I've started it, now you can finish it ...

May I say straightaway that I intend to follow the general code of practice where the Royal Family is concerned, and that I have no intention of pestering Prince Harry or Prince William for their opinion on Scottish devolution?

Or anyone else, for that matter?

Thank you.

Now, to get back to the more weighty matter of Mastermind, the one question that I have never seen answered is this: Did any contestant on Mastermind ever catch out the question-setter? In other words, was there ever a moment when the contestant felt convinced he had got the answer right and Magnus Magnusson had got it wrong ?

Clearly this is something we would never have seen on television, because if such a thing ever occurred it would be edited out of the programme. I did once meet a man who told me that he had been present at a Mastermind recording session where it did actually happen. A contestant was answering questions on philately and was not happy when his answer was turned down by Magnus Magnusson. He said he thought he was right. Magnusson said he was wrong. The man said he was sorry, but he was right. Magnusson said he was sorry, but he ... This could have gone on all day were it not that one of the cameramen (according to my informant) then intervened and said that HE was sorry but he was a stamp collector himself and he thought Magnus Magnusson was wrong ... So they skipped the question.

I am not sure that this story is true, and would not even have suggested it was, were it not that it is exactly the sort of thing that we all wish did happen. Wouldn't it be wonderful if sometimes a quizmaster got it wrong?

Well, sometimes he does. I have twice in my life heard a question asked - on air - that was clearly not matched to the answer, and as I don't suppose I shall ever hear it a third time, I ought to chronicle these two while the going is good.

The first occasion was many years ago when Hughie Green was alive and well and inflicting fairly simple questions on fairly simple people. I can remember him once asking a family of four people to name four Shakespeare plays in a minute. They made it with only seconds to spare ...

But the Hughie Green moment I remember best is when he said to a young man: "Now, in which country is the police force called the Surete?"

Written down, that looks fine. But Hughie Green had not checked the pronunciation beforehand and what he said was "Soorett". "In which country is the national police force called the Soorett?" For a moment the world stood still. Sitting at home, I was momentarily baffled and then tumbled to the fact that he was trying to say Surete. In the studio, there was blankness. Then the young man made a wild guess. "France?" he said. "Right," said Hughie and the gaffe went unnoticed.

Let us leap forward 20 years to last month when, over in America, my wife and I found ourselves in a taxi near Burlington, Vermont. The car radio was on. It was broadcasting a local radio quiz show called Slingshot on which listeners had to answer five questions correctly in a row to get a prize. Here are some of the questions I noted down, to give you the flavour.

"What is the capital of Scotland?" (Toronto, guessed the listener. The taxi driver hooted with laughter.)

"The island of Sri Lanka is 20 miles off the coast of which country?" (He got India, after a bit of thought.)

"Which body is at the centre of the solar system?" (Er, the sun?)

"He wrote The Grapes of Wrath. His initials are JS. Who is he?" (No idea.)

"Which American state has a name which uses only three different letters?" (Could you say that again?)

The last question was a good one. My wife toyed with Mississippi, I kept thinking of Utah, but the taxi driver got there first with Ohio ...

"Which poet had the middle name Beisch?" said the quizmaster.

Beisch? That was what it sounded like. It rhymed with the German word "Fleisch", anyway. Beisch ... Beisch ...

Sudden flash of insight. Percy Bysshe Shelley! It was the Hughie Green trap! Nobody had reminded him how to pronounce Bysshe, which is not a common American name at the best of times.

Well, that's it. Two quiz errors in a lifetime. Not a lot, really, I suppose. But if anyone has any other instances, I would be pleased to pass them on to the readership.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
News
Ireland will not find out whether gay couples have won the right to marry until Saturday afternoon
news
News
Kim Jong-un's brother Kim Jong-chol
news
News
Manchester city skyline as seen from Oldham above the streets of terraced houses in North West England on 7 April 2015.
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?