"trivialities, bits of information of little consequence," by 1932, from the title of a popular book by U.S.-born British aphorist Logan Pearsall Smith (1865-1946) first published in 1902 but popularized in 1918 (with "More Trivia" following in 1921 and a collected edition including both in 1933), containing short essays often tied to observation of small things and commonplace moments. Trivia is Latin, plural of trivium "place where three roads meet;" in transferred use, "an open place, a public place." The adjectival form of this, trivialis, meant "public," hence "common, commonplace" (see trivial).
The Romans also had trivius dea, the "goddess of three ways," another name for Hecate, perhaps originally in her triple aspect (Selene/Diana/Proserpine), but also as the especial divinity of crossroads (Virgil has "Nocturnisque hecate triviis ululata per urbes"). John Gay took this arbitrarily as the name of a goddess of streets and roads for his mock Georgic "Trivia: Or, the Art of Walking the Streets of London" (1716); Smith writes in his autobiography that he got the title from Gay.
I KNOW too much; I have stuffed too many of the facts of History and Science into my intellectuals. My eyes have grown dim over books; believing in geological periods, cave dwellers, Chinese Dynasties, and the fixed stars has prematurely aged me. ["Trivia," 1918 edition]
Then noted c. 1965 as an informal fad game among college students wherein one asked questions about useless bits of information from popular culture ("What was Donald Duck's address?") and others vied to answer first.
Nobody really wins in this game which concentrates on sports, comics and television. Everyone knows that Amos's wife on the "Amos 'n' Andy Show" is Ruby, but who knows that she is from Marietta, Georgia? Trivia players do. They also know the fourth man in the infield of Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance, the Canadian who shot down Baron Von Richtofen, and can name ten Hardy Boy books. [Princeton Alumni Weekly, Nov. 9, 1965]
The board game Trivial Pursuit was released 1982 and was a craze in U.S. for several years thereafter.
c. 1200, "circumstances, position in society, temporary attributes of a person or thing, conditions," from Old French estat "position, condition; status, stature, station," and directly from Latin status "a station, position, place; way of standing, posture; order, arrangement, condition," figuratively "standing, rank; public order, community organization," noun of action from past participle stem of stare "to stand" from PIE root *sta- "to stand, make or be firm." Some Middle English senses are via Old French estat (French état; see estate).
The Latin word was adopted into other modern Germanic languages (German, Dutch staat) but chiefly in the political senses only. Meaning "physical condition as regards form or structure" is attested from late 13c. Meaning "mental or emotional condition" is attested from 1530s (phrase state of mind first attested 1749); colloquial sense of "agitated or perturbed state" is from 1837.
He [the President] shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient. [U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section iii]
1550s, "act of supplying to fullness, complete satisfaction of an appetite" (Coverdale, a sense now obsolete), formed in English from saturate (q.v.), or else from Late Latin saturationem (nominative saturatio) "a filling, saturating," noun of action from past-participle stem of saturare "to fill full."
The sense in chemistry is by 1670s, "impregnation until no more can be received;" the general sense of "action of thoroughly soaking with fluid, condition of being soaked" is by 1846. By 1964 in reference to a type of color adjustment on a television screen; earlier it had been used in chromatics for "degree of intensity" (1878). Saturation bombing is from 1942 in reference to mass Allied air raids on Cologne and other German cities; the idea is credited to Arthur Harris.
"Saturation bombing," dropping as much as fifty-one tons a minute, depends on clockwork precision and a gigantic organization behind the lines. In the famous German raid on Coventry, 225 tons were dropped over a period of eight hours. In the British raid on Hamburg on July 27-28, 1943, more than 2,300 tons were dropped in forty-five minutes. A single raid of this type uses more than 100,000 air and ground personnel. [British Information Services, "The First Four Years," 1943]
late 14c., "new things," plural of new (n.) "new thing" (see new (adj.)); after French nouvelles, which was used in Bible translations to render Medieval Latin nova (neuter plural) "news," literally "new things."
The English word was construed as singular at least from the 1560s, but it sometimes still was regarded as plural 17c.-19c. The odd and doubtful construction probably accounts for the absurd folk-etymology (attested by 1640 but originally, and in 18c. usually, in jest-books) that claims it to be an abbreviation of north east south west, as though "information from all quarters of the compass."
