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


  • TV panel show
  • BBC Two / BBC One / BBC Four
  • 2003 - 2022
  • 279 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.

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Series Q, Episode 12 - Quagmire

QI. Image shows from L to R: Alan Davies, Sally Phillips, Sindhu Vee, Sandi Toksvig, Aisling Bea

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Further details


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


- The thing that is old, cheesy and found in the Bog of Allen is butter, which among other things is a bog that Aisling used to visit as a child in County Kildare. Butter was sometimes buried in cloth or barrels, and left there because the bog preserves it. Some of the butter has been left there for 2,000 years and because of the cold temperatures, high acidity and lack of oxygen, things in it decompose extremely slowly. Thus this 2,000-year-old butter is still edible. The main reasons for burying butter in the bog were to protect it from theft and to preserve it during summer. One man, Brian Kaller, recreated bog butter in the Bog of Allen for an experiment. He only kept it for 18 months, but described the butter has having, "an earthy flavour not unlike Parmesan cheese" and it is good on popcorn.

- Tangent: There is a man on YouTube who has a whole channel devoted to whether stuff can be flushed down a toilet.

- Tangent: Aisling recalls having to cross the bog on planks. Another time she was on a Catholic retreat and she had cross the bog at the dead of night.

- Tangent: In summer, Sindhu's mother would make yoghurt and Sindhu was told to put in the mud to preserve it. But then she would forget where it was, and jokingly claims that the reason she is now in England is because she had to leave rather than tell her mother that she lost it.

- Tangent: Denmark is home to one of the best-preserved bog bodies, the Tollund Man. Many of these bog bodies were found to be the victims of "over-killing". One body was found to have been hanged, beaten, strangled and stabbed before being thrown into the bog. Sindhu asks if we know this is how people in bogs end up, what kind of school takes children on a bog school trip, to which Aisling replies, "An Irish Catholic school!"

- Tangent: Wales is home to pastime of bog snorkelling, something which Sally knows about due to her role in the BBC Wales sitcom Tourist Trap where she plays the head of the Welsh Tourist Board. It was invented in a pub in the 1970s, and is a swimming race in a muddy trench of the Waen Rhydd bog. Contenders have to swim 110m through the marsh wearing a mask, snorkel and flippers.

- XL Tangent: About 3% of the world's surface is covered in peat and it is a really good carbon sink. It stores twice as much carbon as all the forests in the world.

- XL Tangent: Aisling believes that the Bog of Allen has a famine museum.

- Quorn comes from a hunt. Quorn is actually made from a mycoprotein, a type of fungus, but the name "Quorn" comes from Quorn Hall, Leicestershire, in the village of Quorn. It was the home of Hugo Meynell MP, a passionate huntsman. In 1914, the Quorn Specialist Company of Leicester registered the word "Quorn" as a trademark. The company made custard powder, sauces and stuffings. In 2004, the Quorn Hunt tried to register their name for a range of non-foodstuffs and they were not allowed to do so, because Marlow Foods, who now own Quorn, objected on the grounds that they might be adversely affected by being associated with a hunt.

- Tangent: The first time Sindhu went to Denmark to meet her future in-laws, her husband took her to McDonald's. Her husband ask for a vegetarian Big Mac for Sindhu and a normal one for himself. The person serving them made two Big Macs, but for Sindhu they just took out the burger and gave her the rest.

- XL Tangent: Each of the panellists has been given a vegan sausage roll. One vegan sausage roll contains half your recommended daily saturated fat, a third of your recommended salts, has more calories than a McDonald's cheeseburger, and uses palm oil, the farming of which is responsible for 80% of the world's deforestation between 1990 and 2008. However, the fact it doesn't contain meat is good on the grounds that the carbon emissions of the meat market are so vast. According to the UN, the meat market makes up 18% of the world's total carbon emissions, more than all forms of transport put together. Apart from the direct emissions such as the burping and farting from cows, there is also carbon produced by clearing land, producing animal feed, food manufacturing, fertiliser production for animal feed, pumping water for animals to drink and refrigerating the meat. A third of all fossil fuel produced in the US goes towards animal agriculture.

