Nonsense QI XL


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Nonsense

Sandi Toksvig looks at nonsense with Holly Walsh, Nish Kumar, Phill Jupitus and Alan Davies.


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Transcript


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APPLAUSE

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Welcome to QI, where tonight's show is frankly a lot of nonsense.

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Not helped by stultiloquent poppycock from Holly Walsh.

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APPLAUSE

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Nagmentory codswallop from Nish Kumar.

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APPLAUSE

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Fribbling gibberish from Phill Jupitus.

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APPLAUSE

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And the Alan Davies from Essex.

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APPLAUSE

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And their buzzers sound like nonsense too. Holly goes...

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'The trouble with kittens is that...'

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Nish goes...

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'While they're sat on the mat, they get fat...'

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And Phill goes...

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'They grow and they grow, and the next thing you know...'

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And Alan goes...

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'Your kitten's a boring old cat.'

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LAUGHTER

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Love that.

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So, your first task tonight is to say something

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completely nonsensical, that sounds profound.

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That's what I would like.

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LAUGHTER

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Nish, have you got any thoughts?

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I always find that when people say, "I make my own luck,"

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-I think that is the biggest load of nonsense.

-Yeah.

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-Because, if you make it, that's not luck.

-Yeah.

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-That's not how luck works.

-No.

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Phill, have you got a profound sentiment for me?

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It's the centenary this year of the establishment of the Dada art group,

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set up at Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich.

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Richard Huelsenbeck was a Dada artist

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and he wrote a long poem called Fantastic Prayers.

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And a couple of sections from it are...

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"Birribum, birribum

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"The ox runs down the circulum

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"Voila, here are the engineers with their assignment

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"Light minds to throw in a still-crude state.

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"Some showers."

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-Is it part poem, part weather report?

-Basically.

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Whenever you say anything nonsense like that, I always think...

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-LOWERS INTONATION

-..falling slightly at the end of it.

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It just becomes shipping forecast to me.

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What about you, Alan?

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Well, I like things that sound like proverbs.

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And the important thing about them is that they are always reversible.

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So I've come up with a couple.

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You can change your mind, but you can't change your brain.

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-Oh...

-That's so crazy.

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The alternative is, you can't change your brain,

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but you can change your mind.

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Wow, that's the sort of thing a teacher would say to you

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-and nod as if it meant something.

-It means bugger all.

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Another one is, you can't jump without landing.

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Equally, you can't land without jumping.

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I just need time to think about that.

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This is the sort of thing we should definitely be smoking weed

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and listening to.

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Like, you would be a weed guru with this stuff.

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You could say things like, a dry man is not swimming.

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That's so messed up, man!

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A swimming man is never dry.

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There's a geezer with a sticker factory in Kettering now

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who is writing all these down.

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"This is gold!"

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Have you got any profound thoughts for me?

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Well, I just like, when you're standing on a train platform

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and they go, "Any unattended items will be destroyed without warning."

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And I'm always like...

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-that IS a warning.

-Yeah.

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-It makes no sense to me.

-Does that include a child?

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Is a child an item?

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I bet you'd sell a lot of children's T-shirts if it just said,

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"I am not an unattended item."

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"Do not destroy."

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There's a fantastic website called the New Age Bullshit Generator.

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What it does, it takes buzzwords from New Age tweets

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and it combines them to create syntactically correct,

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profound-sounding nonsense, such as,

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"Hidden meaning transforms unparalleled abstract beauty."

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That's a Coldplay B-side, isn't it?

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"The infinite is calling to us via superpositions of possibilities."

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These all just sound like Morrissey lyrics.

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# The infinite is calling to us. #

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I really like them.

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"Perceptual reality transcends subtle truth."

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I think we've all felt like that at some point.

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"Consciousness is the growth of coherence, and of us."

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So, here's the thing - Canadian researchers asked subjects

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to rate the various sentences I have been reading out

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on a scale of one to five, OK?

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The statements received an average score of 2.6 - "somewhat profound".

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And the researchers concluded,

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"These results indicate that our participants largely failed

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"to detect the statements are bullshit."

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Yeah, and also, they are just trying to put a number in the middle,

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-so they can't be wrong.

-Yeah, it's got to be in here somewhere.

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"How many out of five?" "Er, three.

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"Don't ask me anything else."

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It's like multiple-choice at your O Levels, isn't it?

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C, C, C, C,

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B for change,

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C...

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All sorts of sentences that people found profound, like,

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"Most people enjoy some sort of music."

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There's lots of nonsense out there, particularly on the internet.

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In 2014, the German scientific publisher Springer

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and also the American Institute Of Electrical And Electronic Engineers

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had to remove more than 120 papers from their website

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because they discovered they were computer-generated nonsense.

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Have you ever seen those computer-generated novels?

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So, they did Moby Dick, with the words swapped for meows of the same length,

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so, "Call me Ishmael," is, "Meow me Meeeeoow."

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They did another one, it's a novel made of unconnected excerpts

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from online databases of teenage girls' accounts of their dreams.

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But it's not just computers that can generate rubbish

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or things you don't understand,

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so the Delphic Oracle was proverbial for its ambiguous...

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Wow, she's got weird legs.

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LAUGHTER

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That's a skill, isn't it, to hover on stilts like that? Fantastic.

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-That's the sort of thing you'd see in Covent Gardens.

-Yes.

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But usually they have a Yoda costume over the top.

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I'm quite alarmed because all of those men sort of look like me.

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Oh, yeah! There is a look.

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Blue WKD had a different sort of packaging in those days.

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So, lots of ambiguous one-liners. Croesus, who was King of Lydia,

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he asked for advice on whether he should attack Persia and was told,

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"If you cross the river, a great empire will be destroyed,"

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and he thought, "Fantastic, she thinks I should do this!"

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Of course, the great empire was his own that was destroyed.

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And there is another piece of advice that was given.

