Stephen Fry asks some taxing questions about things that start with 'i'. Joining him are Sandi Toksvig, Al Murray, Dara O Briain and Alan Davies.
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Good evening, good evening, good evening, good evening, good evening.
Welcome to QI for another incongruous in-gathering
of I-related information including income tax, inflation
and Imperial Rome.
Let's have a look at tonight's four Is.
The eye-catching Sandi Toksvig.
APPLAUSE AND CHEERING
The eye-watering Al Murray.
APPLAUSE AND CHEERING
The I-rish Dara O'Briain.
APPLAUSE AND CHEERING
And aye, aye, aye, it's Alan Davies.
APPLAUSE AND CHEERING
Right, let's hear your I-buzzers.
That was an ibis.
-That was an Ibex. Dara goes...
That was a Seat Ibiza.
And Alan goes...
# I, I, I, I, like you very much
# I, I, I, I, think you're great. #
And don't forget, if you spot a question
to which you think nobody knows the answer,
you can always play your ignoramus joker like so.
There may be a question to which the answer is, nobody knows.
So, describe, if you can, in detail,
the world's most exotic tax inspectors.
Not the ones who brought me into Balham once?
Were you once given a right going over?
I was once given a right going over, yeah.
I'd taken tax advice from Harry Hill so it was my own fault!
He used to be a doctor so I thought he knew what he was talking about.
I once went three days with a tax inspector
going through, honestly, every single decimal point of everything.
After three days, he didn't find anything and he said,
"To be honest, Miss Toksvig, I just wanted to meet you."
-Was either of them exotic,
did they have a flowery tie or anything about them...
-Is it going to be one of those tax haven things?
-No, it's not.
We're in the Middle East, we're in an Islamic country
where people would be embarrassed by a certain type of person,
a transgender person.
In Pakistan, they have a squadron of transgender tax collectors
who come basically to embarrass people into paying.
They go, "Hiya.
"You all right?"
First of all, you go to the shop and say,
"You owe us this much in tax."
And they would simply say, "We refuse to pay."
They'd say, "OK, then tomorrow we will send in a group of transgender tax collectors
"who will dance and sing in your shop until you pay."
# The crying game. #
But only 5% of people pay tax in Pakistan so it's not working, is it?
There's only so many transgender people.
They're very busy belting out I Am What I Am in shops all around the country.
Well, there is quite a transgender, I suppose one would use the word, community in Pakistan.
And they have obviously had it very tough, especially in the more
extremist parts of that country where such things are frowned upon.
But they are classed together with transvestites and eunuchs
and there's a special word for them which is hijra.
But how extraordinary for a mother if she sees her son,
putting on her high heels and she looks at him now and thinks, "Tax inspector!"
It is, it's a glamour profession now.
I have to do this, mother. I'm a tax inspector.
-It may well happen.
-Nothing else is going on.
Why are you wearing that dress this evening?
There you are. In India, in Andhra Pradesh, they've tried drumming.
They simply drum outside the shop or household and keep it up until they pay their taxes.
What if you own a drum shop?
-That would be...
-That would be a fatal flaw, wouldn't it?
It would but that's going to be a very low percentage.
You're nitpicking here, I think, Dara.
What would we do here?
Morris dancers, I think, outside your shop. "I'll pay, I will pay!"
Basically, the governments of the world are looking for imaginative solutions to raise their taxes.
And that is one, using transgender people in Karachi.
You're looking astonished!
I'm totally astonished. It's boggling. It's brilliant.
While living in Pakistan was there any point at which Osama Bin Laden
didn't pay his taxes and was in danger
of four transgender people knocking on the door of his massive compound?
No wonder he was hiding!
I wonder what that man does for a living. What's he done?
The whole conversation... Four of them turn up?
Four of them, going through his papers, as you can see.
"You come for my tax? I sold you that scarf."
I think that's a counterfeit designer bag
that she's wearing as well.
He's going to get the hit squad.
Yes, he's going to get the full show.
Here come the girls!
That's what they sing.
"We are the hit squad and the first hit will be Cher's I Believe."
There you go.
