It does, of course, what it says on the familiar purple wrapper. It’s Fry, it’s English, and it’s Delightful. Of all the plaudits we’ve had from critics and language buffs, we like the listener who said ‘I wish Stephen Fry had been my English teacher.’
Not that didacticism is our chief aim. It’s surprise, laced with joy. As Stephen rightly remarked in our programme So Wrong It’s Right, ‘Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo’ Which many people might criticise for redundant repetition. A computer word processor would take issue with the sentence. Yet sentence it is.
And therein lies a theme in our series. Computers, bless ‘em, will in the foreseeable be unequal to our brains, in the use and understanding of the English language. An advanced translation programme wrestled with the English phrase ‘Out of sight out of mind.’ It came up with a Russian translation ‘Invisible Idiot’.
The fact that the English language, rather like Stephen, is a somewhat disobedient creature makes this the more fun. We’ve made a programme about the word ‘fuck’. Here’s a rather disreputable edited version. Stephen has had his mind taken over by Derren Brown. He’s discussed the impossibility of achieving an accurate language of colour with David Hockney. And he has danced the tango with Charlotte Green, to illustrate a point about plain English.
We look forward to making a new series in the summer, but if you can’t wait, go here for past programmes and samples, and here, where you’ll find some extended interviews with experts and characters from our 37 programmes.