QI (2003) s17e13 Episode Script


1 CHEERING AND APPLAUSE Good evening and welcome to QI, for a show all about writers and writing, as we take up our quills.
Let's meet our scribblers.
In fine feathers, it's Lou Sanders.
Ruffling a few feathers, it's Tom Allen.
Knock me down with a feather, it's Jimmy Carr.
And always tickling our fancy - Ooh.
- .
Alan Davies.
Right, let's get writing.
Lou goes The Typewriter by Leroy Anderson That's nice.
Tom goes MUSIC CONTINUES Jimmy goes MUSIC CONTINUES And Alan goes MUSIC PLAYS CONTINUALLY MUSIC STOPS If you want to take notes, your own quill pens are on your desk, but why don't we tend to use them any more? Does anyone use a pen any more? I don't even use a pen.
Do you not? When did you last write something down? You type it.
Also, people, my mum is allergic to feathers.
- Is she? - Yeah.
- She couldn't have written anything.
There used to be a name for that, that was called being illiterate.
That's my dad.
My mum can actually write and read.
They were the writing instrument of choice for almost 1,500 years.
But they required a lot of up-keep.
So, basically, not very efficient, you could write maybe three or four letters at a time, and then you'd run out of ink.
And they regularly needed sharpening.
So the pen part of a penknife, anybody know where the word pen in penknife comes from? - Oh, from sharpening pens.
- Yes.
And it comes from penna, which is Latin for feather.
So that is why we call it a penknife.
Oh, did you hear that? There was a lovely, "Ooh.
" "I'm going to tell that to someone in a pub.
" So, in order to make a quill pen, what are you going to have to do first of all? - You're going to have to catch a bird.
- Yes.
It has to be a feather from a live bird, is the first thing.
And then there's a hierarchy of quills.
So, Jimmy, you've got the goose.
Is that like an everyday working pen? It is, I'm afraid, it's common.
Common-or-garden, that one.
When you say a live bird, it's not, is it live for long? I mean, do you? Yeah, yeah, yeah, I mean once you've plucked a bird's feather, it will grow back.
It'll take about a year probably for it to grow back again.
So ye olde WHSmith's would have been just a bunch of birds and you're plucking feathers out one at a time.
And you're going, "Well, I'll be back in a year for a refill.
" There was a real problem in the 19th century.
They began to experience a real shortage of quills.
Why might that be? Oh, avian flu or something? Was it? No, just more people could read and write, darling.
Amazing! You've a very dark mind, Tom, very dark.
I read a really interesting thing that Clive James wrote, about typewriters.
He said about the noise that writing used to make.
So when he wrote his first memoir, he wrote it on a typewriter and he said it was a terrific racket all day long.
It was a phenomenal noise.
"Crash, crash, crash, ping!" For every line.
And I still, that's a sign of my age, because I still do that when I'm miming typing.
- Really? On an iPad you'll do that? - Yeah, I know, it's very annoying.
I would like to have that effect when I press return, that it goes, "ting.
" Just so other people on the train in the quiet carriage would be livid.
You know when you hear people on their phone and they haven't turned the keypad tones off? Yes.
Oh, it's so endearing, isn't it? Oh, that was a good noise as well.
I just say to them, "You know you can turn that off, don't you?".
- Do you? - Yeah.
- Are you bold like that? Yeah, I just say, "Do you want me to do it for you?" - Throw the phone out of the window.
- Yeah.
Now, you've got a crow feather.
- Oh, thanks.
- These were for artistic people.
They were specifically for drawing thin lines.
- Oh.
- So you might be doing an architectural drawing, or some such thing.
You might be drawing my body.
Because it's thin, do you get it? - You've got a swan quill.
- Oh, lovely.
- And that's only the best.
- Thank you.
So Elizabeth I, she preferred swan.
But the everyday one, Thomas Jefferson kept his own geese.
I was so pleased when I got given this, and now I feel like, ah! Jimmy? And are you all right-handed? Yeah, I'm right-handed, yeah, yeah.
You would need a quill from a left wing if you are right handed, because you don't want the feather to be hitting you in the face.
