NOTE: Nicholas Parsons' 800th appearance, Ian McMillan's final appearance.

NICHOLAS PARSONS: Welcome to Just A Minute!


NP: Thank you, thank you, thank you, hello, my name is Nicholas Parsons. And as the Minute Waltz fades away once more it is my huge pleasure to welcome our many listeners not only in this country but around the world. But to welcome four exciting, talented and creative personalities who are going to try and speak on the subject that I give them, and they're going to try and do that without hesitation, repetition or deviation. And those four are, seated on my right, Paul Merton and Gyles Brandreth. And seated on my left, Sheila Hancock and Ian McMillan. Will you please welcome all four of them! Beside me sits Sarah Sharpe, who is going to help me keep the score, she will blow the whistle when the 60 seconds have elapsed. And this particular edition of Just A Minute is coming from the Theatre at the British Library, in Euston Road or St Pancreas. And we have a packed audience here. And of course, at the British Library they are doing Evolving Language, which is a sort of exhibition they have got on. So I think it's very apt that we begin the show this week with the English language. And Sheila we'd love you to start and you have 60 seconds as always and you begin now.

SHEILA HANCOCK: We are very blessed to have one of the best languages in the world. I often think when I am wandering around London and you hear all sorts of accents and Japanese...


NP: Gyles challenged.

GYLES BRANDRETH: I felt there was a bit of a hesitation.

NP: There was a bit of a hesitation.

SH: Yes a tiny bit.

GB: Yeah sorry, I'm sorry!

PAUL MERTON: Very early for that sort of challenge!

GB: Very early!

PM: Very early!

GB: Very very early! But nonetheless a correct challenge.

SH: I know! And nonetheless I will be gracious and concede it.

NP: Yes but the unwritten rule, we do sometimes let them get under way, Gyles. But anyway, 49 seconds, you came in after 11 seconds, right. What about my arithmetic there?

PM: Yeah.

NP: The subject is the English language Gyles, and 49 seconds starting now.

GB: Twas brillig and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble...


NP: Ian challenged.

IAN McMILLAN: That's not English, that's nonsense.

NP: No no Ian you're wrong. I mean it is still English if you write nonsense. I mean Edward Lear as well as Lewis Carroll both wrote the most wonderful nonsense verse. They used English to do it, they didn't create a different language.

IM: I disagree, I think in that piece he was creating a brand new language. Lewis Carroll was creating a new language...

NP: It was still English.

IM: But I went in, I went in the shop the other day and said "can I have half a pound of brillig" and the man didn't know what I was on about. Because I wasn't speaking English. I think it's actually an invented language.

GB: I was going to explain that eight words from that poem have entered the English language. That was really to be the point.

PM: Yes.

NP: I think...

GB: For what it's worth. And I like to quote Lewis Carroll as often as I can and that was one of my instincts.

NP: Right.

GB: Normally I prefer to quote Edward Lear, because Nicholas likes Edward Lear better.

NP: But you did a play about Lewis Carroll up at the Edinburgh Festival when I was up there.

GB: Sweet of you to mention it.

NP: Did anything happen to it? We can be so wicked in this show, you know! But we're all friends, that's the reason we can do it. I think I have to give the benefit of the doubt to Gyles and say Gyles you have a point and 46 seconds, the English language starting now.

GB: Among those who have introduced words to the English language are indeed Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear. PG Wodehouse who created a great vocabulary for our tongue, only earlier in the last century. Myself, I have not actually contributed any novelty words. Ours is a wonderful tongue coming from...


NP: Ian challenged.

IM: I think that's wrong, because to brandreth is a word, isn't it. To brandreth is to speak articulately in quite a posh voice. So you say...

NP: I think you're making...

IM: ... "I think do I hear a brandreth over there?" I heard somebody say that in Rotherham the other day.

NP: I didn't know that Gyles was known in Rotherham.

IM: They speak of little else!

PM: Yeah.

NP: No, Ian you haven't played the game as often as the others, you're trying very hard. So what I'm going to do is to say yes we are going to give you the benefit of the doubt.

IM: Oh dear.

