On this week’s BBC Two episode of University Challenge, a Waugh reference formed one half of a 10 point question. Jeremy Paxman presented the question thus: What five letter word links an ironic synonym for “Force” in Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop and the second word of the name of the alternative rock group often known by the initials TMBH? The university teams (Strathclyde and Imperial) both missed it. One answered “Beast” and the other, “Giant”.
The correct answer was “Might”. The name of the rock band is They Might Be Giants. The Waugh reference is in a response by Mr Baldwin to William Boot about the content of the messages Boot has been sending back to the Daily Beast to explain the situation in Ishmaelia:
“Dear me, how little you seem to have mastered the correct procedure of your profession. You should ask me whether I have any message for the British public. I have. It is this: Might must find a way. Not “Force”, remember; other nations use “force”; we Britons alone use “Might”. (Book II, Chapter Five, Part 1: Penguin, 1983, p. 172)
Some one familiar with alternative rock bands might have known the answer to the second part, but anyone relying on knowledge of Evelyn Waugh’s writing would have had to strain to derive an answer to that side of the question.