In the shadow of “Jeopardy!” – humor

Wen Smith

For unexplainable reasons, my wife and I have become “Jeopardy!” junkies. Maybe it’s because we like to see other people putting their smarts on the line while we ourselves are smug in the comfort of our home. Or maybe it’s just that we think we’d be good contestants.

Our fascination with “Jeopardy!” can’t be due to its format. It’s not a question-and-answer show, because it always puts the A before the Q. Host Alex Trebek presents an answer, and the contestants have to think backwards and come up with the fitting question. The only thing I do that way is my tax return.

During “Jeopardy!” my wife and I average about three right questions out of ten, two from her and one from me. I spend most of the time trying to catch Alex in a slip of the tongue. He is an articulate guy, but the other night I caught him on an obscure point of grammar. He stated an answer about the amount of liquid it takes “to make a cup runneth over.”

I groaned. “That’s a boo-boo, Alex.”

“It’s Biblical language,” my wife answered.

“No,” I said. “The Bible never makes a cup runneth over.”

“Twenty-third Psalm,” she said.

“Wrong,” I said. “The Psalm says, |My cup runneth over.’ It would be ungrammatical to say something makes the cup runneth over.”

“I see your point,” my wife said. “Something makes it run over.”

“That’s it,” I said. “Runneth means runs. I run, thou runnest, the cup runneth. That lisping -eth is the third-person singular ending. It’s never used on an infinitive.”

“Shall I get out your chalkboard?” she said.

She had caught me using my lecture voice. That happens when I watch an intellectual show like “Jeopardy!” or “The Dating Game.”

“Make fun if you want,” I said, “but the Psalm says, |He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.’ |Makes me to lieth down’ would be ridiculous.”

By that time, we had missed how much liquid it takes to make a cup run over. Of course, my wife knew anyway.

“One drop doth it,” she said. I should have known. It’s the first excess drop that maketh a cup run over. She had the grammar right, too.

In Final Jeopardy, the climax of the show, Alex went back to the Bible, and the answer was a doozie: “He doesn’t have a book of the Bible named for him, but long after he cast a stone and smote the Philistine, he wrote one of those books.”

Before half of the ten seconds ticked away, my wife said, “That was David. He wrote the book of Psalms.”

“Right, but you lose the money,” I said. “You didn’t put it in the form of a question.”

“The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away,” she said.

After the show, we looked up that line in the Book of Job. She had misquoted slightly, but at least she had the grammar right. Of course, “Who was David?” did turn out to be the fitting question, and two of the contestants answered it right. One of them went away with a potful of Merv Griffin’s money. Her cup ranneth over.

In spite of that topsy-turvy format, I guess my wife and I will go on being “Jeopardy!” junkies. Doing trivial things backwards is the way of the world these days, and we’re getting used to it. But whether we’d ever qualify as contestants – that’s still in the form of a question.

COPYRIGHT 1994 Saturday Evening Post Society

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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