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"You will go, you will return, never in war will you perish."

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So it's one of those things that it depends how you punctuate it.

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"You will go, you will return, never in war will you perish,"

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or, "You will go, you will return never, in war will you perish."

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And she never gave out the punctuation,

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so it's impossible to tell.

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-Lynne Truss would go mental if she saw the Delphic Oracle.

-Yes, yes.

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Many people can't tell profound truth from complete nonsense,

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but then again, as a wise man once said,

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no leg's too short to reach the ground.

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Talking of legs of different lengths, why is netball nonsense?

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-It's just the worst sport ever.

-Oh, my goodness, yes.

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I think you and I could do an hour on this.

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It should be banned, because it's not fair, it's a load of crap,

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it favours tall people, who already do better at school discos,

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getting off with boys anyway, and the whole thing is not fair.

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-It's just not fair!

-Wow, Holly, we've really opened some old wounds.

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Oh, yes.

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They have a thing in netball called a chest pass, right?

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And I used to get them in the face.

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LAUGHTER

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Did you used to have one of those bibs with SG on it?

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For "short girl"?

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But they put you against somebody, some girl, six foot tall,

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who's going to mark you, and she just

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-stands there for the whole time like this.

-Just doing that.

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This is what she does, she does this. For, like, 40 minutes.

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That. And that's it, that's all you can do. It's so galling.

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One of the great puzzles of netball,

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apart from why anybody would want to play it,

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is that it has tremendous restriction on movement.

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So, why would you want to restrict players

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to certain areas of the court?

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Isn't it just to avoid contact?

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-No...

-Cos it's a very small court?

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No, it's due to a misunderstanding.

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So, what happened, the men's game, basketball,

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invented by a man called James Naismith in 1891,

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and there was a PE teacher called Clara Bear of New Orleans,

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and she asked if he would send a copy of the rules.

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So, he sent the rules and it contained a drawing of the court

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with lines pencilled across it showing the area that various players

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could best patrol, and she misinterpreted this to mean

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that players couldn't leave those areas.

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She then wrote that into her version.

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Then it got worse. In 1983, a gym teacher in Massachusetts

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called Senda Berenson modified it further,

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because she thought it was unseemly for young women.

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She wrote an essay about it

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and she wrote, "Unless a game as exciting as basketball

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"is carefully guided by such rules as will eliminate roughness,

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"the great desire to win and the excitement of the game

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"will make our women do sadly unwomanly things."

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So she made them all miserable as they are in that picture.

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So, she banned tackling and she instituted

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the three-second time limit for holding the ball

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and basically didn't think people should run backwards and forwards

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because the girls' hearts

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would become what she called hypertrophic if they ran too far.

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Rounders was always the best of all sports.

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Yeah, I liked rounders.

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I was dreadful at all sports.

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I was the first kid in my school to be put into remedial rugby.

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They gave me a round ball, because they were like,

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"This kid's going to have his eye out on the points."

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At school we had three divisions for swimming.

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We had A, B and C, and I was in F.

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That's "floating".

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LAUGHTER

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-Do you like kabaddi?

-Do I like kabaddi?!

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I don't like it, I LOVE kabaddi.

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Kabaddi is an Indian sport. If you don't know what it is,

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it's like somebody looked at a game of rugby and thought,

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you know what the problem with this is? The ball.

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We just get rid of that. And it's also the only game

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where the players stand there and just go,

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"Kabaddi, kabaddi, kabaddi, kabaddi, kabaddi, kabaddi."

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Is that it? Is that the whole thing?

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What you have to do, one man will be sent out by one team

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and he's got to try to touch the end zone. And the other team,

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they're usually linking up and they've got to try to touch him,

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but if he touches them, that's basically it.

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-It's tag?

-Is it British Bulldog?

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It's sort of like British Bulldog and tag.

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It's very much kabaddi, OK?

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I won't have this imperialist conquest of our sports!

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"Is that British Bulldog?" No, it's very much Indian kabaddi!

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You may take our Koh-I-Noor diamond, but you'll never take our kabaddi!

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-PHILL:

-It sounds like a good game,

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but it sounds like what it needs is kissing.

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It's the only sport where, during the sport,

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you just say the name of the sport.

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It would be like a footballer kicking the ball

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and just going, "Football."

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-Do people get injured in it, do you get injured?

-Is it rough?

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I think it's one of those sports that LOOKS pretty rough.

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The other thing that's weird about it

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is they're sort of all in kind of loincloths.

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Oh, wow! Now we're talking!

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If you tuned in, you would think

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you were watching a particularly strange piece of all-male erotica.

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-Well, I was watching on YouTube yesterday...

-Uh-oh.

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..this Turkish sport where they all get oiled up -

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this is genuinely true - and they wear leather trousers

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and they wrestle each other and the competition is

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to get their hands down the front of the trousers,

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like that's how you win the points.

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That's not a sport!

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Is it possible the subtitles were less than correct?

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Well, it was being done in this big field

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and there were loads of people watching and elderly gentlemen

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that you wouldn't imagine would be into that sort of thing

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and they were... These younger men were doing it and they were...

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It was really serious.

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-I'm just...

-You were on YouTube, watching Turkish dogging!

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I'm not joking, I'm so serious.

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I'm wondering if some of these Turkish rules

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couldn't be introduced to kabaddi. How fantastic!

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We should have a QI kabaddi team.

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Would it be us versus other panel shows?

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Oh, that's a very interesting idea.

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I wouldn't want to go up against

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the Have I Got News For You kabaddi team.

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I reckon Hislop's got moves.

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I think Pointless kabaddi. Me against Richard Osman.

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We finally have the sport that television needs, that's what I think.

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Celebrity Death Match Kabaddi.

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-I can see it.

-Write this down!

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Fantastic. We've invented a new sport,

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it was well worth the whole thing.

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From nonsense to neuroscience.