NP: Because you use English language beautifully in your poetry so you know a lot about it. But talk on the subject, 29 seconds starting now.

IM: What I love about the English language is that it can encompass me and Gyles and all points in between. And that people can speak in different ways so that I can speak like this. If you're from Lancashire you can go "have you not got any of that?" If you're from Derbyshire, you can call your house your arse. And that's all part of the English language. They say things like "I've just had double glazing fitted in my arse". Repeating the word arse...


IM: But it's all about the English language, you see.

NP: Yes.

IM: Yeah.

NP: But not in Just A Minute, because you repeated something. And Sheila came in first with her arse.

SH: Repetition. Repetition of arse, I'm afraid, which you're not allowed.

NP: Nine seconds, the English language starting now.

SH: We have all manners of dialects. We have Ian's...


NP: Paul challenged.

PM: Repetition of we have.

NP: You have, yes.

SH: Yeah yeah. Within seconds.

NP: So Paul you're in on the subject which is good in the first round. And there are six seconds to go, the English language starting now.

PM: There was a young man from Darjeeling
Who boarded a bus to Ealing
It said on the door
"Don't spit on the floor"
So he climbed up and spat on the ceiling.


NP: So at the end of that round they all spoke at different times.

SH: It's so awful! Here we are in the British Library and we are quoting limericks!

PM: Yes! Popular, popular verse!

NP: Anyway I'll let you know the situation at the end of that round. They've all got points which is good at the end of the round. Paul's got two, Gyles has got two, Ian's got one and Sheila's got one. And Ian we'd like you to begin the next round. Oh the most ferocious animal on Earth. Sixty seconds... do you want to write it down Sheila?

SH: Yes.

NP: The most...

SH: I lose track because we go all over the place.

NP: I know, I know. Ian, 60 seconds starting now

IM: It seems to me that the most ferocious animal on Earth is actually the human being. Because you think of things like sloths and they just lie about on the top of trees. Wasps buzz around, cats sit there and lick their paws. Whereas the human species goes out and kills people, it shouts a lot, it tries to invent limericks! What kind of thing is that? That's a really fierce thing to do.I've been attacked by limerick writers recently...


NP: Paul you challenged.

PM: Well I was going to challenge, but I think Ian actually said limerick and limericks.

IM: I said limerick writers with a hyphen too.

PM: Yeah so I, sorry, I was going to say repetition but it wasn't.

NP: No he did limericks and then limerick writers. Right so an incorrect challenge Ian, you've still got the most ferocious animal on Earth starting now.

IM: And these ferocious versifiers came up to me and shouted "we are the ferocious people, we are going to murder you, we are the..." Oh God!


IM: I'm sorry, it's just that a lot of my poetry is based on the repetition of the rhyme and refrain, and it's really hard to get out of that mindset.

NP: I know, I know, I know.

IM: It's difficult.

SH: It is.

IM: I tend to speak in villanelles around the house.

NP: I think it was very brave of you to volunteer to come on the show.

IM: It was actually.

NP: But you do of course...

IM: But I am speaking fast because I told my wife I was only going to the shop.

NP: Give him a bonus point for that, the audience enjoyed it. But Gyles you had a correct challenge and you have 29 seconds, the most ferocious animal on Earth starting now.

GB: The most ferocious animal on Earth, Cherie Blair on E-Bay. The woman is insatiable...


NP: Sheila Hancock challenged.

SH: Well she's hardly ferocious!

GB: Oh have you tried bidding against her? Oh my goodness!

SH: Presumably you have!

GB: That woman will get what she wants! Oh my goodness gracious me!

NP: Sheila I'm inclined to agree with you, she's not, she's not ferocious.

SH: Not in the least.

NP: She's, she's got a very sharp business brain. So correct challenge and... 22 seconds for you Sheila, the most ferocious animal on Earth starting now.

SH: I actually do think it's the human animal, but my cat thinks it's him. He growls around the house looking for mice and birds and is a killer...


NP: Gyles challenged.

GB: It's a curious house that has birds in it.

NP: Well they might be in a cage.

PM: He's looking for them, they might not be there.

GB: No no you're right.

PM: He's looking for them. He's only a cat.

SH: He don't find them.

GB: No you're right.

SH: He doesn't find them.

GB: A lifetime of disappointment! Sheila Hancock's cat, oh dear!

NP: Sheila an incorrect challenge, you still have the subject and there are...

SH: Oh Lord!

NP: ... 10 seconds...

SH: Dear oh dear!

NP: You've only got 10 seconds, the most ferocious animal on Earth starting now.

SH: I think he once saw a tiger...


NP: Paul challenged.

PM: Repetition of think, we had think before.

NP: Oh yes.

SH: Right, good.

NP: I think the most... so Paul you got in with nine seconds to go on the most ferocious animal on Earth staring now.

PM: Apparently it is the hippopotamus. They're real devils. If you ever get between one and it's kin you will find out just how ferocious they can be. The mighty...


NP: Right so Paul Merton was then speaking as the whistle went, gained that extra point for doing so. And he's taken the lead, he's one ahead of the others, they're all equally, one point behind him. Which is, ah I love using words...

PM: As long as they're not using you.

NP: But it's the misuse of words in the British Library which is a bit naughty, right. Gyles we'd like you to begin the next round, oh another apt subject for the British Library, second-hand books. Sixty seconds starting now.

GB: I was visiting a second-hand bookshop on the Marylebone Road not far from where I had been brought up as a child when I saw a volume of my own work. I was excited, purchased it, only a penny. I must say that was a little bit insulting. Got out into the street, thought this is thrilling. Opened it up and there I read the words "darling mummy and daddy, this is my first book, in joy, signed Gyles Brandreth". This was somewhat of a hurtful moment in my literary career. I would of course love to have second editions of my books, only the first ones ever seem to be published. It is heart-breaking when you are an author to find...


NP: Ian challenged.

IM: I think he repeated first. Because he said first edition before, did he, bought a first edition of the book in the shop. I think he said first, you said first, repetition...

PM: I'm not quite sure I understand something. Did you sell your own book to the...

GB: No no what I did is I gave this book...

PM: Oh I see, you gave it.

GB: ... to my parents and they sold it...

SH: They gave it...

GB: ... to the local second-hand book shop.

SH: Oh no.

PM: They donated it, surely.

GB: They donated it, they donated it.

PM: They thought, this book will raise a lot of money, they thought.

GB: And it did, it raised a penny.

SH: Is it, is it true?

GB: It's a true story.

SH: Oh that's so sad!

NP: Ohhhhhhh!

PM: I think you'll find a similar thing happened to Charles Dickens.

NP: Ian correct challenge, 24 seconds, second-hand books starting now.

IM: I once signed a book of mine to a lady called Linden Almond and I put "all the best" and her name. And then three years later I found this book in a second-hand book shop and I knew where she lived so I signed it again. I put "hello, how are you" and I sent it back to her...


NP: Sheila you challenged.

SH: Gee I did want to hear the end of the story but he did say signed twice.

NP: Yes you did.

IM: Ah it's true. Well she was deaf so I had to sign.

NP: Sheila another point to you, correct challenge and 10 seconds available, second-hand books starting now.

SH: There is nothing more delightful then wandering around Foyle's which is probably the biggest second-hand book shop in London certainly, maybe...


NP: Ian challenged.

IM: There must be some things that are more delightful. I mean, I know it's very delightful but there must be some things in your life...

NP: Yeah she did say one of the most.

IM: Did she.

NP: Yes.

SH: No I think I said there's nothing more delightful.

IM: Fine.

NP: So she's entitled to say that, she's entitled to feel it.

PM: Yeah.

SH: And I get an extra point because he interrupted.

NP: You don't get an extra point, you just get your natural point for being interrupted. So you keep the subject and you have, oh you've only got three seconds, keep going darling! Second-hand, second-hand books starting now.

SH: The smell of them is delightful...


NP: Actually Sheila, if I was playing the game, I would challenge there because the smell of a new book is wonderful. The smell of a second-hand book, it's been through so many different hands, hasn't it, it's really sordid.

SH: Oh no it's lovely.

NP: Is it?

SH: Yeah.