Oh, that must have been awful then, if they weren't killing the birds and they were just bald on one side.
Just flying in circles going, "Well, this one still works.
" If bald eagles lose a feather on one wing, - they will shed the same one on the other side.
- Wow! - Why might they do that? - Fashion.
- Yes.
They don't, you know.
So what, so you pull out one and they pull out the other? That's fascinating.
Yeah, but what's that though? What's that? It's a seagull going to the library.
- No, coming back from the library.
- Oh, sorry.
- Sandi, I have a question.
- Darling? I mean, it's all very well talking about feathers, why didn't they just sharpen a stick? It has like a little reservoir inside it.
- That's where the ink goes.
- Oh.
- And the ink can go inside.
Whereas a stick, less successful.
And in fact, one of the sort of forerunners of the fountain pen, they worked out that they could have a little steel holder and you could actually cut one of these into five or six little nibs, and then we eventually get the fountain pen.
But there are some advantages to the quill, because it can hold certain inks which would clog a fountain pen, like India ink, for example.
Now, goose feathers are still used.
For what purpose might you still use a goose feather? Oh! I forgot I've got that as well.
Pillows and duvets.
Pillows and duvets, I'll thank you! What is this game?! There are no rules! It's lawless.
Absolute Wild West here.
What else? Yes? A goose himself, or herself, are using the feathers.
No, it's not one of the answers we had thought of, but, yes.
Yes, goose feathers still weirdly in use by the geese.
Fashion, no.
So, sport? Oh! Archery.
- Shuttlecocks.
Shuttlecocks is right.
- Oh! Shuttlecocks.
That one's absolutely enormous.
"Look out, look out! "The giants are playing on the next court!" It has to be made, a shuttlecock, from the left wing of a goose, in order that it spins clockwise when it is struck.
- What? - This is a great show.
I'm learning so much.
The name Federer, like as in Roger Federer.
Greatest ever tennis player.
Yeah, OK, his name means one who trades in quills.
So, really he should have been a badminton player.
It would have been much better, wouldn't it? Oh, does he know? I bet he'd pick it up, wouldn't he, badminton? - Do you think? - Yeah, probably.
You've wasted your life, Roger.
The real money is in badminton.
Now, where might you be well advised to skip the queue? Well, they don't like to queue in France.
- Or Italy.
- Or Italy.
They're really, really, pushy, especially the elderly, in Italy.
- Yeah.
- Right.
They burrow in, the little Italian women, they burrow right into the heart of the queue and then you can't get them out.
They're in and they're in the front.
I like that - a tiny Italian woman just pushing by everyone to the front.
Yeah, "Scusi, scusi, scusi, scusi, scusi!" And then she's in the front.
And no-one knows how to stop her.
She's not got long left, I think they should be allowed to - go to the front.
- Yeah, yeah, she's going to die.
- People with kids should be right at the back, they've got ages.
- Yeah.
Maybe they should just do queuing by longevity.
How long do you think you've got? You shouldn't queue in hospital.
Well, my friend skipped the queue, but she'd cut her finger off, so they were like, "Yeah, come to the front.
" Yes, that's quite a serious thing, isn't it? Well, as well, because she, when they come out and go, "Who's next?" She was not in a position to go like She couldn't go like that.
So, it's not actually about queuing, in terms of a physical queue.
It's about the letter Q.
- The letter Q.
- Yes, you're right.
- Oh, oh, oh! - Yes? - The surname, Smith.
- What? - You don't need a Q in that.
Skip it.
I'll just give myself ten points there.
Are there some languages where there isn't a Q? Well, the letter Q was actually banned in Turkey, until 2013, along with two other letters, the X and the W.
- It's a language thing.
- It is a language thing, darling.
But the real issue is that the Turkish language doesn't use the letter Q, but the Kurdish one does.
And there was a lot of anti-Kurdish sentiment in Turkey.
And so those letters were not allowed to appear in official documents and people were not allowed to use them when naming their children.
