Here's a quiz to perplex your friends sometime when none of you have anything better to do.
How many of the guys who have their faces on actively printed United States currency ever went to college? Name who and the schools.
For example, take the two dollar bill. That one doesn't count because it isn't manufactured anymore. Well, not in enough numbers to matter. That's got Thomas Jefferson who went to the College of William and Mary.
This is a good question to amuse a group while you're having a long wait for restaurant service. Here are a few hints to drop if they need them.
Currently the United States prints six types of bills. First figure out what they are. ($1, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100)
Now figure out whose faces are on those bills. (Washington, Lincoln, Hamilton, Jackson, Grant, and Franklin)
- Next figure out which ones went to college and where. If people start to go bonkers you can make it easy and say it was two of them. Think of it: used to be you didn't need to even go to college and could still be so successful the government would put your portrait on its money. Makes me think I was born in the wrong century.
Need one more hint? Okay, one of these an average American should be able to dredge out of memory if they didn't sleep through their high school history class. The other is harder to figure out.
By now you've probably cheated and read the Wikipedia entries.
In case you haven't, the remember-able one is Ulysses Grant, Mr. $50. He got the job as head honcho of the Civil War because he went to West Point. Graduated in the middle of his class, but pretty much everybody who'd gotten better grades had left to fight for the other side. I'll bet that fact did wonders for Union morale.
Alexander Hamilton, Mr. $10 bill, attended Columbia University (actually it was known as King's College back then, but the name didn't seem so fashionable after the revolution so they switched it).
Now was that relaxing and mildly amusing? I hope so. Trivia should be crackers and Cheez Whiz for the brain. It's the boxed wine of intellectual activity.
Unfortunately, some Wikipedians get really worked up about how unimportant it is.
Time to 'fess up: I think trivia can be useful for instructional purposes. Eons ago everybody in my college was required to take a course in music history. So we plodded to class, most of us wishing we could wrangle a way out of it, and plopped ourselves into chairs for an hour every Tuesday and Thursday while our instructor (bless her) tried to get us interested in a bunch of old dead guys. One day she introduced Richard Wagner. Most of the class answered with blank stares. She mentioned the Ring Cycle; still nothing.
Then she mentioned Bugs Bunny.
Kill the wabbit! Kill the wabbit! Everybody remembered that.
And the helicopter scene from Apocalypse Now. Same tune; that's Wagner.
People were sitting up in their seats now, leaning forward, asking questions, interested. If that's what gets students into a lesson, so much the better. Although that same instructor reported that every final exam, at least one of her students misidentified "The Ride of the Valkyries" as "Kill the Wabbit".
So yeah, I happen to think trivia isn't quite so trivial. I also make an argument on the basis of cultural history but that's a different discussion.
Here's the point of this post though: if you disagree about this and think trivia is trivial, please have the courage of your convictions and don't get worked up about it. I've seen people quarrel for months, curse, run sockpuppets, and finally get sitebanned--all because of stuff that they insist isn't important. Maybe you have strong convictions about what an encyclopedia should or shouldn't be. Okay, I can respect that and agree to disagree. Let's do our best to be polite about it.
Thinking of someone. If you read this you'll know who you are. I like ya, dude. Take it easy.