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


BBC Two and BBC One panel show about quite interesting facts. 269 episodes (pilot + 18 series), 2003 - 2021. Stars Sandi Toksvig, Stephen Fry and Alan Davies.

Series S recorded.
Series I, Episode 5 is repeated on Dave tomorrow at 8:20pm.

Series K, Episode 1 - Knees & Knockers

Further details

QI. Image shows from L to R: Alan Davies, David Mitchell, Stephen Fry, Sara Pascoe, Jack Whitehall. Copyright: TalkbackThames.


- All the buzzers are of animals beginning with "K". Sara has a kestrel, Jack has a kookaburra, David has a killer bee, and Alan has an unusual sounding growl which turns out to be a koala.


- Tangent: Stephen tells David some good news. The show's new scorer, Murray, is a big fan of David.

- The panel are played the sound that a QI panellist hears when they get a forfeit. However, it turns out that it is not a klaxon, as a klaxon is specific brand name, like "Tannoy" and "Hoover", and belongs to Lovell-McConnell Manufacturing. The QI "klaxon" is thus a siren of some kind. The original klaxon was fitted to cars, and it was the first electric thing to be fitted to a car. (Forfeit: A klaxon)

- When cars were introduced to Pennsylvania there were pressure groups who tried to stop them coming into the state. The Farmer's Anti Automobile Association of Pennsylvania ordered that automobiles travelling along country roads at night must send up a rocket every mile and then wait 10 minutes for the road to clear. The driver may then proceed with caution blowing his horn and shooting off roman candles. If the driver sees a team of horses approaching then the driver must stop, pull to one side of the road and cover the car with a blanket or dust cover which is painted or coloured to blend into the scenery. If the horse is unwilling to pass an automobile on the road the driver must take the car apart as rapidly as possible and conceal the parts in the bushes.

- Honking the horn of your car has never been shown to help prevent an accident. You could argue that it would make drivers more aggressive. The British seem to have zero tolerance for horn hooters. In 1936 the Nazis were so anti-horn hooting that drivers were punished by having yellow dots painted on their cars.

- Tangent: Sara drove in Italy once while she was touring. The word for "go" in Italian is "die".

- Tangent: Police sirens have two different notes because if it is just one note it is harder to tell where the siren is coming from. In the USA the law states that if you hear a siren you must stop to let the vehicle past. Their wider roads make this law more practical that it would be in the UK.

- XL: Stephen pulls out some strips of sticky material normally used to fasten clothes together, however it is not called "Velcro" according to the company the makes it, Velcro Industries BV. They claim that there is no such thing as Velcro. Their website states: "'Velcro' is the name of our companies and the registered trademark of our products. It is not the generic name of that product that fastens shoes, pockets and hundreds of other things. That product should be referred to as 'hook-and-loop fastener'. This matters because many terms that we use frequently in our everyday language were once trademarks, like 'escalator', 'thermos', 'cellophane' and 'nylon' [Heroin was also a trademark but as Stephen points out the website does not mention this]. All these terms lost their distinction as trademarks because 'their owners allowed them to be MISUSED by the public'. So, now you know. You can't buy a piece of Velcro, but you can purchase all of the Velcro-BRAND hook-and-loop fasteners you need." After reading this, Stephen waves the hook-and-loop fastener around and shouts: "THIS is Velcro!" Despite all this fuss about the name of it, even the man who invented the material called it Velcro. Swiss man George de Mestral noticed that burs kept getting caught in his socks which he kept having to pull off, so he recreated the effect. The word "Velcro" comes from the French "velours crochet", meaning "velvet hook". (Forfeit: Velcro)

- XL Tangent: There is a copyright issue with the stage musical "Joseph and the Technicolor® Dreamcoat" which has to be spelt the American name due to it being the name of the American colour film. You can only trademark a word that does not already exist, so some terms have to be spelt differently such as "Nu-Kleen". There was a big legal battle concerning who owned the trademark for "Apple", between Apple Computers and Apple Records.

- XL Tangent: The pansy flowers pop into the conversation and Stephen bemoans Sara and Jack's generation because they do not what pansies look like. Jack says his 74-year-old father embarrasses him because he sends emotions in texts. One read: "Dear Jack, are you coming over for Sunday lunch? Your sister's going to be there. ;)"

- The panel are given four parts of the human body beginning with "K" and are asked where they are and what they do.

- The valves of Kerckring: The folds of the small intestine. Kerckring was a 17th century Dutch anatomist and friend of the philosopher Spinoza. If you unfolded the small intestine from one human body it would cover a tennis court.

