Simanaitis Says

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QUITE APART FROM slang for trigonometry, I always thought the verb “to trig” meant something like “to get the drift of” in the sense of revealing something: “He trigged to the con man’s scheme.”

Well, according to and Merriam-Webster I must have been thinking of another word. 

Word Genius, October 27, 2021, says trig (pronounced “trihg”) is an adjective dating from the 13th century meaning “neat and smart in appearance.” Its examples are straightforward: “Sandra had a smart, trig wardrobe that commanded respect” and “All the lawns in the subdivision were required to be kept trig.” 

“This word,” the website continues, “comes from Middle English, meaning ‘trusty, nimble.’ It is of Scandinavian origin and akin to the Old Norse ‘tryggr’ and Old English ‘trēowe,’ both meaning ‘faithful.’ ’’

“Trig” is also mentioned as short for “trigonometry,” which, by the way, comes from the Greek τρίγωνον, three-cornered, and μέτρον, meter. That is, measuring relationships between side lengths and angles of triangles. 

Merriam-Webster agrees: “stylishly or jaunty trim.” It cites Mark Twain writing “everything was trim and trig and bright.” A little research reveals that this comes from Life on the Mississippi, Twain’s memoir of his being a steamboat pilot before the Civil War. 

Though Twain cites more than a few con men and schemes in his books, he never uses “trig” in the way I’d been thinking. 

Recalling its Middle English origin, I tried Googling “Chaucer trig,” and darned if I didn’t come upon a reference. Though not the one I was seeking. 

Mount Chaucer Trig. Near Portland, Victoria, Australia, precisely at 38º23’10.5”S 141º31’32.5”E , is a triangulation point identified as Mount Chaucer Trig. 

Image from

Trigs in General. This in turn got me learning about triangulation stations, for short, trigs. These are fixed, precisely measured surveying points throughout the world, many located on hilltops for purposes of visibility, often identified by stone or concrete pillars.

A trig point on Mam Tor, Derbyshire, England. Image by Stu 152 from Wikipedia.

These days, Wikipedia notes, “Although stations are no longer required for many surveying purposes, they remain useful to hikers as navigational aids.”

Trigbagging. The website LoneWalker describes “bagging trig points” as a hobby associated with hiking. This enthusiast  is U.K.-based with many trig points bagged in northern England. 

Image from Lonewalker.

I tried Googling a trig point near me here in southern California. But, to misuse the word one last time, I couldn’t trig to one.

It was entertaining correcting my misuse, however.  ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2021 

2 comments on “ON TRIGGING 

  1. fred vainas
    October 30, 2021

    “Twigged” might be the verb you’re thinking of. I believe I’ve seen this in American detective fiction.

    • simanaitissays
      October 30, 2021

      Fred, you’ve nailed it! Many thanks. Which reminds me of the “Wabbit girl,” the stutterer, and my pointless “S” school. Another tale for another day….

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