Jeopardy Spelling Decisions

Here are two collections of words that have been misspelled in Final Jeopardy! The first set shows spelling mistakes that were acceptable to the judges and the second shows spelling mistakes that were rejected.

The whole reply may be given, but only the correct spelling of the word in question is shown in parentheses.


12-1-16 – THE DECORATIVE ARTS: In the early 1700s in Dresden, King Augustus locked up a chemist until he found how to make this product dubbed “white gold”.
ACCEPTED: Porcelein (Porcelain)

9-29-16 – MYTHOLOGY: Banished from Athens, this inventor found trouble on Crete too, but escaped.
ACCEPTED: Daedelus and Deadalus (Daedalus)

9-28-16 – HISTORIC HOMES: Also known as the “House of His Majesty”, Fairfield House in England was the home of this African leader from 1936 to 1941.
ACCEPTED: Salassie (Selassie)

7-8-2016 – TRANSPORTATION: The Trans-Siberian Railway, one of the world’s longest, spans 5,770 miles from Moscow to this port city on the Sea of Japan.
ACCEPTED: Vladivostock (Vladivostok)

5/2/2016 – WORD ORIGINS: From the Greek for “all views”, this word was 1st used to describe a large 1787 painting of Edinburgh by artist Robert Barker.
ACCEPTED: Panarama (Panorama)

1/21/2015 – FICTION: A line in this short story is “slowly, awkwardly trying out his feelers, which he now first learned to appreciate…”
ACCEPTED: Metamorphisis (Metamorphosis)

12/5/2014 – HEALTH & MEDICINE: In 1985 the Surgeon General called this “the best rescue technique in any choking situation”.
ACCEPTED: all 3 players misspelled one or both words in Heimlich Maneuver
(1) Manuveur; (1) Hiemlick; (2) Manuever

11/12/2014 – THE U.S. CONSTITUTION: The 3 Latin phrases found in the Constitution are “pro tempore”, “ex post facto” & this legal 2-word phrase.
ACCEPTED: Habeus Corpus (Habeas)

11/05/2014 – ARTISTS: Illustrations by this man show why his name has become the standard for children’s book artistry.
ACCEPTED: Caldicot (Caldecott)

04/30/2014 – ALBUM COVERS: This band used a picture of the Hindenburg disaster on the cover of its eponymous debut album.
ACCEPTED: Led Zepplin (Zeppelin)

10-26-2010 – SPORTS VENUE: In 2000 the Centre Court Arena in Melbourne, Australia was renamed for him.
ACCEPTED: R. Lavar (Laver)

1-18-2007 – ANIMATED CHARACTERS: The middle initial of this cartoon critter introduced in 1949 stands for Ethelbert
ACCEPTED: Wil E. Coyote (Wile)

1-20-2005 – AMERICAN BUSINESSMEN: This man who died in 1984 remarked, “We’re not in the hamburger business, we’re in show business”
ACCEPTED: Ray Kroch (Kroc)

10-12-2004 – WESTERN HEMISPHERE GEOGRAPHY: The 2nd-smallest independent country in area in the Western Hemisphere; in the ’80s it was invaded by the 2nd largest.
ACCEPTED: Granada (Grenada)

5-13-2004 – AMERICANA: Beginning an American tradition, in 1801 Aaron Burr’s daughter Theodosia & her new husband honeymooned here.
ACCEPTED: Niagra Falls (Niagara)

6-17-1997: 1990S AFRICA: In 1994 these 2 African countries’ Presidents Habyarimana & Ntaryamira died in a plane crash.
ACCEPTED: Rwanda & Burindi (Burundi)

12-29-2017 – Following a show’s success in 2011, this group began advertising, “You’ve seen the play…now read the book”
NOT ACCEPTED: Church of Jesus Christ & Latter Day Saints” (of Latter Day Saints)

12-26-2017 – As a response to new developments there, this territory was carved out of the Northwest Territories in 1898.
NOT ACCEPTED: looks like “Yukon Territor- es?” (Territory)