Now, compare the tax advantages of being a drug dealer in Tennessee
to those of being a bank robber in the Netherlands.
Is it in Tennessee they can claim back
the expense of buying the drugs against tax
as a business expense or something?
-You're in the right area.
-There's some kind of accounting loophole.
What they tried in Tennessee was to put a duty on drugs,
as you do on alcohol and tobacco.
So all these criminals who were found as drug dealers
not only went to prison but they had to pay this tax on the drugs.
Like a stamp duty?
Yes, but then constitutionally, it was discovered to be against...
It counted as double jeopardy cos they were getting punished twice for the same crime.
So now the state of Tennessee is paying money back
to all the drug dealers.
It's already paid millions out.
About 161 people have already received 3.7 million...
Because there was a bit of a screw-up.
They thought it was a clever idea to get extra money
out of drug criminals, instead they've actually lost out.
They'll only spend it on drugs.
So with bank robbers in the Netherlands, it must be that
-you can claim for the expense of your gun.
-Is that right?
Someone was found guilty of holding a place up with a gun
and he was fined and his gun was an allowable expense
-so the price of his gun was deducted from his fine.
-But presumably you'd need a receipt, first of all.
It was a working expense.
So if you commit crimes that are worth less than your gun,
-you will always be ahead.
-A very expensive getaway car.
Use a Porsche as a getaway car!
-Very expensive silk stockings over your face.
-La Perla, you see.
Presumably you'd have to prove you bought the right thing for the crime.
If you had a gun, fine. But if you had a ballistic missile,
-they're not going to cough up.
-I think you're right.
Was it Robert Morley who used to run Miss World?
Eric Morley, I think his name was.
He claimed his racehorses as a tax expense
and it went all the way to court with him saying, basically,
"I'm in the business of being Eric Morley
"and that includes owning racehorses to keep up my kind of lifestyle
"and have the swagger of being the man that runs Miss World, I need racehorses." And he won.
-So he was able to claim his racehorses as a business expense.
I once bought a racehorse by mistake.
What had you originally gone into the shop for?
I was there as a tax inspector.
You wanted a pint of Activia pouring yoghurt
and you bought a racehorse
Oh, you heard about that little problem I had?
Table this, people.
No, what happened was, I was at Epsom and somebody had given a racehorse
to auction to the crowd to raise money for charity.
And I was asked if I'd auction it off. So I said, "What am I bid for this marvellous racehorse?
I'm standing next to the horse and nobody bids.
So I said, "I'll start us off. 3,000 Guineas."
Silence. I was the only person who bid...
..on the horse and I'd come in my sports car. I'd no idea how I was going to get it home.
-So, did you have to pay out?
-No, the man very nicely bought it back off me.
-How much for?
-Well, I lost on it.
For about a minute and a half, I owned a racehorse.
Did you follow the fortunes of that racehorse?
No, I've never been to the races again. It's too terrifying.
Good Lord. Well, there you are.
I do know an actor who claimed his carpet on the grounds
that it was wear and tear because he used to walk up and down learning his lines.
-Didn't get away with it.
-But he still put it in.
Yes. Absolutely. I tried to claim for a bed once. No reason.
I was new to the game, I just thought you put everything down.
Why? Because you had to sleep with directors to get parts?
Turns out you don't actually have to use a bed for that. Behind a skip, anything.
They're not discerning about it.
I was dressing the room, I was putting music on. They don't care.
They want to use you and go. You're nothing to them.
I did try and claim for some paintings in my office
and I was in the tax inspector's place and he said,
"What is this, paintings in the office?"
I said, "For goodness sake, nobody could possibly work in an office which had no art in it.
And as I looked around, there was a single solitary poster...
of the Heimlich manoeuvre.
-I couldn't think how often that would come up.
-No, not really.
Not when you're on your own, in particular.
People will try anything, basically.
Now, why does this house have bricked up windows?
Ah, I expect there'll be a klaxon,
but there was window tax, wasn't there?
People like to go around the place and point at a black window
and go, "Window tax, you see?"
Yeah, I'm one of those people.
Because there was a window tax from the 1690s right up to 1851.
