QI – the toga: what it is and what it is not

On QI last night (BBC1) Stephen Fry posed the question ‘What did the Romans like to wear?’ Alan Davies did his usual bit of self-sacrifice by giving the obvious answer, knowing that the usual rude noises would follow.

This gave S. Fry the chance to explain, with diagrams, what the toga was and how much the Romans hated having to wear it.

S.F. himself, I seem to remember, features on a Classics promotion leaflet wearing a toga, so he will know what a pain it is to wear.

I am very grateful myself for the experience of wearing a toga for the Cambridge Latin Course second DVD. It brought home to me how little you can actually do while wearing one. All your attention goes on keeping the wretched thing in place. While reclining at King Cogidubnus’ dinner party (before the bear comes in) I was aware that the toga was slipping off, and there was no way I could retrieve it. Fortunately, the camera wasn’t interested!

So Stephen Fry has redeemed himself a bit in my estimation after his appalling sneer at knowledge in a previous episode, when he asked the audience (none of his guests knew) which bird, other than the dove, Noah sent out of the ark. When one of the audience gave the answer that any traditionally educated person would have known, a raven, Fry called the man ‘a religious nutter.’ Shame on you, Stephen. Having a brain the size of Kent does not absolve you from common courtesy, nor is an excuse for belittling knowledge. Surely QI exists to encourage knowledge.

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