2-2-2017 – THE U.S.A. The Empire State Building says that on a clear day you can see 5 states from the top: New York, New Jersey, Conn. & these 2.
NOT ACCEPTED: looks like “Massachuset” (Massachusetts)

11-11-2016 – FAMOUS FIRST NAMES:
This first name of a 21st c. activist was inspired by that of a Pashtun heroine known as the Afghan Joan of Arc.
NOT ACCEPTED: Malalala (Malala)

7/27/2015 – CLASSICAL MUSIC: The first movement of the 1888 suite named for her is titled “The Sea and Sindbad’s Ship”
NOT ACCEPTED: Scherazade (Scheherazade)

7/23/2015 – COLLEGES & UNIVERSITIES: the mission of this Western university founded in 1875 is “to assist individuals in their quest for perfection and eternal life”
NOT ACCEPTED: Bringham Young University (Brigham)

10/14/2013 – BIG COUNTRIES: In area, it’s the largest former Soviet republic after Russia & the largest nation that doesn’t border an ocean.
NOT ACCEPTED: Kazkhistan (Kazakhstan)

7/31/2013 – THE CIVIL WAR: Abraham Lincoln called this document, which took effect in 1863, “a fit and necessary war measure”
NOT ACCEPTED: Emanciptation Proclamation (Emancipation)

3/12/2012 – PEOPLE OF EUROPE: These people who ruled large parts of Spain before Celtic & Roman dominance left their name on the land.
NOT ACCEPTED: Ibernians (Iberians)

1/23/2008 -FAMOUS ENGLISHMEN: Andrew Carnegie’s future fortune & career were inspired by an 1873 visit with this inventor & engineer
NOT ACCEPTED: Besmer (Bessemer)

3/27/2006 – MILITARY HISTORY: In 2005 a single sapling was planted at an army barracks in Australia to mark the 90th anniversary of this battle
NOT ACCEPTED: Gallopoli (Gallipoli)

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23 Responses

  1. Dave says:

    Years ago (25 or so) I got whacked in FJ for spelling infinitesimal with two s’s. The category was 13 letter words, so I had one letter too many. I hope in the past 25 years they have fixed their godawful screens. Mine was so badly out of alignment that the mark was appearing about 2 inches to the left of where I was writing, which made it extra hard to write legibly and count letters. Rough day! All credit to my competitor who got it right and passed me on points.

  2. Dalton Higbee says:

    The lady on the Friday 12/29/17 show should have actually got it right if she wrote her response correctly.

  3. Kevin says:

    I’m not sure it’s an official rule (and I don’t remember it being briefed to contestants), the general rules seem to be:

    a) for written FJ answers, misspellings are acceptable if the response as written has the same pronunciation as the word correctly spelled. Based on some of the examples above, “Canida” might be acceptable, since the middle syllable is an indeterminate schwa instead of an identifiable vowel sound. However, “Japin” would not be accepted — but “Jipan” might be.

    b) for oral answers, mispronunciation is acceptable if the word as spelled can be pronounced phonetically as given. For instance, for a hypothetical clue, “A rhetorical device where a sample or subset represents the whole,” might have the target answer “synecdoche.”

    The correct pronunciation is “sin-NECK-doe-key.” However, a contestant who is familiar with the word and its correct usage might respond, “What is SIN-nick-doshe?”

    That would probably be ruled acceptable, though AT would probably correct the pronunciation.

  4. Don says:

    If Lisa just wrote “Mass.” wouldn’t that have been correct?

    • VJ says:

      idk for sure but I think so. I could swear I’ve seen them accept state abbrevs in Final Jeopardy before and the show abbreviates states in their clues all the time.

      I think it’s unreasonable to expect the players to be able to write out lengthy responses in FJ and if you add up the characters in Mass. & Penn. (incl. the ampersand), you have one more character than “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf”, another recent FJ response that I thought was too long for FJ.

  5. VJ says:

    When I updated this list, I noticed that when they showed the final clue today while Alex was reading it, Connecticut was abbreviated Conn. on the screen. Then when the players were writing their answers down, it was spelled out.

    Anyway, I included a screencap of Lisa’s answer in case I did not read it correctly, but it looked like she got everything in but the last “t” and the “s” to me.

