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My Word! is a radio Panel Game that was broadcast on BBC Radio from 1956 to 1988. The chair for the first series was John Arlott; from the second series he was replaced by Jack Longland, who remained in the chair for most of the run. The team captains for the entire run were comedy writers Frank Muir and Denis Norden, with various others filling out the panel over the years.

The first four rounds of each episode were a regular quiz with challenges based on vocabulary and wordplay, such as defining obscure words, identifying the origins of famous sayings, and distinguishing between words with similar and often-confused meanings.

The feature of the programme was the final round. After the first round, Muir and Norden were each given a famous phrase or saying. In the final round, the derivation of each phrase was given, and then Muir and Norden would each tell fanciful stories purporting to be the true derivation, usually by way of a pun. As the series progressed, the explanations got longer and more convoluted, and the requirement that the story be an origin was relaxed, so the stories would more often be anecdotes from, supposedly, the raconteur's own life.

A television incarnation aired for one series in 1960. A spin-off, My Music, aired on BBC Radio from 1967 to 1993. The series was an acknowledged influence on many later panel game shows, including the American Says You!.


My Word! contains examples of:

  • Acting Unnatural: One of Frank Muir's stories, involving a Naked People Trapped Outside scenario, includes the amazing line: "I crouched down by the side of the road and made a noise like a small hawthorn bush."
  • Blitz Evacuees: In one of Denis Norden's stories, he reminisced about his own time as an evacuee (in 1935 for some reason), with the daughter of the couple he was billeted with teaching him the ways of the country. Although just how clueless the young Norden was about nature was taken up to eleven:
    "Oh look, Annie!" I'd cry joyously, "Is that what they call wild honeysuckle?"
    "Nay," she'd answer.
    "Is it a climbing convolvulus?"
    "Nay, lad."
    "What is it then?"
    "It's a goat."
  • Bothering by the Book: One of Denis Norden's stories explained how he worked his exit from the army with pedantically exact interpretations of his superior officers' orders, often based on his Drill Sergeant Nasty's pronunciation. For example, on being told to "quick march" (which came out as "Quick Hutch!"), he went AWOL and hid in a cupboard for several weeks, his argument being that "hutch" is a verb meaning "to put away in, or as in, a hutch".
  • Cowboys and Indians: During his story on one episode, Frank Muir talked about playing cowboys and Indians at school, and how the toughest boys got to be the cowboys. He always ended up being the pregnant pioneer woman giving birth in the back of a wagon during an Indian raid.
  • Curse Cut Short: In one episode, Denis Norden is given the phrase "splendour in the grass" as the key line for his story. Supposedly giving a lecture to the high brass of the British military, he talks about the various tribulations the soldiers in the Trojan Horse would have endured, before concluding that the one thing nobody considers is that the Ancient Greek military uniform is a short leather skirt. Which, coupled with unvarnished wooden seats, meant that their biggest problem would be "splinter in the gentlemen-I-thank-you-for-your-attention".
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: An extended gag in one of Denis Norden's stories involves him finding an ex-girlfriend "walking the streets". Even after it becomes clear he means she's a traffic warden, the metaphor continues.
    "If it wasn't for men like you, there'd be no need for women like me!"
  • Doom It Yourself: One of Denis Norden's stories describes him repairing the light in the fridge himself, after he sees what the electician is charging. He's adamant that this was a success: the light now works; the boiling ice cubes are just an unfortunate side-effect.
  • Feghoot: The final-round stories are in the Feghoot format, a brief story culminating in an awful pun on a familiar phrase or saying.
  • A Fool for a Client: In one of his stories, Denis Norden describes defending himself on a charge of assaulting his ballroom dancing partner (he was just trying to get his contact lens back). He lost, he thinks chiefly because he didn't realize how short the lunch break was and gave himself hiccups by eating too fast when he saw they were starting again. "You can't advocate and eat at two."
  • Learnt English from Watching Television: One of Denis Norden's stories involved a Swedish au pair who talked in a broad Oop North accent due to learning English from Coronation Street.
  • Literal-Minded: Denis Norden did a story about his struggles with "Literalism", a condition he suffered from, and which could lead to embarrassment, for example upon seeing a sign reading "Urinal out of order. Please use floor below."
  • Moustache de Plume:
    • In one of his stories, Frank Muir describes filling in for the Dear Deirdre advice column in the local paper, because "Deirdre" got his beard caught in the glass-washing machine in the pub after rugby practice. Again.
    • In another, Muir says he's writing a romance novel under the name Deborah Horseland (which should keep him ahead of Barbara Cartland).
  • Mustache Vandalism: In one of his stories, Frank Muir speculates on whether various artworks only achieved greatness by accident. One of his suggestions is that "The Laughing Cavalier" would have been exhibited as clean-shaven if Hals hadn't left it unattended while he bought a ticket on The London Underground.
  • Naked People Trapped Outside: One of Frank Muir's stories involved him going to a laundromat in the early hours of the morning and, while he was there, deciding to wash the clothes he was wearing as well. Inevitably, he ends up locked out of the laundromat in the altogether.
  • Nobody Here but Us Birds: One of Frank Muir's stories involved him describing a Naked People Trapped Outside episode. During it, he attempted to conceal himself by crouching down by the side of the road and making a sound like a small hawthorn bush.
  • Roman Clef: Parodied in one of Frank Muir's stories, where he explains he's going to call a character Lafcadio Quilp to protect his anonymity, before adding "His mother is the dreadful Mrs Snaith who runs the school dinners at a Staines educational establishment, I have met her son Ron a few times."
  • Signs of Disrepair: One of Dennis Norden's stories involved him having a job at a cinema. One night a storm blew one of the letters off the marquee and smashed it, resulting in them advertising a film called MY FAIR LAD. Not having a spare Y, he stole one from another nearby cinema, leaving them advertising a film called MOB DICK. (And giving him the realisation that "Where there's a whale, there's a Y".)
  • Squirting Flower Gag: On one occasion, Frank Muir claimed to have bought a squirting flower for a novel purpose: to squirt cold water into his tea at the railway station café without drawing attention to himself, and thereby make it cool enough to drink before his train arrives.
  • That Was Objectionable: In one of Denis Norden's stories, he describes being in court for allegedly assaulting his ballroom dancing partner. At one point, the prosecutor dances with her in order to demonstrate how the ordeal has ruined her ability. Norden instantly jumps up.
    Norden: Your honour, I object!
    Judge: On what grounds?
    Norden: On the grounds that the counsel is leading the witness.
  • They Just Don't Get It: One of Frank Muir's stories ends with him having to explain to a man that his fiancée and his best friend have just eloped. Frank attempts to explain this in several different ways, but the man's mind is just incapable of grasping the concept. Finally Frank works out that the only way he can comprehend the message is if it is expressed as a nautical metaphor.
  • We Sell Everything: In one of Denis Norden's stories, he recalls being a Blitz Evacuee to a village with one shop that sold everything. He well remembers the proprietress going up and down the ladder to get a motorbike or piano from the shelves. She also sold ladders. And shelves.

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