- XL Tangent: People object to soya milk saying it is bad for the environment, but most soya grown is for cattle feed. Sandi started drinking soya milk because people told her it was good for her, but she developed kidney stones. Almond milk takes millions of gallons of water to produce because almonds need lots of water to be grown. Probably the most sustainable alternative milk is oat milk, but the science to develop it is relatively new. Oat milk comes from Sweden.

- The person who searches for scollocks around a bunny hole is a hollibbber - a Cornish quarry worker. Scollocks are small pieces of stone which you might find around the edge of a quarry, while a bunny hole is the entrance to the quarry or mine, and a hollibubber is someone who makes a living collecting scollocks. Other examples of quarrying slang include "to knob", which is to remove protruding pieces of stone, a "throstle-breast" is any kind of stone which has got a spotted appearance, a "dumble-hole" is a derelict quarry, and "leggo" is an old word for a fault in a quarry. The word "quarry" comes from the Latin meaning, "to make square".

- Tangent: The problem with the biggest stone ever quarried was that it was too heavy to move. Found in Lebanon in 2014, the Stone of the Pregnant Woman weighs 1,650 tonnes, the same as 500 elephants or 8.25 blue whales. It was probably cut 2,000 years ago by the Romans for a nearby temple of Jupiter.

- XL Tangent: There was a theory that woman who touched the Stone of the Pregnant Woman were more likely to get pregnant. There is also a Fatman Mountain in Montana.

- XL Tangent: The largest stone ever moved was the Thunder Stone. It was commissioned by Catherine the Great to go under a statue of Peter the Great called, "The Bronze Horseman". The legend is that the rock was originally split by thunder. The Thunder Stone weighed 1,500 tonnes, which is about eight times the weight of a bungalow. It took 400 men nine months to move it 6km. The workers had to dig the stone out of a bog, and in order to move they had to invent a precursor to the ball bearing. They used a system of small bronze spheres on which the rock slid over ice to get the stone to St. Petersburg, and the track behind it had to keep being dismantled so it could be laid out in front to keep it moving. Sally says that the only thing she knows about Catherine the Great is that she had sex with a horse, which is not true.

- Tangent: There was a disused quarry in Buxton which had bright blue water in it, which looked so inviting that people swam in it. However, the colour came from caustic alkaline chemicals in the rock which gives it a really high PH. The pool's PH is 11.3, whereas bleach has a PH of 12.3. Thus the swimmers got painful rashes. The local council put signs up warning people not to swim in it, but the swimmers still ignored it. Thus, in 2013 the council decided to dye the water black, and that put off the swimmers.

- One way to be certain that you are not drunk right now is to have amethyst on you. Amethyst, a violet version of quartz, is traditionally worn by Anglican bishops, who have amethyst rings to remind themselves that they are not drunk. The Ancient Greeks believed that amethyst prevented drunkenness, and the word comes from "amethustos", which translates as "not intoxicated".

- Tangent: Sally's body once became a micro-brewery. She once went to Mexico with Oxfam, and the locals ate chicken by killing them, rolling them in cocoa and cooking them in bins. Sally ate this and as a result was hospitalised with salmonella. For months after that she had a form of chronic fatigue syndrome, and no-one could work out exactly what was wrong. It was discovered that she had yeast, and thus thrush in her brain. This in turn produced alcohol, thus making her drunk all the time.

- A Scotsman would want a glass bottom to see what was going on while drinking. In Scotland a special kind of cup called a "quaich" is used for drinking whisky. It is a shallow cup with handles at each end. Some people believe that Bonnie Prince Charlie liked having a glass bottom to his quaich so that he could see if his enemies were up to anything.

- Tangent: The panel all drink a small bottle of "Toksvig's Finest" Danish whisky.

- XL Tangent: In Scotland you might also want to drink and toast whisky over a glass of water. This is because in 1688 the Stuarts were exiled to France and their Scottish supporters who wanted the king to return would toast over water because the king was across the water of the Channel. The desire to suppress the spirit of rebellion in the Jacobites was so strong that finger bowls were reportedly burned at court from 1746 until 1905.

- XL Tangent: No-one knows where the quaich comes from. The National Museum of Scotland recounts it evolved from scallop shells. Another theory is that evolved from bleeding cups used for blood-letting.