Until the early 1990s, it was illegal in Turkey for the 15 to 20 million Kurds, you're talking around about 20% of the population, to use any Kurdish at all in public.
And it was only since 2013 that you are actually allowed to use the letter Q once more in Turkey.
In Turkey, would they not have Quavers then? That would be - Well, that's why there's been an outcry.
- Yeah.
People are a little bit annoyed about the sort of repression - of the Kurdish people, but mainly - Yeah, Quavers.
- .
it's those lovely cheesy snacks.
- Yeah.
Now, I'm going to play you the sound of someone typing.
What do you think they are trying to say? We don't know any Shakespeare, we're only monkeys.
So why might we know, just from the sound, what somebody is actually trying to say? Really? We can? Do they have like a slightly different pitch, all of the buttons? Yeah, so it's the QWERTY keyboard.
And it can be "translated" if you like, to work out what we are typing.
- No! - No way.
- If you had just a microphone, hackers would be able to discover your log-ins, your password, any other confidential information that you might be typing, because each key hits a different part of the keyboard's underplate, and there is a slightly different sound for every single one.
And there's an algorithm which can be used to work out which sound corresponds with which letter.
Jimmy looks worried.
I'm going to have to learn to write again.
Presumably for each keyboard it would be different? Well, you just need ten minutes with one keyboard, with a microphone, and then - Is this for a typewriter or for a keyboard? - For a computer keyboard.
Computer scientists at the University of California in Berkeley estimate hackers would need ten minutes and they could crack anybody's computer code.
What about an iPad? I don't think it would work on that, but it will work on a computer.
Do your dirty work on an iPad, Jimmy.
My 'dirty work'? And now I imagine that 'dirty work' is Jimmy's password.
But what is it about boys? Because you don't type with, with two hands like that.
Every time I'm on a train there's some boy typing and he's doing this.
Mavis Beacon did me proud, that little typing thing, great.
- You learned to type.
- Oh, yes.
When I was at school we were all taught to type, and they used to tie an apron to the top of the typewriter and then round your neck, and then, and so you had to type - underneath the apron, so you couldn't see what you were - Wow! At the boys' school, Sandi, you're taught to dictate.
Don't you hide behind my chair.
I think the key part of that word is 'dick'.
That was very good, could you just take that down for us? We can actually reveal, Alan, what was being typed.
" "Alan Say 'blue whale' now for 100 points.
" - Blue whale.
- Yeah, it's too late now, to say that.
- Aah.
Those buzzers that we played at the very beginning, it's from 'The Typewriter Symphony'.
It was actually the theme tune on the News Quiz on Radio 4.
It still is.
A guy called Leroy Anderson, American composer, he wrote it where the typewriter is used as a percussion instrument.
It's one of my favourites, have a quick look at this video.
Isn't that wonderful? That's a guy that forgot his instrument and refused to back down.
It's a trained percussionist who does it.
They slightly cheat, they modify the typewriter so only two keys are working, so otherwise you'd get it jammed, wouldn't you, if you played like that? And I absolutely love it.
Now, onto a question about spy novels.
What was the name of James Bond's gadget expert? - Q.
- Q.
- Was it? No.
In the films, but not in the novels.
Q does not appear anywhere.
- But you know there are James Bond films? - Yes.
And he's called Q in them, so he's sort of right, isn't he? Yes, but in the, but in the original novels, only the Q Branch is mentioned.
And in the question, I did ask about the spy novels.
Oh, that's the problem, I don't listen.
No, because you're a man.
And you're too busy dictating.
So Q, the character Q, is thought to be based on a real inventor, called Charles Fraser-Smith.
And he worked for the clothing department at the Ministry of Supply.
Of course, his real job was coming up with gadgets for the Secret Service.
They were called Q gadgets after the World War I Q ships.
So these were warships which were disguised as freighters, and they got their name from their home port, Queenstown, in Ireland.
And they looked like a perfectly ordinary freighter, and they had cargo and all that kind of thing.
In fact, it was to lure U-boats up to the surface.
And as soon as the U-boat came up, they would reveal their unbelievable armaments.
I mean, unbelievably brave work.
