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


BBC Two and BBC One panel show about quite interesting facts. 266 episodes (pilot + 18 series), 2003 - 2020. Stars Sandi Toksvig, Stephen Fry and Alan Davies.

Series R returning soon
Series N, Episode 11 is repeated on Dave today at 10pm.

QI. Image shows from L to R: Alan Davies, Cariad Lloyd, Sandi Toksvig, Sarah Millican, Alice Levine. Copyright: TalkbackThames.

Series O, Episode 11 - Objects And Ornaments

Sandi Toksvig looks at some Objects And Ornaments. Along the way, you'll discover where you can find an actual UFO, and meet the world's best-dressed crab. With Sarah Millican, Alice Levine and Cariad Lloyd.

Further details


- This is a "General" show in Series O, covering a wide range of different topics beginning with "O".


- The place where you are most likely to come across a UFO is the ocean. The most common and most dangerous UFOs are Unidentified Floating Objects - pieces of lost cargo that lie on shipping routes that can damage ships. Between 2008-13 an average of 1,700 shipping containers were lost at sea. Half of those came from a single ship, the MOL Comfort, a ship that broke in half and the containers sank. (Forfeit: In the sky)

- Tangent: In 2008, a 6ft tall Lego man washed up on Brighton beach. Sandi really wants to know where it went. Sarah asks why it wasn't a Lego woman who got washed up, to which Alan replied that it wasn't "beach ready". In February 2017, £50million worth of cocaine washed up on a beach in Norfolk.

- Tangent: The UFO National Reporting Centre is for reporting cases of Unidentified Flying Objects. The first reporting centre was created by American fireman Robert Gribble. Since 1905 there have been 105,000 reports of alien sightings, a tenth of which come from the UK. The best place in the UK to see a UFO in Bonnybridge, Scotland, which they illustrate with a photo they took that was photobombed by local councillor Billy Buchanan. The town however is part of the "Falkirk Triangle", which is directly under three flight paths, including those for Edinburgh and Glasgow airports. Meanwhile, in the USA the best place to find aliens is Roswell, New Mexico. Even the street lights are decorated with alien faces.

- Tangent: Sarah thinks the best UFO sighting spot in the UK is near where she lives, because her dog doesn't bark at any people except one family that lives nearby.

- XL Tangent: The first flying saucers were not saucer shaped. In 1947, pilot Kenneth Arnold reported seeing nine objects whose movement was, "like a saucer if you skipped it across water". His UFO's were more crescent or boomerang shaped.

- XL Tangent: Roswell has an annual alien festival that has an alien pet competition, in which you try to make you pets look as alien as possible.

- Tangent: For £120 a year, you can be insured against alien impregnation. Men can also be given this insurance, "for protection against the unknown capabilities of alien technology." More than 30,000 of these policies have been sold. In 2000, three sisters from Inverness insured themselves against the possibility of miraculously conceiving and giving birth to the second Christ.

- XL Tangent: One alien insurance policy is called the Goodfellow Rebecca Ingrams Pearson policy, which has the acronym GRIP, so you can "Get a GRIP policy."

- XL Tangent: Probably the earliest picture of a UFO is from 1561 over the skies in Nuremberg. Witnesses reported that for an hour there were flashes and lights all over the place. People now believe it to be a "mock sun" or "sun dog" which occurs when the sun is reflecting off ice crystals in the sky. At the time a report in Nuremberg's gazette read: "At the dawn of April 4th in the sky of Nuremberg, a lot of men and women saw a very alarming spectacle where various objects were involved, including balls approximately three in the length from time to time, four in a square, much remained insulated, and between these balls, one saw a number of crosses with the colour of blood. Then one saw two large pipes in which small and large pipes were three balls, also four or more. All these elements started to fight, one against the other." The word "gazette" comes from the name of a Venetian coin, as the first newspapers in Venice in the early-to-mid-16th century were solded for a coin called a gazzetta.

- If you woke up covered in orange paint, there was confetti everywhere and you smelled of smoke, you may have committed an offense. In Japan, shop staff throw orange paintballs the size of tennis balls at offenders. However, at moments of stress staff often forget them, freeze, or don't throw them if the offender is armed with a more dangerous weapon. There is also the danger of hitting the wrong person. Signs warning of staff using the orange balls do seem to have an effect as well. In some UK stores they uses smoke machines to obscure the offender's view. Taser guns release confetti in order to prevent people from using it to commit a crime. In order to use one you have to register with the company that makes them, and the confetti contains a number that recognises that confetti to that particular taser.

- Tangent: Similar to the orange paintball signs, in Britain shops like Poundland put cut out pictures of police officers to deter criminals. Sandi was once on a train with some loud drunk people, and she got so annoyed that she stood up and shouted: "That will do!" They said, "Sorry" and stopped.

