And Niff, Naff n Triv is…?

niffnaffntriv-thumb.jpg Since I started Niff, Naff N Triv, I’ve been asked a  fair few times what the hell it means and I thought  it was probably about time that I came up with a  standard definition that I could bandy about  forever more. Except I couldn’t come up with a  good enough one, so I turned to an older and,  therefore apparently, wiser head. The very person  I had stolen the phrase from in the first place to  help out, my elder brother.

So in Niff, Naff’s first ever guest post, and his first blog post ever, I proudly present…

Sean Gaffney’s definition of niff, naff n triv

After being tasked to come up with some sort of understandable definition of niff, naff n triv, I found myself humming and hawing. Should I stop doing what I was doing and come up with a definition? Or should I just continue doing the nothing that I was busy doing? Well the definition won, as it was instantly more attractive than carrying on not doing my job for no real reason, for now I had a job to do.

I thought that I knew what niff, naff and triv is and to be honest, I do! As does my sister. People who know the value of knowledge, that’s real knowledge passed between men with beards drinking ale in poorly lit pubs, instinctively know good niff, naff and trivia when they hear it. They then absorb it and save it for a rainy day, until it can just be gently slipped into conversation and evoke the correct response from astounded listeners. The correct response, of course, being “How the F*%K do you know that?”

The type of thing I’m talking about is gently leaning over the shoulder of the office ‘know it all’ as he spouts off about Baron de Coubertin and that in 1896 the first Olympic Games of the modern era were held in Athens, and just saying ‘So you never been to Much Wenlock then?’ and walking off.

People have knowledge, most of it is flawed, misinformed or just plain wrong. How they come by it is largely influenced by PR consultants. People therefore think they know what they need to know because that’s what they have been told that they need (hang your heads, I know what you guy do!). What you need to do is have the deeper knowledge at your finger tips and embrace niff, naff and trivia and enjoy the fact you know the facts upon which their faltering knowledge is based.

I thought I would start with a single all encompassing definition and, having the definition done and dusted before the mornings stand easy (yes, I’m aware you are asking what a stand easy is). That would then leave the rest of the day free for sorting out the meaning of life, curing cancer and still leave time for the afternoon’s stand easy and a large game of mine sweeper. However I soon found myself stuck. Defining things wasn’t quite as easy as I had first anticipated and not wishing to miss out aardvark or sausages I decided to break the whole concept into easier bite sized chunks and start off with Niff, then Naff and finally Triv.

Not being afraid to stand on the shoulders of giants, I consulted the online OED, who wanted me to give them money.  So I then consulted Wikipedia, who wanted me to believe them… so I went back to the OED and found concise definitions that didn’t need me to part with my bank details but the lack of monetary exchange had left the definitions some what thinner than I expected.


noun – unpleasant smell

verb  – stink


verb (don’t worry about these they do nothing for us)

Adjective – lacking taste or style


contraction of trivia

noun –  unimportant details (bah, God is in the details) or pieces of information

Trivia, or its singular Trivium (did you know that?)  Medieval universities would first teach the Trivium to its students. The Trivium was grammar, logic and rhetoric, once students had mastered these three subjects they would then be taught the Quadrivium of Arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy.

In Latin, trivium meant the three roads. Presumably at the junction of these three roads travellers would meet and swap gossip or information (see now we are learning) or discuss the best way to sell the next passer by something they did n’t really need. The medieval universities chose the trivium of grammar, logic and rhetoric as they each feed into one another. Which makes sense when you think about it and maybe if the educational system had continued in that vain we wouldn’t have been taught the 3 Rs!  Reading, ‘Riting and Rithmatic? Tell me at what point did a former educational secretary of state think phonetic education was the way ahead? But I digress.

So we have definitions of the parts but when we add them together we end up with an unpleasant smell that’s lacking in style and is largely unimportant!

Deciding that that really wasn’t what I was after, I scratched my head, drank my ale and decided that the definition we require for niff, naff n trivia is actually ‘Inconsequential chatting or carryings on’. Which has what has just been shouted at me, people in work are now joining in with the hunt for the definition.

It has also just been pointed out that if you drop the trivia, you can then potter about and do niff naff, i.e. ‘what did you do at home today?’, ‘Oh just niff naff ‘, came the reply. Which could also be covered boondoggling. That’s what I’m doing now, in fact that’s how I ended up doing this in the first place as long as I am sat at my desk and busy typing then I look like I’m working, don’t I?


verb (used without object) – to do work of little or no practical value merely to keep or look busy

I have a problem! I started this because I know what niff, naff and trivia is, it’s what I do and what I am. I absorb facts and snip bits of information and squirrel them away in the knowledge that being good at my job or being able to type 90 words a minute is never going to make me an interesting well rounded person. If I can’t define niff, naff, n trivia, does that mean I can’t define myself? Bollox this has just gone very Cary Bradshaw.

Still, I think I’m nearing the end. As I began to fail in my task I turned to Google to provide the answers, unfortunately typing in the title of my sister’s web site only produced 987 hits, I’m sure if she tried harder she could be a googlewack. And most of those hits were from this very site. So I pressed on and looked for niff naff and trivia ( 554 hits, heading in the right direction) and that’s how I found Rob. He was not the purveyor of niff, naff and trivia that I hoped for but maybe its just my fault for not liking home grown web sites with dodgy sound effects.

So what it’s come to is this, niff, naff and trivia is the search for the deeper truth that underpins all knowledge. It looks for the answers to the questions that people already have an wholly adequate answer to, It seeks to usurp ‘smart alecs’ and ‘know it alls’ and inform the misinformed. niff, naff and trivia brings light into the dark reaches of poorly lit pubs.

But take heed, Niff naff and trivia should be given in measured portions, only give enough to satisfy the recipient and it should never be not forced upon them in an attempt to show off.

And if that does n’t cover it I think you will agree niff naff and trivia and be neatly defined under the heading ‘Stuff n Things’.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *