QI. Image shows from L to R: Alan Davies, Sandi Toksvig. Copyright: TalkbackThames


  • TV panel show
  • BBC Two / BBC One / BBC Four
  • 2003 - 2024
  • 312 episodes (21 series)

Panel game that contains lots of difficult questions and a large amount of quite interesting facts. Stars Sandi Toksvig, Stephen Fry and Alan Davies.

  • This series will continue at a later date
  • Catch-up on Series U, Episode 9
  • JustWatch Streaming rank this week: 391

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Series J, Episode 1 - Jargon

Preview clips

QI. Image shows from L to R: Alan Davies, Bill Bailey, Stephen Fry, Victoria Coren Mitchell, Jimmy Carr. Copyright: TalkbackThames


- All the buzzers are of unusual musical instruments beginning with "J". Bill has a jarana, a Mexican percussive instrument. Victoria has a jouhikko, a Finnish instrument. Jimmy has a jalalaika, a Russian instrument. Alan has a Jewish harp, originally called a "jaws harp" because the string is held between the teeth.


- The panel are presented with some obscure words beginning with "J" and are asked what they mean.

- Jankers: An army punishment.

- Tangent: A "minced oath" is bowdlerised version of a swearword. In others, when you are just about to swear and you stop yourself from doing so. For example, "Fu... crying out loud!"

- Jollop: A turkey's wattle, or strong liquor.

- Jentacular: Pertaining to breakfast.

- XL Tangent: "Pandiculate" means "to yawn".

- Jigger: Has 28 different meanings. It is a measuring device (a jigger of rum), a handcar, a sail, a small weight, a snooker rest, a flea, a prison cell, a boot-sole polisher, an old-looking person, a distillery, a penis, a copper's knife, a potter's wheel, a back passage, a lathe, a woman's coat, a sieve, a dancer, a pulley, a door, a thingummy, a golf club, a ouija board, a policeman, and a vagina.

- XL: Dr. Johnson tied up himself with his padlock. He was a sickly man, suffering from scrofula (aka The King's evil), gout, half-blind, palsy, dropsy, flatulence, OCD and possibly from Tourette's syndrome. He had violent tics, seizures and outbursts. When went to live with a Mrs. Hester Thrale in Streatham whom he was deeply in love with. He told her that he has a padlock and chain and if at any point he got out of control he gave her permission to chain him up. However, Mrs. Thrale went off to Italy and married an Italian. Mrs. Thrale said: "Says Johnson, a woman has such power between the ages of 25 and 45 that she may tie a man to a post and whip him if she will. This, he knew of himself, was literally and strictly true."

- The one thing we can all agree that Hitler, Stalin and Franco got right that Mussolini got wrong was that the first three all hated jazz while Mussolini liked it. It should be pointed out however that this is the opinion of the QI elves and not of Stephen who does like jazz. Mussolini's son Romano was one of post-war Italy's greatest jazz musicians and went on to play with Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington and Chet Baker.

- XL Tangent: In South Africa jazz was really important to the black community. The clubs were underground and illegal. The consequences for taking part where dire. During WWII jazz had a similar role in Paris.

- Tangent: Similarly with jazz, Hitler supposedly hated Jewish comedy because if you liked something about a group of people then you could not hate them or victimise them. This is what is known as "cognitive dissonance", the ability to hold two opposing opinions at the same time. Victoria gives an example: she is on QI, having a nice time, and yet the question "What did Hitler get right?" has come up.

- Tangent: The night before the recording of this episode, Victoria had an anxiety dream about appearing on the show. In the dream Stephen asked sternly the question: "Why was the March Hare so important to the Aztecs?" Victoria answers that they worshipped it, then the klaxon sounded the forfeit "Worship it" comes up on the screen.

- XL Tangent: The Russian writer Maxim Gorky wrote the following on the subject of jazz: "The dry knock of an idiotic hammer penetrates the utter stillness. One, two, three, ten, twenty strikes, and afterwards, a wild whistling and squeaking, as if a ball of mud was falling into clear water. The follows a rattling, howling and screaming, like the clamour of a metal pig, the cry of a donkey, or the amorous croaking of a monstrous frog. The offensive chaos of this insanity combines into a compulsive pulsing rhythm. Listening to this screaming for only a few minutes, and one involuntarily pictures an orchestra of sexually wound-up man men, conducted by a stallion-like creature who is swinging his giant genitals."

- If you look at birds the thing the immediately comes to mind when you look at them is their jizz. The origin of the word is disputed. Some say it is comes from "GISS" an acronym of "General Impression Size and Shape". It came from being able to spot what shape a plane was during the war high up in the sky. However there is no evidence to support this claim. Other say that the word is a contraction of "just is", (you can't say why it looks like it, it just is), or it comes from "gist".

- Tangent: The ruder version of "jizz" is a contraction of the word "jism", meaning spirit or energy. The DNA of a single sperm contains information equivalent to 37.5 megabytes. A normal ejaculation contains around 15,875 gigabytes, which is about 7,500 laptops worth.

- Tangent: During the bird question four pictures of bird were shown, each beginning with "J". The birds were (from left-to-right) the Juan Fernandez tit-tyrant, a type of flycatcher from the Juan Fernandez Islands of Chile; the Jackson's widowbird, a weaverbird; the Jabiru, a stork; and the Japanese waxwing.

- The thing that Watson did twice as often as Holmes was ejaculate. During the time the novels were written to "ejaculate" meant "to exclaim". There are 23 ejaculations in the canon, 11 from Watson and 6 from Holmes. Holmes at one point refers at Watson's "ejaculations of wonder being invaluable to his art". Watson also ejaculates from his very heart in the direction of his fiancé. One sentence reads, "So he sat as I dropped off to sleep, and so he sat when a sudden ejaculation caused me to wake up." One character called Phelps in The Naval Treaty ejaculates three times. The only other ejaculator is Mrs. Sinclair's husband who ejaculates from second-floor window.

- XL: The people whose speech intones, harangues and declaims in a long, meandering cascade of sounds, syllables, stresses and intonations that might at first seem to be full of sense and meaning, but soon reveal itself to be an empty, vain, hollow and completely meaningless stream of gibberish are babies. There are phrases in the development of their speech, known as "Toddler jargon". (Forfeit: You do, Stephen)

- XL Tangent: There is a website where you can enter the due date of your baby in and they will send you weekly emails about the development of the foetus, and after the birth they will continue to send emails about what your baby will be doing. These predictions are very accurate. It is the same for all babies.

- The first person to use the expression "OMG" as we use it today was Lord Fisher in 1917. He wrote a letter to Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty during the First World War, saying: "I hear that a new order of knighthoods is on the tapis [on the carpet]. OMG (Oh my God), shower it on the Admiralty." In Eric Partridge's Dictionary of Abbreviations in 1942 contains abbreviations such as "agn" (again), "mth" (month) and "gd" (good).

- Tangent: Bill once heard a kid on the street say "LOL" rather than actually laugh. To see how weird this is, Bill gets the entire studio audience to say "LOL" together with as little expression as possible. Tim Minchin has suggested that because people do not laugh out loud when they say "LOL" they should instead say "MAS" - "Mildly Amused Smirk".

- Tangent: The first use of the word "to unfriend" was in 1659. It was used by Thomas Fuller who wrote to theologist John Heylyn, "I hope, sir, that we are not mutually unfriended by this difference that hath happened betwixit us."

- Arabic numbers are actually Hindu in origin, so they most likely came from India. In Arabic they called them "Hindu numbers" and Arabic numbers have very little in common with Hindu numbers. On a small number of numerals such as "9" look similar to the Hindu ones.

- Tangent: The only number in the English language which is in alphabetical order when written out is forty.

- XL: The most difficult word to guess in a game of hangman is "Jazz". Victoria however argues that the difficult word is "Cull" because "U" is the last vowel people go for. A researcher simulated 50 hangman games for every word in the dictionary, totalling 90,000 words and nearly 5,000,000 games. The 1,000 trickiest words were taken, played the game 3,000 times for each word, playing a total of 15 million games. Other than jazz, other difficult words include "hajj", "lynx", "buzz" and "fuzz".

