My Word!

From Academic Kids

My Word! was a radio panel game which premiered on the BBC Home Service on January 1, 1957. It was created by Edward J. Mason and Tony Shryane, and featured comic writers Denis Norden and Frank Muir, more famous (in Britain, at least) for the series Take It From Here. For decades it was also broadcast worldwide via BBC World Service shortwave.

Two teams (Muir and another versus Norden and another) faced a series of questions devised by Mason, primarily word games and literary quizzes covering vocabulary, etymology, snippets of poetry, and the like. When stumped by a question, the contestants could be sure of receiving generous partial credit for a humorous answer of enough ingenuity.

In the final round, each team was asked to give the origin of a famous phrase or quotation. Once the answers were given, Muir and Norden were invited to explain the "real" origin of their respective teams' phrases; each proceeded to weave a shaggy dog story leading up to an outrageous pun upon his phrase. (Although these stories did sometimes purport to explain the origin of the phrase in question - one notable example being the tale of René Descartes at a New Years party hastily scribbling a note to warn a friend that he'd started on the buffet snacks too early: I THINK THEY'RE FOR 1 AM - the rule was not strictly enforced, and a story was just as likely to begin "A funny thing happened to me on the way here tonight...") In later years, the first part of the round was dropped in favour of having the chairman simply announce the accepted origin of each phrase, thus opening up new fields of phrases that would have been too well-known or too obscure to be posed as questions. Many of the stories were later collected in a series of books.

The host of the show was originally Jack Longland, who was succeeded by John Julius Norwich and then Michael O'Donnell. The two additional contestants were initially film critic E. Arnot Robertson and journalist Nancy Spain; later contestants included film critic and Greek scholar Dilys Powell, journalist Anne Scott-James, and writer and historian Antonia Fraser.

The show, which ended in 1990, is still rerun in the United States and Australia. A companion program, My Music, ran from 1967 to 1993.

Shows from 1974 are available for sale from the Old Time Radio Shop.

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