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"Cows Have Accents … And 1,226 Other 'Quite Interesting Facts'", NPR Weekend Edition 9/14/2013:

Did you know that cows moo in regional accents? Or that 1 in 10 European babies was conceived in an IKEA bed? Or that two-thirds of the people on Earth have never seen snow?

The BBC quiz show QI celebrates these "quite interesting" tidbits of information with obscure questions that reward the players for both correct answers and interesting ones. John Lloyd, one of the creators of the show, teamed up with QI researchers John Mitchinson and James Harkin to compile a treasure trove of factoids in 1,227 Quite Interesting Facts to Blow Your Socks Off.

I'm not sure about the Ikea-bed and snow-virgin factoids — they seem plausible, but the mere fact that the source is the BBC makes me suspicious. For some background on the cow-accent thing,  with links to some other sagas of epic BBC-mediated misinformation, see "It's always silly season in the BBC Science Section", 8/26/2006.


  1. Bill Benzon said,

    September 15, 2013 @ 5:43 am

    So, if you can't get a gig writing jokes for a comedy show on British TV you get a job doing science reporting for the BBC.

    [(myl) It would be nice to think that the situation was the result of cleverness rather than credulity.]

  2. Sili said,

    September 15, 2013 @ 5:55 am

    Don't you dare criticise Q!

    I will accept many things, but noöne insults the rev. dr. Fry!


    (srsly, though. QI is one of the better programmes at correcting their mistakes.)

  3. Adrian Morgan said,

    September 15, 2013 @ 6:32 am

    I distinctly remember correcting @qikipedia on Twitter more than a year ago, after they tweeted the "cows have accents" myth. Neither my correction (which included a Language Log link) nor anyone else's (surely there were others) was acknowledged.

    I'll be watching expectently for them to tweet a link to this post.

  4. Mark Mandel said,

    September 15, 2013 @ 9:39 pm

    From the title, I expected this post to be about something more like "Sheep have accents".

  5. Kenny Smith said,

    September 16, 2013 @ 3:12 am

    While the initial story was just PR fluff, goats (another ungulate) seem to do some limited vocal learning (2012 paper by Briefer & McElligott:, so it's not an inherently absurd idea that cows might too.

  6. Uri said,

    September 16, 2013 @ 9:17 am

    QI is a reasonably enjoyable program, though it does suffer from too many penis jokes and too little fact-checking (and little interest in correcting mistakes after the fact). The presenter, Steven Fry, is actually a bit of a linguaphile, as previously noted at

  7. Sili said,

    September 16, 2013 @ 12:15 pm

    suffer from too many penis jokes


    But anyway – what do they say of the Acropolis where the Parthenon is?

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