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 4 is repeated on Dave tomorrow at 2am.

Series I, Episode 11 - Infantile

Further details


- The set is covered in games and toys, including two giant toy animals behind Stephen.


- The Pope's father said "will you marry me" to a baker's daughter. The father of Pope Benedict XVI was Joseph Ratzinger Senior, a Bavarian policeman, and he met his wife, 36-year-old Maria Peintner, via a lonely hearts advert. The ad read: "Middle-ranking civil servant. Single. Catholic. 43. Immaculate past. From the country. Is looking for a good, Catholic, pure girl who can cook well, tackle all household chores, with a talent for sewing and homemaking, with a view to marriage as soon as possible. Fortune desirable but not a precondition." After the advert the two met at a coffee house and married four months later.

- Tangent: Lonely hearts adverts are full of abbreviations because ads are paid for per letter. The following is a list of common abbreviations in such ads.

- D/D: Drug and disease free.

- NK: No kids.

- WE: Well-endowed.

- ALAWP: All letters answered with photo.

- IPT: Is partial to.

- BBW: Big breasted woman.

- WE SHM WLTM BBW for NSA fun: Well-endowed single Hispanic male would like to meet big breasted woman for no-strings attached fun.

- Tangent: In San Francisco in the late 1970s the gay community used a handkerchief code. The colour of the handkerchief indicated what sexual practice you were into, and the back pocket would indicate if you were passive (left) or active (right).

- The Viceroy of India's daughter liked playing tiddlywinks, also known as "flipperty flop" or "jumpkins". Emily Lytton, daughter of Lord Lytton, who was also the husband of the architect Lutyens who designed most of New Delhi, described an evening playing the game when she was 17 (the quote is on a card read by Ronni): "I assure you no words can picture either the intense excitement or the noise. I always scream in describing it." The game was originally called "tiddledy-winks". The little counters are called "winks" while the bigger one is called a "squidger". Normally the colours are yellow and green vs. red and blue. Other terms used in the game include "squop", "boondock" and "the Good move" which is named after one John Good. The squop is one of the most basic things in the game, in which your wink covers an opponent's wink so they cannot move it. The game has to be played on felt or baize to work.

- Tangent: A Google page ranking is named after Larry Page, one of Google's founders.

- Tangent: The panel are given quoits and try to throw them onto a set of spikes in the middle of the set. The winner gets a stuffed toy. Lee wins, but rather than winning one of the big toys behind Stephen he wins a tiny one. Stephen never said they would win a big one.

- Rifle ranges inside pubs in Birmingham were banned because they were used as a form of gambling. Such ranges were common during the Boer War, especially in Birmingham as it was at the time the centre of the world's gun-making. Some of the targets were actually inside the pubs and you fired over the heads of customers. In one pub in Worcester people would shoot from a bar, across a passageway and into an outhouse. Some pubs today still have shooting in open bars. Pubs which still have shooting games exist in Swindon, Devises, Newport, Hinckley, Nuneaton and Worcestershire.

- Tangent: At one point there was an attempt to ban darts because it was considered a game of chance and thus gambling. At a magistrate court in Leeds a pub landlord who wanted to keep his board got a local expert and made him play a game to show it was an actual game of skill.

- Nobody Knows: The rules to the games "Milking cromock", "Laugh and ly downe" and "Hanikin can'st abide it" are no longer known to anyone. We only know about these games because they were made illegal as they were used for gambling. However, we do know that "Laugh and ly downe" and "Hanikin can'st abide it" are card games. Other games include "Guile bones", "Noddy board", "Penny prick" and "Hide under hat". In 1938 a priest wrote to The Times complaining about a pub in Weymouth which had tortoises racing each other with little toy jockeys on their backs. Dave gets the bonus.

- Tangent: In competitive smoking contests the object of the game is to make your tobacco last the longest. You have to pack your tobacco into your pipe carefully and take as few puffs as possible.

- Tangent: In Belgium there is a an ancestor of darts called "Struifvogelspel" in Dutch, in which you swing a wooden duck with a sharpened bill tied to a cord until it gets stuck into a board. Another game, involving actual birds was "lark singing" which was played in both Britain and the continent, in which the winner was the bird that stopped singing last. However, there was a belief that the birds sang longer if they were blinded, so many larks were deliberately blinded in vain. A campaign against the practice was lead by blind World War I veterans.

- Tangent: There was an old variety act in which a man played an upright piano with a live duck on top, and the duck would dance to the music. However, the duck was made to dance because there were hot plates inside the piano. When the musician played he activated a particular plate which made the duck seemingly dance to avoid the heat. There is also a Spanish magician still working who has a trick of getting a goldfish to pick a card from inside a tank. However, the goldfish has a magnet inside it so the magician draws the fish to the right card using another magnet to attract it.

