The moment your mind turns to mush

Anybody who has ever appeared on a TV quiz show, as I have just once, will tell you that, under pressure, you may know the right answer but sometimes that is not what pops out of your mouth.

The lights are hot, you want to win and, above all, you do not want to make a fool of yourself. But all these things may well conspire to turn your brain momentarily into a lump of suet and you can end up looking a prize idiot.

I am happy to know that I am not the only the only one who has opened his mouth and put his foot in it in front of millions. People do it all the time and you may be sure that somebody is documenting all our bloopers with great glee. The recently-published Dumb Britain 2, edited by Marcus Berkmann (Private Eye �4.99) does just that.

Unsurprisingly, Anne Robinson’s The Weakest Link comes up with some of the best, or worst. Asked what type of bear lives in the Arctic one of her aspirants, after much thought, decided it was a penguin. Another, questioned as to whether Tyrannosaurus Rex was a carnivore or a herbivore said, ‘Neither. It was a dinosaur.’

Asked to give the alliteratively named point on a tennis racket or golf club that gives the best contact, another of Anne’s victims answered g-spot rather than sweet spot which brought the house down because he didn’t seem to know know why it was funny! The Weakest Link also picked up two more priceless answers to tennis questions. One chap thought that the name of the first black player to win the Wimbledon Men’s Singles title was Arthur Askey (a long-dead comedian) and the other, when asked ‘Who won the US Open Championship wearing a black number based on Audrey Hepburn’s dress in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s?’ replied ‘Roger Federer’.


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Antony Beevor, historian and author of the formidable tome Stalingrad, appeared on a celebrity version of University Challenge. Asked by Jeremy Paxman to name the only Beatrix Potter book which features a human name in the title, he replied, ‘Peter Rabbit.’

On Wogan’s Perfect Recall, a man said that Woburn Abbey was the home of the Duke of Hazzard.

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On BBC’s In It To Win, Dale Winton asked: Alderney and Sark – are they part of the Channel Islands? The competitor was puzzled: ‘Ooooh! I don’t know – are there any islands in the English Channel? I’ve never heard of any.’ He didn’t win.

Darren Day posed the question on ITV’s Spin Star: ‘What area of Germany is the cake named after made with chocolate, cream, kirsch and cherries? Reply - ‘Belgium.’ Another hopeful thought that Victoria was the English Queen who rode a chariot with knives on the wheels.

There are lots more, but I go back to Anne Robinson for my favourite: What man-made structure built during the 3rd century BC is often visible from space? Answer – the Millennium Dome!

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