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.

Returns Wednesday 23rd December at 9pm. Episode Guide
Series P, Episode 1 is repeated on Dave tomorrow at 10pm.

QI. Image shows from L to R: Alan Davies, Jo Brand, Sandi Toksvig, Phill Jupitus, Prue Leith.

Series Q, Episode 11 - Quaffing

Further details


- It would be a good idea to order 300 gin and tonics if you are suffering from malaria. The tonic water contains quinine, which is used to fight off the disease. However, tonic water today contains very little quinine, so in order for it to be effective you would have to drink 300 gin and tonics every single day. If you consume too much quinine you can get abnormal heart rhythms and double vision. Quinine comes from the distilled bark of the cinchona tree. The Quechua people, the indigenous population of South America, discovered this long before Europeans, but it was the Europeans who gave malaria to the Quechua. Quinine was first extracted in 1820 by two French scientists. The development of quinine transformed the world because it allowed European powers to colonise the rest of the world.

- XL Tangent: Consuming too many malaria pills can affect your vision. Sandi has known people on modern malaria medication that have ended up taking too much and having, "a psychotic reaction". Phill took malaria pills in Bolivia and claimed to have had mad dreams.

- XL Tangent: One of the few people who might have accepted drinking 300 gin and tonics a day was TV chef Clarissa Dickson Wright, who once was so ill that the doctors thought she had malaria. She actually had sticky blood, a condition that normally occurs when you consume too many quinine tablets over a long period, but she got it by consuming too many gin and tonics. She drank six pints of tonic a day over 12 years.

- XL Tangent: In Britain, quinine and tonic water saved the reputation of gin. When quinine was discovered as something that could cure malaria, gin had been the drink of the poorer classes. Suddenly it became a drink that everybody was happy to consume.

- XL Tangent: Quinine was responsible for the invention of modern dyes. Sir William Henry Perkin attempted to make a synthetic version of quinine, failed to do so, but from this he actually invented mauveine, the first synthetic dye, thus also inventeing the colour mauve and changing the world of fashion.

- Tangent: Before quinine was developed, malaria was treaded in various odd ways. In medieval Europe, one treatment was to be thrown headfirst into a bush and get out quickly enough to leave the fever behind. Another treatment was to eat an onion with "amen" written on it. Prue's mother used to eat raw onion sandwiches.

- XL Tangent: Malaria used to be called "Roman fever" and it is believed to be one of the reasons the Roman Empire collapsed. It is one of the oldest illnesses in the world. We have discovered mosquitoes with the malaria parasite fossilised in amber that is 30 million years old. A million people a year still die from malaria. The world "malaria" comes from medieval Italian "mal'aria", meaning, "bad air".

- XL Tangent: In 2014, a Californian firm made a perfume that made cows smell like humans, so mosquitoes would bite the cows instead of people, because cows cannot get malaria. Viagra is also used as a cure for malaria, because it can improve the spleen's ability to filter the parasite.

- Each of the panel have shot glasses containing drinks in them and they have to identify the contents. It is revealed that they are all energy drinks throughout different periods of history.

- Alan: Vinegar, ash and water, which was a drink consumed by Roman gladiators, who had a mostly vegetarian diet. The nearest modern version is activated charcoal shots. People who drink this today say it is good for hangovers and increasing your energy, but it can cause constipation and make your faeces black.

- XL Tangent: We get our information about what gladiators drank from Pliny the Elder. However, he also said that drinking bull's blood cured snake bites and that turnips provoke lust.

- Phill: Watered-down malt vinegar and dung, an energy drink consumed by Roman charioteers, although Phill's drink doesn't actually contain the dung. Nero swore by this when he took part in chariot races.

- XL Tangent: Ash has been used to preserve cheeses. Pure also believes ash was given to babies to help against croup. Jo jokes that this was when babies we allowed to smoke, and Alan adds to this by suggesting they put brandy on the lips. Phill says his grandmother used to put a shot of brandy in his milk as a baby.