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What's the worst noise in the world?

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'Do you know...?'

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-Yes?

-I believe I've mentioned it before tonight.

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That would be Coldplay B-sides.

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LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE

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Not everyone applauding. Quite a lot of people going,

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"I LIKE Coldplay B-sides."

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So, we have some props. You can make some noises.

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-Oh, hello.

-Let's have a look.

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So, let's start with Nish and Alan.

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BEEP

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That's very irritating, isn't it?

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Oh, God. All right, stop it.

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LOUD HORN

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Do you remember what that is, Nish?

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-This is a vuvuzela.

-It is a vuvuzela, yes.

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Which ruined the 2010 World Cup.

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It's a hideous noise, isn't it?

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Luckily I have grade seven in vuvuzela, so we're fine.

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HONK

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SHRILL SCRATCHING Oh, Alan, Alan.

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AUDIENCE GROANS

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Fingers on a chalkboard!

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That is awful.

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A RECORDER IS PLAYED TUNELESSLY

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We've got a band going, don't stop!

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SCRATCHY VIOLIN

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I've got a mirror and this cube of white stuff...

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LAUGHTER

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Is the most annoying sound in the world me on drugs?

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I think...this is polystyrene.

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-Yes.

-And...

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SQUEAKING Oh!

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The Journal of Neuroscience did the top-10 most annoying sounds.

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Apparently the most annoying is a knife on a bottle,

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but we haven't been able to work out why that is.

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This one we can do. This is number two.

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-A fork...

-Oh, God.

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LAUGHTER

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# I got the power! #

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-FORK SCRAPING ON PLATE

-Ugh, stop, stop, stop.

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Aargh!

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That's very unpleasant, isn't it?

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The worst sound, I think, is Stan Collymore on talkSPORT.

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There's going to be a long list of people who hate you now!

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-I've got... This is the old...

-Yes, yes.

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SMOKE ALARM BEEPS

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What is worse than this, is when it just goes...

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Doot!

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Oh, yes.

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And four minutes later goes...

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Doot!

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And you can't work out which one it is. It's somewhere in the house.

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Doot!

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The thing I love about any sort of smoke alarm is that

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we've advanced so far technologically,

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and yet we still haven't got beyond the only way to solve a smoke alarm

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is to have a tea towel and just do this underneath it.

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I was in a hotel once, and I was...a bit pissed,

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and I fell asleep on the bed in my clothes.

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And then I was woken up by this terrible noise in the room

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and I thought, "What is that?" This, "Whee-whee-whee!"

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And there was this thing on the ceiling

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and I started hitting it with my shoe, as hard as I could,

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and then it fell off the ceiling and it was dangling by a wire.

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And then I rang reception and said,

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"There's a thing in my room making a terrible noise."

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And they said, "That's the fire alarm, sir, will you please evacuate."

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LAUGHTER

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And I said, "Oh, just so you know, when it went off,

0:16:390:16:42

"it kind of fell from the ceiling."

0:16:420:16:44

Then I went out on the street and I was the only person in clothes.

0:16:480:16:51

So I can possibly top all the noises that we have had so far.

0:16:550:16:59

Has anybody ever seen these being played?

0:16:590:17:02

-Ah!

-Is that...?

0:17:020:17:03

Yes, it's an extraordinary noise, but here's the thing,

0:17:030:17:06

1761, Benjamin Franklin was visiting in Cambridge, in England,

0:17:060:17:10

and he saw the glasses being played and he thought,

0:17:100:17:13

"I can improve on this."

0:17:130:17:14

And he developed something called a glass armonica.

0:17:140:17:17

It's 37 bowls and they are mounted horizontally on an iron spindle,

0:17:170:17:22

and they're turned by means of a foot pedal

0:17:220:17:24

and the sound is then produced by touching the rims.

0:17:240:17:26

There it is. It is the most extraordinary noise.

0:17:260:17:30

They're painted different colours, according to the pitch of the notes.

0:17:300:17:33

Franklin used to play this at dinner parties,

0:17:350:17:37

and it really took off, and thousands were built.

0:17:370:17:40

There was a factory employing over 100 people making glass armonicas.

0:17:400:17:43

Lots of the performers were women.

0:17:430:17:45

There was a woman, Marianne Davies, and she toured all over Europe.

0:17:450:17:48

She taught Marie Antoinette to play the glass armonica.

0:17:480:17:51

-There she is.

-"Here we see Marie Antoinette pleasuring an armadillo."

0:17:510:17:54

That's one of the worst sounds in the world,

0:17:570:17:59

Marie Antoinette pleasuring an armadillo.

0:17:590:18:01

"I'll get a tune out of this armadillo, you just watch me."

0:18:010:18:04

I have important things to tell you about the glass armonica.

0:18:070:18:09

Crack on, girl, crack on.

0:18:090:18:10

No, I want to know about pleasuring an armadillo.

0:18:100:18:13

My brain's gone off in the wrong direction.

0:18:130:18:15

So, anyway, it got a very bad reputation,

0:18:150:18:17

because it was thought at first it had a sort of soothing effect

0:18:170:18:20

and then eventually people thought it drove you mad to listen to it

0:18:200:18:23

and that it would even summon the dead.

0:18:230:18:25

And people who played it said they got mental anguish

0:18:250:18:28

from the vibrations.

0:18:280:18:29

In fact, the chances are they were getting lead poisoning

0:18:290:18:32

because the lead was leaching out of the glass and into their system.

0:18:320:18:35

Do they revive them and get them out for the Proms

0:18:350:18:38

or anything like that?

0:18:380:18:39

The only time I ever heard one played

0:18:390:18:41

is outside Paul Revere's house in Boston.

0:18:410:18:42

There's a woman who plays and you give her money to stop.

0:18:420:18:45

How have we had this whole conversation

0:18:470:18:49

and no-one has mentioned bagpipes?

