Poor Nick Spicher of Everett, Washington. His inability to pronounce the name of a rap song correctly cost him $3,200 during his New Year’s Day appearance on Jeopardy, the iconic game show for egg heads.
It seems that the correct answer in the category, Music and Literature Before and After, was the “chart-topping” hip hop song, Gangsta’s Paradise, by rapper Coolio. Because the Clown doesn’t have a hip hop chart, he was unfamiliar with both the artist and the song. However, Mr. Spicher, being an admirable smarty-pants, knew the answer and that it was related to John Milton’s 1667 epic poem, Paradise Lost. Connecting such disparate cultural dots is pretty amazing. Unfortunately for Mr. Spicher, he is both smart and literate. Ergo, his answer was, “What is Gangster’s Paradise Lost?”
Although his answer was allowed initially, after a huddled meeting of off-camera judges, the answer was deemed incorrect and $3,200 was whisked away from Mr. Spicher’s monetary score. Now, you might think that Mr. Spicher’s addition of the word “Lost” to his answer was the disqualifying culprit but you would be wrong. No, the offending word was “gangster”. It should have been, according to the judges, “gangsta”.
Many people, including Coolio, a.k.a. Leon Ivey, Jr., felt that Mr. Spicher should have been given credit for a correct answer. To quote Mr. Coolio, “I probably would have gave it to him,” thus proving that the rapper has an empathetic streak and a verb conjugation problem. It wouldn’t surprise the Clown to discover that Mr. Coolio also has noun declension challenges, but that proof would take a thorough review of all of Coolio’s lyrics and the Clown would rather endure a root canal.
To be clear, The Oxford English Dictionary lists gangster and gangsta separately. The former is defined as, “a member of a criminal gang,” and the latter as, “a member of an urban territorial gang.” As we can see, both words have to do with being associated with some type of sketchy group. However, members of these groups take a very different approach to being identified incorrectly.
For instance, should a person mistakenly refer to a gangster as a gangsta, said gangster might be obliged to break that person’s kneecap with a tire iron. On the other hand, if a person, such as Mr. Spicher, refers to a gangsta, such as Mr. Coolio, as a gangster, the mistake would likely be overlooked and, in this case, it was. However, the gangsta would consider the person a real nerd.
The Clown has a suggestion for the producers of Jeopardy. To attract a broader audience and create some real hilarity, once per month, air a show that features gangsta contestants. To make it even more interesting, make sure that contestants are from rival territorial gangs. The Clown suggests that security run each contestant through the metal detector at least twice. A pat down couldn’t hurt.
You could consider a similar show featuring gangsters, but, for obvious reasons, I doubt that any would agree to appear on national television unless they were allowed to use aliases and wear panty hose masks.
The Clown is aware that language changes constantly and that slang is the genesis for much of that change. Words are co-opted, misspelled and mispronounced often enough that the meanings change and the errors become the norm. These changes are often slow. An example: In the 1950s, the word “thug” brought to mind a gangster. In 2018, “thug” brings to mind a gangsta. It’s taken 70 years to change the word’s complexion.
Should you, dear reader, appear on Jeopardy in the future and the category is Music and Literature Before and After, here are some tips for getting the answers right.
- If the answer is Top Dog’s Slam Dunk’n Hoes, do not say Slam Dunking Whores.
- If the correct answer is Craig Mack’s Flava in Ya Ear, claiming that it is Flavor in Your Ear would be wrong on many levels.
- If the song by Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg, Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang, is the correct answer, you will not be given credit for saying Nothing But a ‘G’ Thing.
- If the right answer is G’Eazy & Halsey’s Him & I, do not be tempted to say that it should be He & I, for to do so would cost you street cred and Jeopardy money.
Finally, if the correct answer is MC Ren’s Kizz My Black Azz, remain motionless and let another contestant press the answer button.
Observoid of the Day: If you watch “Celebrity Jeopardy”, it makes you feel smart.