What is this, then? A sort of 18th century fashionably solid curtain?
It was just to balance the house out, basically.
There were a lot of bricked in ones but this is an example
of where it was just used to make it look slightly more symmetrical.
It looks slightly like they had a child they didn't love
and they bricked them into a part of the house.
Looking at the brickwork, I think there was an extension somewhere. Anyway...
That doesn't excuse the fact that Granny has been living in that slim portion of...
They just slide pizzas under the door.
Was there not a brick tax at one point? I think you can tell
the age of some London buildings by the size of the brick.
Is that right? Certainly before the window tax, there was a hearth and chimney tax for fireplaces.
Then they decided the window tax would be a good idea.
It was in the 1850s that they realised the British glass industry was doing very badly.
There's an example... Those were blanked out for window tax.
A, people were not getting enough light
and it was very disadvantageous for the poor who lived in dark places,
and the British glass industry was getting really depressed.
But the candle makers were raking it in.
Candle makers were raking it in, there is that.
Is it or isn't it where daylight robbery comes from?
This idea of taking away the windows and window tax was daylight robbery. I'm not sure.
No, I think daylight robbery is you just take something in plain sight.
It's shameless robbery, daylight robbery.
That house would make a very good advent calendar.
Yes, it would.
Imagine that. A huge chocolate behind...
Scare the life out of the children!
Surely somebody's rung the doorbell and gone, "By the way, they've repealed the window tax."
But other countries have chosen other strange taxes.
What do you think they taxed in Amsterdam?
There's a narrowness, isn't there? The width of the building.
Yes, they taxed the width in Amsterdam.
Hence you get those extraordinary, Dutch, very, very narrow houses.
-And all of them have that gable extended...
-For a pulley system?
So everything got lifted up cos the doors were too narrow to bring things in.
It results in rather beautiful architecture, don't you think?
-Nobody agrees with me. Everyone thinks it's hideous...
-I think they just look very narrow.
Nice buildings, could be a bit wider.
It's the sort of building that I think, ooh,
-imagine if you'd forgotten something on the top floor...
And you'd gone... You'd buy another. Whatever it was, you'd buy another.
It's nice to have the stairs up, maybe in a spiral,
but there should be a pole down.
-Have you ever been down a fireman's pole?
-No, I haven't!
You really tried to keep a straight face!
I meant it in the most serious way.
That raises a question, why don't firemen live in bungalows?
Why the pole? Why not be on the same level as the fire truck?
Because you've got to jump into your boots, haven't you?
No, you don't, you can just put them on! Just pull the boots on!
It's Wallace and Gromit you're thinking of!
Oh, going to a fire isn't enough of an adventure, is it?
It's not exciting enough.
It's quite scary, I visited a fire station in Indiana
and they said, "Go on, jump."
And there's a pole, and I suddenly realised, I don't want to do this.
I eventually did it, and it's horribly squeaky,
-like nails on a blackboard.
-Is it like a slide that's warm?
It should have been oiled, I feel.
Oil's flammable! They can't turn up at a fire covered in oil!
That's true! I hadn't thought it through!
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE
You're quite right. Yeah, I don't think these things through.
Surely there's training, because I would presume if you jump and grab it with cloth,
you'll just go straight down at nearly terminal velocity.
-Grab it with your leg.
-Get nasty burns.
That would be an ironic thing, to get a burn on the way to a fire.
While they're going down holding on with their legs,
-they're putting their hat on and doing their...
-Bungalows, I'm sorry.
-The fire engines take up all the room.
That's true, you've got to have... Two machines abreast is usual, isn't it,
and if all the living quarters were next door...
-Sorry, I just thought of breasts.
Two machines per breast!
It was an odd moment, Alan, because I was with you.
-Some sort of pumping going on...
-Lifting machine, or a...
-Never mind, no. Anyway...
What I don't like is they no longer have a ladder on the top
that sometimes comes adrift and one dangles off the end going round corners.
Oh, yes, like in, was it One Of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing
or one of those Disney films where they go round London...?
The only recent film, I think it was Terminator 3.
Oh, did they use it in Terminator 3?