0:18:490:18:51

Yes, what do you think, are you in favour...?

0:18:510:18:53

-I'm against bagpipes.

-Against.

0:18:530:18:54

What it was for me, I stayed at the Edinburgh Festival one year

0:18:540:18:57

and made the mistake of staying in a hotel on Princes Street

0:18:570:18:59

and there's a guy with a bagpipe comes out, 10am,

0:18:590:19:03

kicks off outside the Waverley Shopping Centre.

0:19:030:19:07

I was going to hire a sniper.

0:19:070:19:09

You were inside your hotel trying to hit the fire alarm.

0:19:110:19:15

But the weird thing is, if you are the other side of the hotel,

0:19:150:19:19

you've got the bloke with the panpipes.

0:19:190:19:22

-Oh, yes!

-Oh, I love those!

0:19:220:19:24

The panpipe bloke, where did he come from? What's he doing in Scotland?!

0:19:240:19:27

I like the panpipes, except,

0:19:270:19:30

when you go up to the panpipers and you buy one of their tapes,

0:19:300:19:33

they're playing things like Greensleeves and that kind of thing.

0:19:330:19:36

You don't want that, you want traditional Peruvian...

0:19:360:19:38

Hits by John Williams, that kind of thing, yeah.

0:19:380:19:40

Do you think they have to pay rights to...Henry VIII or whatever?

0:19:400:19:43

I didn't think that through, but...

0:19:430:19:45

Have you ever tried saying to buskers,

0:19:470:19:49

"How much do you make an hour?" They say, "Oh, about £25."

0:19:490:19:52

You go, "Here's 26, now, just for an hour, ssh!"

0:19:520:19:54

Now, make of this nonsensical question what you will.

0:19:540:19:58

Who blows their nose for something to eat?

0:19:580:20:02

My children.

0:20:020:20:03

There might be some good bacteria in your mucus.

0:20:050:20:07

That's what I was told about children,

0:20:070:20:09

doing that does actually help their immune system,

0:20:090:20:12

-to consume their bogeys.

-Yeah.

0:20:120:20:14

Was that one of your children that told you that?

0:20:140:20:16

"It's very good for me, actually."

0:20:190:20:21

There is a conflict of interest there.

0:20:210:20:23

Is it an anteater?

0:20:230:20:25

Is it an anteater?!

0:20:250:20:26

Well, they suck up ants through their noses, don't they?

0:20:260:20:29

Yes, but we are actually looking for something that blows its nose.

0:20:290:20:33

Blows its nose.

0:20:330:20:34

-Yes.

-Bird? Mammal.

0:20:340:20:36

-Bird...

-Mammal...

-Mammal...

-Bird?

0:20:360:20:38

Are you trying to psyche me out so I tell you?

0:20:380:20:40

-I'm trying, I'm trying.

-OK, it's a worm! You did it.

0:20:400:20:44

Worms haven't got noses, they've got spiracles!

0:20:440:20:46

Oh, well, here's the extraordinary thing.

0:20:460:20:49

Have a look at this.

0:20:490:20:50

Prepare yourselves for this bit of footage.

0:20:500:20:52

This is...

0:20:520:20:54

AUDIENCE GROANS

0:20:540:20:55

Make it stop!

0:21:050:21:06

It's called a nemertea, or a ribbon worm,

0:21:090:21:11

and it literally blows its nose.

0:21:110:21:13

So it explosively injects its proboscis from its body

0:21:130:21:17

in search of food.

0:21:170:21:18

They are also known as proboscis worms.

0:21:180:21:20

-Is that snot, then?

-No, it's its nose.

0:21:200:21:22

When they detect food or prey, the muscle contractions of the body wall

0:21:220:21:26

forces the proboscis, literally its nose,

0:21:260:21:28

out of the body and turns it inside-out, like a rubber glove.

0:21:280:21:31

-Right.

-OK. And the one that's shown here is a gorgon worm,

0:21:310:21:34

and it's got these branching, spaghetti-like tentacles

0:21:340:21:37

on its proboscis which then envelops the prey

0:21:370:21:41

with a sticky toxin and draws it back into the body.

0:21:410:21:44

Are you telling me that it ate that bloke?

0:21:440:21:47

-Let's have another look. Let's have one more look.

-No, let's not!

0:21:500:21:54

-It's amazing, isn't it?

-No!

0:21:580:22:00

And again!

0:22:040:22:05

It's like those people on YouTube

0:22:070:22:08

who watch people squeezing spots and stuff like that.

0:22:080:22:11

I mean, what is wrong with people?!

0:22:110:22:13

What is wrong with your YouTube search history?!

0:22:130:22:16

Turkish dogging, spot squeezing... Add this to the list -

0:22:170:22:21

freaky worm eating a bloke.

0:22:210:22:23

Wow, Holly, thank God we had you on the show

0:22:230:22:25

so you could take a break from these things!

0:22:250:22:28

What is that? What is that?

0:22:280:22:30

Well, OK, here's the thing that will upset you.

0:22:300:22:33

Oh, THIS will upset me!

0:22:330:22:34

They can regenerate lost body parts,

0:22:360:22:39

so any nemertean are able to do that,

0:22:390:22:41

but there is one species, and this is it,

0:22:410:22:44

the ramphogordius sanguineus, and it is exceptional.

0:22:440:22:47

Any body part that is severed,

0:22:470:22:49

apart from maybe the tip of the tail where there aren't any nerves,

0:22:490:22:52

can regrow into a new worm,

0:22:520:22:53

so you could take a worm that is only 15 centimetres long

0:22:530:22:56

and it is claimed that more than 200,000 worms could result

0:22:560:23:00

from that one tiny, little worm.

0:23:000:23:03

That's extraordinary, isn't it?

0:23:030:23:05

Isn't that unbelievable?

0:23:050:23:06

The most common nemertean around the UK is called the bootlace worm.