- Jo: Blended ginger, which was a stimulant and has been used as such by every culture that has had access to it. Drinking ginger suppresses feelings of disgust. In 2019, the Journal of the American Psychological Association reported that people will be less disgusted by mildly disgusting things like snot in a handkerchief after drinking ginger.

- Prue: A modern energy drink, containing sugar, caffeine and taurine, the latter of which is even more stimulating than caffeine. The money made by the modern energy drink business is more than the fragrance and cannabis market combined.

- XL Tangent: If you don't want to turn them into a drink, there are various other things you can do to your ashes. One of these is that you can have your ashes turned into a drinking cup. Thus you could drink an ash energy drink out of the ashes of someone you loved. You can also have your ashes turned into tattoo ink, pencil lead or a cuddly toy.

- The closest to a cereal crop beginning with "Q" is Quaker oats. Quinoa is not a cereal crop because it is a seed, not a grass. This is good for Ashkenazi Jews, because they are not allowed to eat grains over Passover, but they can eat quinoa. Quinoa is considered to be a super food, containing a lot more protein that most plants, lots of iron, high in vitamin E and contains all ten amino acids needed to support human life. Having said that however, Haribo contains nine amino acids.

- XL Tangent: If you had a quinoa-only diet you would die. You would end up with scurvy and would be unable to clot blood. It does however contain quercetin, which is antiviral, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and an antidepressant. The first person to write a popular cookbook containing quinoa was Carol Vorderman.

- XL Tangent: Alan asks what ever happened to semolina. Prue uses a layer of semolina in the bottom of a pie to soak up juice and avoid getting a soggy bottom. As semolina is just wheat, it is just like the pastry and you won't taste it.

- XL Tangent: Phill came across quinoa fields of Bolivia. The quinoa flower has colours that come from a pigment called betalain, which is the same chemical that gives beetroot its colour. It also contains soap-like chemicals called saponins. Thus the Andean cultures use the husks as shampoo. NASA meanwhile are considering using quinoa as a food source for long space missions.

- Alan, Jo and Phill make some Danish Lemon Quaffles, with Prue reading out the instructions as the panel cook and judging the results. The ingredients are one egg, one half cup of buttermilk, five teaspoons of baking soda, one half teaspoon of vanilla, one cup of lemon juice, one cup and a quarter of sugar, seven eighths of a cup of all-purpose flour and eight tablespoons of melted butter. They also need a whisk, a bowl and a flask. The instructions are thus: "In a small bowl, beat the egg until foamy. Add the buttermilk and vanilla, and blend it well. Add the baking soda one teaspoon at a time, sprinkling it and beating until the mixture is smooth and the consistency of light cream. Pour the mixture into the beaker. Add the lemon juice, all at once, and blend into the mixture." Once the lemon juice is added however, the entire beaker fizzes up and overflows. This is because lemon juice is an acid, and when it mixes with the baking powder, which is a carbonate, it foams. The show invented this dish because it begins with a "Q", but the magicans Penn & Teller wrote a book called How to Play with your Food and features a similar recipe called "Swedish Lemon Angels".

- Phill is asked how many jokes he would exchange for the person on screen, the person in question being his daughter Emily Jupitus, who works as one of the QI Elves. Between the 5th and 2nd century BC in Athens, comedians were called "parasitos", literally meaning "parasites", and they made a living by turning up to dinner parties uninvited and exchanging jokes for food. They had their own jokes and kept them updated. One parasitos, Saturio, kept a whole chest full of joke books at his home and offered 600 jokes as a dowry for his daughter. Thus, Sandi decides to change things around and if Phill can make the audience laugh with a joke she will release Emily. Phill thus tells the following joke: a salesman knocks on the door of a house and it is opened by a five-year-old child with a cigar and a balloon of brandy on the go. The salesman asks the child if his parents are home, to which the child replies: "Does it look like they are?" Sandi considers the joke to be good enough and Emily is released.