-The Terminator was hanging off the end and went through buildings.
It was very exciting. I think it was perhaps done on a computer.
Yeah, that's probably true.
Now, talking of large tax bills,
named the best paid sportsman of all time.
-So it's not going to be one of those.
-I was going to say one of those,
-I was going to say that one on the left.
-Were you? Not the best laid!
-Thought crime for Alan Davies!
-Is it of all-time? So...
-It's going to be relative,
-so it's going to be someone in Ancient Greece or something.
Imperial Rome is indeed where we need to be, yeah.
-Is it a gladiator of some description?
-Not a gladiator.
A charioteer by the name of Gaius Appuleius Diocles,
and he was a Lusitanian Spaniard, and he was the greatest sportsman of his age.
He wasn't a looker, though, was he?
That might not be accurate! We know he was...
What makes you say that?!
Judging by the horses...
After a while, you do turn into a little bit like the animal that you work with.
He won 1,462 races,
which racked up 35,863,120 sesterces in prize money,
as recorded in a monumental inscription, exactly that amount.
He's the champion of all charioteers,
and if you compare this to the average wage of the day
and use all the calculations that people use to determine these things,
his career winnings amounted to an equivalent of 15 billion.
-Quite astonishing amount of money.
-That would make Tiger Woods pale!
That's a fantastic...
Tiger Woods was the first to earn a billion,
so he's certainly the best paid of our time, but not of all time.
-I wish charioteer was rhyming slang.
(QUIETLY) You know, a queer.
I think we've got enough words!
-Iron and ginger.
-It would've been funnier...
-"He's a charioteer."
If we pretended.
-Yeah, Ben Hur.
-Well, Ben Hur would suit, I think.
If you try to reclaim it, to empower yourself by using a word
we just invented that was never actually slang,
and you're going, "Well, I am a charioteer
"and none of you can say it."
It's our word, we've got it back for ourselves. A charioteer of fire.
-Down a pole.
-You reclaimed that in under a minute. It's the fastest ever.
-It was pretty good, wasn't it?
Well, anyway, this was in 146 AD that he retired as the richest sportsman.
And they had four horses and there were up to 12 teams
and they would go round a lap, like Ben Hur,
and the skill was cornering, it was incredibly difficult. And he won nearly 1,500 races.
-Nero used to race in chariot races and he always won everything.
So what used to happen, on one occasion he fell out of the chariot
and everybody stopped and pretended that their horse had got
something wrong with them, having a look, going, "Is he back in?"
-And then he got back in and he won.
-Is it true or is it a myth that people were killed in the filming?
-In the original Ben Hur,
-the silent one, I think people were killed, in the previous version.
-In the silent one
they were going at phenomenal speed.
-Nobody minded in those days.
-No, you couldn't hear a thing.
The card comes up.
Do you know the connection between Ben Hur and Billy the Kid?
Well, do you know who wrote Ben Hur the novel?
I feel like I did know it and now I don't.
He was a man called Wallace and he was the governor of New Mexico.
-And he was the one who signed Billy the Kid's death warrant.
-That's fabulous trivia.
-Yes. Well done, you. I think you should get an extra point for that.
Thank you very much. Staying in that period of time for a moment,
please fill me in on this little piece of information. Who had to return to their birthplace
-for the census?
-This is going to be one of those things where we say
Joseph and Mary and it isn't Joseph and Mary because...
-Yeah, it isn't that at all because.
Clever, always being one step behind.
-The story is given in one of the Gospels - Luke -
where it says that Caesar Augustus, if you remember, in those days
issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire
-Roman world. And we know this is simply...
-Not true. The dates are all over the place.
No, there was never a census of the entire Roman world.
And there is also absolutely no truth in the fact that you had to
return to the place of your birth in order to complete a census.
There's only one reason why Luke would want you to think
that Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem to give birth.
-To fulfil the prophecy?
-To fulfil the prophecy is the point.
In the Old Testament it says that the Messiah will be born
from the stem off Jesse, and that means?
What is the stem of Jesse?
There's so many answers I don't even know where to begin. LAUGHTER
What time is this broadcast?
