Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

It’s All In Your Head, Madam

Thursday, 17 November 2011

  The Only Connect special episode for Children In Need (still available to view for a while here if you didn’t catch it on Monday night) began with me saying the following words:

“Hello and welcome to Only Connect, the quiz that’s like a tonic – in the sense that I always take it with a lot of gin. But this is a very special episode in aid of Children In Need, the BBC appeal, and some very special quizzers are giving their time in the hope of inspiring you to make a donation. They say ‘Never meet your heroes’, so I’ve had to blank most of these people in the dressing room; they are: on my left… [names of the quizzers]”

  It has been brought to my attention, by a favourite BBC insider, that the official audience logs for the night - in which are recorded all the comments made by viewers contacting the BBC about a programme - included this telephone complaint:

  “I am unhappy that the presenter opened the show with a joke about fellatio. This is not what you expect from a high brow quiz programme like this.”

  !!! What on earth do they think I said? I suppose you’d better not answer that - or at least, if you do, be warned that your posted comment may be asterisked or deleted…

  There’s a debate going on at Connecting Towers. I reckon the viewer took the word “blank” in the sense of “bleep” (rather than how I meant it, in the sense of “to ignore”), and assumed it stood in place of an obscene verb. Our esteemed question editor, Mr. Bodycombe, says he thought they heard “blank” as a different, rhyming word. But neither of our theories would, technically, translate into fellatio. Unless I’m basically right and the verb he imagined was “blow”.

  But does he really think that’s how I’d start a show? Does that make sense? “They say ‘Never meet your heroes’, so I’ve had to blow most of these people in the dressing room” ??? Why would I have “had to” do that, just because people say you shouldn’t meet your heroes? IT’S SIMPLY NOT LOGICAL. And even it were, that would be a damn weird start to the show. I know I do sometimes start the show weirdly. But not that weirdly.

  Whoever you are, mysterious BBC complainant: it’s all in your head, madam! Or sir. I love your devotion to the format of the show, but I’m afraid you have made a connection too far…

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brian t at 12:44 am on November 18th, 2011

I dunno, I thought I saw a few “O-faces” on the contestants during the Missing Vowels round ..!

Ken Singtone at 3:27 am on November 18th, 2011

I believe that President Clinton had a similar problem, when, after a particularly unpleasant meal, he asked a female assistant to “sack his cook”.  (Alas, not mine, but I love the danger in telling this anecdote and, for a decade or so, I have disciplined myself never to explain it and risk damaging my habit of pronouncing it correctly.)

We must thank the mysterious BBC complainant for tempting you away from twitter and back to the blog.  With the decline in history teaching, on visiting Trafalgar Square and seeing his column, I am tempted to reflect on how appropriate it is that the last words of Captain Fellatio Nelson were “kiss me hard di…...” 

benbutton at 6:30 am on November 18th, 2011

I wish to complain, in the strongest terms about you misquoting yourself. You said, “...on my right,” first in the show but have written above, “...on my left.” This sort of shoddy behaviour should not be allowed on a high brow blog like this. :-)
I suppose the complainant must have a very prurient mind which has transferred clearly innocent statements into sexual misunderstandings. They are probably offended when anyone says, “up the junction,” “blow dryer,” or “shove it in my pigeon hole.” Ooh err.

MiloBlack at 8:54 am on November 18th, 2011

Ah, now, classic error, Miss Coren. You are assuming that people who complain to the BBC - even those who watch OC - are dealing with a full deck. Not, I suspect true in this case. As you say - this says a lot more about this person’s head (poor choice of words!) than anything else.

