Anyone who knows me knows that I love trivia. I love little bits of random knowledge that aren’t really helpful unless you’re playing a trivia-based board game (e.g. Trivial Pursuit, Cranium, Hollywood Squares, Jeopardy!, etc.) or on a pub trivia team. For that reason, I am excited to celebrate National Trivia Day, which apparently occurs every January 4.
The word “trivia” itself is derived from the Latin word trivium, which was a place where three roads met. The modern sense of trivia as bits of information comes from the early Middle Ages. The trivium, as it was used beginning in the late-700s, referred to the first three liberal arts (our of seven) that an educated man was expected to learn: grammar, logic, and rhetoric. Once a person got through the trivium, they could possibly advance to the quadrivium, which were the remaining four liberal arts (arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy) that a fully educated man of the early Middle Ages would be expected to learn.
From there, the word “trivia” came to be associated with knowledge and learning, and over the centuries it evolved to include little pieces of information, which is mostly how we use it today. So how do we celebrate National Trivia Day? With some trivia! Here are forty random bits of knowledge to impress/annoy your coworkers today.
The diameter of a regulation basketball hoop is 18 inches.
The national sport of Canada is…lacrosse. Go figure, right? I feel like even most Canadians would guess hockey there.
The average golf ball has 336 dimples.
The modern Olympics began in 1896 and only men were allowed to compete. In 1900, women were allowed to compete, but the only sport in which women could compete was tennis.
Speaking of the Olympics, there have been three modern Olympics held in countries that no longer exist: West Germany (Munich, 1972); The Soviet Union (Moscow, 1980); Yugoslavia (Sarajevo, 1984 [winter]).
The New York Jets football team was originally called the New York Titans.
Simone Biles is officially the most decorated American gymnast in Olympic history (seven; 4 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze) and the most decorated gymnast EVER where World Championship medals are concerned (25) for a total of 32 medals at world events.
Only two states (Alaska and Maine) have not sent teams to the NCAA March Madness tournament.
Nolan Ryan was the first pitcher to be confirmed throwing a pitch at 100 miles per hour in a Major League Baseball game.
The record for most red cards given in a single soccer game is 36, which happened in a low-tier Argentinian league in 2011. The most red cards ever given in a World Cup game is four, which happened in a 2006 game between the Netherlands and Portugal.
Mariah Carey has had a Billboard number 1 hit in four consecutive decades: the 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, and 2020s. The one for the 2020s was, of course, for “All I Want for Christmas is You.”
Freddie Mercury’s real name was Farrokh Bulsara. He was born in Zanzibar.
Aretha Franklin was the first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Dolly Parton has had at least one top-20 song on the Billboard Country charts in six decades (1960s, ,1970s, 1980s. 1990s, 2000s, 2010s).
When Ludwig von Beethoven went deaf, he could still write music. By affixing a metal rod to his piano, he could bite the metal rod as he played and “hear” the piano based on the vibrations of the rod in his mouth. Insane ingenuity, right?
Shakira is something of a polyglot and speaks at least six languages fluently: English, Spanish, Arabic, French, Italian and Portuguese.
The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” was the first rap song to make the Billboard Top 40 (January 1980).
The first music video to ever air on MTV was the Buggles’ “Video Killed The Radio Star,” and as a bonus I will tell you that that is my favorite piece of music trivia ever.
CBGB is one of the most famous music venues ever and was the epicenter of the punk and new wave movements in New York in the late-1970s and early 1980s. What does CBGB stand for? Country, Blue Grass, and Blues.
Backstreet Boys Brian Littrell and Kevin Richardson are first cousins.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937) was the first feature-length animated film ever released.
Tom Hanks’s first Oscar nomination was for Big (1988). His first Oscar win was for Philadelphia (1993).
The Great Train Robbery (1903) is considered to be the first commercially successful film ever made. It was silent and had a running time of twelve minutes, meaning you wouldn’t have had time to grab your popcorn and Coke once the movie started.
In 1927, notoriously racist film The Jazz Singer became the first “talkie,” meaning a movie with audible dialog and sound effects. But seriously, it’s so racist. Al Jolson, who is very white, spends a good chunk of the movie in blackface and it is uncomfortable from a modern perspective.
Sir Ian McKellen is the only actor to receive an Oscar nomination for acting in a Lord of the Rings movie.
Julie Andrews, who famously played Mary Poppins in Mary Poppins and Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music, did a topless scene in 1981’s S.O.B. She did it to steer away from the squeaky clean image of her earlier work. I won’t link it because this is a family blog, but I have given you the information you need to find it yourself, so knock yourself out.
Casablanca, widely considered one of the best movies ever made, is actually based on a 1942 stage play called Everybody Comes to Rick’s.
The gun Clint Eastwood uses in Dirty Harry when he asks the punk if he feels lucky is a Smith & Wesson Model 29 chambered in .44 magnum.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) was the first movie to show a toilet being flushed.
Red Dawn (1984) was the first movie to ever get a PG-13 rating. WOLVERINES!
Tic Tacs are named for the sound made when opening and closing the container.
Dr. Seuss wrote Green Eggs and Ham on a bet that he couldn’t write a book using less than fifty discrete words.
Mount Mons is on Mars and is the largest active volcano in the entire solar system. At 16 miles tall, it’s three times taller than Mt. Everest.
Dominica and Nicaragua are the only nations that have purple on their flag.
Former NASA engineer Lonnie Johnson invented the Super Soaker water gun.
The smallest unit of measurement used in science is the Planck length, which is .00000000000000000000000000000000001 centimeters in length. It’s named after physicist Max Planck and is used to measure quantum foam.
Honey is the only food in the world that doesn’t spoil.
The oldest continuously operated library in the world is in Morocco and has been in business since 859 A.D., a whopping 1,163 years.
A blue whales tongue can weigh upwards of 4 tons, which is more than the weight of an entire adult elephant.
Using current U.S. coinage, there are exactly 293 ways to make change of $1.00.