44 Q ships were destroyed, but they also managed to destroy 15 U-boats.
So that is where the Q thing comes from.
- Wow! - It comes from these Q ships.
I love, love, love the music to James Bond.
Let's have a quick listen to the original James Bond theme.
The composer is a man called Monty Norman and it actually comes from a song about a man with an unlucky sneeze, which he reworked into the James Bond theme.
It was originally called 'Bad Sign, Good Sign', and it didn't sound at all like the original song.
Have a listen to this.
INDIAN INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC Can I have some onion bhajis, please? # I was born with this unlucky sneeze # And what is worse I came into the world the wrong way round Pundits all agree OK, stop, stop, stop, stop, stop.
- Oh, this is surely bullshit.
- No, this is true.
V S Naipaul's novel, 'A House For Mr Biswas', it's a wonderful novel, and Mr Biswas has a terrible sneeze and it's unlucky for him.
And Monty Norman wrote a musical version of this, which was not a huge success.
He was later hired to write the music for the first Bond film, which was 'Dr No'.
He re-worked the theme tune into the James Bond theme tune.
So we thought we'd do a bit of, I'm going to call it Quaraoke, because it starts with a Q.
We're going to try and see if we can sing the original James Bond theme tune.
So the words are going to come up on the screen for you.
Let's all get ready.
# I was born with this unlucky sneeze # And what is worse, I came into the world the wrong way round # Pundits all agree that I'm the reason why My father fell into the village pond and drowned.
- No.
- No, no, no, no! No, do you know what, I now, I now don't believe you when you say it wasn't a huge hit.
- Yeah.
- That now I can't understand.
I'd rather watch that than James Bond.
He fell into the village pond and drowned? It's a very sad story.
- Is it a true story? - No.
We've been expecting you, Mr Bond.
We heard you sneezing all the way down the corridor.
And the pond needs a clear out.
My name is Pond, James Pond.
James Pond.
James Pond.
Anyway, here is my next question.
What would you find in Mrs Q's memoirs? I like the image you've used, by the way, that you think a key might be needed to undo a piece of string.
Well, it's possibly the key to her heart, my darling.
- You don't know about love, do you? - I've never experienced it, no.
No, I joke, I joke, I've had a lot of love on very short-term bases.
My dressing room door is always open.
And mine has a key.
So Early 19th century, Mrs Q? Mrs Q's Memoirs, was it a fake name for someone with a salacious memoir? Yeah, it was a woman called Harriette Wilson.
She was a courtesan.
I love that.
We say sex worker now.
So she started her career aged 15, as a mistress of Lord Craven, and she took lots of lovers.
Some people say the Prince Regent, we have no evidence for that.
When she announced that she was going to write her memoirs, she said, "Any concerned gentlemen could pay £200 to avoid being written about.
" Among those that she wrote to and said, "Do you want me to leave you out?" was Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, who rather famously said, "Publish and be damned.
" - So published in 1825, it was four volumes.
- Wow.
And it was, I mean, unbelievably popular.
So popular, a barrier had to be set up outside the publishers' offices.
And the publishers and Wilson went on to make £10,000, which at the time was an enormous amount of money.
It has the great opening line, these memoirs, "I shall not say how and why I became, at the age of 15, "the mistress of the Earl of Craven.
" It's a fantastic opening.
Anybody think of a book that kind of mirrors this situation recently? Well, I suppose Stormy Daniels.
Stormy Daniels, absolutely.
She said that, of course, that Donald Trump had paid to keep their affair secret.
Well, I've, I've not read the book, I've watched a lot of her films, but, covers similar areas.
The chapter concerning Trump begins, "OK, so did you just skip to this chapter?" But what she says is, "My life is a lot more interesting than "an encounter with Donald Trump, but I get it.
"Still, of all the people who I had sex with, "why couldn't the world obsess over one of the hot ones?" Absolutely.
And then she went on tour, 'Make America Horny Again'.
She's working as a stand-up comedian now.
- Really? - Yeah.
- She's funny, she is funny.
- Yeah.