Loved the OC special btw - although expected to hear more from Joan Bakewell - had someone turned her mic off? ;)

Jason Twigg at 10:10 am on November 18th, 2011

Bizarre, I could understand a complaint about the many references to substance abuse in the show (gin this time), but it sounds like someone fell asleep waiting for the programme to start and dreamed up their own fantasy opening.  In mine, I arrived too early and went into a nearby pub for a drink, tripped up next to the bar and found myself next to Miranda Hart.  When she said “well, Jason, what brings you here”, and seemed to know me, I was so excited and overjoyed that I woke up. Then I found that it was in fact Wednesday, and the imminent Only Connect was also a dream.
Anyway, back to your problem.  Joan Bakewell excepted, the make up of the teams does make it something of a “fella show” ( an observation for a future series perhaps).

KlooRhee at 10:55 am on November 18th, 2011

:D :D

Carry on, there’s nothing to blow here.

psychofant at 11:46 am on November 18th, 2011

victoria, in the unlikely event that the complainant was right,how do i get on the show?,and how do i achieve hero status in your eyes? i am more than prepared,in that time honoured british tradition to wait patiently in a queue!

Stuart Ian Burns at 12:16 pm on November 18th, 2011

Although “blank” does rhyme with a four letter word beginning with “w” although even that doesn’t make sense in relation to the complaint.

Harry Gherkin at 1:09 pm on November 18th, 2011

Hislop did have a funny look on his face at the start of the show, tbh. At the time I just took it to be his usual look of disdain for anyone that wasn’t him. I always knew that Coren was pure filth.

Gaz112 at 1:09 pm on November 18th, 2011

I always knew you were a cunning linguist…

Littlepurplegoth at 1:10 pm on November 18th, 2011

Misremembered blank as ‘blow off’. A north American friend talks of ‘blowing off’ when they mean blank (and I’m good and only corpse where they can’t see/hear me’)

Stuart Davies at 1:12 pm on November 18th, 2011

“make a donation”?


csrster at 1:14 pm on November 18th, 2011

Dear Madam, I am a great admire of your blog but would like to complain about the euphemistic reference to oral sex in the title of this post. That is not what I expect of a member of one of Britain’s most distinguished journalistic dynasties. In the future, please ensure that all such references are explicit and unambiguous!

GHB at 1:15 pm on November 18th, 2011

Maybe they just turned over quickly and got confused as to who the presenter was:

JW at 1:18 pm on November 18th, 2011

I love how everyone tries to sound really clever in an attempt to match up to Coren’s intellect. Highly amusing.

Ken Ferris at 1:21 pm on November 18th, 2011

All in your “head”, I see what you’ve done there :-)

anon at 1:27 pm on November 18th, 2011

“I always take it with a lot of chin”

sodiumlights at 1:28 pm on November 18th, 2011

@Jason Twigg.  Maybe that’s the problem - The caller decided it was too much of a fella show too…


WorldOfStephen at 1:38 pm on November 18th, 2011

There are more things in heaven and earth, Fellatio, than are dreamt of in thy philosophy.

Geoff Hill at 1:39 pm on November 18th, 2011

I think the complainer was probably referring to the line “I always take it with a lot of gin”. Loved the show.

fingers d at 1:39 pm on November 18th, 2011

Wait a minute.
Your brother finishes an article with a fellatio reference which got removed.

Now you start an episode with a fellatio reference which doesn’t exist. It’s like the Coren Mysteries of the Phantom Blowjobs…
Maybe the bj taken from Giles’s article three years ago has somehow found its way into your opening words…?
Is that irony…or karma…? Either way it’s definitely pretty spooky.

Andy Grant at 2:04 pm on November 18th, 2011

Maybe the complaint came from Les Dawson’s ghost! “They say never meet your heroes, so I’ve had to blank or blanks most of these people in the dressing room.”

harrasepp at 2:06 pm on November 18th, 2011

I would settle for a blank

Sparkly at 2:11 pm on November 18th, 2011

I do feel an amount of empathy with the complainant, obviously confused blank with #ank, but not understanding the meaning of falacio her statement doesn’t make sense. As someone who thought oral sex was talking dirty, I completely understand.