Meaning "tidings, intelligence of something that has lately taken place" is from early 15c. Meaning "radio or television program presenting current events" is from 1923. Bad news in the extended sense of "unpleasant person or situation" is from 1926. Expression no news, good news can be traced to 1640s. Expression news to me "something I did not know" is from 1889.
News-agent "person who deals in newspapers" is from 1817. News-hound "reporter" is by 1908. The newspaper office news desk is by 1840. News-monger "one who employs much time in hearing and telling news" is from 1590s. The News in the Virginia city Newport News is said to derive from the name of one of its founders, William Newce.
A book containing either all or the principal words of a language, or words of one or more specified classes, arranged in a stated order, usually alphabetical, with definitions or explanations of their meanings and other information concerning them, expressed either in the same or in another language; a word-book; a lexicon; a vocabulary .... [Century Dictionary]
1520s, from Medieval Latin dictionarium "collection of words and phrases," probably a shortening of dictionarius (liber) "(book) of words," from Latin dictionarius "of words," from dictio "a saying, expression," in Late Latin "a word," noun of action from past-participle stem of dicere "speak, tell, say," from PIE root *deik- "to show," also "pronounce solemnly."
The Medieval Latin word is said to have been first used by Johannes de Garlandia (John of Garland) as the title of a Latin vocabulary published c. 1220. Probably first English use in title of a book was in Sir Thomas Elyot's "Latin Dictionary" (1538).
As an adjective, "of or pertaining to a dictionary," from 1630s. Dictionarist "compiler of a dictionary" (1610s) is older than dictionarian (1806 as a noun, 1785 as an adjective). Grose's 1788 "Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue" has "RICHARD SNARY. A dictionary."
DICTIONARY, n. A malevolent literary device for cramping the growth of a language and making it hard and inelastic. This dictionary, however, is a most useful work. [Bierce]
1791, in a South African context, "private military raid undertaken by the Boers against the natives for personal ends," also the name of the leader of the raid and the permission given for it, from Afrikaans commando, "a troop under a commander," from Portuguese commando, literally "party commanded" (see command (v.)).
"A colonist" says he, "who lives two hundred leagues up the country, arrives at the Cape, to complain that the Caffrees have taken all his cattle; and intreats a commando, which is a permission to go, with the help of his neighbours, to retake his property; the governor, who either does not, or feigns not to understand the trick, adheres strictly to the facts expressed in the petition: a preamble of regular information would occasion long delays; a permission is easily given—tis but a word—the fatal word is written, which proves a sentence of death to a thousand poor savages, who have no such defence or resources as their persecutors." [George Carter, "A Narrative of the Loss of the Grosvenor," 1791]
Sense of "elite special forces soldier trained for rapid operations" is from 1940 (originally of shock troops to repel the threatened German invasion of England), first attested in writings of Winston Churchill, who could have picked it up during the Boer War.
Phrase going commando "not wearing underwear" attested by 1996, U.S. slang, perhaps on notion of being ready for instant action.
mid-14c., "state or fact of knowing; what is known, knowledge (of something) acquired by study; information;" also "assurance of knowledge, certitude, certainty," from Old French science "knowledge, learning, application; corpus of human knowledge" (12c.), from Latin scientia "knowledge, a knowing; expertness," from sciens (genitive scientis) "intelligent, skilled," present participle of scire "to know."
The original notion in the Latin verb probably is "to separate one thing from another, to distinguish," or else "to incise." This is related to scindere "to cut, divide" (from PIE root *skei- "to cut, split;" source also of Greek skhizein "to split, rend, cleave," Gothic skaidan, Old English sceadan "to divide, separate").
OED writes that the oldest English sense of the word now is restricted to theology and philosophy. From late 14c. in English as "book-learning," also "a particular branch of knowledge or of learning, systematized knowledge regarding a particular group of objects;" also "skillfulness, cleverness; craftiness." From c. 1400 as "experiential knowledge;" also "a skill resulting from training, handicraft; a trade."
From late 14c. in the more specific sense of "collective human knowledge," especially that gained by systematic observation, experiment, and reasoning. The modern (restricted) sense of "body of regular or methodical observations or propositions concerning a particular subject or speculation" is attested by 1725; in 17c.-18c. this commonly was philosophy.
The sense of "non-arts studies" is attested from 1670s. The distinction is commonly understood as between theoretical truth (Greek epistemē) and methods for effecting practical results (tekhnē), but science sometimes is used for practical applications and art for applications of skill.
The predominant modern use, "natural and physical science," generally restricted to study of the phenomena of the material universe and its laws, is by mid-19c.
