I was listening to Gardener’s Question Time the other day and it reminded me of the time when I went to one of their recordings and asked a question with a difference.Have you ever been to a BBC radio broadcast? It’s quite exciting but completely without glamour. The outside broadcasts are usually held in a village hall, where the local gardening society or Women’s Institute fills the room with plastic chairs, silver hair and diseased plants. At one end of the hall there’s a table with a green ‘snooker style’ cloth over it. This is where the experts sit.
When the crew arrives with the recording gear the sight of the equipment causes a buzz of excitement in the hall. Then something extraordinary happens; it makes the people in the audience regress to 1950’s England. Everyone in the audience is obsequiously polite. They all suddenly speak with clipped ‘BBC’ accents and they roar with laughter at the weakest of jokes from the panel.The members of the audience that get to ask a question go even further, just as the microphone approaches them you can see them nervously twitching and then on cue they revert to a language not heard since the days of black and white TV...“I recently purchased a flowering cherry tree...!” Purchased; there’s a word I haven’t used since, well the 1950’s.
Most of the audience are posh women, keen to show off their gardening knowledge by using as many Latin plant names as possible. However they like to pronounce them slightly differently to everyone else. At the recording I went to a very proper lady asked a question about her Scots Pine tree. She of course used its Latin name of Pinus sylvestris. However she pronounced it as Penis sylvestris. It went something like this... “I have a magnificent Penis sylvestris but it’s leaning to the left....” She didn’t even flinch. Nor did the rest of the audience; I damn near wet myself.This pronunciation tolerance got me thinking and immediately a plan hatched in my mind. I had brought with me, two diseased plants and was hoping the panel could tell me what was wrong with them. I knew what they were called but they didn’t know that.
When the next question opportunity came along I shot my hand up and managed to get the attention of the man with the microphone and he came straight over. “I’ve been given these two plants as presents but I’m not sure of their correct Latin names” I said loud and clear through the microphone. “The friend that gave them to me says they’re called Biggus dickus and Sillius soddus, is this correct?” You should have seen their faces.