- The longest-running attraction at the most popular entertainment venue in the world in its time was an incubator room containing premature babies. The Coney Island Amusement Park in New York had an attraction called "The Infant Incubator with Living Infants" which was so popular that one woman came to visit it every week for 37 years. Premature babies were put in incubators there and the public would visit them, costing 25ยข. The incubator was invented in 1880 by the French. No American hospitals had them despite the inventor's attempts to sell them. However, Coney Island brought them; got all the premature babies born in New York, put them incubators and people paid to look at them. The New York City Hospital did not invest in incubators until 1940, and then the attraction was stopped.

- Eleanor Roosevelt considered herself a very modern mother, which may be surprising to us because she kept her baby outside in a cage. This idea was common in 1930s New York due to the limited space to build on, so instead of taking up rooms in apartments the babies were put in cages and hung out of windows. There were 12 of these cages in Poplar, London, but they were scrapped during the Blitz. Eleanor Roosevelt was attacked for it and got upset, saying: "It was rather a shock for I thought I was being a modern mother." Eleanor Roosevelt's maiden name was also "Roosevelt". She was the niece of President Teddy Roosevelt and then married President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was her fifth cousin.

- The miraculous secret machinery the Chamberlain family used for delivering babies for 100 years was a pair of forceps. The family, who lived during the 17th and 18th centuries, were terrified by the fact that there were no patenting laws at the time, meaning anyone could copy the idea for free. So to disguise it they would carry a huge box covered in a cloth. They would then blindfold the mother, forbid anyone else to enter the room and then play sound effects to make people think it was a hugely complicated machine.

- Tangent: The epidural was first devised by August Beir (who died in 1949) who realised that if you injected painkillers into the spine itself then any pain from blow that point would not transmit to the brain. To prove this he injected his assistant's lower spine with cocaine, and then pulled on the assistant's pubic hair, yanked his testicles, hit his legs with a hammer and singed his thighs with a cigar to prove he could not feel the pain.

- Tangent: The first woman in history to have a baby under aesthetic, which was chloroform, called her child "Anaesthesia". There are reports that some people objected to the use of aesthetic during childbirth because the Bible says that women should experience the pain, because it was a punishment that God gave to Eve saying that she and all women must undergo the pain of childbirth. However, this view was later overturned after Queen Victoria had chloroform during the birth of Prince Leopold.

- You can tell a French baby from a German baby by the accent, or to be exact their melodic cadence. The baby hears their mother talking in their mother tongue from inside the womb. Not only do they pick it up, but babies like their mother tongue so they will be able to recognise people from their homeland by their accent.

- The best hugs last for three seconds. Any shorter than that then people think it was not a proper hug. This three second period is known as a "moment".

- Tangent: There is a "five second rule" about people being allowed to eat food if it has been on the floor for less than five seconds, but this has no basis to support it. It all depends on if the floor is contaminated with something. It could be OK after five minutes.

- The panel are shown a photograph which is slowly zooming in on something and are asked what is interesting about it. The interesting thing is that it depicts an Alpine ibex standing on what is virtually the sheer flat Italian Cingino Dam wall to get a salt lick.

- Tangent: The Pyrenean ibex was the first extinct animal to be cloned and brought back to life. The last one, Celia, died when a tree branch landed on top of her during a storm on 6th January, 2000, in northern Spain. In 2009 a piece of her skin preserved in liquid nitrogen was used to clone her. However, the kid lived for just seven minutes.

General Ignorance

- Louise Brown was conceived in a Petri dish. She was the first vitro fertilised baby, which the press often report wrongly as a "test tube baby". (Forfeit: In a test tube)

- Tangent: Another Louise Brown, who is 91 and lives in Dumfries and Galloway, is believed to have borrowed more library books than anyone else in the UK, reading just under 25,000 books, at 12 a week. She has never had a late fine. She mostly reads Mills and Boon, war stories and historical dramas.

- Marsupials originally come from South America. Despite what people say marsupials do exist in places other than Australia, the most famous examples being opossums in America, which are the mammals which give birth to the smallest babies. You can get 20 baby opossums on a teaspoon. The mother licks a line on her fur which the babies crawl up from where they are born and into the pouch. Antarctica, Africa, the Americas and Australia were all once a single super continent called "Gondwanaland". (Forfeit: Australia)


- Dave Gorman: 10 points
- Alan Davies: 6 points
- Lee Mack: 5 points
- Ronni Ancona: -7 points


This episode was broadcast vaguely in-line with the 2011 Children In Need appeal, the telethon for which was shown the previous evening, Friday 18th November.

Broadcast details

Saturday 19th November 2011
45 minutes

Cast & crew

Regular cast
Stephen Fry Host / Presenter
Alan Davies Regular Panellist
Guest cast
Dave Gorman Guest
Ronni Ancona Guest
Lee Mack Guest
Writing team
John Mitchinson Question Writer
Justin Pollard Question Writer
James Harkin Question Writer
Molly Oldfield Question Writer
Andrew Hunter Murray Question Writer
Production team
Ian Lorimer Director
David Morley (as Dave Morley) Executive Producer
Ruby Kuraishe Executive Producer


How Long Do the Best Hugs Last?

Stephen Fry and guests test the duration of the best hugs.

Featuring: Alan Davies, Stephen Fry, Dave Gorman, Ronni Ancona, Lee Mack.


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