- So, why is the March Hare so important to the Aztecs? The Aztec worshipped rabbits as opposed to hares, but there are many people who believe that the rabbits worshipped by the Aztecs were jackrabbits, which are technically a type of hare, so they could have been important to the Aztecs after all. (Forfeit: Worship it)

- XL: Stephen shows a panel a jigger device, operated by Alan, which is used by the Inuit to fish. This is used to put a net down into the ice. A leaver is used to thread a net from one ice hole to another, with the leaver resting on the ice upside-down. As you pull the net, the leaver moves across the ice.


- Victoria Coren: 13 points
- Bill Bailey: 10 points
- Alan Davies: -6 points
- Jimmy Carr -22 points

Broadcast details

Friday 14th September 2012
30 minutes


Show past repeats

Date Time Channel
Friday 14th September 2012 10:00pm BBC HD
Saturday 15th September 2012 9:10pm
45 minute version
Saturday 15th September 2012 9:10pm
45 minute version
Saturday 15th September 2012 9:15pm
45 minute version
BBC2 Scot
Friday 1st February 2013 10:00pm BBC2
Friday 1st February 2013 10:00pm BBC HD
Monday 5th August 2013 9:00pm
60 minute version
Tuesday 6th August 2013 1:00am
60 minute version
Tuesday 3rd September 2013 9:00pm
60 minute version
Wednesday 4th September 2013 12:35am
60 minute version
Sunday 13th October 2013 8:00pm Dave
Sunday 13th October 2013 11:20pm Dave
Tuesday 10th December 2013 9:00pm
60 minute version
Wednesday 11th December 2013 12:20am
60 minute version
Saturday 25th January 2014 9:30pm
45 minute version
Saturday 25th January 2014 11:30pm
45 minute version
BBC2 Scot
Thursday 20th February 2014 9:00pm
60 minute version
Thursday 20th February 2014 11:40pm
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Saturday 17th May 2014 8:00pm
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Sunday 18th May 2014 3:15am
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Wednesday 5th August 2015 12:00am
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Wednesday 5th August 2015 8:00pm
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Saturday 7th May 2016 1:00am
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Saturday 7th May 2016 11:00pm
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Sunday 3rd July 2016 10:00pm
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Monday 4th July 2016 2:00am
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Monday 3rd October 2016 9:00pm
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Tuesday 20th December 2016 9:00pm
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Wednesday 21st December 2016 1:00am
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Tuesday 24th October 2017 8:00pm
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Wednesday 2nd January 2019 11:00pm Dave
Thursday 3rd January 2019 1:00am Dave
Friday 31st May 2019 3:15am
45 minute version
Tuesday 14th January 2020 11:00pm Dave
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Tuesday 4th October 2022 2:20am Dave
Saturday 7th January 2023 11:40pm Dave
Tuesday 9th January 2024 1:20am Dave
Tuesday 9th January 2024 8:20pm Dave

Cast & crew

Stephen Fry Host / Presenter
Alan Davies Regular Panellist
Guest cast
Bill Bailey Guest
Jimmy Carr Guest
Victoria Coren Mitchell (as Victoria Coren) Guest
Writing team
James Harkin Script Editor
Molly Oldfield Researcher
John Mitchinson Question Writer
Mat Coward Researcher
Will Bowen Researcher
Andrew Hunter Murray (as Andy Murray) Researcher
Anne Miller Researcher
Jenny Ryan Researcher
Production team
Ian Lorimer Director
John Lloyd (as John Lloyd CBE) Series Producer
Piers Fletcher Producer
Ruby Kuraishe Executive Producer
Nick King Editor
Jonathan Paul Green Production Designer
Howard Goodall Composer


Bird Recognition

The panel talk about the word 'Jizz' in reference to bird watching.

Featuring: Alan Davies, Stephen Fry, Bill Bailey, Jimmy Carr & Victoria Coren.


QI, the cleverest comedy on television, is back on our screens this week. It's now in double figures series-wise, (tenth series and not eleventh, as has been advertised in some quarters); although in terms of the alphabet it's only up to "J".

This first episode of this series covers the subject of "Jargon" - and words beginning with "J" - and featured Jimmy Carr, Bill Bailey and newcomer Victoria Coren on the panel alongside regulars Stephen Fry and Alan Davies. Topics included dictators and their hatred of jazz, the first use of "OMG", and a lot of jizz.