- Tangent: The Ancient Greeks had stand-up comedy nights, but often only other comedians would attend. "The Group of 60" were Athenian wits who got together and exchanged jokes. In Athens one way of telling a joke was to begin with "The 60 said".

- Tangent: The very first joke book Europe ever had was published by the Vatican in the mid-1400s. The Vatican had a joke club called the Bugiale, and papal secretary Poggio Bracciolini kept a record of all these jokes, publishing 273 puns and jokes, most of which were obscene.

- XL Tangent: Bracciolini is famous for having beautiful handwriting. He is the creator of the very first Roman font and we believe he is the person behind Times New Roman.

- The most exciting diet in history was to eat nothing. At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, there were professional fasters called "hunger artists", who in public who display themselves and see who could fast for the longest. One man, Giovanni Succi, was paid over £250,000 in 1890 for lasting 40 days on stage in London without eating. In 1880, Dr. Herny Tanner bet that he could live just on water for 40 days and he made money from people just coming to watch him. A woman named Mollie Fancher, aka The Brooklyn Enigma, claimed to have psychic abilities due to starvation, and was challenged to go without food for 40 days while under round-the-clock observation by doctors, but she refused to do so in front of male doctors. However, it was then discovered that people had been secretly eating. The most recent example of someone starving themselves deliberately was magician David Blaine, who lasted 44 days while in a clear plastic box over London, and members of the public kept throwing things at him. It is believed that most people would probably last between 8-12 weeks without food. There is considered to be a "rule of three" in which you can survive three hours without shelter, three days without water and three weeks without food, although Alan believes this to be rubbish given that cricket matches last longer than three hours.

- Tangent: Another exciting diet was that consumed by the people of Paris when it was under siege by the Prussians in 1870, because the people had to eat animals from the city's zoo.

- Tangent: Phill asked that if the panel all fasted now, who he and Jo last longer because they are fatter. Sandi believes it is more to do with your metabolism and your ability to survive.

- Tangent: There is a breatharian diet which consists of nothing but light and air.

- XL Tangent: Patrick Moore wrote a book called "Can You Speak Venusian?" in which he established that the leader of the breatharians actually ate much like everyone else, but not as well, because he could only eat at places open very late at night, when nobody saw him go.

- Tangent: A team from the University of Southern California has recently discovered microbes that appear to live on almost nothing. The sediments of the Pacific Ocean contain microbes, and based on how much oxygen has depleted over the ages, researchers propose that the microbes may have been alive for 75 million years. The microbes appear to do nothing except metabolise really small amounts of food. It these microbes can understand time, these 75 million years will have passed really quickly for them, because an animal's ability to perceive time is linked to the speed of its metabolism. For example, a fly has a very fast metabolism and signals go to the brain really quickly. To them, a newspaper coming to them seems to move slowly and thus the fly can get away more quickly.

- XL: The panel are shown a basket full of quinces and are asked what newlyweds would do with them. From the ancient Greeks to the present, quinces have been associated with love and marriage. In the sixth century BC, Athenian lawmaker Solon decreed that during the wedding, the bride and bridegroom shall be shut into a chamber and eat a quince together. The Greeks believed that quinces trees sprang up from wherever Aphrodite, goddess of love, walked. Aphordite's father Uranus, was castrated by his son Cronus, and Uranus's genitals were thrown into the sea, and the foam created by the genitals is where Aphrodite first rose. Wikipedia lists Aphrodite's parents as "Uranus's severed genitals". Until the 16th century, quince was considered an aphrodisiac.

- XL Tangent: Prue finds raw quinces to be disgusting, but quince jelly is much better. Until the 19th century, all fruit was cooked because it was thought that eating anything raw was bad for you.

