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If I say in English "I have a question" that means I need help, but if I have say: "I have a trivia question" that means I'm getting ready to ask a question whose answer I already know and hopefully will somehow be interesting to the listener.

One native speaker told me there used to be a show called "Jeu de Champions" where they asked such questions. She said the translation of trivia question was "question de culture générale", but I find this too long. It is also right here, and no good translations are provided.

3
  • Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on French Language Meta, or in French Language Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – anonymous2
    May 31, 2023 at 17:22
  • 2
    It might be of slight interest that the English "trivia" comes from the "trivium" (grammar, logic, and rhetoric), in classical education, as opposed to the "quadrivium" (arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy), and so on. :) May 31, 2023 at 18:09
  • 3
    You should have posted your update as a reply. You would then have an idea about its popularity, or lack of. Of course, I already told nobody uses that word in France and I would be annoyed if someone would insist using it while we have already plenty of words, depending on the context.
    – jlliagre
    May 31, 2023 at 20:19

10 Answers 10

7

Not exactly equivalent because the word also includes the meaning énigme (riddle) but you might often translate a trivia question to une devinette.

J'ai une devinette : Quel mot commence par F, n'apparaît que dans une seule expression en français et indique une progression ?

When you say j'ai une question, you might know or not the answer but when you say j'ai une devinette, you almost always know the answer.

Some examples:

A few notes:

  • Jeu de Champions was probably Questions pour un champion.

  • Devinette is not used in TV/radio shows probably because that word sounds a little childish.

  • Trivia, as an anglicism, is essentially unknown and unused in France.

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  • 1
    « devinette » ne pourra être une traduction en aucun cas; c'est archi-faux.
    – LPH
    May 29, 2023 at 23:37
  • 2
    @LPH En aucun cas ? C'est exagéré.
    – jlliagre
    May 30, 2023 at 0:12
  • 1
    @bobsmith Ce ne serait pas une question triviale car triviale est peu courant en français et son sens est généralement plus proche de grossier ou vulgaire. Pour ta question, j'ai une devinette conviendrait très bien.
    – jlliagre
    May 30, 2023 at 7:25
  • 1
    @Frank Oui, bien sûr, une devinette ou une trivial question peut aussi se rapporter à de la culture générale. Entre amis, on pourra dire devinette mais dans un jeu télévisé ou radiophonique, ce sera simplement question, cf. le fameux Question de madame Bellepaire, de Loches des Grosses têtes (Philippe Bouvard).
    – jlliagre
    May 30, 2023 at 8:05
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    Minor correction, the game is "Questions pour un champion", plural. I know because I get it wrong all the time. May 30, 2023 at 13:37
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The English word trivia as used in your question is a mid-20th century concept originating in the new usage of the word created by the British essayist Logan Pearsall Smith at the beginning of the 20th century. According to Wikipedia:

The first known documented labeling of this casual parlor game as "Trivia" was in a Columbia Daily Spectator column published on February 5, 1965.

As we can see, this article has few translations into other languages, and noticeably not in French. French speaking countries have of course imported the concept in the form of multiple TV shows and other board games, but so far as I know, to this day the most common rendering of a "trivia question" in these quizzes is just question as @Frank mentions in one of their comments.

Dictionaries give translations of trivia in its old 15th century meaning, usually as bagatelle or futilité, and Wiktionary only paraphrases it:

Information ou anecdotes intéressantes mais sans utilité.

but the use as in "A quiz game that involves obscure facts" is ignored.

Google translates "trivia contests" by "concours triviaux" which to my mind is a big faux-sens. DeepL, does, to my mind again, a little better by just not translating it: "concours de trivia".

Trivia is used here and there:

I've had a look at what they say in Québec, guessing they would not be satisfied with just trivia:

They surely have got the geist of it, but not the shortness you are looking for. But language being a living matter we can look at this again in a few years.


1 Personnellement je préfère ce terme à celui de « culture générale ».

6

In French you can usually only use the word "quiz". Whereas in English a "quiz" can be as serious as an exam, in French it only is used for quiz games.

In French you can sometimes see it written as "quizz", although it is often considered to be a mistake.

For trivia outside of the context of question games, you have other translations like "anecdotes" that would cover different usages of the word.

"culture générale" can be used on some occasion, as a name for a category of questions inside a quiz that don't share that much in common. It usually refers to questions that require prior knowledge to be answered (rather than reasoning).

4

What about colle?

Je vous pose une colle

3

In my opinion there is no single term/phrase equivalent to how trivia question in English. One would usually use a phrase that is more specific to the context - some have been already proposed in the discussion (notably, la question de culture générale), and I add just a few more:
J'ai une question de base.
J'ai une question très simple.
Comment définissez-vous/appelez-vous X.
J'ai une question de conaissance générale.