  6. Cece says:

    VJ, thanks for resurrecting this post. It seems that since the unfortunate “Scheherazade”—which cost Scott Lord the win—there hasn’t been any ruling against misspelled responses.

    • VJ says:

      Thanks, Cece. I don’t remember any rejected FJ spellings from this season. Anyway, I wouldn’t call this the definitive list by any stretch. Maybe I should start dropping one from the bottom when I add one, though I would like to keep “Burindi” because there was some discussion about it on the PanArama game

      • Cece says:

        Maybe you could keep them all in and just add pages…

        Or do one of those post formats you once mentioned you detest, where you keep clicking on the arrow to page 2, 3, etc. Lol.

  7. jacob ska says:

    VJ, where I live the tv station shows daytime Jeopardy reruns. Today they showed the rerun of the November 14, 2013 Teachers Tournament. The fj response was supposed to be “fleur de lis” but the winner spelled it “fleur de leis.” The other 2 contestants spelled it correctly. I don’t know how I missed that when it originally aired. At any rate, the judges said nothing. Weird!

  8. ruth stein says:

    In this evening’s contest: The Italian city SIENA is spelled only with one N

  9. Steve Girault says:

    I would really like to know how they decide whether or not to accept a misspelled word. In my opinion, all of the unacceptable words should have been accepted. It was obvious what they players were attempting to spell and there is not another “similar” word that they “could have meant”

    • VJ says:

      They are going by how what was written would be pronounced, Steve. All the unaccepted answers either add or subtract a syllable or have a vowel wrong, resulting in a different pronunciation than the answer.

      Some of the players probably would have given the right answer if the clue was in regular play, but in others, who knows?

      Take the Ibernians one, for example — he may have been ruled wrong on Hibernians before he got a chance to say Iberians.

      • john blahuta says:

        change the pronunciation and kaboom! maybe tough but those are the rules and the contestants know it. when somebody e.g. says “kazkhistan” instead of the proper “kazakhstan” s/he knows there is a country pronounced somewhat like that, but clearly does not know the exact answer.

        how would people feel about an answer “CANIDA” or “INGLAND”???? although “INGLAND” might be accepted, you could pronounce it properly or like in “I ” as a person. the “i” in island is pronounced like a person, while the “i” in “industry” is pronounced like “England”…. at least in english. in german it is pronounced ENGLAND, like in “engage”. judgement call. although “Ingland”, if written in fj would be somewhat outrageous, i think.

        sorry, i wish i had pronunciation keys on my board. but i guess you know what i mean.

        • Steve Girault says:

          John and VJ, I guess I understand both of your points and yes, I know they know the rules going in, but still think it kinda sucks that some people miss over “close but no cigar” misspellings.

          In this “auto-correct” electronic world we live in, maybe the judges should type in the word the way the contestant spelled it and see what auto-correct changes it to!!

        • VJ says:

          Steve, I should mention that there is a youtube of the PEOPLE OF EUROPE one. The player who got ruled wrong in FJ, also got ruled against in regular play for saying “Wimbleton” instead of “Wimbledon” in response to a sports clue.

          ‘Tis plain to see: they don’t care what you meant. :-)

      • john blahuta says:

        i give you that one, vj! otherwise i have to say “Iberian” is sort of world famous (Iberian peninsula etc) and there was no chance to change the writing. had he STAYED with it in REGULAR play (where you stumble sometimes over your own tongue) and SAID “Ibernian”, maybe twice, they would have been right to rule him wrong. from what i vaguely remember, i think he slightly nodded, knowing already that it was misspelled. so i give him the benefit of the doubt there. proper nouns are often a problem too: bernschtine-bernsteen e.g. one should go with how the person her/himself pronounces it or if that is not known well enough, how the vast majority of people pronounce it.

        everybody i know says “ineschtein” and not “eensteen” and that’s how albert pronounced it himself. plus, he was the type of person who would not have made a big deal out of it, had somebody mispronounced his name. he had a rather good sense of humor and was very tolerant. at least when you believe the descriptions of people who knew him very well and i DO believe them, i read enough about einstein, his attitudes and his character.

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