Friday, 3 August 2007

Interested in Interesting Things

I'm often accused by people I know of being too clever for my own good. Well, that's the implication I usually take when it's discovered by a friend or aquaintance that I, for example, happen to know that there are lots of Zapotec speakers in Los Angeles, or that the capital of Burkina Faso is Ouagadougou, or that the closest relative to the elephant is something called a hyrax. When that happens the friend or aquaintance then usually raises their eyebrow and looks at me out of the corner of their eye and says either "How do you know these things?" or "You're such a geek!" or, more usually, and damningly, just "Err...."

Above: A hyrax.

I can't help it. I'm just interested in everything (literally the only things I'm not interested in are fashion, disneyland, celebrity gossip and women's football), and have the kind of brain that picks up useless trivia like a sponge. I don't especially try to be that way: I just read books and newspapers and websites and everything in them strikes me as being worth knowing - and as soon as you can say Jack Robinson, there! I now know it.

That certain phrase does annoy me, though: Useless trivia. I happen to believe it's an oxymoron. Trivia is rarely useless. For example, I read today in Alastair Campbell's Diary that Tony Blair once got a lecture from David Trimble because he ignorantly assumed that Ullans - the Ulster language - is a Celtic language, when actually it's a Germanic one like English. See, I already knew that, and instead of getting a lecture from Mr. Trimble I might have got him to buy me a pint instead. And I'd have been a better Prime Minister to boot.

Above: English, Irish, Ullans.

More germanely, given that I'm not the Prime Minister, I made good friends with George from Georgia, a guy I study Law with, because I got talking with him once about Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and he's now given me a standing invitation to go and visit whenever the urge takes me. I wouldn't have got that without my old trusty trivia-brain.

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