Define: Niff, Naff n Triv (well sort of) – Part 2

Guest poster, Sean Gaffney’s definition of niff, naff n 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’

0 thoughts on “Define: Niff, Naff n Triv (well sort of) – Part 2

  1. “It looks for the answers to the questions that people already have an wholly adequate answer to”

    This strikes me as a truly heroic task. Only the truly great have what it takes to challenge common sense. Or, of course, the truly mad. But I’ll go with the former.

  2. I think kerry might of been better asking this fella for a definition…. “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. ”
    Greek critic, philosopher, physicist, & zoologist (384 BC – 322 BC)

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