King David in the Bible was David, son of Jesse.
And in the various prophecies, they say the Messiah will be born
in Bethlehem from the stem of Jesse, i.e. from the family.
But it's all about Joseph, and Mary, supposedly, is a virgin,
so the stem of Jesse's got nothing to do with it.
-I know, the whole thing doesn't make sense.
-I don't believe for a minute.
-LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE
I spent a lot of time on this as a kid in Ireland.
Don't tell me now, don't let the scales fall from my eyes now.
It doesn't make any sense anyway. If you were going to count people...
-If we had the census here, I'd have to go back to Copenhagen.
-That's the point.
It's only put in there in order to get him to be born in Bethlehem.
Luke is the Gospel writer who's most determined
to fit in all the prophesies.
And it wasn't a Bethlehem tourist board-type thing, where they said,
"Is there any chance you could place this story here?
"We've got the guys with the relics ready to go!
"Can you shift it to us?"
-Like Santa Claus, Lapland, versus Santa Claus, North Pole.
This is probably exactly an excellent parallel to draw
between the two things!
But Lapland have just decided that's where Santa lives.
-And of course, the real St Nicholas came from Turkey.
And lived in the North Pole!
The things we've really been cheated on are the really interesting books
that should have been in the Bible.
The Bible was assembled over a long period of time,
well after the birth of Christ.
It was 300 years later, they got together.
There were constant conferences going on,
deciding on which bits of scripture they should include in the Bible.
There are some wonderful ones about the infancy of Christ.
Wouldn't this make you more interested in Jesus?
This is one here. They're the Infancy Gospels,
which were rejected from the final cut of the Bible.
Is this like an Easter egg, ironically, on a DVD?
"Mary dismounted from her beast
"and sat down with the child Jesus in her bosom,
"and there were, with Joseph, three boys,
"and Mary, a girl, going on the journey along with them,
"and lo, suddenly, there came forth from the cave many dragons.
"When the children saw them, they cried out in great terror.
"Then, Jesus went down from the bosom of his mother
"and stood on his feet before the dragons,
"and they adored Jesus and thereafter retired."
Oh, that's fantastic!
Wouldn't you have paid more attention in Sunday school?!
You're reading that to us in your Harry Potter voice, as well!
The Bible meets Puff, The Magic Dragon - that's fantastic!
That is typical - "Oh, that lizard? That's a dragon! That's a dragon!"
What did the 2001 census reveal to be
the fourth-largest religion in Britain?
This is going to go off, but I'm going to say Jedi.
No, the fourth-largest number of people put Jedi as their religion,
but they were not counted as a religion.
Those who put Jedi were put in the box "No religion".
They were ruled out for being silly.
For being silly. The fourth-biggest religion is, in fact, in Britain?
-Christian's got to be the top one still. Muslim second?
Yes, fourth is Sikh. There were 14 Scots who put "Sith".
Do you know when they released the press release about this...
Was it something like 37,000 or something?
Huge, more than that, 390,000.
The actual official form said...
-What was the number?
It was released as, "390,000 Jedi there are."
That is very good!
I'm reminded of an injustice that we did to you last series, Dara.
Do you remember, we did this thing about a louse
that goes into the tongue of fish?
-Yes, I remember that, it was revolting.
-It was revolting.
It goes into the tongue, it eats the fish's tongue
and becomes the fish's tongue and lives inside them,
and you said, "But surely fish don't have tongues?"
I brushed you off.
In, I'm sure, a friendly way, I said, "Silly Dara!"
No, you stood over me,
I remember vividly, with a cane, and you beat me!
You said, "Your impertinence! You're here at my mercy!"
-It turns out that fish don't have tongues.
You're right, so I can give you some points for that from last time.
They look like tongues, but they aren't muscles
and they don't have taste buds. They're called basihyal,
and they're quite a common dish in Newfoundland, cod's basihyal.
Sorry, is he going to get points and we weren't even there?!
-I've know loads of stuff I haven't said!
No, I'm OK, cos I came on in series two
and I mentioned a thing called the triple point of water being zero.
On series three, I came back and they said,
"No, we've had e-mails - actually, the temperature is 0.01." Right?