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    Trivia questions ne sont est pas forcément simples ou de base. Elles sont parfois (souvent ?) très pointues.
    – None
    May 30, 2023 at 6:05
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    @LPH There is no exact correspondence between languages - a concept that one language communicate with a single word or phrase might not even exist as a concept in another language. The fact that several people in this thread - most of them native French speakers - fail to give an exact translation to trivia question, valid in all situations, is a good example of this. It doesn't mean that French is poorer than English - it only means that it is a different language.
    – Roger V.
    May 30, 2023 at 7:45
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    Je ne dis pas le contraire (« ne sont est pas forcément simples ou de base »), ça peut être simple comme ça peut ne pas l'être, la simplicité n'a rien à voir avec le concept de trivia.
    – None
    May 30, 2023 at 8:54
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    @LPH I think vocabulary is a poor measure of language richness. English is an analytic language - it has almost no inflections and limited tools for word formation. Hence, extended vocabulary is the only way in which it can express more nuances. A synthetic language as Russian can express all the same things with much fewer words - indeed, a typical Russian dictionary has about 60 thousand words, where a typical Webster has a million or more. And, btw, even that is more than a typical vocabulary of an educated person.
    – Roger V.
    May 30, 2023 at 9:59
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    @LPH From my personal experience, there are many situations where an English word would serve well in French, but there are also situations where I am tempted to use a French word in English or a Russian word in either of them. I think such code switching has more to do with the environment and one's personal experience than with the actual advantages of a language. An even more extreme case is a child, who uses a term that has precise meaning in their family, even if it comes from a foreign language or even invented by family.
    – Roger V.
    May 30, 2023 at 11:04
2

For comparison in usage, "pub trivia" or "pub quiz" (also "bar trivia" or just "trivia night" in bars), where these sorts of questions are asked and the game is hosted by the venue for patrons to play is widespread. These events are called "(bar) trivia (night)" more in the US; in the UK and elsewhere, "pub quiz" is more common and usage is on the rise in the States. It's this usage that gives French the name for trivia night, un quizz.

Looking at a map of Paris, the top hits on pub quiz or trivia all bring back bars with Anglo names and themes. Many of the reviews are in English. Here are some in French for an Irish themed restaurant that show current usage of pub quizz, quizz concert and even quizz de culture gé, emphasis mine:

Fléchettes à disposition (demander au bar) Billard payant. Bonne ambiance, pub quizz tous les mercredis.

Chaque mercredi, un quizz de culture générale est organisé.

Qq animations (quizz concert de qualité, et billard). Souvent des touristes anglophones de passage.

Quizz tous les mercredis soirs, génial pour entraîner sa culture gé !

L'ambiance est tjrs sympa. Ils font des quiz les mercredis, c'est sympa

Mostly quizz, some quiz, pub quiz, quiz concert. It's borrowed. (You wouldn't call this night un interro.) So to address the question, you could call your question a quizz, "Je m'amuse à faire des quizz (de culture gé), écoute, savais-tu que...?"

This also supports other answers that show that trivia is not the word; it does not come up in this context in French at all.

A Scottish pub has reviews in English, including:

There is a pub quiz and a music quiz every week, all in English.

I would call these pub trivia, trivia night, or even just trivia ("Let's go to trivia at Twisters or Le Swimming tonight") in AmE, but not in French.

2
  • Effectivement, quiz/quizz a été mentionné dans une des réponses ou commentaires :-)
    – Frank
    Jun 1, 2023 at 23:56
  • @Frank Hop, pardon. Autant pour moi. Je laisse la réponse quand même avec les citations ça pourrait être utile. +1 aux autres déjà. : )
    – livresque
    Jun 2, 2023 at 22:17
1

Dans certains cas ça pourrait être « question piège/anecdotique ».

Selon les contextes, un ensemble de termes ont été proposés dans les réponses et ils sont naturels. Il arrive de plus qu'on ne traduise tout simplement pas le mot trivia de la cooccurrence trivia question. C'est révélateur du fait que la langue n'a pas besoin de ce mot pour présenter ce dont il s'agit et que les interlocuteurs n'en ont pas besoin non plus pour comprendre le contexte. On peut utiliser « j'ai une (petite) question pour vous », ou remplacer question par certains des termes suggérés.

Quand ce n'est pas une question posée mais bien une affirmation, on peut parfois parler d'un détail intéressant.


In some cases, it could be a "question piège/anecdotique".

Depending on the context, a range of terms have been suggested in the answers. Sometimes the word trivia from the collocation trivia question doesn't even get translated. This reflects the fact that the language doesn't need this word to showcase what this is about, and that people listening don't need it either to understand the context. You can use "j'ai une (petite) question pour vous", or replace question with some of the suggestions.

When it doesn't involve asking a question (then ultimately providing an answer) one might talk about "un détail intéressant".

0

As usual, it depends of the context. You often will find the translation of "a trivia question" as "une question" + adjective - as you said, question has a wider meaning and you will need to add a precision to the french word.

Since trivia has not a direct equivalence, the context will define what adjective you use. Most of time, a neutral approach would be to use "subsidiaire", if you have other questions that are not trivia questions, or if this question follows a certain amount of information you've given, and the subject doesn't change, or only slightly.

