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


  • TV panel show
  • BBC Two / BBC One / BBC Four
  • 2003 - 2021
  • 283 episodes (19 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.

Episode menu

Series L, Episode 9 - Ladies & Gentlemen

With Sue Perkins, Ross Noble and Australian novelist Kathy Lette.

Preview clips

Further details

QI. Image shows from L to R: Alan Davies, Ross Noble, Stephen Fry, Kathy Lette, Sue Perkins. Copyright: TalkbackThames


- A question for the ladies first: "Why shouldn't you have the vote?" Reasons given for not giving women the right to vote were first put forward by socialists. At the time the suffragettes only wanted the vote for women who owned property, so socialists through that expanding to the vote to more property owners would fill Parliament with more bourgeoisie. Also, lots of women did not want to vote, probably because they had been "brainwashed" into thinking they should not have. For example, because women thought that they were not involved in politics, engineering and such; it was thought that they should not vote because they knew nothing about it. The suffragette movement was also divided amongst itself. There was the "suffragists" who followed the Liberal Party, and the "suffragettes" who were the ones who smashed windows, chained themselves to railings etc.

- Tangent: Constance Wilde, wife of Oscar Wilde, was a leader of a movement that was a precursor to "Votes for Women" which was the "Rational Dress Society" which was against things like the extreme corseting of women.

- XL Tangent: Ross jokes that Constance Wilde should have said that in the future, leggings should approached with caution, with Ross adding that you should stay away from spandex unless you are fighting crime. Spanx, which is a form of women's clothing designed to make you look slimmer is becoming more fashionable. Ross says that at weddings, women who wear spanx at the start of the wedding look wonderful, but as the day goes on boobs start appearing in odd places.

- Tangent: No-one knows for sure whether Emily Davidson had planned to kill herself by throwing herself under the king's horse, or if she just wanted to stop the horse. The British Library has Davidson's purse, which includes a return ticket to the racecourse.

- XL: Women first got the vote in 1867. The first known woman to vote was Lily Maxwell of Manchester. She was a ratepayer, and the law at the time said that ratepayers were allowed to vote. At the time there was no law saying that a woman could not vote. Such a law was brought in the following year. (Forfeit: The 1920s)

- Tangent: One anti-suffragette professor argued that women should not be educated because their brains would grow too much, and then their wombs would shrink. One person in 1905 said: "Nothing would induce me to vote for giving women the franchise." That person was Winston Churchill.

- XL Tangent: Churchill did not say the famous quote: "Golf is a good walk spoiled." Stephen always believed it was Mark Twain who said this quote, but this too is false. This is known as "Churchillian drift", where a witty quote is wrongly attributed to Winston Churchill or a similarly famously witty person like Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, Noel Coward or George Bernard Shaw. Ross comments that this phenomenon always the highfalutin quotes that get attributed to them, and that a really witty quote never gets attributed to some like, for example, Cannon and Ball.

- Spending-a-Penny Bonus: The panel are given some small handheld electronic devices that make the sound of water flowing. The device in question is a "Sound Princess" or "Eco Otome" and these are used in Japan to disguise the sound of you going to the lavatory without the need of having to constantly flush and thus saving water. This is because traditionally the Japanese are rather pee-shy. It comes in three colours: pink with a little heart "for the inner girl in every woman", baby blue with a ribbon "for that free and fresh feeling", and a white Save The Earth form that is unisex.

- XL Tangent: Ross claims that the Sound Princess actually sounds more like Godzilla, which would cause Japanese people to panic even more.

- Tangent: Earlier on the day of the recording Alan took his children (aged two and four) to the toilet at the O2 Centre on Finchley Road. Someone else went to the next cubicle and did some "serious business". After about four minutes of this Alan's daughter shouted: "Oh, oh that stinks!" Alan could hear the man in the next cubicle laughing.

- Tangent: The architect Sir Edmund Beckett, the 1st Baron Grimthorpe, considered the best locksmith of his time, hated it when people did not flush his lavatory, so to get around this he designed his lavatory to lock once you entered it and it would only become unlocked once you flushed.

- Tangent: George Bernard Shaw was one of the people who argued for women's public lavatories to be built. Most early theatres did not have women's lavatories, hence why today many women's lavatories in theatres have long queues.

- XL Tangent: Sue moans about the lack of lavatories in theatres, saying that in the end you just wet yourself in our seat during the show and then go home with a wet bottom on the night bus. Stephen jokes that "Wet Bottom on the Night Bus" will be the title of Sue's autobiography.

- You can catch various diseases from lavatory seats. These include hepatitis, dysentery, fungal infections, puerperal fever and viral gastro-enteritis. You can only catch them however from touching the loo-seat with your hand and then for that unwashed hand to touch a "soft entry point" like your nose or mouth. The easiest way to avoid it is simply washing your hands. The myth that you can catch STDs from lavatory seats was spread by doctors, because they thought that more people would come forward with STDs if they thought that they caught it from a lavatory than from a sex worker. (Forfeit: Nothing)

- Tangent: Ross once noticed he had some strange welts around his groin and went to the doctor as he was worried he might have got an STD. Actually his underpants were just too tight.

