My Word!



John Arlott (1956-7)

Jack Longland (1957-77)

John Julius Norwich (1978-82)

Antonia Fraser (1982-83)

Michael O'Donnell (1983-88)


Regular panellists: Frank Muir and Denis Norden (1956-88), Arnot Robertson (1956-61), Nancy Spain (1956-64), Dilys Powell (1961-88), Anne Scott-James (1964-78), Antonia Fraser (1979-88, not the 82-3 series), Irene Thomas (1982-3)

Ted Kavanagh (stand-in for Denis Norden for 6 episodes, 1957)


BBC Home Service Midlands, 6 June 1956

BBC Home Service / Radio 4, 1 January 1957 to 26 September 1988

TV version: BBC-tv, 10 July to 21 August 1960 (7 episodes)


Long-running comedy quiz revolving around words and quotations. There would be a mixture of factual and more creative rounds: into the first category would come defining unusual words, providing the origins of words, identifying quotations, distinguishing between similar words, and so on. More creative games might include coming up with a verse on the spot, or suggesting euphemisms for a given situation.

But what most of us really remember the show for, is Denis Norden and Frank Muir's lengthy shaggy dog stories which served as the set-up for convoluted puns. This element came about largely by accident when two planned guests failed to turn up for the pilot recording, so Muir and Norden were drafted in at the last minute. Finding many of the questions either too easy or too hard, they started answering instead with their own funny stories, and these (along with Muir and Norden themselves) became an integral part of the show. Originally done off-the-cuff in response to the regular questions, the stories went on to become a game in their own right, often taking up the last ten minutes or more of the show. Several collections were later published in book form.


Within two years of the series' launch, the BBC were selling the show to no fewer than 35 countries, making it the most-heard radio programme in the world up to that date.

On 6 June 1964, My Word! became the first game show to be broadcast in stereo. The left channel was broadcast on BBC Third Programme / Network Three, with the right channel on BBC1. Stereo broadcasts of this sort weren't all that unusual - they'd been going on regularly since 1959, but they were usually given over to music.

On 29 July 1964, a special edition came from Stratford Upon Avon. Called My Bard!, it devoted a whole programme to questions about Shakespeare, to mark the 400th anniversary of his birth. As it had been recorded some months in advance, it was also the last episode to feature original panellist Nancy Spain, who had died earlier that year.


Edward J Mason and Tony Shryane

Theme music

Alpine Pastures by Vivian Ellis.

Web links

Wikipedia entry


l-r: Nancy Spain, Denis Norden, Jack Longland, Frank Muir and Arnot Robertson on the set of the short-lived TV version.


The Utterly Ultimate "My Word!" Collection (paperback)

See also

My Music was a spin-off from this show.


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