0:23:060:23:10

It can grow to ENORMOUS lengths.

0:23:100:23:12

There was one that washed ashore in St Andrews in Scotland in 1864

0:23:120:23:16

that was said to be 180 feet long,

0:23:160:23:19

which makes it arguably the longest of all animals.

0:23:190:23:21

Extraordinary, aren't they?

0:23:210:23:24

And now a question from a master of nonsense, Mr Lewis Carroll.

0:23:240:23:27

Which is more useful, a clock which is right twice a day,

0:23:270:23:31

or a clock which is right once every two years?

0:23:310:23:34

Wow. Now, is it going to be

0:23:340:23:37

that all clocks are right once every two years

0:23:370:23:41

and the clock that has stopped is right twice a day, so it's the...

0:23:410:23:44

it's the first one?

0:23:440:23:45

Which was the first, sorry? LAUGHTER

0:23:450:23:49

-SHAKILY:

-If you promise not to show me the worm...

0:23:490:23:53

I'll say anything you want.

0:23:530:23:55

I think that clocks are never quite right,

0:23:550:23:58

but every two years they are right.

0:23:580:24:01

That's one of those bullshit statements, isn't it?

0:24:010:24:04

If it's the two-year one,

0:24:040:24:06

is it like losing a second every hour or something like that,

0:24:060:24:09

so therefore you can kind of ballpark what time it is.

0:24:090:24:12

You're exactly right. So, the idea that the clock

0:24:120:24:14

that's right twice a day - yes, Alan, well done -

0:24:140:24:16

it has, of course, stopped, it can't tell us anything about the time,

0:24:160:24:19

-so you'd have no idea when it was right.

-No.

0:24:190:24:22

But a clock that's right once every two years,

0:24:220:24:24

that's a clock that loses a minute a day,

0:24:240:24:26

but you could tell the time from it if you knew how slow it was

0:24:260:24:29

and it was a question that Lewis Carroll wrote about

0:24:290:24:31

in a wonderful miscellany that he wrote called The Rectory Umbrella

0:24:310:24:34

and it's one of the things that he was most passionate about.

0:24:340:24:36

If you think about Alice In Wonderland,

0:24:360:24:38

the rabbit has a watch and talks about being late,

0:24:380:24:40

there's a sense about time in a lot of his writing,

0:24:400:24:42

he was slightly obsessed with it.

0:24:420:24:44

Now, if we are talking about telling time,

0:24:440:24:46

I want you to have a look at this.

0:24:460:24:48

-So, this box, it contains... PHILL:

-A worm!

0:24:480:24:52

It's got a worm in it.

0:24:520:24:53

It's got no dial, it's got...

0:24:530:24:57

You can see, it's got no obvious way of telling the time,

0:24:570:25:01

but it will tell you the time.

0:25:010:25:02

Any thoughts as to how you might do it?

0:25:020:25:05

-CLEARLY:

-What's the time?

0:25:050:25:06

You don't need to take it outdoors?

0:25:080:25:09

-You don't need to take it outdoors, you don't...

-Do you knock on it?

0:25:090:25:12

You do. It was designed at the Copenhagen Institute Of Design.

0:25:120:25:16

One of the things I'm putting in the show are random Scandinavian facts.

0:25:160:25:20

This is today's Randi Scandi.

0:25:200:25:22

LAUGHTER

0:25:220:25:25

So, if you have a listen,

0:25:250:25:27

I will knock on it to ask the time

0:25:270:25:28

and it will knock back what the time is.

0:25:280:25:31

NINE RHYTHMIC KNOCKS, PAUSE

0:25:310:25:35

PHILL IMPERSONATES COUNTDOWN CLOCK, TWO RHYTHMIC KNOCKS

0:25:350:25:38

So it did nine and then ten minute increments,

0:25:380:25:40

so it's 20 minutes past.

0:25:400:25:41

This was in fact built for us by Paul Plowman who is here.

0:25:410:25:44

Where is Paul? Let's give him a round of applause. There we are.

0:25:440:25:47

I want one of those. I think that's absolutely fantastic.

0:25:510:25:55

A clock that runs behind is better than one that doesn't work at all.

0:25:550:25:58

Now, name a nonsense museum.

0:25:580:26:01

-The Leicester Gas Museum?

-Is there a gas museum?

0:26:010:26:04

-Yes!

-I want to go.

0:26:040:26:05

I went there, it was amazing,

0:26:050:26:07

and the guy who runs it is a James Bond lookalike.

0:26:070:26:09

But he asked us to guess who he was a lookalike of

0:26:090:26:11

-and we didn't get it, so I'm not sure how successful he is.

-That's not so good.

0:26:110:26:15

Does he look like a specific James Bond?

0:26:150:26:17

He looks like the Scottish guy.

0:26:170:26:19

Is it unlucky to mention him?

0:26:190:26:21

-"You're not allowed to say..."

-The Scottish Bond!

0:26:240:26:26

"..The Scottish James Bond."

0:26:260:26:28

And because we were so enthusiastic,

0:26:280:26:31

he gave us some British Gas tracksuits from 1988.

0:26:310:26:35

Is he supposed to give away the exhibits? That doesn't seem right.

0:26:350:26:38

My favourite, there's a Pencil Museum in Cumbria.

0:26:380:26:41

-Yes.

-It's brilliant.

-In Keswick.

0:26:410:26:43

Keswick. It's got the world's biggest pencil, which is massive.

0:26:430:26:46

You go and they show you how they make pencils,

0:26:460:26:49

they show you how pencils were invented,

0:26:490:26:51

you can have a pencil with your name on it.

0:26:510:26:53

It's like the best museum in the world.

0:26:530:26:56

Until I went to McLean in Texas,

0:26:560:26:58

where they have the Barbed Wire Museum.

0:26:580:27:00

They do!

0:27:000:27:01

-NISH:

-How do you get in?

