Jeopardy! fans are NOT happy after this recent episode…
On October 18th, fans hopped on social media to share their disappointment in Ken Jennings, the current host of Jeopardy!, about a tricky call when two contestants mispronounced their answers.
The $1000 clue under “KICKIN’ AZTEC” read:
“The Aztecs founded two cities where Mexico City now stands: Tlatelolco & this one, their capital.”
The correct answer was “Tenochtitlan,” now the heart of historic Mexico City – and is undoubtedly a challenging word to pronounce.
Contestant Kendra Blanchette buzzed in and responded: “What is Te-no-chit-lan?”
Her pronunciation left off the “T” in the middle.
Jennings ruled her answer incorrect after a slight hesitation. Then John Saak, who later won the Champions Wildcard tournament, buzzed in with his attempt at pronouncing the word that was actually far worse:
“What is ‘Techno-cheech-lan?'” Saak said.
Again, Jennings declared that his response was not acceptable.
“Um, I’m gonna say no.”
Jennings’ decision knocked down Blanchette from $5200 to $4200 and Saak from $1400 to $400.
What Gives? Is The Pronunciation That Serious?
On the podcast Inside Jeopardy! on Monday, producer Sarah Whitcomb Foss address the incident that has left fans torn on social media. Foss was joined by former Jeopardy! champion, Buzz Cohen.
“There was a lot of discussion about ‘Tenochtitlan,'” Foss said. “This was one of those- you know. We went back, we listened, we deliberated.
“It’s a tough break,” Cohen shared. “We can understand why our players might pronounce that name wrong, but the briefing is very clear.
“You either have to pronounce the word correctly or phonetically correctly, and unfortunately, that didn’t happen in this case.”
Foss then said, “Had someone said, ‘tee-no-teet-lan,’ even though it’s not the way we pronounce it, it’s phonetically correct and that would have been acceptable.
“So this was a tough break but certainly something that the judges reviewed and tried to deliberate on until we knew we had the right call on that one.
It was a ruling that was tough to make.”
This Isn’t The First “Close Call” With The New Jeopardy! Hosts
Viewers of the long-running show have been on edge about the fate of Jeopardy! following the rapid changes that the show has endured since 2020, most notably the show’s new hosts. Co-host Mayim Bialik has even admitted to not feeling like a strong contestant if she were ever given the opportunity, so being a host feels strange.
Jennings on the other hand, has been adapting well to the role. In a recent story, he even accepted and performed a special request for a contestant on live televison.
Earlier this month, fans were quick to notice the show reusing older material, a consequence of the Writer’s Guild of America strike, which compelled them to make necessary adjustments.
Following this incident, fans shared their sentiments about the decision on a Reddit thread.
One user wrote: “I had trouble understanding what caused the answers not to be accepted. Obviously, the judges heard something I didn’t, but to my ear, both sounded right by at least one contestant.”
Another commented: “It seems like it comes up a lot and it’s always an issue. Kind of annoying because it’s such a technical ‘gotcha’ response.”
“I think it should count if it’s close enough that you can unambiguously tell what they’re trying to say,” replied another.
Too Bad So Sad
This isn’t the first time a contestant has fumbled on their answer on the show and lost out because of it.
Just last season, all three contestants were deemed incorrect with three different pronunciations of the same, correct, answer.
Bialik was hosting at the time. The clue read as follows:
“The author and former prisoner that said ‘socialism of any type and shade leads to a total destruction of the human spirit.'”
Each plater guessed the correct author, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, but one by one, Bialik told them that their answers could not be accepted.
All players lost out on the $1,600 that came with getting it correct because Bialik refused to accept the incorrect pronunciation. The host even commented by saying, “This is a tricky one to pronounce.”
Fans complained on X about the seemingly unfair ruling:
One fan wrote: “If you’re not going to accept anyone’s attempt to pronounce Solzhenitsyn, don’t write a clue about him.”
Then, once again on Reddit, fans expressed their disappointment:
“A good reason for them to abandon these types of clues. It’s one thing with clues that ask about translation of common French or Spanish words or idioms, but Russian has several letters that are difficult for Americans,” said one user.
“Give me a break. They all had the right name!” said another viewer.
Ken is now solo-hosting Jeopardy!’s 40th season, while Mayim is on an indefinite hiatus as a SAG-AFTRA member. They were initially named co-hosts in 2022 following the passing of Alex Trebek.