond a narrow field of interest or employment became socially unacceptable. Knowing that Juan Pablo Duarte is a national hero in the Dominican Republic was taken as a sign that a person under-valued his/her career.

Probably for the best part of twenty years I have suppressed “knowing stuff” as it pointed up a social awkwardness.

So what has this to do with Dublin? Well as always I must blame Mrs FitzjamesHorse.

There was something nostalgic about our few days in Dublin…..recalling THAT week in Clonakilty….or THAT week in Ballybunion. Or that time when we had breakfast alongside a young couple from Minneapolis, Minnesota ……and I automatically went into “ah the Twin Cities, Mary Tyler Moore and the North Star State”. Seemingly Mrs FJH has always liked that about me…….an ability to meet somebody and to talk to them on their terms (and I tend to do it as a “welcoming gesture”). Yet increasingly I feel more reticent about talking to people (more on the reasons for this in another Blog perhaps).

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