0:27:010:27:03

Exactly!

0:27:030:27:04

Barbed wire is the thing that changed

0:27:070:27:09

the entire face of America, because that thing that we think about,

0:27:090:27:12

the Wild West, was only about a 20-year period of history

0:27:120:27:14

because barbed wire came in and it was impossible

0:27:140:27:16

to drive cattle across the country, so it's hugely important.

0:27:160:27:19

-But it is an extraordinary museum.

-Oh, yeah, yeah. It's great.

0:27:190:27:22

-AMERICAN ACCENT:

-"That piece of barbed wire there,

0:27:220:27:25

"that's over 200 year old."

0:27:250:27:27

The best museum I've ever been to is the Margaret Mitchell Museum,

0:27:280:27:31

which is in Atlanta, Georgia. Margaret Mitchell, of course,

0:27:310:27:33

wrote Gone With The Wind and there was a big picture

0:27:330:27:35

behind the woman selling the tickets and it was of a massive fire.

0:27:350:27:38

I said, "Oh, what's the picture for?"

0:27:380:27:39

She said, "Well, unfortunately, 1982, the museum burned down."

0:27:390:27:44

I said, "Oh, that's a shame. You rebuilt it?"

0:27:440:27:47

She said, "Yes, we rebuilt it.

0:27:470:27:48

"Then, unfortunately, four years later,

0:27:480:27:50

"darned thing burned down again."

0:27:500:27:52

And the result is they have nothing

0:27:520:27:54

that ever belonged to Margaret Mitchell.

0:27:540:27:57

So you get shown around and they say, "This chair here is very like..."

0:27:580:28:03

Everything is "very like".

0:28:070:28:09

The Titanic Museum in Belfast, they've got a reproduction

0:28:090:28:12

of the central staircase in the main atrium on the Titanic

0:28:120:28:16

and the thing is, you're not allowed to see the staircase,

0:28:160:28:19

it's in a shut-off bit and you go, "Where's the staircase?"

0:28:190:28:22

They go, "That's upstairs and you can only go if you have Sunday tea."

0:28:220:28:26

-Seriously? You can't...?

-I go, "It's Wednesday!"

0:28:260:28:28

"Come back Sunday...

0:28:280:28:30

"and have tea!

0:28:300:28:32

"Then you can see the stairs!

0:28:320:28:34

"It's great!

0:28:340:28:36

"They've got carpet on them!"

0:28:360:28:40

Then you go in the museum and you think,

0:28:400:28:42

"Oh, there's going to be all manner of Titanic knick-knacks."

0:28:420:28:45

They've got one letter.

0:28:450:28:46

One letter, written by a doctor that was actually on the Titanic.

0:28:460:28:50

A letter. One...

0:28:500:28:51

It's a Titanic MUSEUM!

0:28:510:28:54

Yeah, but I liked it because of all the things

0:28:540:28:57

-about how many rivets there were.

-Yeah.

0:28:570:29:00

I was once on one of those tours around Manhattan

0:29:000:29:02

and we went under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge

0:29:020:29:04

and the guy said, "This bridge is enormous," he said how many rivets it had.

0:29:040:29:07

He said, "If you took all the pieces it took to make this bridge

0:29:070:29:10

"and you laid them end to end,

0:29:100:29:11

"the bridge would fall down."

0:29:110:29:13

Anyway, there is actually a Nonsense Museum.

0:29:170:29:20

The Nonseum in Herrnbaumgarten in Austria.

0:29:200:29:23

It was founded in 1994 and it houses a collection of absurdist items.

0:29:230:29:28

So it has things like the selfie rifle.

0:29:280:29:32

One previous owner.

0:29:340:29:36

This crockery set, I think, is a very useful thing.

0:29:360:29:39

This is divorce crockery.

0:29:390:29:41

And these are keyhole-shaped spectacles for voyeurs.

0:29:420:29:46

LAUGHTER

0:29:460:29:49

And the next one is something I absolutely would like to have.

0:29:510:29:54

This is a biological lawnmower.

0:29:540:29:56

That's not a real sheep!

0:29:580:30:01

But there's also some very good stuff.

0:30:010:30:03

The US Patent Office is a tremendous place to look for nonsensical items.

0:30:030:30:07

For example, the Behringer vacuum cleaner, this is a depressing thing.

0:30:070:30:10

It's from before the time of the electric vacuum cleaner.

0:30:100:30:13

Basically, the man's had a busy day and he comes home

0:30:130:30:15

and he sits in his rocking chair, reads the paper, smokes a pipe,

0:30:150:30:18

and he rocks, and the action of rocking enables the woman,

0:30:180:30:21

quite rightly, to do the hoovering.

0:30:210:30:26

What happens in figures 1-11?

0:30:260:30:29

Is that where the dust goes down?

0:30:330:30:35

I think 13 is where she throttles him with that long hose.

0:30:350:30:37

The worst example of these is the centrifugal birthing machine.

0:30:390:30:43

So this was invented in the 1960s by George and Charlotte Blonsky,

0:30:430:30:47

who I can only imagine did not actually have children.

0:30:470:30:49

So, women were strapped to it and rotated

0:30:490:30:52

at a speed dictated by the doctor.

0:30:520:30:54

And when it was delivered, the baby landed in a net...

0:30:540:30:57

LAUGHTER

0:30:570:30:59

..which triggered the machine to stop.

0:31:000:31:03

I love the idea that all other midwives were like,

0:31:030:31:05

"Kabaddi, kabaddi, kabaddi..."

0:31:050:31:07

That would be awesome. What a way to come out.

0:31:100:31:12

Something that would be like that would be a birthing trebuchet.

0:31:120:31:15

Yeah.

0:31:150:31:16

So you're labouring away

0:31:160:31:18

and then they strap you to a catapult, but then, bang!

0:31:180:31:22

It's like getting ketchup out the bottom of the...thing.