- Tangent: In Ancient Greece, a kylix was a shallow drinking cup for wine which had obscene pictures painted on the inside that were slowly revealed as you drank. Pictures included people having sex, a man wiping his bottom, naked people, eyes so when you lifted the cup it looked like you were wearing a mask while drinking, and ships so that when you drank it looked like ships were sailing on the wine. A kylix is being shown to illustrate this topic, but a man's groin is heavily censored. Sandi asks the audience if they want the pixels removed, and they do, but when they are removed it is shown that nothing rude is being covered up anyway.

- XL: The panellists are each given a military cap with a fake quiff hanging from the front and are asked who would wear it. Around the 20th century close-cropped hair was considered vital for soldiers, but if you wanted to make a fashion statement, you were allowed one exception, which was a quiff plastered to the forehead. If you could not grow a quiff, you could have a fake one stuck to the inside of your cap. This was particularly popular amongst men who had just left military prison. You could use grease or soap to turn it into a ringlet. Officers objected to it, saying it was effeminate and un-soldierly. In 1904, soldiers were banned from wearing their caps too far back on their heads in order to display their quiffs.

- XL Tangent: Another military hairstyle was the queue, a long ponytail worn by members of the Royal Navy. It was standard to have this until the early 19th century. Today, members of the Royal Navy have to have short back and sides, and they have specifically banned designer stubble, hipster beards and handlebar moustaches. Submariners don't have facial hair so that their facemasks and breathing apparatus can fit them.

- XL: The correct way to complete the saying: "The people of Qi worry about..." is with the words, "...the sky". Qi was a small kingdom that existed between the 11th and the 3rd century BC in China. Today they are best known for the idiom that is the subject of the question. The idiom means:, "Don't worry about something that is extremely unlikely to happen", and the people of Qi often talked anxiously about the sky falling on their heads. The Qi were the first people to build a great wall, to keep out their neighbours, the Chu. Construction on the wall began in 685 BC and it was 600km long. Qi as the last major state to fall to the Qin when China was unified, with the word "China" coming from the Qin people. (Forfeit: The klaxon)

- XL Tangent: Sindhu suggests the answer is, "very small things." She says this because her youngest child was reading a QI book and asked her: "Mama, what is seh-men?" Sindhu replied: "What is the context? Read me the sentence." The sentence was about bee semen, and her child asked what it was. Sindhu told her to, "Take the book to school, talk to your teacher, because she is paid to explain these things."

- XL Tangent: There is another Chinese word, "qi", referring to the vapour given off cereals as they are cooked. It became a sort of word for breath, which could be translated into English as, "smell", "spirit" or "atmosphere". It is from this that "Chi energy" gets its name, which is a central concept in feng shui. One place that reportedly has good chi energy is Hong Kong, because it has an auspicious position between the sea and the mountains. Buildings are designed to let energy flow freely, including some tower blocks and skyscrapers having large holes in them to allow dragons to fly through them.

General Ignorance

- Other than a dog, the one thing you need to play a game of fetch is an arm to throw stuff with. The item being fetched however should not be a stick. The People's Dispensary of Sick Animals say that sticks cause horrible injuries to dogs such as pieces of wood getting lodged in the throat, cuts, splinters, pieces of wood going into their digestive system. As far as Sandi is concerned, all you need is a ball, and she demonstrates with a piece of film where she plays fetch with her dog Mildred.

- Tangent: In terms of whether or not dogs are clever, it depends on whether you like dogs. Various studies show that dog intelligence is average in comparison to similar animals, but people who like dogs will be of the belief that dogs are clever than average.

- The panel are shown a picture of fruit in plastic wrapping and are ask what is so wasteful about it. According to some environmentalists, the carbon release associated with food waste is a much greater problem than any pollution caused by plastic waste. Sometimes food wrapped in plastic is a good thing, because it keeps the food fresh for longer. A shrink-wrapped cucumber will last four times longer a loose one, bananas in a perforated plastic bag will last twice as long as a loose bunch, and pears in a plastic bag in a fridge will last 14 days longer than left loose in a fruit bowl. The best thing to do is not to buy food you are going to throw out at all.

