October 11, 2004

Sluts for $200

At first, this Best Week Ever post struck me as too good to be true: Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings is robbed of $200 when Alex Trebek rejects his response to the clue, "This term for a long-handled gardening tool can also mean an immoral pleasure seeker."

Jennings had said, "What is a ho?" The "right" answer: "What is a rake?"

But like in the butt, Bob, this incident checks out. Scott told me he got the story from his friend Kevan Choset, and Kevan quickly sent me the audio clip. Enjoy.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


If you saw it, the really hilarious thing was that Ken was so sure he had it right. And frankly I did too.

Not to pick nits, but a whore is not a pleasure-seeker. A whore is a money-seeker. The John seeks pleasure.

As even Mormons apparently know, "ho" is now used to mean any promiscuous female, not necessarily a prostitute. Give Ken his 200 bucks.

Yeah, but unlike "rake" and "rake", "ho" and "hoe" aren't the same word, homophonic though they may be. Ken's answer is arguably cleverer than the right one...but it isn't actually correct.

Why do you say that Ken doesn't like gay people?

I can't believe I'm going to pick a fight about words with Francis, but since they have different derivations (according to my dictionary), are "rake" and "rake" really the same word? Isn't the fact that they are spelled the same just a coincidence? And is there a word for words such as that?

Since this is getting technical, let's remember that the clue was "this term" not "this word," in case that makes any difference. Francis?

Well, you actually make a good point, Kevin. "Rake" and "rake" are two different words that just happen to be spelled and pronounced the same way (aka homonyms).

However, I think the question is legit, and would still be legit even with the use of the word "word" instead of "term", since "word" can have the meaning "a written or printed character or combination of characters representing a spoken word", which refers only to the physical characteristics of the word. It may be shallow to judge by appearances, but there you have it. By this definition, one can legitimately consider "rake" and "rake" the same word.

Now wait just one cotton-pickin' minute. Your justification for accepting rake would seem to apply to ho as well. Indeed, "term" gives you more latitude than "word" would have, in that term could mean a homonym, as in this case, or a homophone.

Earlier, you ruled out ho because it was a homophone, but rake is one also (in addition to being a homonym). Per the definition: "1 : one of two or more words pronounced alike but different in meaning OR derivation OR spelling. [emphasis added]

2 : a character or group of characters pronounced the same as another character or group"

Somebody call Alex Trebek

In my defense, I can only say that all homonyms are homophones, but not all homophones are homonyms.

Also, "term" clearly applies to the term "rake", not to the term "homonym" or "homophone". Although, upon examining the definition of "term", I wonder if that's not a more limiting, um, term: "a word or expression that has a precise meaning in some uses or is peculiar to a science, art, profession, or subject". That seems to imply that the meaning of the word is integral, which would imply that two terms that are spelled the same but have different meanings are not, in fact, interchangeable.

Also, can we trust the evidence of our senses that Alex Trebek and Ken Jennings even exist?

>"term" clearly applies to the term "rake", not to >the term "homonym" or "homophone".

What I meant was that a homophone is a type of term, which would mean that you could rewrite the sentence "this homophone for a long-handled garden tool..."

Although now that I look at the definition of term, I think that's incorrect.

"Homograph" was the word I was looking for (following the link). Thanks, Francis.

Also, here's a homograph for homograph.

If Jennings' response was correct then he was robbed of $400, not $200.

That amount was subtracted from his total, instead of added, and that's what happens (Not to nitpick, either).

"All homo[graphs] are homophones, but not all homophones are homo[graphs]"

Not so. Consider the plural form of the noun "attache" and the third person singular simple present form of the verb "to attach." Spelled the same, pronounced differently.

Actually, you could argue he was robbed of $600, not $400 or $200. After he got it wrong, someone else buzzed in and got it right. So that guy got $200 extra dollars while Ken lost $200. Whereas if Ken had gotten credit he'd have gained $200. So, relative to the other guy (and all that really does matter is the relative score), Ken was down $600.

Now, if the judges had decided to give it to him (often they'll change a ruling during a commercial break), they would only give him back the $400 that he lost and NOT penalize the other guy who buzzed in after him. That seems like a sort of arbitrary rule, since the other guy doesn't really deserve those ill-gotten gains, but that's the Jeopardy way.

Of course, a "ho" or a "rake" requires two people for immoral pleasure seeking.

Personally, my money would have been on the vibrating hand seeder as the #1 immoral pleasure seeker.

Hey there, Lost in Gotham -- good job disproving a statement I didn't make! Of course not all homographs are homonyms, since a homograph is "one of two or more words spelled alike but different in meaning or derivation or pronunciation". I was referring to homonyms.

Now, mind you, Merriam-Webster points out that the word "homonym" is often used to mean "homograph" as well as "homophone", but let's just say MW apparently didn't consult the puzzle community on their usage notes. When I say "homonym", I do not mean "homophone" or "homograph", because we, you know, already have words for those specific concepts. Since "homonym" also has a specific meaning ("one of two or more words spelled and pronounced alike but different in meaning"), the path of least ambiguousness directs us to use "homonym" to mean that, and not confuse it further with "homophone" and "homograph".

My apologies, Francis. I see now that I mistakenly attributed the following post to you:

"'Homograph' was the word I was looking for (following the link)."

Mea culpa.

This certainly brings new menaing to The Ramones' "Hey, Ho, Let's Go!"

Jennings has already stated on the Jeopardy forum that this is the only case where he intentionally gave the wrong answer because he thought it would get a laugh.

"I meant to do that!" A likely story.

Buy great garden tools, and gifts for gardeners.

[Normally I delete comment spam, but this is too funny, so I've just deleted the URL -- DLR]

Actually, you could argue he was robbed of $600, not $400 or $200. After he got it wrong, someone else buzzed in and got it right. So that guy got $200 extra dollars while Ken lost $200. Whereas if Ken had gotten credit he'd have gained $200. So, relative to the other guy (and all that really does matter is the relative score), Ken was down $600.
This is starting to sound like the part of the Haggadah where the rabbis are counting the plagues God visited upon the Egyptians.

I don't see that the two senses of "rake" have different derivations. "Rake" (the person) derives from "rakehell", 'an utterly debauched person... such as might be found by raking Hell', according to Chambers. So despite verbing and metonomy, it's still the same word.

Let's see: "Rake," the agricultural implement, from the icelandic reka meaning shovel. You are correct the derivation of the other rake is from "rake hell," but that's not an English idiom putting together "rake" and "hell." It is from the icelandic word reikall meaning "unsettled." Those words might be related in Icelandic, I have no idea, but their journey into English was pretty clearly separate, I think.

This from the Unabridged Random House Dictionary of the English Language, btw.

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