Trivia · Word of the week

Word of the week: amanuensis

The new Trivia Season has begun. The three TV quiz formats that will reach their conclusions next spring are back on our screens: “University Challenge” began in July, “Mastermind” in August and “Only Connect” a week ago, on the first Monday in September.

Once again “Only Connect” precedes “University Challenge” in an hour’s worth of quizzing beginning at 8pm on Mondays. I am still not used to this arrangement, even though it is into its third season. For many years the shows were broadcast the other way round, and I still prefer to watch “University Challenge” first, followed by “Only Connect”. This keeps them in the same order that they used to be transmitted, time-shifted by 30 minutes. I aim to do this tonight. It should involve cheering on Trinity College Cambridge against Durham University, and then watching a team of friends who holiday in Rome compete against a team of wordsmiths.

“Mastermind” is in its usual Friday evening slot and has ditched last season’s innovation of bringing out the contestants individually to answer their special subjects. Each of them would begin their walk to the black chair off-stage. It was a longer walk than the more familiar one that takes them from their regular places to the left of John Humphrys, lined up together in their seats. After that brief experiment we are back on familiar territory. The contestants are all seated, lined up together for the whole show, apart from their journeys to and from the black chair and the time they spend answering questions.

Last Friday’s general knowledge rounds taught me the meanings of three words: amanuensis, vicennial and aileron. The first and last of these words were familiar to me, but I didn’t know what they meant. I had never heard of “vicennial” before, and it’s marked as a mis-spelling in Microsoft Word. Here are the three questions, followed by the answers.

  1. “What term for a literary assistant, especially one who writes or copies the dictation of another, is a Latin word for secretary?”
  2. “A vicennial period lasts for how many years?”
  3. “What term, derived from the French for ‘little wing’, is used in aeronautics for a hinged flap on the trailing edge of an aircraft wing?”

The answers

  1. Amanuensis
  2. 20 years
  3. Aileron




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