PM: No it's very evocative.

SH: Yeah. If you go into the London Library which is full of second-hand books, it's got the most amazing smell. Better than an I-Phone or I-Pad or whatever they're called.

NP: Anyway you were speaking, you were speaking as the whistle went, Sheila. You got the extra point for doing so and you are in the lead now, ahead of Paul Merton. Paul, oh, language predominates in this particular show this week. Paul the subject is tongue twisters and we'd like you to start, starting now.

PM: Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper is, something like that is one of the most famous tongue twisters you learn at school. They are very difficult to annunciate completely properly, because you must realise that the words are formed between your lips and your tongue vibrating against the back of... what am I talking about?


PM: It's a load of old rubbish! I can't believe people are listening to this!

NP: Gyles...

PM: Can I buzz myself?

GB: Self-inflicted hesitation.

PM: I didn't hesitate.

NP: Yes you did actually hesitate.

PM: Oh did I.

NP: You stopped.

PM: That's not hesitation, that's a stop. If I'd started up again that would have been hesitation.

NP: No no, and you know, you've played the game often enough Paul, you know a stop is a hesitation on this show. Gyles it's your ah, it's your subject now, 39 seconds available, tongue twisters starting now.

GB: The first time I appeared as an actor on the radio, it was a wireless play about a murder. I assayed the role of a young detective and my line was this, that was the chair Schmitt sat in when he was shot. Something of a tongue twister, it went sadly awry and therefore my broadcasting career came to an abrupt stop. I'm having a rapprochement with galoshes, and some would say this heralds middle age. Yes, sneering they would utter "does he also wear pince-nez, old jossers wore these items when womens' hats were cloches. Ha! Woollen combinations are this dodderer's next stage! Well, let these people snigger...


NP: Sheila why have you challenged darling?

SH: He's gone completely insane! I mean we can't let it go on.

GB: It's a tongue twister, it's a tongue twister. It drives you mad, that's the nature of the beast!

SH: But a tongue twister is, it isn't just a load of nonsense.

GB: Well you try saying it darling!

NP: Most tongue twisters are sort of nonsense.

SH: He made it up.

NP: Did you make it up? Go on, do it again.

GB: No I don't think I can do it again. I don't want to get my tongue in a twist. No no because the drugs will soon wear off, let's move on.

NP: I think you'll have to have the benefit of the doubt Sheila, because he did make that up, and he did twist his tongue on it, but it wasn't tongue twisters as we know them. Right, established verbal problems. So Sheila there are five seconds, you tell us something about tongue twisters starting now.

SH: She sold sea shells by the sea shore is something that I...


NP: So Sheila Hancock was speaking as the whistle went, gained that extra point and has moved forward. She's four ahead of the other three who are equal in second place. And Sheila it's your turn to begin and the subject worries me a bit because what they've thought of here, the chairman's weak spot. I don't know what it is, I don't know if you've got any ideas, but talk on the subject starting now.

SH: Whatever I say is going to be a disaster. But however I will declare that you haven't got a weak spot. But maybe you could slightly improve the way you dress...



PM: It's radio, Nick! Tell 'em why the audience are laughing!

SH: I want you, I am going to carry on...

NP: No you're not. I'm going to explain to our listeners, by the way, they're all looking horrified, because especially for you Sheila, I put on one of my smartest velvet jackets...

SH: No no, listen to what I have to say...

NP: No I will.

SH: Let me go on.

NP: All right then. Go on then, you have 34 seconds starting now.

SH: I think you are too conservative. You could be much dishier if you wore leather jackets and jeans and open shirts and maple...


NP: Paul challenged.

PM: In the name of God, no! No!

NP: Paul, I do wear jeans an awful lot.

PM: You don't wear leather jackets though.

NP: I've got a leather jacket as well.

PM: Do you?

SH: Do you?

GB: Oh yes.

NP: Yes. But when I come out and face an audience, I dress up for my audience, I don't dress down.

SH: You look lovely, it's just for the game, I'm saying this.

NP: I know and you're wonderful in the game and we all love you, darling. But that's an incorrect challenge, I do wear jeans...

PM: Oh yeah.

