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Petronius was a poet and courtier – or sidekick – of the Emperor Nero, who liked to execute people who annoyed him (like his mother, and his wife). Nero also fancied himself as a singer and poet. Petronius kept his head (on his shoulders) by making remarks that could be taken two ways. That way he pleased Nero while never actually telling a lie. Well, that’s what happened in the film Quo Vadis, anyway.

The Delphic Oracle worked a similar trick. She was a prophetess in Delphi, Ancient Greece. When a leader consulted her about the outcome of a battle, she pronounced: A mighty empire will be destroyed! The leader went off, full of confidence. A mighty empire was destroyed - his.

Petronius: [after seeing Rome consumed by flames] Now indeed, Nero has his place in history.

Petronius: [to Nero] You will be worthy of the spectacle - as the spectacle is worthy of you.

Nero, committing suicide: What an artist dies with me! (Allegedly his real last words - Qualis artifex pereo!)

Mrs Thatcher wrote a terrible Yes Minister sketch which the stars performed at an awards ceremony. Author Jonathan Lynn said: "The Prime Minster has now taken her rightful place in the world of situation comedy."

This year’s entries are as strong as ever. David Lammy’s comment on the 2005 Turner Prize

At age 13 they enrolled her in a convent school in San Antonio, Texas, in an effort to curb her rebellious ways. This worked as well as one might expect. straightdope.com

Cherie singing Like a Virgin in a Gaultier basque? Come on, you want it as much as I do. Rupert Smith, Guardian December 8, 2005

The frogspawn on toast was as delicious as it sounds

Nic Roeg’s version was “You’ve done it again!” And from Rupert Goodwins: Inquira – we know no other company like it.