Series N, Episode 4 - Noble Rot
- It is not possible to name 'a nobleman who invented a hot drink you might enjoy with your hobnob'. Despite various stories, neither Earl Grey tea or hobnobs were invented by members of the nobility - these stories are PR inventions. However, even today packets of Earl Grey tea still claim that the Earl invented it. No-one knows for sure why Earl Grey tea was named after him, and he was most likely dead for 40 years by the time it was invented. Food that is actually associated with nobles include beef wellington, named after the Duke of Wellington, and battenberg cake, which was created for the marriage of Prince Louis of Battenberg in 1884.
- You could improve your job prospects by getting nicked... if you were a German with a duelling scar. Until the Second World War, duelling with swords was a huge part of aristocratic society. Today there are about 160 student duelling clubs. The duels involve standing still and with your left hand behind your back. The people who populate these clubs tend to also be the people who end up dominating big business. The events also involve singing patriotic songs and such prodigious drinking contests that they have special 'puking basins'.
- You can tell the difference between a nob and a yob by the way they speak. In 1954, linguistics professor Alan Ross of Aston University, Birmingham, created the categorisations of "U" and "non-U" ("Upper" and "non-Upper") to distinguish speech patterns. The following year Nancy Mitford picked this up in an essay and said that you could no longer tell the difference between the lower and upper classes via any method except language. This caused problems for middle-class people as what terms they should use in order to sound more upper, such as whether to say "loo paper" or "toilet paper".
- XL: The panel play a game called "Posh or Becks" in which they are asked some questions indicating how posh they are.
- The panel are shown a map of the mainland United States, with certain places lit in orange and others in blue, and are asked what is so darn shocking about the map. The answer is that the map shows where people are most likely to use the word "darn". The word "darn" is a euphemism for "damn" created in 1781. The areas most likely to use the term, coloured orange, are clustered around the centre and the north of the country. The results were compiled by using messages from nine billion tweets that were geocoded. Other maps show that "gosh" is mainly said in Nebraska, Texas and southern states; while "asshole" is used mainly in New England but hardly at all in the Deep South.
- In Vancouver, Canada you cannot have knobs on your door. A 2014 law states that new buildings must have levers because they are easier to open if you suffer from arthritis. A year before the ban was introduced a pro-knob lobby was formed, and the president of the Antique Doorknob Collectors of America, Allen Joslyn, said: "To say that when I build my private home and nobody is disabled that I have to put levers on strikes me as overreach." In Pitkin County, Colorado, they have the exact opposite law, banning levels and only having knobs, in order to stop wild bears from opening doors.
- XL: It is probably not a good idea for Alan to say he was nice and natural, because originally these words were insults. The word "nice" comes from the Latin for "ignorant", and it originally meant someone who was foolish or silly, and the word was always critical and negative up to the 17th century, when it began to take on its modern-day meaning. An earlier meaning of the word "natural" was a born fool or idiot. (Forfeit: Yes)
- XL: The thing that should have won a Nobel Prize but didn't was the theory of relativity. Albert Einstein's Nobel Prize was for his work on the photoelectric effect. Einstein was nominated every year for a decade for his work on relativity but he never won, which was unfortunate as he had promised his ex-wife the prize money as a part of a divorce settlement. The reasons given for not awarding Einstein the prize was that there was no experimental confirmation of his theory. Additionally, it is possible there was an anti-Semitic faction of the Nobel panel that was constantly blocking him. In 1919 Arthur Eddington measured the deflection of light during a solar eclipse, proving the theory. Even so, Eddington's measurements were cast into doubt and Einstein never received the award for his work on relativity.
- The thing that the royal families of Europe wore under their uniforms during the 19th century was tattoos. Among those who were tattooed include Grand Duke Alexei of Russia, Prince and Princess Valdemar of Denmark, Queen Olga of Greece, King Oscar of Sweden, the Grand Duke Konstantin, and Edward VII and George V of Britain. When Edward VII visited Jerusalem as Prince of Wales aged 20, he had five crosses tattooed on him, and then George had the same design done by the same artist 20 years later. Another tattooed king was Jean-Baptiste Jules Bernadotte, who was originally Napoleon's marshal and a revolutionary firebrand before later becoming king of Sweden and Norway. He reigned for 26 years after Napoleon was deposed, and during his reign he never allowed doctors to see his naked torso. After he died it was revealed that on his torso he had a tattoo that said: "Death to kings". His heirs are still the Swedish royal family. (Forfeit: Nothing)
- XL: The panel are shown a picture of a green neon sign saying "Oxygen" and are asked what gas is used to light it up. It is lit up by argon. Not all neon signs contain neon, as different gases give off different colours. Neon gives off a red light. Alternatively, you can use different coloured glass in the tube. (Forfeit: Neon, Oxygen)
- Queen Victoria's first name was Alexandrina. She was named after her godfather Alexander I of Russia, and her mother, Victoria. As a child she was called Drina. When she became Queen she asked for her first name to be removed and never used again. This is possibly to do with being her own person, as her very first act as Queen was to have her bed moved out of her mother's bedroom. (Forfeit: Victoria)
- Under the Emperor Diocletian, Rome had four capitals: Nicomedia (now in Turkey), Sirmium (in Serbia), Mediolanum (Milan) and Augusta Treverorum (Trier). When he came into power in 284AD the Roman Empire was on the verge of collapse so he decided that the empire should be ruled by four emperors. Diocletian was so successful as emperor that he was the first one able to retire. He went to live on the Dalmatian coast, where he grew vegetables. (Forfeit: Constantinople; Rome)
- XL: The BBC's most popular television export is Keeping Up Appearances. It is particularly popular in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. Denmark has just placed another order for the series. (Forfeit: Doctor Who)
- Friday 11th November 2016
- BBC Two
- 30 minutes
Cast & crew
|Sandi Toksvig||Host / Presenter|
|Alan Davies||Regular Panellist|
|James Harkin||Script Editor|
|Ben Dupré||Question Writer|
|John Lloyd (as John Lloyd CBE)||Series Producer|
|Sohail Shah||Executive Producer|
|Jonathan Paul Green||Production Designer|