So I was one hundredth of a degree off on this,
and he docked me points the following year!
I'm happily take them, yeah!
Exactly. What goes around comes around. Don't feel bad.
You may get points in two years' time.
When you least expect it!
Stephen will appear and go, "Some points!"
It isn't actually a tongue, and it doesn't have taste buds,
as I say, but what's it actually for?
Fooling Dara O Briain!
Getting bits out of your teeth.
-I'm going to go, now, it's too late.
Nobody knows, is the answer.
You could have waved your "Nobody knows"...
If I do it now, can I have points in three years?
-Not understood this game at all!
-You're not alone!
-Like a nightmare!
On the subject of numbers, though,
what is the smallest uninteresting number?
-What's an interesting number?
-They're all interesting to me. I really love numbers.
Three sounds quite interesting. It sounds more interesting than two.
Three is the magic number.
Three is sexy, four is somebody's going to fall out of bed.
We've got to go high. Numbers have fascinating properties.
But it doesn't make sense. The smallest most uninteresting...
If it was the smallest most uninteresting number...
-It's a paradox.
-It would be interesting.
You're absolutely right. But nonetheless, it is, in mathematical terms
the least-interesting number, but we're aware of the paradox behind it.
So, ignoring the paradox side of it, cos it is quite interesting,
there is a number...
Is it only of numerical interest,
or is it of a physical interest as well?
Do you know the Hardy-Ramanujan story?
I know so many Hardy-Ramanujan stories.
There was a very great mathematician,
probably one of the three greatest mathematicians who ever lived,
called Ramanujan, who was a self-taught Indian from Tamil Nadu,
a remarkable man.
He ended up being the first Indian to be a Fellow of the Royal Society
or a Fellow of an Oxbridge college.
He worked with GH Hardy at Trinity College, Cambridge,
who was then the most famous mathematician around.
But he ended up in hospital with tuberculosis, and he was dying.
-It's an incredibly sad story.
That's right. Remarkable work.
Anyway, Hardy went in one day to sit at his bedside
and couldn't think of anything to say.
And he said "Well, the licence number of the cab I came in was rather dull.
"1729. That's not an interesting number, is it?"
And Ramanujan instantly said "On the contrary, it's the smallest number
"that is expressible as the sum of two cubes in two different ways."
Which is extraordinary, you must admit.
You must have quite a mathematical mind to see that. So that, for example,
-is an interesting number.
-I feel like Homer Simpson at the moment.
-Anyway, there is...
-There is a number.
Let's put people out of their mathematical misery.
There is an online encyclopaedia of integer sequences, which lists thousands of sequences
of integers which have different qualities.
And the smallest number which does not appear in any of these lists,
and is therefore uninteresting, is 12,407.
But as Sandi rightly said, that makes it interesting.
It is the smallest number that does not appear to have any quality
that, to a mathematician, is interesting.
-I feel kind of sad.
Now it's the most famous number in the country.
It now becomes the most famous number,
-But it will now go on a list of QI facts.
-So now it will be on a list.
-Google it now, and it will appear.
Yeah, but in pure mathmetical terms, arithmetical terms, it will remain uninteresting.
You could stick it on Big Brother. You could let it win Britain's Got Talent.
The mathematicians will always regard it as...
It is still arithmetically uninteresting.
But it has become culturally interesting. That's the difference.
On that bombshell, let's move on.
Now for something terribly important. Why did the MoD
want the PM to join the AA?
-This present David Cameron PM, or any?
-No, the Prime Minister at the time was Harold Macmillan.
Did the MoD want the country to become part of the Temperance movement?
No, it's not that AA.
-The Automobile Association.
-Exactly, that AA.
-Yes. So Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister.
-What was going on in the world then?
-The Cold War.
The Cold War was at its height, and they knew Kennedy had this system -
wherever he was, he could retaliate if the Soviets sent missiles. And they wanted a similar system.
There's Lord Mountbatten, who was the chief of staff at the time.
And they said "We'd better have men with the Prime Minister
"who have radios and things in case there's news of a Soviet attack."