- Tangent: The reason the small intestine is so long is because humans were originally herbivores, and herbivores require a long gut in order to digest all of their food. This is why in terms of dairy foods we can have digestive problems. The reverse is true of giant pandas, which started off as carnivores and thus have a short gut, but are now herbivores. Thus they need to eat a lot of bamboo because it goes straight through them. The only other creature to have switched their diet is the squirrel.

- The pores of Kohn: A system to equalise pressure in the lungs, that form an emergency back-up system along with the canals of Lambert and the fenestrations of Boren. They are named after a German pathologist who was expelled by the Nazis in 1933.

- Tangent: "Fenestration" means "something window shaped". "Defenestration" is when you throw someone out of a window, the most famous case being the defenestration of Prague.

- The end-bulbs of Krause: Receptors all over the skin that sense temperature. They are mostly centred around the genitals to keep sperm at the right temperature. They are activated by temperatures lower than 20 degrees Celsius.

- Kiesselbach's plexus: A network of arteries around the nasal septum, around the point you are most likely to get a nosebleed.

- Tangent: As previously stated on another episode of QI, if you have a nosebleed you should tilt your head forwards.

- Doctors hit your knee with a hammer to test your reflexes because if you kick too much or too little it can be a symptom of various illnesses. The test is a real knee-jerk reaction, because the signal does not go to the brain, but to the spinal cord. If you kick too much it can be a symptom of a brain tumour, a stroke, liver disease, multiple sclerosis or tetanus. Too little reaction can be a symptom of botulism, a damaged nervous system or an infected spine. No reaction at all can be a symptom of syphilis.

- Tangent: David askes what if you had a knee-jerk reaction that lead to you killing someone. Would it mean that you did not commit murder because your brain did not do anything? Sara says this does happen. For example if you are in a car, sneeze, and run someone over because of the sneeze, that does not count as murder.

- XL: McCartney's knees displeased the Chinese because he did not kowtow to the Emperor. The first Earl McCartney in 1793 was part of a British trade delegation to China, but when he met the Emperor he did not kowtow, which is the act of bowing before the Emperor so you head touches the ground. This act shocked the world and was later described as possibly the most significant act in world history, because it cost the country a trade deal. "Kowtow" means "to knock your head". However, Chinese historians and sinologists believe that now the Emperor was just not interested in any such deals. The year after McCartney saw a Dutch trader who kowtowed about 30 times, including to a biscuit or sweetmeat that was sent to him by the Emperor, but he too was refused a deal.

- XL Tangent: During the discussion a picture of a Chinese Emperor on a house with a small head is shown. Charles I's statue of him on horseback at the end of Whitehall at Trafalgar Square also has a small-headed horse. Charles I liked to be shown on horseback because he was so small. The statue of Oliver Cromwell outside the Houses of Parliament looks out onto a tiny bust of Charles I on Westminster Abbey, so the two enemies would be staring at each other for all eternity. Opposite Banqueting House where Charles I was executed at the Horseguards' entrance there is a clock with a black dot on it marked at 2.15, which was the time Charles I was executed. Sara knows a lot about this because she used to be a London tour guide working on buses.

XL: The thing that happened to the botanist who could not tell heads from coconuts was that he accidentally ordered the killing of a boy. On the Indonesian island of Ambon in 1913 Canadian botanist Charles Budd Robinson asked the local villagers where they could get a boy to climb up a palm tree to chop down a coconut. In the local language this is "perong kelapa". However, he said "patong kepala" which means, "to find a boy and cut off his head". The locals thus thought he was a head-hunter, which existed on the island, so they obeyed the order. Since then the locals have made this incident a big part of their tourism. You can buy coconuts that have been carved into the shape of human heads called "kelapa kepala". There is an Indonesian tongue twister which is "Kelapa diparut, kepala digaruk", which means "Coconut being grated, head being scratched".

- XL Tangent: There are many cases of brain damage helping scientists to discover how the brain actually works. For example one man with brain damage mistook his wife for a hat and patted bollards in the street thinking they were children. Other cases involve not being to feel one half of their body.

- XL Tangent: In Italian, "penne arrabiata" means "pasta sauce", but "pene" means "penis". You should thus pronounce "penne" as "pen-nay". "Pene puttanesca" means "prostitute's penis".

- XL Tangent: The Finnish tongue twister, "Kokoa kokoon koko kokko. Koko kokkoko? Koko kokko" means, "Collect all the wood for the bonfire. ALL the wood for the bonfire? Yes, all the wood."