- XL Tangent: Another sign that you were an offender is if you were wrapped up in a futon. In Japan, drunk or violent people are wrapped up in plastic futons and are then carried to the cells to calm down. In 2014, the Japanese police only fired six shots in the entire country, compared to the USA where they had 32,599 gun deaths. There is a Japanese office supply company that sells wearable futon air mat sets so that people can sleep at work. In Japan, sleeping at work is considered a good thing. "Inemuri" is the Japanese culture of sleeping anywhere people, especially the "salary men" who are working so hard.

- Tangent: When Sarah got married some people threw rice rather than confetti, and she claims that rice really hurts.

- The thing Lord Montague's secretary was doing on the bonnet of his car was being the model for the Spirit of Ecstasy on Rolls Royce cars. Eleanor Thornton commissioned this model personally for the front of his 1910 Silver Ghost. The original was called "The Whisper", because allegedly there was a love affair between the two. There had been other odd car ornaments, but Rolls Royce standardised it for their cars.

- XL Tangent: In 1907, a picture circulated of a robin that had been impaled on a car ornament, which resulted in a backlash against having any car ornaments at all. If you have an ornament on your car today they need to be spring-loaded.

- Tangent: The DVLA has a list of banned licence plates that runs to 46 pages. One is X351 ARO, which in a rear view mirror reads "Oral sex". Others include DO66 ERS, HE12 OIN, SC12 OTM and AL60 HOL (Doggers, Heroin, Scrotum and Alcohol). In America however, you can by a pair of fake testicles to hang from your car, which are called "Truck nuts". Some states have banned them.

- XL Tangent: In Virginia, the law banning truck nuts states: "No person shall display upon or equip any motor vehicle with any device that depicts, represents or resembles human genitalia, regardless of size or scale."

- The world's best dressed crab is the dresser crab, also known as the decorator crab. This crab gathers material from all around itself and uses it as camouflage clothing. They use seaweed, sponge and pearls. The crabs chew the material to make it fibrous, then attach it to their Velcro-like claws and legs. This is an example of an "augmented animal". Another is the Uraba lugens caterpillar that keeps its old heads and wears them as hats, thus it is also known as the "mad hatterpillar". Yet another is the beetle Nymphister kronaueri, which disguises itself as an army ant's bottom.

- XL Tangent: Creatures that live with ants are called "myrmecophiles".

- The panel are shown a painting and are asked what the woman at the back of the picture is saying. The painting is of Clara the Rhinoceros of 1751, who for 17 years was toured around Europe. She had no horn because she rubbed it away, living a very distressed live. The woman is wearing a Venetian black velvet mask called a "moretta muta". In the 16th century they were held up by biting onto a button so she is not saying anything. The reason for wearing her mask is to protect her face, because a sign of how wealthy you were was how white your face was, because it showed you didn't get a tan caused by working in the fields, so the mask was there to protect against sunburn.

- XL Tangent: The oldest example of these velvet button masks is the Daventry Mask that was found in Northamptonshire inside a wall, while renovating a 16th century building.

- XL Tangent: In Vietnam, the women on beaches are always covered up because they too want white skin, otherwise they look like a peasant.

- XL Tangent: Alice has to wear factor 50 sunscreen, because she says that in the sun, "I look like a newborn fish. You can see, like, through my skin and see my organs." Sunscreen was invented in 1938 by chemistry student Franz Greiter, who got sunburned while climbing the Piz Buin peak in the Alps. He called his cream "glacier cream", and his cream is the one that is made by the Piz Buin company. In Wales, if you are sick the morning after drinking too much, it is known as "piz buin", which means vomiting.

- XL: The largest creature in the world that gets sunburn really is the blue whale. Blue whales spend less time breathing at the surface than sperm whales, but their blue skin pigmentation means it is more likely to get sunburned.

- The panel are shown a human-like ornament and are asked where you would find them. It is actually an orchid called the Orchis italic, which has people-shaped petals. Thus it is also known as the "naked man orchid". There are also orchids shaped like a laughing bumblebee, a swaddled baby, and the "Dutchman's pipe" which Sandi's thinks looks like Darth Vader. It also smells of rotten flesh. In Old English, orchids where called "bullockwarts". The ghost orchid is one of Britain's rarest plants; it was discovered in 1845.

- XL Tangent: The Dutchman's pipe orchid pollinates using its two eye-like membranes to let light in. The insects are attracted to the rotting flesh smell, go down the holes, get trapped in hairs which makes them shake about, and covers them in pollen. The hairs then wither away before the insect dies, and they fly out and carry and pollen.

- XL Tangent: There are snapdragons that look like human skulls.