Now, from one form of artistic expression to another.
What is the most disgusting panel you can think of? Oh, goodness, I'd forgotten about that picture.
It does look like I'm sort of merging into Alan.
I'd like to take a moment, Sandi, to thank you for the nasal trimmers you got me for Christmas.
It does look like you're saying, like, "look, I've got nothing up my nose, OK.
" So, it's the letter Q we are looking for.
What might, what else might you have in a panel? I'm absolutely stumped actually, Sandi.
- So the answer is quilts.
- Quilts? - Quilts, yeah.
Oh, well we were never going to get quilts.
Well, I think that is the point of the programme.
- Well, then we did really well.
- Yes, you did very well.
- Thank you.
There's a woman called Anna Dumitriu, she was the 2018 President of the Science and Arts section of the British Science Association.
And she made a quilt where every panel was impregnated with MRSA bacteria.
Now, of course she'd heavily treated it, so it wasn't going to kill you to actually hold the quilt up.
It is Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, so MRSA is the deadly strain of this.
And what she was trying to do was to highlight the problem of antibiotic resistance.
- Oh.
- Unpleasantly, I think.
She got the bacteria out of her own nose and grew it on the quilt.
We did that to the Native Americans, didn't we? - We gave them quilts with smallpox.
- Smallpox.
You are right, they did give out blankets infected with smallpox in order to "subdue", they called it, the Native American population.
So what point was she making with this? She's just trying to show us the real issue that we are having at the moment with antibiotic resistance.
In fact, the whole thing about making quilts and so on goes much further.
So during various wars in the 19th century, it was very common for soldiers to make rather intricate quilts, often made from scraps of uniform.
And they were known as 'convalescence quilts'.
And some of the most complex examples have up to 25,000 pieces of fabric in them.
When I was a child, duvets were called 'continental quilts'.
- Does anybody remember this? - Yeah.
- Oh, yes.
- I remember that.
- I remember them starting.
I just remember going to a hotel and it didn't have sheets and blankets.
And we really didn't know what to do with ourselves.
You couldn't tuck it in, it was just going to fall, and some of them did fall off.
They'd slide straight off you.
Well, yeah, they first came to Britain in about 1964, and it was Habitat who advertised them, saying that you could make a bed so quickly, just a few shakes, that even a man could do it.
And how wrong they were, because getting that cover on Yeah, this is what we're going to do.
- So, you've each got - Oh.
A quilt and a cover.
- Right.
- Oh.
So, we're going to have a very quick competition Couldn't be easier.
to see who can be quickest.
Hang on, hang on, I haven't undone the bow yet.
- I haven't got my key.
- OK.
Get your quilt out.
Ha ha! We're going to do it all at the same time.
Oh, no, wait, wait, wait, wait.
- OK.
Are you ready? - Hang on, yeah, yeah.
I can't find my opening, Sandi! Hang on, can we open it, where do we start from? I can't find my thing.
OK, ready? One, two, three, go! Oh, no, I'm not ready, I'm not ready! I'm nowhere near ready! Oh, my God! No, I can't do it, I can't do it! Hang on, mine's buttoned up.
The girls have got it! Hang on, hang on, mine's buttoned up! Yours didn't have buttons on it.
Mine's buttoned up, that's not fair.
- Jimmy! - Yes? Darling, I He has staff to do it for him.
Are you all right there, darling? Mind your hair.
What happened?! I think it's all right.
I did, yeah, I mean, wow.
- Jimmy, look.
- Wow.
- Come here.
I think I'm not the only one who's amazed it stayed on.
We specially got a duvet cover for you with blue whales on, we were very pleased with it.
Ah! Are you all right, sweetheart? So, I think, no question about it, Lou was the winner there, it was absolutely fantastic.
Now, put your security blankets away, because it's time for the round that we call General Ignorance.
Fingers on buzzers, please.
What happens to Dr Jekyll's trousers when he becomes Mr Hyde? They rip, don't they? No, they don't rip.
Why do they not rip? Because he's not The Hulk? Because he gets smaller, he becomes smaller and kind of hunched and like a beast, doesn't he? - Yeah, so they should fall down, is the answer.