In the context of several trivia questions, you would have to specify the category of the question. Whenever you hear a quizz in a bar, the speaker will add a category to the word "question". Examples can be: pop culture (transparent), geek, musique (music), BD (comics)... and you will say "Et maintenant une question pop culture/geek/musique/BD/..." rather than "J'ai une question ..." - "j'ai une question" means that you don't really know the answer.

The epitome of all french trivia shows is "Le jeu des mille francs" - now under the title "Le jeu des mille euros", that airs since 1958 (yes that's the trivia question) and resolves this interrogation by adding a color classification to questions: question rouge, question bleue, question blanche.

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    – Community Bot
    Jun 6, 2023 at 18:27
-1
UPDATE

Posted by @bobsmith76

I'm actually one of those annoying people at parties who likes to share tidbits of weird trivia, so from now on, I'm just going to use the English term and tell my interlocutors that the term doesn't exist in French. It won't be the first time that an English term was used in a French conversation.

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  • @bobsmith76 I made it a community wiki pending your own answer as such, and then I'll cut this one out.
    – livresque
    May 31, 2023 at 23:07
  • 1
    @bobsmith With no context provided in your question, some answers/comments incorrectly focused on a game show like Questions pour un champion, the name of a game instead of the name of a question. Moreover, now that you've indicated that the question is asked among friends at parties, devinette, colle or even just question are certainly better choices than trivia. While you're right that English terms are commonly used in French conversation, you can't expect random, unfamiliar terms to be relevant.
    – jlliagre
    Jun 1, 2023 at 0:11
  • Perhaps in the future trivia is going to be adopted in French because you've started the trend, but I wouldn't hold my breath :-)
    – jlliagre
    Jun 1, 2023 at 0:12
  • Par contre un détail intéressant c'est que de le retenir pendant plus de 11 minutes 35 serait un record du monde... Jun 1, 2023 at 0:37
  • 2
    @Frank Le premier nom du Trivial Pursuit, invention québécoise, était Quelques Arpents de Pièges, importé en France sous le nom de Remue-Méninges avant de devenir Trivial Pursuit (au Québec comme en France).
    – None
    Jun 1, 2023 at 6:28
-4

According to strict definitions found in Collins Dictionary, there is no term in French that is proper as a translation.

trivia question

Finally, a trivia question (not related to weighted averages) that illustrates the point. Times,Sunday Times

During a training session, one coach asked a football trivia question to determine who went into the middle in a little exercise. The Sun

The final segment, which has remained unchanged, has the winner of the third segment answering a difficult riddle or trivia question. Retrieved from Wikipedia CC BY-SA

The person wearing the collar will be asked a trivia question from another host or a caller. Retrieved from Wikipedia CC BY-SA

Participants had to answer a trivia question to be eligible to win. Retrieved from Wikipedia CC BY-SA

  1. trivia adjective [ADJECTIVE noun] A trivia game or competition is one where the competitors are asked questions about interesting but unimportant facts in many subjects.
    ...a pub trivia game.

Since trivia questions are to be associated with trivia games, that is, since they are the type of question asked in those games, they are questions about "interesting but unimportant facts".

The translation of "trivia" is "futilités".

(Collins) trivia (= unimportant facts or details) futilités fpl

Le sens exact est donc "questions dont les réponses sont des futilités".

From this definition it is possible to extrapolate and call the questions themselves "futiles".

  • questions futiles

The negative connotation in the English is thus preserved precisely enough.

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  • 3
    C'est archi-faux. Nobody says questions futiles to mean trivia questions in French. In the context of a game, we have Questions pour un champion qui n'est pas Questions futiles pour un champion, for good reasons. "Futile" carries extra negative nuances that are not prominent in the English "trivia" too.
    – Frank
    May 31, 2023 at 14:48
  • You seem to be unaware of the actual connotations of words. When we say C'est vraiment futile, the meaning is much worse and the connotations not comparable to a trivia game, which, in fact, has joyful connotations.
    – Frank
    May 31, 2023 at 14:55
  • 1
    Vous ne faites que brandir des dictionnaires ad nauseam, mais au delà des définitions, il y a des connotations, associations et des usages que vous ne maîtrisez pas. Appelez donc les producteurs de l'émission Questions pour un champion dites leur qu'ils ont tout archi-faux et demandez leur de changer le nom de l'émission à Questions futiles pour un champion en brandissant le Collins Dictionary and TLFi.
    – Frank
    May 31, 2023 at 15:22
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    @LPH Le seul problème... c'est que je ne mens pas quand j'affirme que personne ne dit "questions futiles" pour traduire "trivia question"...
    – Frank
    May 31, 2023 at 18:00
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    Trivia in Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English: 1 detailed facts about history, sports, famous people etc: a selection of golfing trivia | a trivia quiz 2 unimportant or useless details: meaningless trivia. (2005 Edition) 1 matches "Modern usage" in Wikipedia article, 2 matches "English usage" (early 20th c. usage). The Free dictionary gives roughly the same. "Futile" would no doubt be perfect for "unimportant or useless details" but I don't understand the word being used with that meaning in OP's question.
    – None
    May 31, 2023 at 19:15

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