- The Chinese dynasty that made the most valuable vases was the Qing. In 2010, a Qing vase sold for £43million at auction. This vase was found by a brother and sister in their parents' attic in West London and no-one knew how it had ended up there. In comparison, the most expensive Ming vase was sold in 2011 for £17.25million. Elsewhere a Ding vase was once bought for $3 at a yard sale in New York and it later sold for $2.2million. Part of the reason these items sell for so much is because of patriotism of the newly wealthy Chinese collectors. (Forfeit: Ming)

- Tangent: Aisling says that she watches Antiques Roadshow she is waiting for someone to come on and swear so much after they learn just how much something is really worth. Aisling has to be heavily censored while talking about this.

- Tangent: In 2006, three Qing vases were on display on a staircase in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, and a member of the public stumbled down the stairs, breaking all three. One report read: "The visitor tumbled down the right-hand flight of stairs, then along the windowsill from right to left, colliding with each vase in turn. The impact reduced them to rubble and scattered them across the landing and the stairs." This comment is illustrated by a picture of three vases after they had been miraculously restored. Sindhu and her mother were in Britain when the story broke, and when Sindhu told her mother about it she replied: "Who fell down? Who fell on the vase? Did they kill him?" Alan says that if you knock something over in a shop, as soon as you knock it over you should turn around and shout: "Oh, you little bastard! Where's he gone?!", pretend that a child has knocked it over, then go and look for him.

- The traditional place for Irishmen to celebrate St. Patrick's Day is the Royal Dublin Dog Show. The pub is not the traditional place, because as the day is considered a holy day all the pubs in Ireland between 1927-60 would be closed. The day also normally falls on Lent, and all alcohol sales were banned on Good Friday between 1927-2017. However, while this dog show was historically a Protestant community event, everyone went because whether you loved dogs or not, you could get a drink. Irish poet Brendan Behan supposedly abducted a stray poodle to get into the members' lounge. (Forfeit: The Pub)

- XL Tangent: Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh rented a dog from a woman so he could go to the dog show for a drink.

- Tangent: Aisling comments on the awful time when British pubs had signs saying: "No blacks, no dogs, no Irish", and says that this is the stupidest thing in the world, because a pub with just black people, dogs and Irish people would be the most craic place ever. Sandi asks if Ireland still has singing and non-singing pubs, and Aisling says that all Irish people think they are naturally great singers because of the natural sadness in their necks. She gets Sandi to suggest a song to sing. Sandi picks "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star", and Aisling sings it in a traditional Irish way.


- Sally Phillips: 5 points
- Aisling Bea: 4 points
- Alan Davies: -17 points
- Sindhu Vee: - 27 points

Broadcast details

Friday 17th January 2020
30 minutes
  • Tuesday 2nd April 2019, 19:15 at BBC Television Centre (Aisling Bea, Sally Phillips, Sindhu Vee)


Show past repeats

Date Time Channel
Friday 17th January 2020 11:05pm BBC2 Wales
Saturday 15th February 2020 9:00pm
45 minute version
Thursday 29th October 2020 9:00pm
60 minute version
Friday 30th October 2020 2:40am
45 minute version
Wednesday 13th January 2021 9:00pm
60 minute version
Thursday 14th January 2021 2:30am
50 minute version
Thursday 14th January 2021 6:00pm
60 minute version
Monday 25th October 2021 9:00pm
60 minute version
Tuesday 26th October 2021 6:00pm
60 minute version

Cast & crew

Sandi Toksvig Host / Presenter
Alan Davies Regular Panellist
Guest cast
Aisling Bea Guest
Sally Phillips Guest
Sindhu Vee 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
Justin Pollard Associate Producer
Nick King Editor
Jonathan Paul Green Production Designer
Nick Collier Lighting Designer
Howard Goodall Composer
Mat Coward Researcher
Will Bowen Researcher
Andrew Hunter Murray Researcher
Ed Brooke-Hitching Researcher
Mike Turner Researcher
Jack Chambers Researcher
Emily Jupitus Researcher
James Rawson Researcher
Sarah Clay Commissioning Editor


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