Monday, December 11, 2006

“How did you know that?” is a question that I hear so often when playing games that involve a trivia component. I never really thought of it as anything outstanding, in fact, I always assumed that most of those questions fell under the category of “general knowledge,” but the more I get asked that the more I realize that perhaps the knowledge is not so general after all.

Now I am no Ken Jennings, in fact I am quite sure that in a game of Jeopardy I would lose quite handily to my old friend Matt Hobbs who I recall routinely got every question right before the contestants ever had a chance to ring in. That being said, I do seem to have some peculiar talent when it comes to trivia. I think one key element to this is that I am genetically blessed with an excellent memory. There seems to be a special compartment in my brain to house all of the trivial “when will I ever need this?” type of knowledge. For this I obviously have to thank my ancestors.

My closest ancestors, my parents, contributed a great deal as well. From an early age they laid the foundation on top of which everything I know has been built. My mom would read to me every night, and as far back as I can remember my dad and I would play the occasional game of chess (well, I think we started with Smess).

As I thought about this, things started coming together, but the question remained, where did all the trivial facts that are stuck in my head come from? As I reflected on a number of my more astonishing trivia responses, I realized the source of so much of this “useless” knowledge.

If you had asked me in high school if I thought I was wasting my time, the answer likely would have been a resounding yes. I would have much rather been dialing into the local BBSes or following the hockey Axemen at that time. If you would have asked me which courses in particular I considered unworthy of my attention, English would have almost certainly topped the list (sorry mom). Who would have ever though that the seemingly tedious pedagogical methods of Jim Fetty would lead me to a lifetime of dominance in games of trivia?

At the time, learning 200 new vocabulary words each year truly seemed like a waste of time. Surely if I needed these words, I could find them in a dictionary or a thesaurus! Studying affixes and roots and etymology seemed as amusing as watching paint dry. Learning the history of English and other languages (like Esperanto, whatever that is) seemed like squandering precious brain cells. I wondered about when I would ever need to know what a dipthong was, or a portmanteau word, or onomatopoeia?

Yet now, more than ten years later, scarcely a day goes by that I don’t draw on something I learned in those classes. How I have managed to retain so much of it is beyond me. I recall Mr. Fetty feeling “shortchanged by my efforts,” according to one report card, but I am sure if went back and wrote one of his tests today I would do as well as I did way back in grade 11.

I have had many other influential teachers in my life, but I can say with confidence that few have prepared me for trivia challenges quite as well as Mr. Fetty. Thinking back I still have no idea how some of it fit into the 11th grade English curriculum, but at least now I will not be caught with my pants down when the subject of merkins comes up in a game of trivia!


Joan said...

This started out so nicely, as a tribute to your parents and your grade 11 English teacher. But the end ruined it for me.

11:21 PM, December 11, 2006  
Sharon B said...

I'm with you on that one, Joan! Ewwwwwwww. This incident proves that too much knowledge is NOT always a good thing... you could have used the word potwalloper...people would still be scrambling for their dictionaries!
Andrew, it's aways nice for parents to know that they have had a positive influence on their children, and thank you for making that known :) Mr Fetty would be thrilled to read your tribute to him! I still see him around on occasion, enjoying his retirement

8:20 AM, December 12, 2006  
Aunite Sue said...

Does Mr. Fetty have a nervous tic??

5:29 PM, December 15, 2006  

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