In fact, the opening episode was rather smutty. Following on from a question about jizz (a bird-watching term for recognising a bird from a long distance by its shape), the panel, mostly Carr, performed quite a lot of rude material. I know that some people on the QI forums hated this, saying it was too rude for such a programme. But these critics should bear in mind that only a little while ago QI tried to be less rude when it was pre-watershed on BBC One and it failed miserably. People didn't like it, so now it's back in its old post-watershed slot on BBC Two - and now people are complaining about the show being too rude. Whenever the questions are lewd someone suggests it's 'dumbing down'. Yet whenever the questions are clever someone says it's not 'being funny enough'. I wish some people would make their minds up...

Series J is becoming notable for reasons other than perceived rudeness. For starters the "General Ignorance" round has been scrapped, because the panel were getting too wise to it and not going for the klaxon answers. Now the General Ignorance questions are spread out more to catch people out. I'm a bit worried about that, to be honest. It's a bit like Have I Got News for You getting rid of "Missing Words", Mock the Week scrapping "Scenes We'd Like to See", or Celebrity Juice getting rid off... well, whatever they have on Celebrity Juice (I can never bring myself to watch). However, it's best to wait and see after a few episodes if the re-shuffle works.

The other notable thing about this series is the guests. There are more women appearing on it. Next week's episode will be the first in which all the guests are women, which I can't remember happening on another panel show...ever. And some of the new guests are pretty experimental; they haven't even appeared on British TV yet. New Zealander Cal Wilson appears in a fortnight's time. She was on The News Quiz this week and seemed to cope alright, so hopefully she will put in a good performance.

I know some people will complain it's too rude, or it's dumbed down, or the guests are not good enough, but you can't please everyone. In the end, so long as it keeps being interesting and surprising QI will be good enough for me.

Ian Wolf, Giggle Beats, 17th September 2012

Like the wizened face of an old man resembling its childhood self, QI increasingly feels like the radio show it essentially is. The format of a group of people locked in a situation they neither understand nor have control over is still more Come Dine with Me than Sartre's Huis Clos. It's hard to see how, having only got to 'J' in the alphabet, they'll make it to the end without the introduction of a new element, possibly electricity or a vicious beast. In tonight's extended version of last night's series opener, the ghastly Victoria Coren struggles (and does she struggle) to make a dent in the pub-quiz bloke smut, though she's only an also-ran for worst-ever contestant, Rory McGrath having been allowed to keep that particular trophy. It's the unique way the BBC's funded etc etc.

Chris Waywell, Time Out, 15th September 2012

You'll never watch Sherlock in the same way after tonight's hilariously smutty episode. The start of series 10 is brought to you by the letter "J", an innocent-sounding letter that somehow lends itself to the most infectious schoolboy humour.

"I came on this show to talk about the Aztecs!" protests ­panellist Victoria Coren as Alan Davies, Bill Bailey, Jimmy Carr and even Stephen Fry dissolve into fits of giggles all around her.

Jane Simon, The Mirror, 14th September 2012

Oh joy and jubilation. Those jocose jackanapes and jovialists are back with - yes you guessed it - an edition featuring weird and wonderful questions related to the letter J.

Along the way we discover that OMG and "unfriended" are not contemporary expressions, but by the time the two teams have gone through the multiple (and often rude) definitions of jigger, it all degenerates into a bout of schoolboy sniggering that's strangely infectious. Even the usually urbane Stephen Fry is reduced to giggles. It is, says Jimmy Carr (possessor of an extraordinary foghorn laugh), the most fun he's ever had on the show.

What may astound you almost as much as Alan Davies not coming last this time is Bill Bailey's knowledge about subjects as diverse as bird watching and cognitive dissonance. Just goes to show he's no jolterhead.

Jane Rackham, Radio Times, 14th September 2012

A fresh selection of alliterative posers from quintessential inquisitor Stephen Fry. This opening episode of series J sees newcomer Victoria Coren join regulars Bill Bailey, Jimmy Carr and Alan Davies to take on the world of jargon. While QI feels less of a rare treat now there's the option of watching old episodes 10 times a day on Dave, new episodes are still a welcome sight, if only to keep up to date on delicious trivial titbits such as the surprising etymology for several well-known txt-speak terms.

Mark Jones, The Guardian, 13th September 2012

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