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28 October 2014

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My Word!

My Word!

My Word! first hit radio airwaves in 1956. Devised by Dick Barton: Special Agent co-creator Edward J Mason and The Archers producer Tony Shryane, it pit comedians Frank Muir and Denis Norden against each other in a series of literary parlour games.

Each comic was accompanied by a team mate, initially E Arnot Robertson and journalist Nancy Spain, but later contestants included film critic Dilys Powell, journalist Anne Scott-James and Harold Pinter's wife, Antonia Fraser.

Originally intended as a light-hearted, but fairly straight educational quiz, the show's direction was inadvertently altered by its very first episode.

Nancy Spain and Denis Norden

Although since considered mainstays, Muir and Norden were originally replacements for two guests who dropped out at the last minute.  Finding the questions tough, the duo took to ad-libbing their answers, creating the tortured puns that would become the series' calling card.

Understandably, original host Jack Longland had been drawn from an academic background, having been Director of Education for Derbyshire. Nonetheless, he did a fine job of keeping up with Muir and Norden's flights of fancy, and stuck with the show for 20 years.

He was replaced in 1976 by John Julius Norwich - who stayed for a further four.  Michael O'Donnell then took over the reins, steering My Word! to its final series in 1990.

Frank Muir and Dilys Powell

Over the years, the show gained a cult following, not just in the UK, but overseas where it could be heard on the BBC World Service.

Most listeners tuned in for the final round, in which the comics provided their own shaggy dog stories by way of a bogus explanation for a well known phrase.

So you want to know where Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious comes from? Why, it's just a shopping list, including a remedy for someone with bad breath: "Soup, a cauli, fridge-elastic, eggs, pea - halitosis!"

Cast

John Arlott
Host
Jack Longland
Host
John Julius Norwich
Host
Michael O'Donnell
Host
Denis Norden
performer
Frank Muir
performer
Dilys Powell
performer
Anne Scott-James
performer
Antonia Fraser
performer
E. Arnot Robertson
performer
Nancy Spain
performer

Crew

Edward J. Mason
creator
Tony Shryane
creator

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