- A knocker-uppers' knocker-upper was a human alarm clock's human alarm clock. As the industrial revolution grew "knocker-uppers" were hired to go around the town knocking on people's bedroom windows with a pole to wake people up and get them to work. Thus the first knocker-upper needed their own knocker-upper to wake them up and keep the shifts going. One famous Limehouse knocker-upper called Mary Smith woke people up with a pea shooter, firing at the windows.

- XL Tangent: Dorset knocker-upper Caroline Jane Cousins, also called Granny Cousins, used a lantern on a long pole so during winter time you also got a bit of light to wake you up.

- XL: The panel are shown a picture of men dressed in long white robes with long pointed hoods and are asked whom they represent. These people are Spanish Catholic Penitents, who have hoods called "capirotes" and whose uniform looks just like those of the Ku Klux Klan, but they and been wearing it for centuries before the KKK came into being and want to reclaim it. The roots of the KKK may come from the horse-whispering societies of rural Aberdeenshire. There were six in Buchan who went to America, joined the Confederate Army, and afterwards formed a club of Confederate people in the South which was originally for playing pranks and larks. Then a man called Nathan Forrest joined the group and started to turn it into an excuse for burning black churches and lynching black people. The name comes from the Greek "kuklos", meaning "circle". Another idea is the Crann Tara, which was the way one clan declared war on another, which connects it with the idea of the burning cross. (Forfeit: The Ku Klux Klan)

- A red kite bird is coloured orange. The bird was named before the English language has a word for the colour "orange", so many things that were really orange were called red instead, although we did have the word for "orange" as in the fruit (the name for the colour comes from the fruit). The colour orange was not named in English until the 16th century. Other examples of orange things called red are a robin red-breast, a red squirrel, red-headed people and red deer. The red kites had gone extinct in Britain because under medieval law you had to kill them when you spotted them. They have since been reintroduced successfully, with 1,800 breeding pairs. (Forfeit: Red)

- Tangent: Robins are associated with Christmas because postmen were nicknamed "robins" because of their red-breasted coloured uniforms. Thus it was the robins who delivered Christmas cards and robin birds were put on the cards to show this.

- Nobody knows how the monkey wrench got its name, but we do know that it was not named after anyone called "Moncky", as was stated on David's BBC Radio 4 panel game The Unbelievable Truth. An article written in the 1880s claimed that Charles Moncky was dying in poverty despite inventing it. However, the term "monkey wrench" was used in England as early as 1807. Most people believe that the face of the wrench reminded people of the jaws of a monkey, or that a monkey version of something in the navy refers to rigging up something. This question is really QI getting its own back at The Unbelievable Truth because TUT successfully pointed out a previous QI fact was wrong, namely that Rene Descartes believed that monkeys could talk, but did not in case they were asked to do any work. In fact Descartes just reported this fact from someone else. David gets -50 points are a result of his error. (Forfeit: Mr Moncky)


- Sara Pascoe: 28 points
- Jack Whitehall: -7 points
- Alan Davies: -20 points
- David Mitchell: -41 points


For the episode of The Unbelievable Truth about the monkey wrench and the false Descartes fact, see here.

Broadcast details

Friday 6th September 2013
30 minutes

Cast & crew

Regular cast
Stephen Fry Host / Presenter
Alan Davies Regular Panellist
Guest cast
David Mitchell Guest
Jack Whitehall Guest
Sara Pascoe Guest
Writing team
James Harkin Script Editor
John Mitchinson Question Writer
Molly Oldfield Question Writer
Andrew Hunter Murray Question Writer
Production team
Ian Lorimer Director
John Lloyd (as John Lloyd CBE) Series Producer
Piers Fletcher Producer
Ruby Kuraishe Executive Producer


QI: Series K Trailer

Stephen Fry asks unanswerable questions about topics beginning with the letter K.

Featuring: Alan Davies, Stephen Fry, David Mitchell, Jack Whitehall, Sara Pascoe.

The End-Bulbs of Krause

The panel talk about the end-bulbs of Krause.

Featuring: Alan Davies, Stephen Fry, David Mitchell, Jack Whitehall, Sara Pascoe.


Supporters and subscribers get more

Additional content and tools are available across the site for Supporters and BCG Pro subscribers. On this page you can:

  • See 2 press clippings related to this episode
  • Broadcast details of 35 further repeats of this episode
  • This episode's inital overnight ratings
  • BCG Pro business users can see additional crew credits  
    If you join BCG Pro business, you can see composer, editor, production designer, researcher & associate producer credits for this episode.

Donate (for fans) BCG Pro

Already a donor or Pro user?