Matt at 2:14 pm on November 18th, 2011

Perhaps she thought you’d said you “always take it with a lot of chin”? Although I still can’t map that to any sane approach to intimate oral relations (I’m trying to keep it clean so I don’t get censored).

Josh at 2:15 pm on November 18th, 2011

I think you’re right. ‘Blank’ as in ‘bleep’, filled by ‘blow’. But beyond that, just maybe the joke in this (filthy minded) individual’s head is:

I don’t want to meet my heroes - but suddenly I find some of them here in the dressing room. I can’t escape. I’m flustered to the point of panic. What can I do? Avoiding eye contact, and therefore the need to ‘meet’ anyone, I suddenly drop to my knees. While I am there, several incidents occur throughout which I am mentally ‘elsewhere’.

Admittedly, it’s a considerable leap to go from being flustered to behaving in this fashion, and the presence of Joan Bakewell complicates matters (although this could explain why not all of the guests were blanked), but it’s just possible that, for one viewer, this scenario dominated Monday evening.

Nick B at 2:35 pm on November 18th, 2011

Perhaps the complainant heard “never eat your heroes”. I made the same mistake when asking about the plot of porn movie - “Oh, the usual, boy meets girl, girl ...”.

Ricolas at 2:58 pm on November 18th, 2011

Brilliant work, VC.  You fused someone’s brain before the show even got under way.  Normally takes until five minutes in before I start gibbering like a loon.  More than usual that is. 

You are quite splendid, the show is brilliant, I remain in awe.

David Brider at 3:31 pm on November 18th, 2011

I think it just adds to the level of UST involved in watching the show, regardless of the factual accuracy of the complaint.  :-)

Old Winter at 3:46 pm on November 18th, 2011

You start the show with :
““Hello and welcome to Only Connect, the quiz that’s like a tonic – in the sense that I always take it with a lot of gin.”

I reckon he heard : ““Hello and welcome to Only Connect, the quiz that’s like a tonic – in the sense that I always take it with a lot of jizz”.

Clearly a prude of the first water, I would have laughed like a drain, even if the tonic reference made no sense.

Only glad Mr Bodycombe did not interview the complainant in person, I dread to think what outrage it would have caused.

The Tim at 5:10 pm on November 18th, 2011

Any references to oral sex are completely fellatious.

P.S. Funny how this particular thread has got that many responses in such a short time. I’m sure with a bit of careful study it could lead to a much greater understanding of the nature of the universe.

Victoria Coren at 5:21 pm on November 18th, 2011

Another theory: I don’t think the viewer could have heard “blank” as a different rhyming word - wouldn’t mean fellatio anyway - but, perhaps, “quizzers”...? Maybe he imagined some very special, uh…

benbutton at 5:53 pm on November 18th, 2011

I think the issue is with the cadence of the spoken, “I’ve had to blank most of these people…” I just called my mum in London and she replayed the audio over the phone and there is not enough stress and pause on and around the word, ‘blank.’ She said the she also had to rewind to confirm that you hadn’t said something rude. The fact that it’s on the beeb, combined with the reality that you wouldn’t have said that, obviously wasn’t enough to override the brain mechanism for outrage. Don’t sweat it. There is a duff apple in every barrel. And that’s duff with a D and not with an… Oh you figure it out for yourself. Send the viewer a copy of Trevor Harley’s The Psychology of Language. They can either read and digest it, or batter themselves into a coma with it.

Gizensha at 6:14 pm on November 18th, 2011

Maybe the person thought ‘take it with a lot of gin’ was a euphemism?

Colm at 8:07 pm on November 18th, 2011

Looking at the complaint about the supposed ‘fellatio’ reference at the opening of the show I’m surprised they even made their way past the opening credits!
After all isn’t ‘Connect’ nothing but a euphemism for sex and ‘Only Connect’ nothing but a shameless effort by the godless BBC to promote free love and sex outside the bonds of holy matrimony
Bloody Pinkos!!
Rhubarb, Rhubarb, Rhubarb


Victoria N at 8:34 pm on November 18th, 2011

Here is another theory…this person had a bit too much gin with their tonic before the show started?