- Yeah.
Because in the book, Edward Hyde is much smaller than Dr Jekyll.
The reason for his short stature is he represents Dr Jekyll's evil side.
So the bit that he's been trying to suppress, as he lives as decently and as morally as he can.
It's the films and the TV that show him as bigger, more like The Incredible Hulk.
- And The Hulk is based on that, isn't it? - Yes, exactly.
And Robert Louis Stevenson's tale was inspired by a man called Deacon Brodie.
He lived in 18th century Edinburgh, and, by day, he was the most marvellous, respectable cabinet maker, lock maker, member of the Town Council.
By night, he used the keys that he made to break into their homes and steal their stuff.
This is him with his accomplice, George Smith.
- George Smith.
- Oh.
You'd think he'd stick out, the fact that he was a chicken.
Anyway, Robert Louis Stevenson had a wardrobe as a child at the end of his bed which had been made by Deacon Brodie.
So it's probably how he came to have the idea in the first place.
And Brodie was eventually hanged, although the story is that he wore a steel band around his neck and escaped and went to Paris to live out his life.
I like the idea that you would be hung and they would go, "Oh, well, don't look, we're hanging him.
" And just look the other way.
- Yeah.
- Where's the body gone? Oh, I don't know.
I don't know what happened to him.
- He must have buried himself, I suppose.
- Yeah.
Yeah! Finally, what colour is the Emerald City? - I think I know a weird fact about the Wizard of Oz.
- Yes? Which I didn't realise until recently, which is that it's an allegory for America? The farmers are the Straw Man and they need a brain.
And industry was the Tin Man and industry doesn't have a heart.
Wow! And the Lion was the politicians and that they didn't have any courage.
You're absolutely right.
But it is not what we were looking for, we were looking for the colour.
LAUGHTER Well, is the answer green then? Hey! Oh, damn it! I knew something, I knew something! - Yes? - Emerald.
- Brown.
- No.
- Red.
- Stop naming colours.
- Blue.
When she first goes to the City of Oz, she is told she must don a pair of protective glasses in order to avoid being blinded by the brightness.
I have that when I have laser on my Jack and Danny, - they make you wear glasses.
- On your what? - On what? - Jack and Danny.
- Jack and Danny? Jack and Danny, fanny.
Sorry, it's called a Jack, what is? - A Jack and Danny.
- What? - They make you put the glasses on.
- No, wait, wait, wait, wait.
Also Jack and Danny? My mum doesn't like me doing rude stuff - and she's really pleased I was going to be on QI.
- Right.
And now she's not going to be pleased any more.
She's going to be very embarrassed in front of the Gardening Club, of course, again.
Speaking of the gardening club, you had all downstairs lasered? I did not know.
- It's rhyming slang, is it, Jack and Danny? - Hmm.
- Who knew? - For fanny, yeah.
My favourite when I was growing up, it was always called the - 'a fine china'.
- Aah.
- Oh, is that your? - Hmm.
Because you get it out for special occasions! Exactly right, yeah.
Back to the Wizard of Oz.
What we learn from the Wizard at the end is that he makes everybody wear green spectacles so that things appear green.
And when she asks if that means everything isn't really green, he replies, "No more so than any other city, "but my people have worn green glasses on their eyes so long, that most of them think it really is an emerald city.
" Everything looks green when viewed through emerald tinted glasses.
BELL And there goes the bell for the end of the school day.
Before we leave for play time, let's have a look at your report cards.
In first place tonight, well, this is astonishing, with a full five points, it's Alan.
Oh! CHEERING AND APPLAUSE The crowd's gone mad.
In second place, with minus six, it's Lou.
In third place, with minus 13, Jimmy.
Third place, very respectable.
Fabulous fourth, with minus 26, it's Tom.
Thanks to our guests, Tom, Jimmy, Lou and Alan.
And I leave you with this quick quotation from the quill of American author Robert Benchley.
"It took me 15 years to discover that "I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up, "because by that time I was too famous.
" Goodbye.

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