And they said "That's too expensive",
and the Prime Minister said "I don't want people following me around. Let's use the system the AA use."
The idea was that they would get a signal from the AA
to the car if the Soviets launched a strike.
That would mean the Prime Minister could then stop off
at the nearest telephone and issue the order for a counter-strike.
And there were some very exciting memos. This is very British. You'll like this very much.
Brian Saunders, private secretary to the Minister, said "It will be necessary for someone to make
"a daily or weekly call to the AA control station to check that they're in working order.
"I understand that if an emergency arose
"while the Prime Minister was on the road,
"the proposal is to use the radio to get him to a telephone.
"Perhaps we should see that our drivers are provided with four pennies."
They really thought it through.
So that could stop you - "All right, we've got the signal.
"There are bombs on the way from the Soviet Union."
Stop off at a kiosk, and nobody's got any money.
But they'd thought about that. But no.
The Prime Minister's private secretary replied
"Shortage of pennies should not present any difficulties
"such as you envisage. In such cases, it's a simple matter
"to have the cost of any telephone call transferred by dialling 100
"and requesting reversal of the charge."
This is all true. "This doesn't take any appreciable extra time. The system works in both normal
"and STD telephone kiosks,
"and our drivers are well aware of it."
So we were safe all the time.
If there was a missile, we'd have got a message, said "Look,
"there's a red kiosk", he'd have stopped, got in
and called up the operator and said
"I want to call the Ministry of Defence armed bunker.
"Could you reverse the charges?"
"It's the Prime Minister here." "Get off the line!"
Doen't he look marvellous, the AA? Have I misremembered this -
-Didn't they used to salute if you were a member as you drove past?
-We should have that back again.
-They'd be veering off the road.
They have our security at heart, because Bligh considered buying full membership
of the RAC as well, just in case. They really lashed out.
But they discovered after the Cuban missile crisis
that they didn't have any protocols in place
for firing our nuclear weapons,
which is how they ended up with this thing
where when you become Prime Minister,
you sit down and write a letter to the Trident captains
that's then sent to the submarine.
And when the captain gets the letter,
he burns the old letter that's in the submarine safe
-and replaces it with the new one.
Yeah, and apparently when you become Prime Minister,
you're sat down and told there are four possible options
of what you can tell the captain.
One is to nuke Moscow. The other one is to surrender.
The other one is to go to America and hand yourself over
and the other one's to go to Sydney.
And no-one knows what they write in the letters,
and the letters are then destroyed when the government changes hands.
So a decision is made years before, when they arrive?
They can change their minds and write another one.
But surely they should change their mind
as the situation unfolds at the time?
It's to do with the Today programme as well.
They come up at 6 o'clock in the morning GMT,
and if the Today programme's not on on long wave, they assume the worst
-and open the safe.
-So would I.
If John Humphrys wasn't there, I wouldn't know what to do.
I hope they remember there's no Today programme on Sundays.
I'm sure they've thought about that.
What if the war started in Sydney and...?
One of the options is also "You make your mind up."
I bet all the captains have peeked at the letter.
Steamed it open with a kettle. "Ooh."
"He signed it Dave!"
"And he admits he doesn't know what the Big Society means himself."
Anyway, now it's time to include all of our incompetencies
into one easily managed inquiry that we call General Ignorance.
Fingers on buzzers. What does the eye represent in the US dollar?
-Oh, you fell into our trap.
-I knew it.
In fact, the eye was used as a symbol in freemasonry
after the design of the dollar.
It's just an all-seeing Providence, supposedly. It's just there to show...
It's a bit trippy, though, isn't it?
-It's a weird thing.
-Benjamin Franklin was a Mason.
He was the only Mason on the design committee of the dollar bill,
but he wasn't on the final committee and the eye was not used
-as a Masonic symbol until after.
-A committee designed that?
Remarkable that you'd get that passed by a committee
and they'd go "Yeah, why don't we stick a..."
-A floating eye.
-"A floating, freaky, disembodied eye, we all like that?"
-"Yeah, great idea! Let's do that."
-"I still want the cock and balls."
"Sure we don't just want a natural scene, like a river or something normal?"
