Jerusalem Wallies

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We've done pretty well as far as factual accuracy is concerned this series, at least if the e-mails coming into elves@qi.com are to be believed, but mistakes are inevitable in all forms of media and it seems like we dropped a couple of clangers about the song 'Jerusalem' in our J-Places episode.  In order to explain what went wrong, I'll let you into the workings of the show - specifically the route that a factoid takes to become a fully formed QI question.

Often our first port of call for any subject are works of reference.  We'll check the Oxford English Dictionary, Encyclopaedia Britannica (we have three full volumes in the QI Office) and, of course, Wikipedia, before going onto specific web searches or books.  This is often not to form a question, but to get an overview - we try to approach each subject from a position of 'know-nothing', no matter how familiar we are.

And so, having looked at a couple of other reference books (including the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography where we could read the story of Jerusalem Whaley which was also used on the show) we checked out Wikipedia, and sure enough found a mini piece of General Ignorance, that the song known as 'Jerusalem' is based on a poem not of the same name, but called 'And did those feet in ancient time'.  This is all good for our purposes, so the fact was posted on our talkboards at qi.com/talk (where we conduct our research) and mostly forgotten about until it was time to curate a script about J-places.

The curator's job is then to cobble together all of the semi-formed ideas into a cohesive script, which he presents to the team.  The elves will then try to improve wording and ordering before the final draft goes to our Producer for a once-over, then to Mr Lloyd to read through and then to our script-editor (me) to ensure factual accuracy, at this stage it goes back to the curator to ensure that he is happy.  At any of these junctures a question can get changed, added or removed, and that seems to be what happened here, as the question was transformed from 'What was the name of the poem?' to 'Where does the term 'Chariots of Fire' come from?'

So far, so good you might think, it's a much better question, apart from the fact that the term 'Chariots of Fire' did not originally come from Blake's poem, the term is actually much older than that - it appears in the Bible, specifically 2 Kings 6:17: 'Then Elisha prayed and said, "O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see." And the Lord opened the servant's eyes, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha."'

So a real error, and a 'mea culpa' from the guy who's supposed to check the scripts for factual accuracy.  But it is really great that people take the time to let us know when we get things wrong, it shows a true QI spirit, and I hope that if you notice anything that doesn't seem quite right in the rest of the series you'll get on your keyboard and put us straight.

Postscript.  

There is actually a secondary quibble that the poem was actually untitled by Blake, and so would not have been called 'And did those feet in ancient time' at all.  But we maintain that conventionally speaking, such works were known by their first line. 

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3 Comments

I must admit I sat impatiently waiting for the ultimate reference to Elisha to come up. It seemed that everything was going around in circles on the intermediate Blake reference.

As an aside, on the subject of Chariots of Fire, WWI airmen were a little unhappy at having Elijah as their patron saint, as he ascended to Heaven in a 'fiery chariot' - something that most of them dreaded

In response to this, the Pope Benedict XV granted an exceptional petition in 1920 to change this to Our Lady of Loreto

Why the 'exceptional' petition? Well, to change it without one would have required admitting the fallibility of a previous Pope who had first granted the previous 'incarnation'

And the entire Catholic church (small c) is founded upon Papal infallibility of such matters

As an aside, on the subject of Chariots of Fire, WWI airmen were a little unhappy at having Elijah as their patron saint, as he ascended to Heaven in a "fiery chariot" - something that most of them dreaded

In response to this, the Pope Benedict XV granted an exceptional petition in 1920 to change this to Our Lady of Loreto

Why the "exceptional" petition? Well, to change it without one would have required admitting the fallibility of a previous Pope who had first granted the previous incarnation

And the entire Catholic church (small c) is founded upon Papal infallibility of such matters

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This page contains a single entry by eggshaped published on October 16, 2012 10:17 AM.

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