- XL Tangent: There was a mania for collecting orchids called "orchid delirium" that occurred in the UK in the early 19th century. Naturalist William John Swainson had packed some orchids which hadn't flowered, mistaking them for weeds, and used them as packaging material. When they arrived in the country the orchids has burst into bloom. The orchids were being traded for over $1,000 per plant, which is $25,000 today.

- XL Tangent: Motorbike salesman Mark Jannink spent much of his time trying to find ghost orchids, and when he found one in 2009 he said to it: "Hello, you. So there you are." Ghost orchids get their name partly from the colour, but also because they are somewhat spooky as they have no chlorophyll. Ghost orchids are parasites which steal energy from funguses below ground, meaning it can live in dark, shaded woods, which makes it even harder to find them.

- XL: An object that is designed to fail is one with planned obsolescence. These are products that are designed to stop working at a certain point so you have to go out and buy a new one. It began in the 1920s when a group of light bulb manufacturers called the Phoebus cartel decided to reduce the lifespan of light bulbs down to 1,000 hours. The companies would fine each other if the bulbs lasted longer. Modern energy saving light bulbs last about 2,500 hours. Other examples of planned obsolescence include nylon tights, where DuPont deliberately made the nylon fragile; while in the 1920s the head of General Motors, Alfred P. Sloan, had the idea of changing the design every year, which became known as "dynamic obsolescence". In 1932, a man called Bernard London wrote a book called Ending the Depression through Planned Obsolescence. Something else that seems to have planned obsolescence is printer cartridges: in North America over 350 million cartridges that are often not empty are dumped annually.

- XL Tangent: The oldest light bulb that is still going is in a Californian fire station. It has been going for 115 years, and there is a webcam on it so you can see the light bulb on.

- XL Tangent: Cariad once put nail polish on some ripped nylon tights to repair them, but forgot about it and so pulled some leg hairs out when taking them off. Sandi only has red nail polish, so she says she would like a mild burns victim.

- XL Tangent: Alice asks if ham with images of faces on it is an example of dynamic obsolescence, but Sandi doesn't know what she is talking about.

General Ignorance

- The panel are shown a top made out of chainmail and are asked what a medieval knight would call it. They would just call it "mail". This is an example of a Victorian pleonasm, where more words than necessary are used to describe something. (Forfeit: Chainmail)

- Tangent: It took seven years to film The Lord of the Rings and there was a man who only job was to cut a thin plastic tube every single day in order to make fake chainmail for all the actors and extras. One of the extras on the DVDs is to watch him doing this job for 40 hours. He said that it was "the best experience of my entire life."

- The thing you would have seen tumbling across the prairie if George Washington made a terrible joke would be nothing. Tumbleweed is native to Russia and there was none in the USA during his lifetime. It was accidentally imported into the country in the 19th century. A single tumbleweed can become the size of VW Beetle. They can bury houses and spread forest fires. They scatter seeds as they tumble, 250,000 per plant. In 2016, in Wangaratta, Australia, the city was hit by a type of tumbleweed called "hairy panic". (Forfeit: Tumbleweed)

- XL Tangent: There is no evidence to show if George Washington ever told a joke, but when Sandi grew up in the USA they celebrated Washington's birthday, and there is a tradition of telling George Washington jokes. Some of the jokes Sandi recalls include: "What would George Washington be if he were alive today? Really, really old", and: "How did George Washington speak to his army? In general terms."

- Sandi gives everyone tea, and asks how many millilitres of water, to the nearest hundred, it took to make tea all five of them, with milk and two sugars added. It is 52,000ml, if you start from scratch. 30 litres are used to grow the amount of tea used in a single tea bag, 10 litres of water are needed to produce the milk, and 12 litres for all the sugar (6 per teaspoon). There are 60 billion cups of tea consumed in Britain every year, so three thousand billion litres of water is used, which is ten times the amount of water in Lake Windermere. (Forfeit: 300; 200; 100)

- XL: The cups the panel are drinking their tea out of are made up of polystyrene. Styrofoam is extruded polystyrene, whereas the cups are made out of expanded polystyrene. (Forfeit: Styrofoam)


- Cariad Lloyd: 4 points
- Alice Levine: -18 points
- Sarah Millican: -29 points
- Alan Davies: -34 points

Objection Object Prize

- Cariad wins a pair of truck nuts.

Broadcast details

Friday 12th January 2018
30 minutes

Cast & crew

Regular cast
Sandi Toksvig Host / Presenter
Alan Davies Regular Panellist
Guest cast
Sarah Millican Guest
Cariad Lloyd Guest
Alice Levine Guest
Writing team
James Harkin Script Editor
Anne Miller Question Writer
Production team
Ian Lorimer Director
John Lloyd (as John Lloyd CBE) Series Producer
Piers Fletcher Producer
Kalpna Patel-Knight Executive Producer

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