0:31:220:31:25

Just the force of the boom. They'd be, "Whoa!"

0:31:270:31:29

You've forgotten the cord, Phill.

0:31:290:31:32

That baby's coming back.

0:31:320:31:34

LAUGHTER

0:31:340:31:37

APPLAUSE

0:31:370:31:40

Anyway, moving on...

0:31:400:31:42

The other invention that I like is the pedestrian catcher.

0:31:420:31:45

When they first got trams in Los Angeles,

0:31:450:31:47

they were very worried that it was going to hit some pedestrians

0:31:470:31:50

and on old-fashioned American trains

0:31:500:31:52

there used to be a thing called a cow catcher

0:31:520:31:53

and they wanted something rather similar,

0:31:530:31:55

but they didn't want to knock people out of the way,

0:31:550:31:57

so they put a long, thin, upholstered sofa across the front of the tram.

0:31:570:32:03

The idea was that it would comfortably catch you.

0:32:030:32:06

Just carry on.

0:32:060:32:07

What they really should have is a bouncy castle on the front...

0:32:070:32:11

-Yeah, yeah.

-..of every vehicle.

-Everything, yeah.

0:32:110:32:13

Do you know what they call a bouncy castle in America?

0:32:130:32:16

-A bounce house.

-Do they?

0:32:160:32:18

Yeah, we call it a bouncy castle.

0:32:180:32:19

-I think that says so much about our regard for history.

-Yes.

0:32:190:32:22

Peasants!

0:32:220:32:24

In America, there are three places called Fort Nonsense

0:32:260:32:29

but only one called Nowhere.

0:32:290:32:31

What's the official name for the middle of nowhere?

0:32:310:32:34

There is a place in the world that is the middle of nowhere.

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Where, Croydon?

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AUDIENCE MEMBER GROANS

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I'm from Croydon, so I can say that, OK?

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It's the centre of the least-populated bit?

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You're absolutely in the right area.

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So where would you find the least number of people?

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Not necessarily on the land, maybe?

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-Oh.

-The ocean?

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It's a part of the Pacific.

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It is as far from land as it is possible to get on the Earth

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and it's called Point Nemo.

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It is 1,700 miles from any coast.

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Named, of course, after the submarine captain

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in 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.

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-And there's a Starbucks there, right?

-Yeah, there's a Starbucks.

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Nemo, Latin rendering of the ancient Greek Outis, meaning "nobody".

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It's also known as the oceanic pole of inaccessibility.

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And here is the extraordinary thing -

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you'd think there's nothing there, but it is a spacecraft graveyard.

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There are more than 160 spacecraft littering the ocean floor there.

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I have to say, they're mostly Russian.

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So here's the thing - it's much cheaper to allow

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the orbit to decay naturally than to push it out into space.

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But when they know they're going to do this to a spacecraft

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they have to see if there are any sailors in the area

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and ring them or contact them by radio and make sure that they know.

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And if you pass Point Nemo at the right time of day

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you'll be closer to the astronauts on the space station,

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250 miles away, than to any other human being on Earth.

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Isn't that extraordinary?

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And now it's time for the most nonsensical bit of all,

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general ignorance. Fingers on buzzers, please.

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More than 1,000 stone examples of what are found on Easter Island?

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'..old cat.'

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Giant heads.

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KLAXON

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APPLAUSE

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There are giant heads, they're called Moai.

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There's 887 of them,

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but it isn't the thing that there's more than 1,000 of.

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There are more than 1,000 - 1,233, in fact -

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chicken stone houses.

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There they are. And here's the extraordinary thing -

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there are no trees on Easter Island.

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I thought you were going to say there were no chickens!

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No chickens, they live in hope!

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The chief came out and said, "We must build houses for the chickens.

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"When the chickens come..."

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But the chickens, they never came.

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"What shall we put in the chicken houses?"

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"Wait for the chickens!"

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"Make some heads. Make some heads!"

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Just one empty Nando's on the outer island.

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No, there are chickens, it's their main source of food,

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but there are no trees at all on Easter Island.

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There used to be, thousands of them.

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So, what are you going to do to protect your chickens?

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And what you did was, you built a house like this,

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with a single, small entrance that you could close up

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with a suitable, flush-fitting stone,

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and your neighbour would be unable to find the entrance.

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I think I've lived in London for too long,

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because I'm looking at that, thinking, "Looks all right."

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600 a month? Yes, please.

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Let's have a look at the heads. What's missing from this picture?

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Hair.

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Well, weirdly enough they used to have a sort of topknot,

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a red topknot. So huge kind of headpieces.

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We don't know why or indeed how they got them up there,

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-but something else is missing.

-The rest of his body is underground.

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The body. Absolutely right. People used to think that

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they were only heads but, in fact, they have bodies as well.

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And the other thing they used to have, they used to have eyes.

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Extraordinary eyes that were detachable.

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They were made of coral and they were inserted for special occasions.

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Like my nan.

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Stick her eye in for a special occasion?

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Christmas.

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"I'll pop me coral eyes in."

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The volcano where the stones come from, Rano Raraku,

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which is where they were carved...

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The only volcano named by Scooby-Doo.

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-SHAGGY VOICE:

-"What volcano are we going to, Scoob?"

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-SCOOBY VOICE:

-"Rano Raraku!"

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LAUGHTER

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APPLAUSE

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We now think that it was a sacred site

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and all the statues fan out from the volcano,

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so it's not the workplace, it's the actual sacred site.

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Lads, lads, lads, beautiful sunset.

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Lads! Behind you!

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It does look like an ancient stone carving of a stag do.

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And the one with the brick on his head, he was the stag.

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Anyway, how many Rex Britanniae have been called Alan?

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One.

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One is the absolutely right answer.

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APPLAUSE

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-Kabaddi!

-Kabaddi!

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Well done. It means "King of Brittany".

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And there's been one. He was called Alan the Great.

