When QI Gets It Wrong: The Show’s ‘Quite Interesting’ Mistakes
With series T underway, we look back at the times when QI was not just Quite Interesting, but Quite Inaccurate
Finding out that the QI elves got something wrong is as oddly satisfying as watching a waiter drop a tray of glasses. It doesn’t happen that often, but when it does, it’s a sight to behold.
Series T of QI is currently airing, with Sandi Toksvig once again steering the ship of Quite Interesting facts and Alan Davies still on board as regular panellist (while keeping an eye out for blue whales, no doubt).
Before we add too many of their fun facts to our bank of things to impress with at parties (or more likely make us look like insufferable know-it-alls), let’s remind ourselves of the times QI got it wrong.
Who knew harmless 1950s puppets Bill and Ben would end up the source of QI controversy? In series B, Stephen Fry claimed the language these flowerpot men puppets spoke was called ‘Flobbadob’, named after the sound of the farts made by the creator’s brothers in their childhood baths.
Not only is this tale a bit grim, it’s also untrue, as the son of the actor who voiced Bill and Ben confirmed in a letter to the show. As you’ll hear in the clip above, the correct name for the language is Oddle Poddle, and Flobbadob is merely Oddle Poddle for ‘flower pot’. So now you know.
The World’s Longest Animal
First, QI claimed the longest animal was the lion’s mane jellyfish, back in series A. Then, in series C (skip to 20 minutes in), it claimed it’s actually the bootlace worm. The correct answer is actually still up for debate – some claim that a 55-foot bootlace worm was found on the Scottish coast, beating the jellyfish’s 50-foot length, others claim this worm was stretched (yes, really!) so that wasn’t an accurate measurement. Let’s move on before all the marine biologists descend into fisticuffs.
Croatia’s National Animal
On the subject of animals, way back in series A comedian Bill Bailey claimed the national animal of Croatia was a weasel. As a weasel-savvy QI fan pointed out on the official forum’s Quibbles section, Croatia’s national animal is in fact the European Pine Marten. What’s that, you ask? Well, it’s a bit like a weasel…
That’s Not a Rolls Royce Engine!
In what might be the most pedantic moment in television history, one QI viewer wrote in to complain that when discussing Rolls Royce engines during series C, the image they used was not in fact a Rolls Royce engine. As you’ll see from the clip above, they even take the time to explain their workings. The jury’s out on whether this is seriously impressive or just a bit sad.
Things got suitably grim and gory during series G episode Goths (skip to 17 minutes in), when Stephen Fry claimed that a website called seemerot.com would put a camera in your loved one’s coffins so you could… well, the name of the website is fairly self-explanatory.
It was later revealed this website was a hoax the QI elves had fallen for and no such service exists. Phew.
How Many Moons?
Poor Alan Davies. Every time he thinks he’s cracked how many moons Earth has, he gets a different answer. At this point the QI elves are probably just making it up to troll him. Let’s see if series T brings us yet another new answer.
What’s a Stoor Sooker?
In series N episode Naming Names (skip to 19 minutes) Sandi gives the panellists a series of bizarre new names for objects. During the segment, it’s claimed that stoor sooker is a Scottish word for a vacuum cleaner, taken from the words ‘stair sucker’. As many Scottish viewers were quick to point out, ‘stoor’ is a Scots word for ‘dust’, so it’s actually taken from ‘dust sucker’. Which makes a lot more sense, when you think about it.
In series J episode Jargon, Stephen Fry reveals the surprisingly early first instance of the phrase ‘OMG’, and then claims the term ‘Unfriended’ dates back to 1659 in a letter from Sir Thomas Fuller.
As all the Shakespeare fans are now doubtlessly screaming at the screen, the term actually appeared decades earlier in the first scene of King Lear, when the man himself asks ‘Will you, with those infirmities she owes, / Unfriended, new-adopted to our hate, / Dower’d with our curse, and stranger’d with our oath, / Take her, or leave her?’
Every Rose Has Its Thorn
There are many mistakes made by panellists which go unchecked in the history of QI, but one of the most obvious was Ross Noble’s claim, in series K episode Knits and Knots, that the song Every Rose Has Its Thorn was by Bon Jovi. It was actually by Poison. Still, it could be worse, he could have claimed the song was by Miley Cyrus, who also covered it back in 2010.
Lobsters, Legs and Lots More
And finally, series K episode Knowledge decided to cover the show’s back pretty comprehensively when it explained the half-life of facts. As well as dishing out some retrospective points (just wait until you see how many Alan gets) if you watch the full episode (skip to 7 minutes 20 seconds) you’ll see it also covered some of the facts they’d previously claimed were true that were now proven false.
This includes the fact that we now can tell how old lobsters are (although we’re not sure lobsters themselves would be fans of the new method), and that scientists have discovered a millipede with even more legs than the one they’d previously claimed had the most.
There’s rumours of a Retraction Special in the works on the QI forum – maybe now’s the time to get started on that.
Series T of QI airs on Fridays at 10pm on BBC Two and episodes are available to stream on BBC iPlayer.