- XL: Your mother-in-law can help you run things a tiny bit better by dying. A study of 6,753 deaths among CEOs and their families found that they cause a statistically significant and economically large decline in their profitability of their companies, with the exception of mothers-in-law which had a slight positive, but statistically insignificant effect. If you really want to be a successful CEO in the USA, the feature you should have is to be tall. Only 14.5% of US men are over 6ft, but 58% of US CEOs are over 6ft. CEOs, no matter how much they are paid, have no effect on the performance of a company: the idea that they are worth what they are paid, which is gigantic compared to the average member of their workforce, is nonsense. A report in 2013 found that between 1993-2012 40% of the USA's highest paid CEOs had either their companies bailed out by the taxpayer, had their companies charged with fraudulent activity, been fired for poor performance, or have overseen the death of their companies.

- XL Tangent: In the UK women get 58p for every £1 a man earns. The laws on equal pay did not arrive until the 1970s.

- The panel are given vintage suggestions from agony aunts and are asked to complete them:

- "There is no more harm in a kiss than a loaded revolver." (from Alley Sloper's Half Holiday in 1911)

- "Kidney troubles, coughs, colds, toothache and neuralgia, diarrhoea, and stomach catarrh are frequently brought on by paddling." (from Mother and Home in 1910)

- "If your friend is too fat she should do rolling exercises on the floor." (from 1928) (Forfeit: Try being on Bake-Off)

- XL Tangent: The first agony aunt was actually an agony uncle. John Dutton wrote a twice-weekly magazine periodical called the "Athenian Gazette", later the "Athenian Mercury". Most of the advice was literary, political, scientific or religious. But then Dutton was sent questions by a lady which surprised him, so he started a spin-off for, "Reasonable questions sent in to us by the fair sex", which became the world's first women's magazine known as the "Ladies' Mercury". It only lasted for a month however. One question sent to Dutton by a woman who was lonely was answered by him telling the woman to go to the docks to find a sailor for company. Another woman asked for: "the opinions you have met concerning the capricious and extravagant humours of women." Dutton replied: "The word 'capricious' is used to signify the extravagant humours of most women, because there is no animal they resemble more than a goat." Dutton used to dress up as a woman to avoid tax and debt.

- - XL Tangent: Kathy is somewhat interested in Dutton's advice, telling women to look for sailors with the belief that men will be interested in anything with a hole and a heart. Sue claims that her second autobiography will be called "A Hole and A Heart".

- XL: The seventh-most common cause of death among German U-Boat crews during World War One was being killed by British sailors in drag. The Germans used "cruiser protocols", which meant that if they approached a merchant ship they would rise to the surface and give the crew time to abandon ship before they brought it down. The Royal Navy therefore disguised some of their ships as merchant ships and got their crew to dress up as women and walk along the deck. When the Germans surfaced and called for the crew to man their lifeboats, the captain of the British ship would pull a lever, real their guns and shoot down the U-Boat in a rather unsporting way. 14 submarines were sunk this way.

- XL Tangent: HMS M2 in 1927 was the first submarine to carry aeroplanes. Specially designed seaplanes could be stored in the submarine's hanger. However, they once opened the hanger too early and HMS M2 was sunk.

- You cannot name an Anglo-Saxon swearword. The people in Anglo-Saxon times who wrote were mainly those in Holy Orders and did not swear. The Vikings did swear, with one word "rassragr" being considered so rude that the victim would be entitled to kill the man who swore at him. If he did not die, the man who swore would be proven to have used the word and be expelled from the community. Stephen knows the meaning of the word, but does not give the definition. (Forfeit: *%$#)

- XL Tangent: Sue says a whole bunch of swearwords and so gets the klaxon about 10 times. One of the words she says is "knob-gobbler", which Ross claims is actually a type of bird.

- XL: If there was a maths test between men and women it will be more likely that the men will do better because women are constantly told that women are worse than men at maths. Similarly, Asian people tend to do better at maths because they told that Asian people are good at it. Tests have shown that if you take a group of Asian women and tell them they are women who will be competing in a maths test against some men then the women will get around 60%. If you then take a group of Asian women and tell them that they are Asian women who will be competing in a maths test against European men, then the women will get around 80-90%.

- XL Tangent: Some retailers try to make their toy displays gender-neutral but they still end up toys aimed at either boys or girls. For example, they might have a blue toy tool box and a pink toy handbag. Lego has a pink brick box aimed at girls.