Steve Berry at 10:02 pm on November 18th, 2011

“They say ‘Never MEAT your heroes’...”

Free Ride at 11:10 pm on November 18th, 2011

.....and you would have resembled the phantom of the opera at the start of the show

AndytheDealer at 1:16 am on November 19th, 2011

You are my heroine.  I have met you.  What must I do now?  Oooer!

SloeLoris at 1:24 am on November 19th, 2011

Isn’t that just one of the occupational hazards of being on television?  As a very wise poker writer once put it, “People will be watching.  And some of those people will be idiots.”

MildMike at 10:26 am on November 19th, 2011

If I had that level of imagination, I’d never leave the house.

Robert at 8:50 pm on November 19th, 2011

Well really. I’d write to her and explain you didn’t say it, have never said it, and wouldn’t dream of ever mentioning fellatio in print or on TV ... and pop in a copy of Once More With Feeling to cheer her up.

BaseMetal at 6:59 pm on November 20th, 2011

Just a minute have I got news for you the antidote to quiz shows quote…unquote only connect blankety-blank shooting stars celebrity juice.

I’m sorry I haven’t a clue.

RomanticRecluse at 10:45 pm on November 20th, 2011

Vicky, you like quizzes so here’s one.  What connects the following people?

Michael Ashcroft, Julian Barnes, Syd Barrett, George Best, Ted Bundy, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Edwina Currie, Marianne Faithfull, Farrah Fawcett, Roy Greenslade, Terence McKenna, Kelvin MacKenzie, Malcolm McLaren, Robert Mapplethorpe, Cheech Marin, Freddie Mercury, Keith Moon, Nina Myskow, Gram Parsons, Bon Scott, Harold Shipman, Steven Spielberg, Sylvester Stallone, Jack Straw, Janet Street-Porter, Peter Sutcliffe, Peter Tobin, Polly Toynbee, Donald Trump, Gianni Versace, John Waters.

If you Google you should get it very quickly but I wonder if you can get it without cheating.

If you want a clue the question was inspired by your latest Obs column.

JazBenz at 3:05 pm on November 21st, 2011

Oh I needed that laughter after a few hours of coolers and bad beats! Lift me right up. Thank God that person calling in has a hearing problem or something… or the voices in their head made her hear the part about fellatio and he or she imagined you said it. That’s my pityful attempt to find an explanation.

Matt M at 8:34 pm on November 21st, 2011

I hope your complainant wasn’t watching tonights opening.

You mischievous little minx.

Robert at 9:24 pm on November 21st, 2011

Then again, she did start tonight’s show with a joke about semis getting bigger. Utter filth

AlgernonKnew at 8:28 am on November 22nd, 2011

Well, I dunno about U lot but when I tuned in last week, I heard ‘Hello and welcome to Only Connect, the [MOD: THIS HAS BEEN EDITED!].’

  Now, of course, I was a little startled. Rarely do I watch BBC4 for titillation unless I want a Neo-Marxist sterile examination of it but often do I hear these educated types not quite understanding certain lingo (like using the word diss 20 years too late in a cringeworthy manner over-laced with self awareness) so I went with it. Then it dawned. My heavy cold was probably warping the words, or as yet, standards haven’t fully transferred with the switch to digital. Hope this helps and please don’t write any future blog entries like this racist one.

Minge at 11:41 am on November 22nd, 2011

At least you took it with a lot of gin, eh?

Martyn Lester at 3:53 pm on November 22nd, 2011

I would have thought that the most likely mishearing was indeed of a rhyming word, though perhaps not the same one you have in mind. ‘Blank’ is easily heard as ‘plank’, a transitive verb which is rather more commonly employed for ‘have penetrative sex with’ than ‘perform oral sex upon’ – but perhaps that viewer was one of the small minority that uses the word to mean the latter.