To blind (someone) with science "confuse by the use of big words or complex explanations" is attested from 1937, originally noted as a phrase from Australia and New Zealand.
The men who founded modern science had two merits which are not necessarily found together: Immense patience in observation, and great boldness in framing hypotheses. The second of these merits had belonged to the earliest Greek philosophers; the first existed, to a considerable degree, in the later astronomers of antiquity. But no one among the ancients, except perhaps Aristarchus, possessed both merits, and no one in the Middle Ages possessed either. [Bertrand Russell, "A History of Western Philosophy," 1945]
Science, since people must do it, is a socially embedded activity. It progresses by hunch, vision, and intuition. Much of its change through time does not record a closer approach to absolute truth, but the alteration of cultural contexts that influence it so strongly. Facts are not pure and unsullied bits of information; culture also influences what we see and how we see it. Theories, moreover, are not inexorable inductions from facts. The most creative theories are often imaginative visions imposed upon facts; the source of imagination is also strongly cultural. [Stephen Jay Gould, introduction to "The Mismeasure of Man," 1981]
late 13c., "recollection (of someone or something); remembrance, awareness or consciousness (of someone or something)," also "fame, renown, reputation;" from Anglo-French memorie (Old French memoire, 11c., "mind, memory, remembrance; memorial, record") and directly from Latin memoria "memory, remembrance, faculty of remembering," abstract noun from memor "mindful, remembering," from PIE root *(s)mer- (1) "to remember."
Sense of "commemoration" (of someone or something) is from c. 1300. Meaning "faculty of remembering; the mental capacity of retaining unconscious traces of conscious impressions or states, and of recalling these to consciousness in relation to the past," is late 14c. in English. Meaning "length of time included in the consciousness or observation of an individual" is from 1520s.
I am grown old and my memory is not as active as it used to be. When I was younger I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened. It is sad to go to pieces like this, but we all have to do it. ["Mark Twain," "Autobiography"]
Meaning "that which is remembered; anything fixed in or recalled to the mind" is by 1817, though the correctness of this use was disputed in 19c. The word was extended, with more or less of figurativeness, in 19c. to analogous physical processes. Computer sense, "device which stores information," is from 1946. Related: Memories.
According to Watkins, perhaps via Etruscan from Greek diphthera "tablet" (with change of d- to l- as in lachrymose), from a hypothetical root *deph- "to stamp." In this sense it replaced Old English bocstæf, literally "book staff" (compare German Buchstabe "letter, character," from Old High German buohstab, from Proto-Germanic *bok-staba-m).
Latin littera also meant "a writing, document, record," and in plural litteræ "a letter, epistle, missive communication in writing," a sense passed through French and attested in English letter since early 13c. (replacing Old English ærendgewrit "written message," literally "errand-writing"). The Latin plural also meant "literature, books," and figuratively "learning, liberal education, schooling" (see letters).
The custom of giving the school letter as an achievement award in sports, attested by 1908, is said to have originated with University of Chicago football coach Amos Alonzo Stagg. Earlier in reference to colleges it meant "university degree or honor that adds initials to a name" (1888). Expression to the letter "precisely" is from 1520s (earlier after the letter, mid-14c.). Letter-quality (adj.) "suitable for (business) letters" is from 1977. For letters patent (with French word order) see patent (n.).
1831, "iron rolled in large, flat plates for use in making steam boilers," from boiler + plate (n.). In newspaper (and now information technology) slang, the sense of "unit of writing that can be used over and over without change" is attested by 1887. The connecting notion probably is the permanence of the prepared plate compared to set type: From the 1870s to the 1950s, publicity items were cast or stamped in metal ready for the printing press and distributed to country newspapers as filler. An early provider was the American Press Association (1882). The largest supplier later was Western Newspaper Union.
An older name for it was plate-matter "type cast in a number of stereotype plates for insertion in different newspapers" (1878). Plate (n.) is attested by 1824 in printing as "a cast of a page of composed movable types."
WITHIN the past ten years, "plate matter" has become more and more popular among out-of-town papers, and the more enterprising are discarding the ready prints and are using plate matter instead. For a long time there was a prejudice against "Boiler Plates," but editors of small, and even of prosperous papers, began to discover that better matter was going out in the plates than they could afford, individually, to pay for. It was found that the reading public did not care, so long as the reading columns were bright and newsy, whether they were set up in the local office or in New York. ["The Journalist Souvenir," 1887]