Russian names don’t exactly roll off the tongues of most Americans — as proven on a recent episode of “Jeopardy!”
Fans of the long-running game show got their babushkas in a twist when all three contestants correctly responded to a $1,600 clue but lost big due to a small caveat.
On Monday’s episode, contestant Sami Casanova picked one of the priciest clues from a category called “The Quotable Alex.”
Host Mayim Bialik then answered: “An author and former prisoner: ‘Socialism of any type and shade leads to a total destruction of the human spirit.’”
Contestant Juveria Zaheer buzzed in first with the correct answer, which was Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. But when Zaheer struggled to pronounce his last name correctly, she lost. Casanova came close to saying “Solzhenitsyn” but was given a firm “no.” Returning champion Hannah Wilson gave the name a whirl but failed as well.
Bialik then told all three women that no one said it correctly.
“This is a tricky one to pronounce,” Bialik admitted before saying the name accurately.
(You can see a clip of the incident on YouTube.)
And just in case you happen to find yourself in an unlikely situation where you’d have to pronounce “Solzhenitsyn,” below is the proper way to say it. (And if you pull it off, reward yourself with a shot of vodka.)
The fact that all three contestants lost even though they knew the answer upset viewers on Twitter.
If you're not going to accept anyone's attempt to pronounce Solzhenitsyn, don't write a clue about him. 🤷 #Jeopardy
— Pasha Paterson (@zer0bandwidth) May 8, 2023
Solzhenitsyn. I get it’s hard to say but one of them was fairly close. Of all the names to be strict on….🤦🏻 #Jeopardy
— Robin J Richards (@RobinJRichards) May 8, 2023
TBH, Sometimes I hate #Jeopardy . Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Give me a break.
— Moto62 (@Moto_62_) May 8, 2023
@Jeopardy the insistence on pronunciation ignores those who have read extensively but not heard the word out loud. Clearly all three contestants knew the answer but couldn't properly say Solzhenitsyn like a Russian native.
— Killer Queen 🐈⬛🎃🧙♀️ (@Lili_Lightly) May 8, 2023
Even with weeks of practice, I don't think I can properly pronunciate "Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn" and I think #Jeopardy needs to loosen the standards. It is getting ridiculous
— Michael Scibetta (@mscibetta) May 10, 2023
Although some Twitter users oddly blamed Bialik for the strict pronunciation rule, they can temporarily aim their misplaced complaints at Bialik’s “Jeopardy!” co-host Ken Jennings for a bit. The “Big Bang Theory” alum has reportedly stepped away from her hosting duties in a stand of solidarity with the WGA strike, according to TheWrap.