From Plato to Subbuteo
In this episode of QI (recorded in 2003), the venerable 'national treasure' Stephen Fry is joined by Alan Davies, Rob Brydon, Rich Hall and Gyles Brandreth.
Stephen, skilfully navigates a meandering path from Plato to Subbuteo, stopping at Latent Buzzard on the way...
Stephen: "What was the job of Aristocles . . . Aristocles, better known to his friends as 'Wide Boy'? It also means 'flat', oddly enough. It means 'wide and flat'."
Alan: "Flat. Flat. Flatulence."
Stephen: "What is a flat-billed sort of animal called?"
Gyles: "Duck . . . duck-billed platytus."
Stephen: "Plato is the answer."
Gyles: "Plato is the answer?!"
Stephen: "Yes. He was . . . His real name was Aristocles, and he was known as the 'Wide One'."
Alan: "Plato's real name was Aristocles?"
Stephen: "Aristocles. He was nicknamed 'Plato'. There he is."
Viewscreens: Four pictures of a bust of Plato.
Alan: "Oh, my word, he went to a terrible sculptor! (audience laughter) it must be so upsetting when you . . . when they put the mirror behind you . . . pull it out, like that."(audience chortles)
Stephen "May I ask who sculpted you last, sir? Oh, dear." (audience mirth)
"Yeah, well, erm, 'Plato' was indeed the schoolboy nickname of Aristocles, from the Greek 'wide', and it was given to him because of his broad shoulders. His real name was Aristocles, and Aristocles taught Aristotle. And what did Aristotle teach us, the world, about buzzards?"
Alan: "Oh, this'll be something absurd, because it's al—"
Stephen: "He did say something absurd."
Alan: "It'll be ridiculous. It'll be something like 'they can read our minds', or something like that."
Stephen: "No he . . . he, erm . . . I'll tell you what it is, actually."
Rob: "He felt that some – . . . he felt that that they were . . . they were birds who didn't realize they were buzzards, and it was building up inside that they were latent buzzards." (laughter & applause)
"I'll tell you the answer. Actually, what he . . . he thought they had three testicles."
Rob: "Yeah, that's the . . ."
Alan: "You see, this is the sort of thing he came out with all the time!"
Stephen: "You see –"
Alan: "He's very overrated. Even though he knew a good sculptor. He looks all right there." (general tittering)
Alan: "But look at the robe on him . . . "
Stephen: "There's a really interesting thing I can tell you about buzzards, on the other hand. The Latin for 'buzzard', the its . . . its . . . you know, its taxonomical name is Buteo buteo. All right? Now, there's a sort of, as it were, a subspecies of buzzard called a 'hobby'. And it is 'Sub-Buteo'."
Stephen: "And the man who invented the game wanted to call it 'the hobby', and when he tried to patent it, they wouldn't let him use the word 'the hobby', so he called it after the Latin name for 'the hobby', which is 'subbuteo'."
Gyles: "And that's why one is kicking a little testicle around the ball." (a couple of chortles...)
Stephen: "If you like. Now it all comes back."
Gyles: "How amazing."
Stephen: "That's where the name 'subbuteo' comes from."
Rich: "It must be great to be a, er, philosopher. None of us could sit there and count the testicles on a buzzard,(audience tittering) and really explain it or justify it. "What are you doing?" "I'm counting the balls on a buzzard." (more audience tittering) "Don't you have better things to do?" "I'm a philosopher!" "Oh, well, go ahead."..." (audience tittering)
Gyles: "Did you know that the Pope – when the Pope is elected – still has to have this ceremony in the Vatican. After the Pope is elected, the Pope is carried over a group of the cardinals . . . and now, of course, the Pope actually doesn't display himself, but in days gone by, he would display himself. And the Cardinals – this still happens to this day – when the Pope is crowned, the Cardinals . . . the Pope is carried on a chair over the Cardinals. And they look up, and they say, "Testiculos habet et bene pendentes." This is – "
Gyles: "Yes, it is absolutely true."
Stephen: "He has balls and he's well hung? (audience mirth) 'Bene pendentes'?"
Gyles: "It means that they are well hung. "They are hanging well." (audience chortles) And it goes back to the time of Pope Joan, when a girl – "
Gyles: "– masqueraded as a young Pope. And since . . . that's when the cermony was introduced. And so the tradition continues to this day."
Stephen: "Fabulous. Five points. Brilliant. I love it. Fantastic. Well done." (audience applause)