SH: You're right.

GB: You've not been invited to those parties where he wears the leather jackets. Yes there's a lot of fun!

NP: Carry on Sheila with the chairman's weak spot starting now.

SH: I like men to look deshabille. That's not a word...


NP: Paul challenged.

PM: Ah...

SH: It is the British Library, I'm making up words.

PM: I can do no better than to quote Sheila's word, that's not a word. Deviation.

SH: Deshabille, deshabille...

NP: I thought you were very close...

SH: Deshabille, deshabille...

NP: It's deshabille...

SH: That's right.

NP: It means not very elegantly dressed.

SH: Sort of nonchalant.

NP: It's a French word meaning not very elegantly dressed.

SH: No it doesn't, it just means nonchalant and casual.

NP: Deshabille, yes.

SH: It means undress.

GB: Yes.

SH: Naked.

GB: Yes absolutely.

NP: No...

GB: When the leather jacket comes off, there he is! Yum yum!

NP: Deshabille, so Paul, another incorrect challenge...

SH: Oh God! I can't go on with this! I can't!

NP: You can surrender if...

SH: How long have I got?

NP: Twenty seconds.

SH: Oh Lordy!

NP: Right so the chairman's deshabille spot. No no I mean the chairman's weak spot is with you Sheila, 20 seconds starting now.

SH: Maybe putting your hair in a pigtail might add to the sensation. However I am not going to accept that you can be improved upon. You don't have any weak spots Nick. To my mind, you are a gentleman through and through, but I would like to see you in a leather jacket...


NP: Paul challenged.

PM: Sadly in the middle of that, through and through, we had through and through.

SH: Oh yes.

PM: Repetition of through, very sorry.

NP: Yes.

SH: We did.

NP: I will show you how generous I am, how fair I am.

PM: You can rise above it.

NP: No. I can rise above you, I am going to give you a bonus point because it got a lovely reaction, there you are. So Paul you've got four seconds on the chairman's weak spot starting now.

PM: Well undoubtedly Nicholas Parsons' weak spot is this, it's his abi... four seconds did you say...


NP: So Paul Merton was then speaking or attempting to speak when the whistle went, gained that extra point. He's still in second place behind Sheila Hancock, but just ahead of Ian McMillan and Gyles Brandreth. Ian we'd like you to begin the next round, oh, we've got aspects of language throughout the show. This is all very exciting! I'm glad you feel the same.

PM: Absolutely.

NP: And now the subject is slang. Ian I'm sure you don't use much slang in your verse but can you talk on the subject starting now.

IM: (speaking quickly) You see, what one does when one talks in slang is they talks like this, that is they repeats themself all the time, because when they repeats, it's not like slang, it's the other way round. What I am saying is to get the vowels right behind the consonants and that makes a kind of slang sort of dance, a kind of, a kind of, a kind of... oh no...


NP: I think you repeated something.

IM: No I didn't, because that's just one long word. All I said there is one long word. It's a Barnsley slang word for pigeon.

NP: Give him a bonus point for trying to justify something so outrageous.

SH: All this promotion of Barnsley. Great city...

IM: Very rarely happens. So I thought I'd try it now.

SH: I love Barnsley.

NP: Parkinson does it as well, doesn't he.

IM: Yes, from his Surrey home.

SH: And Arthur Scargill, of course.

NP: You are, it is a great place that you talk about, yes. Ian, Sheila you challenged.

SH: Did I.

NP: Yes.

SH: Oh well, yeah, a little bit of repetition.

NP: A little bit.

SH: Just...

NP: So Sheila you've got another point, you have 44 seconds on slang starting now.

SH: Ah well...


PM: Well there was a hesitation there.

NP: There was.

SH: Yeah there was.

NP: You mustn't give up so easily, my darling.

SH: No.

NP: You're very good at the game. Right, 42 seconds Paul, slang starting now.

PM: There's different forms of slang, there's back slang, where somebody could say something along the lines of "coo, you scallops". And if your scallops... no, that's not right...


NP: Ian challenged.

IM: He repeated his scallops.

PM: Yeah.

NP: He did repeat scallops.

PM: Yeah.