- XL Tangent: Quinces appear in the poem "The Owl and the Pussycat", which features the line: "They dined on mince, and slices of quince, which they ate with a runcible spoon." However, there is no such thing as a runcible spoon. The word was just made up to fit the poem.

- XL Tangent: Quince is good for making things set. It is good for giving apple pies a jelly bottom. Quince also helps jam to set. Quince however is rare to find today, as is medlar fruit which was popular in medieval times. In Victorian times, medlar fruit was known as "dog's arse" because of its appearance. There is a Medlar Street in London which still has some medlar trees in it.

- XL: You will find the world's most disgusting food in the Disgusting Food Museum in Malmo, Sweden. To qualify for entry, the food must be considered disgusting by some people somewhere in the world, they have to be genuinely eaten by some people as a choice, and it can't be something made just for tourists. Examples of food in the museum include bull testicles, which the Americans eat as prairie oysters; Mongolian Mary, a sheep's eye in tomato juice which the Mongolians consider a hangover cure; and bull penis, which is served as soup in Bolivia. The museum doesn't have any food in it which involves any animal cruelty. The Museum have reported that a large number of people who have visited have a drastic reduction in meat consumption, and vomiting is such an issue that all the tickets to the museum are printed on sick bags.

- XL Tangent: Penises are popular in drinks. There are three penises in Chinese three-penis wine, namely those of a seal, a deer and a dog.

- XL Tangent: Sandi asks why people don't eat more rabbit in Britain, and Phill remembers from a previous QI episode that if you eat nothing but rabbit you would die.

General Ignorance

- The most expensive liquid on Earth is racehorse semen. For a mare to be serviced by one famous thoroughbred called Galileo would cost the owner about £540,000. The average volume of a stallion's ejaculation is 65ml, so Galileo would need to ejaculate 70 times in order to produce one gallon of semen, which would be worth almost £50million per gallon. One common internet myth is that scorpion venom is the most expensive liquid is the most expensive at £30million per gallon, but scientists have worked out a new way of breeding and milking scorpions so the value has come down to £70,000 per gallon. In comparison, LSD is £123,000 per gallon, Chanel No. 5 is £20,000 per gallon, printer ink is £2,000 per gallon. (Forfeit: Wine)

- Tangent: There is someone on the internet selling vials of bathwater used by musicians like Elvis Presley and The Beatles. Alan comments that Elvis died on the toilet, to which Phill replies that this particular form of water is much cheaper.

- Traditional marmalade is made from quince. Etymologically speaking, "marmalade" should be made from quince. One myth for the word's etymology is that it comes from "Marie est malade", namely Mary Queen of Scots supposedly eating it when she was sick, and it comes from the French for: "She is sick". It actually comes from an old Portuguese word for quince, "marmelo". (Forfeit: Oranges)

- Tangent: A "marmalade madam" is a 17th-18th century term for a prostitute. Jo used to live next to a madam of a brothel, who used to tell Jo which newsreaders came visit, leading to the panel to suggest what they said during sex, such as "And finally...", "This just in", and "And now showers."


- Phill Jupitus: 6 points
- Alan Davies: 2 points
- Prue Leith: -1 point
- Jo Brand: -13 points

Broadcast details

Friday 10th January 2020
30 minutes

Cast & crew

Regular cast
Sandi Toksvig Host / Presenter
Alan Davies Regular Panellist
Guest cast
Jo Brand Guest
Phill Jupitus Guest
Prue Leith Guest
Writing team
Anna Ptaszynski Script Editor
Sandi Toksvig Script Editor
James Harkin Question Writer
Production team
Diccon Ramsay Director
John Lloyd (as John Lloyd CBE) Series Producer
Piers Fletcher Producer


QI XS: How long does chewing gum stay in your body?

QI XS is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of QI, featuring bonus questions, experiments and insights from the Elves. This episode is all about the Series Q episode Quaffing, starring Alex Bell, James Harkin and Anna Ptaszynski.


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