General Ignorance

- There is no evidence to suggest that Lady Godiva rode through the streets of Coventry naked. Godiva owned Coventry, and the first story about her riding naked was written in the 13th century, 200 years after she had lived. It was written by Roger of Wendover, who was famous for writing unreliable gossip. Roger's story is that Godiva's husband, the Earl of Mercia, had put large taxes on the people of Coventry which she thought were unfair. The Earl said that he would only get rid of them if she rode naked through Coventry and so she did, with the locals closing their eyes as she rode. But this whole story is false. (Forfeit: Rode naked through the town)

- Nobody knows what Mary Magdalene did for a living. She appears in all four Gospels, but at no point does anyone even refer to her as a sinner. At some point she became confused with two other women; Mary the sister of Martha, and an unnamed sinner from Luke's Gospel who washed Jesus's feet with hair. In the sixth century Pope Gregory the Great made this confusion official by declaring in a sermon that all three of these characters were the same person. This was the official line for over 1,000 years, but was corrected in 1969. (Forfeit: Prostitute)

- XL Tangent: Alan says that the third part of Sue's autobiography should be called "The Unnamed Sinner from Luke's Gospel".

- XL Tangent: Ross has an issue with a baroque picture of Mary Magdalene used to illustrate the question, which includes a picture of a child's head with wings and no body, known as a "putti". Ross claims that this is actually the knob-gobbler.

- You do not get a baby boom nine months after a black-out. In 1965 there was a black-out in New York and lots of people including The New York Times said there was a baby boom, but research shows that this never happened and The New York Times issued an apology. (Forfeit: There's a baby boom)


- Ross Noble: 2 points
- Alan Davies: -8 points
- Kathy Lette: -28 points
- Sue Perkins: -48 points

Broadcast details

Friday 5th December 2014
30 minutes


Show past repeats

Date Time Channel
Saturday 7th February 2015 9:05pm
45 minute version
Saturday 7th February 2015 10:40pm
45 minute version
BBC2 Wales
Wednesday 22nd April 2015 10:00pm BBC2
Monday 9th November 2015 10:00pm
60 minute version
Tuesday 10th November 2015 9:00pm
60 minute version
Tuesday 26th January 2016 1:00am
60 minute version
Tuesday 26th January 2016 9:00pm
60 minute version
Thursday 28th April 2016 12:00am
60 minute version
Thursday 28th April 2016 10:00pm
60 minute version
Thursday 4th August 2016 11:00pm
60 minute version
Friday 5th August 2016 8:00pm
60 minute version
Saturday 6th August 2016 10:30pm
45 minute version
Sunday 14th August 2016 1:25am
45 minute version
BBC2 Wales
Friday 26th August 2016 8:00pm
60 minute version
Friday 13th January 2017 8:00pm Dave
Saturday 14th January 2017 2:00pm
60 minute version
Saturday 25th March 2017 2:00pm
60 minute version
Tuesday 26th September 2017 8:00pm
60 minute version
Saturday 24th February 2018 2:50am
70 minute version
Thursday 31st May 2018 7:00pm
60 minute version
Friday 1st June 2018 1:00pm
60 minute version
Friday 26th October 2018 10:20pm
60 minute version
Saturday 27th October 2018 2:15am
50 minute version
Friday 21st December 2018 1:00am
60 minute version
Wednesday 8th January 2020 11:00pm Dave
Thursday 9th January 2020 1:00am Dave
Friday 3rd July 2020 7:40pm Dave
Friday 3rd July 2020 11:40pm Dave
Monday 28th December 2020 1:20am Dave
Monday 28th December 2020 8:20pm Dave
Wednesday 17th March 2021 12:40am Dave
Wednesday 17th March 2021 8:40pm Dave
Saturday 24th July 2021 11:20pm Dave
Sunday 25th July 2021 3:15am Dave
Wednesday 29th September 2021 8:20pm Dave
Thursday 30th September 2021 2:15am Dave

Cast & crew

Stephen Fry Host / Presenter
Alan Davies Regular Panellist
Guest cast
Sue Perkins Guest
Ross Noble Guest
Kathy Lette Guest
Writing team
James Harkin Script Editor
John Mitchinson Question Writer
Justin Pollard Question Writer
Molly Oldfield Question Writer
Andrew Hunter Murray Question Writer
Anne Miller Question Writer
Stevyn Colgan Question Writer
Production team
Ian Lorimer Director
John Lloyd (as John Lloyd CBE) Series Producer
Piers Fletcher Producer
Ruby Kuraishe Executive Producer
Suzanne McManus Executive Producer
Nick King Editor
Jonathan Paul Green Production Designer
Howard Goodall Composer
Mat Coward Researcher
Will Bowen Researcher
Anna Ptaszynski Researcher
Alex Bell Researcher
Ben Dupré Researcher


Radio Times review

It's one of those QI outings that barely feels like a quiz, more a pleasant meandering chat about this and that, as Stephen Fry, Kathy Lette and Sue Perkins discuss Suffragettes, the knock-on effects of Victorian corsets, and Fry admits he has never heard of their modern equivalent, Spanx.

Perkins is on wonderful form, not least when asked to name an Anglo-Saxon swearword, whereupon she gamely charges into the welcoming embrace of multiple klaxons (and bleeps). Elsewhere we hear the worst-ever Viking insult and the truth about history's most maligned woman, Mary Magdelene.

David Butcher, Radio Times, 5th December 2014

Share this page