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The Great Alan, he was a lovely man.

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He was given the title by the Emperor Charles the Fat.

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Yeah, he was around 876, until his death in 907.

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By the time he died, there was another Emperor, Charles the Simple.

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When did they switch to the number system for naming the Charleses?

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When you had to have Hotmail addresses.

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Yeah, that's true.

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Alan's main adversary,

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you have to say it very carefully, because it's called F-U-L-K.

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What do you think, Falk? Foolk?

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-Fulk of Angou?

-Yeah.

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I don't fulking know.

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What's that's depicting?

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Well, after Alan died, Brittany was overrun by Vikings

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and they were in turn driven out by Alan's grandson who was Alan II,

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but he wasn't a king so he doesn't count as a Rex.

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What you can see in this picture is Alan the Simple,

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who's trying to hit a fire alarm.

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-Just to the right, off shot.

-Got his shoe off.

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Just a sandal.

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Brittany was the original Little Britain, as opposed to Great Britain.

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That's absolutely right and lots of the names that we have now

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-come from there, cos of after the Normans' names.

-Exactly.

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David, Robert, Alan, all our names are French,

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we're just saying them wrong.

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-We just... Yeah.

-Even Nish?!

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Not... But not Nish.

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I don't know if you came with the Normans,

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part of the Norman kabaddi team.

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Oh, wow! Imagine that!

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-FRENCH ACCENT:

-"Kabaddi, kabaddi, kabaddi! Huh?!"

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It's all on a tapestry, going on for...

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In days of yore, Alan the Great was a celebrated King of Brittany.

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Now, this spider is called the house spider,

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but what is its natural habitat?

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'..get fat'

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-Yes, Nish?

-A house.

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You're absolutely right.

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APPLAUSE

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-Kabaddi!

-Kabaddi!

-Yeah!

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House spiders really do live in houses.

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Whenever I catch them, I put them outside, which must drive them mad.

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-No, it kills them.

-It kills them?

-It absolutely kills them.

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They're one of a very small number of species

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specially adapted to living indoors.

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The same as if you take a garden spider and you invite it in

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from the cold and you think, it's a bit chilly out there, it will die.

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Who's doing that?!

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What idiot is going out looking for feral spiders to bring indoors?

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-So really you need a spider cupboard?

-Yes.

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A special cupboard in your house, when you catch a spider,

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you put it in the spider cupboard, they're all in there together.

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-Yeah.

-What kind of hellish arrangement is that?

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I just think it's probably a good thing that Peter Parker

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wasn't bitten by a radioactive house spider.

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Because it would have been a very short film

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of him just going, "I've got all this power."

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He walks out of the house - dead immediately.

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He has to stay indoors going, "There's a criminal!"

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-He's able to phone the police!

-"Chase him, chase him!"

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"Spider-Man, come out." "I can't come out. I can't come out.

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"I'm a House Spider-Man."

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Iron Man would go rusty, right?

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-Yeah, exactly.

-That's another... "I can't come out, it's raining.

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-"I'll seize up."

-And Batman just gets smacked by someone's shoe.

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Certain people get really itchy eyes around Catwoman.

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Bruce Banner's in therapy, never gets annoyed.

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Anyway, moving on...

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What phrase do you use to end a radio conversation?

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-Come on, someone, don't make me do it.

-Uh...

-Go on, Holly.

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Do you go, "Over and out"?

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KLAXON

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I bought my kids walkie-talkies and they knew about over and out,

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but they didn't know how to say it, and they would say,

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I could hear them in the house going, "Out and in, out and in."

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LAUGHTER

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No. Over means,

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"This is the end of my transmission to you and a response is necessary.

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"Go ahead, transmit."

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Out means, "This is the end of my transmission to you

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"and no answer is required and expected."

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So over and out would technically mean, "You can talk now if you want,

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"but I'm not going to be listening."

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You know when you're on the phone to someone and they drop out

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of reception and it goes beep, beep, beep, and you know they've cut off.

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I'd love to be able to do that in normal conversation with someone.

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So if they just bore me, I just sit there and go, "Beep, beep, beep,"

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-and they just know to give up.

-The thing I do if I'm on a train

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and my signal's gone

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but I've continued talking for at least another minute,

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then you have to save face by having a full hour-long conversation.

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You just go, "Yeah, no, it is, yeah, yeah, yeah.

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"I am SO on the phone!"

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-So, what about roger wilco?

-Lovely fella. There he is.

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He was quite a looker, I reckon.

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Quite a looker? I thought you said "licker". It was hard to say!

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Roger wilco, that's, "I understand, I will cooperate," isn't it?

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So, roger is, "I have received your last transmission satisfactorily,

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"radio check is loud and clear,"

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but wilco is, "I understand and will comply,"

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so the roger part is redundant, you would never use the two together.

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That's quite enough of this nonsense.

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Let's have a look at the scores.

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And I can tell you, oh, we have a tie for first place.

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-They both have...

-Fight, fight, fight...

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Kabaddi, kabaddi, kabaddi...

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They both have three points, it's Phill and Nish!

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APPLAUSE

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A very creditable third place, with -4, it's Alan.

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APPLAUSE

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Pleased with that.

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And in last place, and what an honourable place it is to be,

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with -6, it's Holly!

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APPLAUSE

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It only remains for me to thank Holly, Phill, Nish and Alan.

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And I leave you with this account of a bit of old nonsense

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from the London Evening Standard.

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"'Their behaviour was disgusting.

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"'She and her friends pulled their clothes up for pictures,

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"'lay about on the floor in compromising positions

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"'and pulled a man's trousers and pants down,'

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"a club member told the tribunal.

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"'I was absolutely horrified.

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"'You don't go for an evening out at a Conservative Club

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"'expecting to see behaviour like that.

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"'We stayed to see midnight in and then left.'"

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Goodnight.

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APPLAUSE

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