The venerable game show “Jeopardy!” found itself at the center of a controversy focusing on the difference between the words “gangster” and “gangsta.”
“The category was ‘Music and literature before and after,’ requiring contestants to link two separate titles by a common word,” The New York Times reports. “The clue read: ‘A song by Coolio from “Dangerous Minds” goes back in time to become a 1667 John Milton classic.’”
Contestant Nick Spicher answered, “What is Gangster’s Paradise Lost,” and host Alex Trebek initially called the answer correct.
“But soon, the host delivered bad news,” The Times notes, quoting Trebek telling Spicher: “Our judges have re-evaluated one of your responses a few moments ago, Nick. You said ‘gangster’s’ instead of ‘gangsta’s’ on that song by Coolio, so we take 3,200 away from you.”
Spicher went on to win the game anyway, but the incident prompted plenty of debate on social media.
The game show addressed the controversy on its official blog, writing: “Although Nick’s response of ‘Gangster’s Paradise Lost’ was initially accepted, the hard R sound caught the ear of one member of the onstage team, who immediately followed up with a quick check. It turns out that ‘gangsta’ and ‘gangster’ are both listed separately in the Oxford English Dictionary, each with its own unique definition. Nick changed not only the song’s title, but also its meaning — making his response unacceptable.”
Coolio himself even commented on the situation, telling TMZ: “I probably would’ve gave it to him.” But he added a bit of a linguistics lesson, saying, “This is for white people. The ‘e-r’ will always get you in trouble.”
For his part, Spicher took it in stride, commenting on Twitter: “They had every right to call me out on it. And I will be forever proud of the moment that Alex Trebek taught me how to say ‘gangsta.’”