Friday, November 16, 2018

New Zealand vocabulary primer

Oh my aching Aunt Fannie!
New Zealand high school students have demanded examiners ignore that they don’t know what the word “trivial” means, after it appeared in a final-year exam and left many confused.
Some students who took the year 13 history exam claimed the “unfamiliar word” was too hard, and the exam should now be marked according to each student’s different understanding and interpretation of “trivial”.
The exam asked for students to write an essay on whether they agreed with a quote from Julius Caesar which reads: “Events of importance are the result of trivial causes”....
According to NZQA 6,300 students were enrolled to sit the exam and the authority had received 13 complaints regarding it.
I cannot fully express the sense of "gobsmacked" I felt when reading this small story.

When I was a kid (seven or eight years old), comic books sometimes had advertisements on the back cover that invited those inclined to "use a new word ten times in a day and it is yours." Vocabulary lessons ... there's something to be said for them... and it ain't trivial.


  1. In Portugal, there's a row going on in political circles after the Ministry of Culture argued that not lowering taxes on bullfighting events, along with other cultural events, was "a matter of civilization". Bullfighting fans, most notably a poet, former presidential candidate and socialist member of parliament rejected this argument as a totalitarian view and attack on freedom, arguing there are different patterns of 'civilization'. Looking up the dictionary, though, the answer should be straight simple. "Civilization" stands directly opposed to "Barbarism" or "Barbarity" and while the later means "brutal or inhuman conduct; cruelty", the former also includes "the use in a language of forms or constructions felt by some to be undesirably alien to the established standards of the language". From a "standard vocabulary" usage, I am gobsmacked on how a renowed poet cannot see how defending making a public show of stabbing blades on an animal's back as a form of civilization amounts to barbarism to defend barbarity; using a word alien to its established standard to defend what is, in fact, a cruel = barbaric act. If even a renowned poet and former presidential candidate can't master the meaning of the word "civilization" beyond his own ego-driven desires, it's hardly surprising a bunch of highchool students are confused by the word trivial. Definitely agree with you, there is something to be said for vocabulary lessons... and it ain't trivial at all. On the contrary, it's a matter of civilization, right at the core of one of its main tools; language.

  2. I think the difference between civilized people and barbaric people is that civilized people stand in line and wait their turn rather than just mill around. Vonnegut said it was a lovely green planet 'til the big brains came along. Idjit's are us.

  3. Irony: A trivial number of complaints from kids who didn’t know what the word trivial meant resulted in a trivial blog post about a trivial news story.