NP: Well listened Ian, right. You have 34 seconds, tell us more about slang starting now.

IM: They used to call slang stupstar, they used to call slang... I can't say the word...


IM: Sloppy speech.

NP: Paul challenged.

IM: I was going to say sloppy speech.

PM: Repetition of they used to call.

NP: Yes you...

IM: I can't say the word sloppy speech. That's kind of post-modernism isn't it. When I couldn't say the thing I wanted to say...

NP: It doesn't matter whether it's post-modernism or not, Ian.

IM: No.

NP: You repeated something.

IM: I did. But in a post-modernist way.

NP: Paul, 30 seconds on slang starting now.

PM: There's gay slang as was played very successfully in Round The Horne where people would refer to various parts of the bodies as lallies. Polari, I believe, is actually a very old language. You can go back to sort of like late 18th century and you will find various words in that slang that do crop up today. I believe that the two writers of that magnificent show, Marty Feldman and Barry Took, although not from personal experience, did know a few cabaret artists around about that time in London in the 1960s...


NP: So well done Paul, speaking as the whistle went, gained that extra point. And before I give you the situation I just have to say this is going to be the last round. The situation is as we move into the final round, Gyles Brandreth is in fourth place right now...

GB: Ah!

NP: Because he often is....

PM: Anyone got a mop?

NP: He's often nearer the lead, but it's a, it's a, it's a unpredictable game. Ian McMillan is in third place. And Paul Merton and Sheila Hancock, only one point separates them, the two of them. And Gyles I think it's about time you started.

GB: Yes.

NP: So...

GB: Yes!

PM: Can you bring a bucket with the mop as well?

NP: Gyles is making the most extraordinary noises. I should explain to our listeners, there was nothing wrong with his insides or bowels, it's just that he is trying to gain attention. And ah...

PM: It's show business!

NP: How I prepare for Christmas. Tell us something about that subject Gyles, in this game starting now.

GB: How I prepare for Christmas, reluctantly. I loathe the festive season, particularly the game of Monopoly that takes place after lunch. Because it is a family breaker. The children want to win and they turn upon their parents in a despicable way. The other part of it that I completely loathe is the food. We gather around the microwave, pop it open and insert the Marks and Spencers turkey breast with four little sprouts on the side. Some gravy has already congealed, 35 seconds later, ping and it is in front of us. We consume it, pull a couple of crackers, turn on the television and there is the Queen, the same one who has been there for nearly 60 years. The novelty has worn off! What we are looking for is a kind of yuletide celebration where there are logs that are not made of chocolate but a wood, stern, stowe. Berries under which one can kiss, mistletoe that gives you the sensation...


NP: Well Gyles that was a magnificent tour de force. But don't ask me to your home for Christmas! I can't think of anything more miserable in this festive season!

SH: A terrible old Scrooge.

NP: A real Scrooge isn't he, yes.

SH: Yeah.

NP: A real Scrooge, honestly, miserable. But within the rules of Just A Minute it was magnificent.

PM: Yes.

NP: You kept going without hesitation, repetition or deviation and you got a point for speaking as the whistle went and you get another point for not being interrupted, and you finished in third place alongside Ian McMillan. So you redeemed your position. And the other two haven't moved, because nobody else spoke in that round. But Paul is just one point behind Sheila Hancock so we say Sheila...

GB: Oooohhh.

SH: Ah I've redeemed myself.

NP: I know darling, you redeem every time you come on. So it only remains for me to say thank you to these four fine players of the game, Paul Merton, Gyles Brandreth, Sheila Hancock and Ian McMillan. I thank Sarah Sharpe, who has helped me with the score, blown her whistle beautifully when the 60 seconds elapsed. We thank our producer Claire Jones. We are indebted to Ian Messiter who created this amazing game which we love playing and we have such fun. And we hope this fun has not only passed to the audience here, but we hope some of it has passed to you. And we hope it will cheer you up at Christmas. So from this lovely audience here in the British Library, Theatre of the British Library, and from me Nicholas Parsons, and our team, good-bye, thank you very much for tuning in. And be with us the next time we play Just A Minute! Yeah!