Andy G at 7:23 pm on November 22nd, 2011

Can you settle an argument. On the recent Only Connect semi final, you started the show by saying, (paraphrasing), “It’s a semi final, so it doesn’t get much bigger than this. Although, as the word “semi” suggests, it does get a bit bigger.”  ;) Double entendre or not?

ALG at 9:37 pm on November 22nd, 2011

Well whenever anyone on the show picks ‘horned viper’, I always shout “horny viper!!” at the screen… clearly it’s just the effect the show has on people…..or I need professional help….

psychofant at 11:20 pm on November 23rd, 2011

dear moderator, why did you disallow my post? the whole thread was innuendo, so what’s the problem?

[MOD: a few posts were edited, as you’ll see above, and some didn’t go up. Just for balance. Sorry… Never guaranteed that anything posted here will go up on the site.]

Norman at 6:11 pm on November 24th, 2011

The dresses you wear on Only Connect seem to generate quite a lot of admiration.  I now know my absolute favourite is your double-end torn dress, although I am eagerly awaiting the triple-end torn dress (maybe next series).

Andy W at 11:34 pm on November 28th, 2011

Ben Elton tells a story of how someone complained after seeing the end of one of his shows just before whatever it was they wanted to watch.  Elton was doing a routine about condoms.

The complaining letter said “We don’t want condoms shoved down our throat at 10pm on BBC1”, and of course Elton followed it up with “you shouldn’t be complaining about TV comedy, you should be writing it”.

Ivor Shelter at 12:57 pm on November 30th, 2011

I don’t want to seem stupid, but, what exactly is fellatio, and how is it pronounced?  These foreign words are like tongue twisters to me.  Hopefully a short one like this can’t be too much of a mouthful.  Am I missing something here?

Also, someone mentioned oral sex.  I’ve never understood just talking about it, although the recent popularity of phone sex makes sense to me at last, now that I’ve found out that mobiles have a vibrate setting. 

King John II at 3:52 pm on December 4th, 2011

Are you really truly sure it is all in madams head? The subconscious is yet to be fully explained.

Idi Yacht at 3:33 pm on December 22nd, 2011

If you’re going to mock poor old Fellatio, you might at least capitalise his name correctly.  I’m surprised Ms Coren didn’t correct the complainer’s sloppy use of our mother tongue.

Clive at 6:18 pm on January 11th, 2012

A bit late to the party here. Could mean two things: ‘always take it with a lot of gin’ - am I right in inferring that fellatio is aided with the addition of liqueur or spirits, to add an enticing sensation to the male member?

Or, if misheard as ‘blow’ it does make sense: never MEET your heroes, so what do you do with them intead, oh I blow them.

But I agree, it doesn’t sound like ‘blank’ at all.

Clive at 12:37 pm on January 16th, 2012

Ah, glad to see my comment added here! To be censored by the person who wrote ‘Once More With Feeling’ would be a bit like being asked by the Marquis de Sade to reign it in a bit…

Clive at 4:55 pm on January 18th, 2012

Sorry, I meant ‘rein’ it in. I’ve heard you Corens can be sticklers for accuracy…

Jean le Solo at 7:54 pm on January 23rd, 2012

You English.. sex joke, sex joke, sex joke.. mais, où est l’amour romantique?  C’est nécessaire, non?
Victoria, elle aime la chanson “Rescue me, from page 3, F****i*..”,(son livre magnifique de poker) et elle est “hostess” de “low knees con necks ker-wizz” .
Norman, c’est vrai, mon ami, Victoria est toujours la “Damsel in dix dress”, bien parfaite!  (ou les dresses d’autres numéros).
Victoria est four-midable, et pour chaque “number-joke”, on doit la faire ....
ten-derly, oui .... avec dix gust, non ........
excuse-mon Frenglish!

Victoria Coren

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