In Pursuit of all things Trivial

Trivial Pursuit – The Game

December 15, 2020

There is a saying that your greatest embarrassment is merely someone else’s momentary amusement.

Such is the case for today’s Tuesday Newsday and the introduction on December 15, 1979 of a game which is a verifiable cultural phenomenon. It was on that date when the game Trivial Pursuit (TP) made its first appearance.

Created by two Canadians,  Chris Haney, a photo editor for Montreal’s The Gazette, and Scott Abbott, a sports editor for The Canadian Press, the game was invented when the pair wanted to play Scrabble but discovered a number of pieces missing. Why, they mused, don’t we just make up our own game? One does wonder if alcohol was involved that night. Certainly this author – who eschews dangling participles – has been highly critical of the plethora of them for which TP is legend. You would think that people involved in communications and writing might know better. But I digress.

Thanks to the Infallible Wikipedia, we learn that:

“The object of the game is to move around the board by correctly answering trivia questions. Questions are split into six categories, with each one having its own color to readily identify itself; in the classic version of Trivial Pursuit, the Geography category is blue, Entertainment is pink, History is yellow, Arts & Literature is originally brown, later purple, Science & Nature is green, and Sports & Leisure is orange. The game includes a board, playing pieces, question cards, a box, small plastic wedges to fit into the playing pieces, and a die.

TORONTO “Trivial Pursuit” inventors, former journalists Chris Haney (l), brother John Haney, and Scott Abott (r), play their board game based on trivia questions. The game in great demand in the U.S.A. and Canada, is sold out in many retail outlets. Photo dated Feb. 6, 1984.

Playing pieces used in Trivial Pursuit are round and divided into six sections like wedges of pie. A small plastic wedge, sometimes called cheese (like cheese triangles), can be placed into each of these sections to mark each player’s progress.

During the game, players move their playing pieces around a track which is shaped like a wheel with six spokes. This track is divided into spaces of different colors, and the center of the board is a hexagonal “hub” space. At the end of each spoke is a “category headquarters” space. When a player’s counter lands on a square, the player answers a question according to its color, which corresponds to one of the six categories. If the player answers the question correctly, his turn continues; a correct answer on a category headquarters space awards a wedge of that color if the player does not yet have one. (snip)

Once a player has collected one wedge of each color and filled up his playing piece, he must return to the hub and answer a question in a category selected by the other players. If this question is answered correctly, that player wins the game. Otherwise, the player must leave the center of the board and try again on the next turn.”

By the time the hubby and I were married in 1980, TP was all the rage. Of course we purchased the game and played it often with family and friends.

After awhile we became familiar with some of the games less desirable traits. Things like the fact that it could drag on forever and the players would lose interest. Or that there were some topics which were so ridiculous that there was no way any normal person would ever know the answer.

A typical Obscure Author question next to the brown AL bubble… Persian poets? Really?

In fact, to this day, we refer to the original Arts and Literature ‘brown’ segment as Obscure Authors. Now, my hubby is a trivia brain so this game was right up his alley. Except for the Obscure Authors category, that is.

For me, well, my knowledge of stuff was more broad based and mostly I would venture WAG’s* if I had no clue to the answer.

Sometime in the mid-1980’s, during a rather robust game of TP with a group of friends, I was getting close to the finish and the opportunity to win the game when I landed on green, Science and Nature. It should have been my first clue.

I got a question which, when I answered it, turned into a moment of great embarrassment.

For those familiar with TP you know that, except for the occasional true or false, you simply have to know the answer. Here’s a sample:

Note that there are no ‘multiple choice’ options. Just a whole series of ridiculous questions that most people do not know. Also note not one but TWO questions with those dangling participles!

We return to the game where I was given the Science and Nature question but, unfortunately, answered it as if it was from the Geography section.

Here’s what I was asked: Where is the Coccyx located?

To which I answered: Egypt.

Contrary to popular belief, the Coccyx is nowhere to be found in this photo…

Guess I should have taken a class in anatomy and physiology.

There are many, in fact now over 100 million coccyx’s in Egypt, so the answer was, technically, correct. The answer on the back of the card, however, informed me that the coccyx is one’s tailbone.

I was pretty much laughed out of the room.

When the hubby and I moved a few years ago, our copy of TP and all the add on card sets we’d acquired were among the things which we donated, having not played the game in years.

And, for the record, there were two other answers which caused family squabbles. The answers were ‘Higher and Higher’ and ‘Cherry Cola.’ Can’t recall the exact questions, but at the time it was a huge controversy. In retrospect it truly was a trivial pursuit.

*WAG = Wild A** Guess

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