"No, a floating eye. A floating,
"disembodied, all-seeing eye above a pyramid. What could be more American than that?"
-The extraordinary thing is that it hasn't changed.
Ours changes all the time. And there's that old quiz question -
is it 100,000 acres, a million acres or 10 million acres of woodland
that is chopped down every year for making American currency notes?
They're not made of paper, probably.
No, they're made of linen. So no trees.
What were the inhabitants of Mexico
called before the Europeans arrived?
-I'm going to say Aztecs.
Basically, Mexica, yeah. Aztec was the reference to an island
in the middle of the lake from which they traced their source, but they didn't call themselves Aztecs.
-It looks like a fantastic place.
-It looks great.
Imagine how excited the Spanish were that they'd conquered it
and killed all its people and stolen all its gold.
It's a massive selection of Mexican transgender people.
They are a Nahua people, and their language is Nahuatl.
And there are words in English that are derived from Nahuatl.
Points are available if you can give me some Nahuatl words we use.
-Chocolate is one. Very good.
I've run out.
Burrito is Spanish for "little donkey",
because it's in the shape of a little donkey. Your breakfast burrito. It's not that.
-I don't think so. I think that's also Spanish.
-I'll give you tequila.
-Tequila is a Nahuatl word.
You got that by a process of elimination.
That is not knowledge, that's a crapshoot.
Welcome to QI.
You could have tomato.
We've already had tequila. But I haven't yet heard avocado.
I said avocado.
-Oh, then you get the avocado points.
Breaking news just coming in. Guacamole is a Nahuatl word!
-Yeah. Yes, indeed.
Sex and drugs and guacamole.
Do you not think it sounds like Toad of Toad Hall's Mexican cousin?
Guacamole. Guacamole's coming over. Ai, ai, ai! Arriba!
You could have had chilli as well. Anyway, there we are.
What did Prince Albert invent?
-Oh, the cock ring.
Bizarrely, there was something he did invent, which is not
quite as intimate as the item
-of piercing jewellery that you referred to.
He and Victoria were very young when they married, 20-years-old.
And she was very nervous. She wrote a diary, as you may know.
And it was quite an intimate diary, and she described the wedding night - not the full, physical details,
but she described the experience as, "both gratifying and bewildering."
Isn't that rather wonderful?
We've all been there... LAUGHTER
So anyway - they enjoyed enough to have nine children,
and what he invented was a device that allowed them
to lock the bedroom door from the bed.
To give them marital privacy. Isn't that rather splendid?
Excuse me while I just... Fsst!
But he wore very tight trousers, and this myth grew up in the 20th century
that he somehow anchored his penis to one side of his body or another
by means of some sort of ring that was therefore able to
pull it backwards so that it wasn't on show
at parties, because he was a Victorian
and it would have been rude wearing such tight trousers. But there is no evidence for this.
What noise does a mute swan make?
-And you're allowed to do an imitation, if you like.
I could break your arm.
Does that, doesn't it?
HE MOUTHS KLAXON BLARES
Oh! Dear, oh dear, oh dear.
Well, you'd think being called a mute swan... I'm afraid again you've fallen into our trap.
They hoot, don't they, like a goose?
There's a range of noises that swans make -
hissing, snorting, grunting and indeed honking.
They do all those noises.
They just do it more quietly than other species of swan
and therefore they were called the mute swan.
They make a very loud noise when they fly.
They're the heaviest bird that flies, in all nature.
They're rubbish landers, though, they are.
They come in, and the feet are going like this.
-That's my swan impersonation, landing on the Thames.
Which brings us nicely to the swansong of the scores
and what remarkable reading they make too, ladies and gentlemen.
In first place with a majestic plus 11, Sandi Toksvig.
And in a very creditable second place, with plus six, Dara O'Briain.
And first time up, Al Murray can hardly be ashamed of minus 13.
And Alan is all too used to bringing up the rear with minus 22.
All that's left for me to do is to thank Sandi, Dara, Al and of course, Alan,
and I leave you with this piece of sound financial advice from Will Rogers:
"A fool and his money are soon elected."
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
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