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So this is just sort of a silly rant type post today. Something has always sort of bothered me — what is the deal with “answer in the form of a question” on Jeopardy?

I mean, I know how it works, but I’ve always found it kind of silly. Many times the “clues” are not really answers to the “questions.” At least they aren’t the answers I would give to those questions.

For example, if someone asked me “What is Denmark?” my first response would be “a Scandinavian country in Europe.” For a more detailed answer, maybe I would pull up facts about the country, like its population, geography, type of government, and so on. The sort of info you might see in the first few paragraphs of an encyclopedia entry labeled “Denmark.” Maybe like the info here.

My answer would not be:

a country whose exports to the Middle East went down 15% in 2006, as a result of caricatures of Muhammad.

But look at the clue of the day for October 19, 2011 (you can see the “clue of the day” for the last few days here:

Clue: This country’s exports to the middle east were down 15% in 2006, backlash from caricatures of Muhammad

Correct Response: What is Denmark?

I mean yes, that is an interesting fact about Denmark, and maybe it is something that would be buried a few paragraphs down in that encyclopedia entry (although as of today, it is not mentioned in the Wikipedia article), but this is not the definition of Denmark. This is just not the answer to “what is Denmark.”

Just for the heck of it, I did some poking around online and ran across the Wikipedia article on Jeopardy. It mentions how Merv Griffin originally came up with the idea for the show and the answer in the form of a question thing and a sample question his wife came up with:

She fired a couple of answers to me: “5,280” – and the question of course was “How many feet in a mile?”.

Now that one actually makes sense!

Anyway, I admit this is a sort of silly rant. I’m probably taking the question/answer thing a bit too literally. But still. Sticking the words “what is” or “who is” in front of an answer doesn’t really make it a question.

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