Ken Jennings


September 17, 2007

I haven’t run reader e-mail in a while, so let’s take a look. Lynn from Abilene wants to know about the little Jeopardy! hoe-down that got me onto this Linkognito list.

So I’m curious…when you responded to the following clue:

“This term for a long-handled gardening tool can also mean an immoral pleasure seeker”

Did you actually know the answer was “rake?” Something tells me you did judging by your reaction after you said “hoe.” Whether you did that on purpose or not, just letting you know that’s one of the top 5 funniest things I’ve ever heard. Thanks for the laugh.

I’m not sure why this isn’t on the FAQ yet–I get asked this all the time. So here’s the deal. When I saw the clue, and “What is a hoe?” first popped into my head, I was convinced it was the right answer. But by the time my thumb actually hit the buzzer, I had definitely gone all the way from “This will be correct!” to “Meh, it’s only the $200 clue. It’s worth $200 to me to be able to say ‘What is a hoe?’ on Jeopardy!

Many people who bring this up seem to feel I wuz robbed, but I think the additional “e” disqualifies my answer. (The street-corner spelling of “ho” has been well-established since Eddie Murphy played Velvet Jones on SNL, if not before.) Personally, I’m more intrigued by the possibility that the whole question was set up by the writers just to get someone to say “What is a hoe?” Supporting my theory: pastor Al Lindke (the guy at far right who finally says “What is a rake?” in the clip) told me during the next commercial, “I’m glad you beat me to the buzzer on that one, because I was going to say ‘What is a hoe?’ as well. My congregation never would have let me live it down!”

DoctorShade seems amazed that I ever leave the house.

I’m curious, in your blog you talk about doing things with your family that any regular person does. When you leave your house do a lot of random people come up to you and say “Are you Ken Jennings?” or just stare at you with a look of recognition and disbelieve? Or do you get the occassional “can I have your autograph?” now and than?

“Any regular person?” What am I, unleaded? In Utah, I’d get recognized all the time (which usually just meant some suddenly pie-eyed gawker jostling a spouse’s elbow when I walked by them in Costco). But it’s rare in Seattle. A server did recognize me when we were at dinner Friday night, but it didn’t get us a table any faster. (Dear Kingfish Cafe: I love your ribs, but in the 90 minutes it took you to seat us, I could have flown most of the way to Kansas City for real barbecue. Please start taking reservations. Love Ken.)

Some Seattleites have told me that the city is intentionally failing to recognize me out of friendly courtesy, but I’m pretty sure it’s just that I’m not that famous anymore. And thank goodness for that. Think of all the poor bruised elbows I leave behind when I traipse through a Salt Lake City Costco.

Teen-aged Jeff wants to be so smart he scares people.

Hey, Im 16 and a wanna-be trivia buff, I read a lot and spend most of my time trying to learn what I don’t know, And although I probably won’t end up on a game-show I still want to be an intelligent individual (and be able to answer Jeopardy questions better than my friends, and rub it in their faces) so besides your advice on how to prep for jeopardy, What else can I do to really just be a smarter guy?….. and be so intimidating when I’m looking at someone it makes them want to run away with their tail between their legs.

P.S I couldn’t resist throwing out a question out at you, so answer if you can.

Decode the following series of numbers:

132 30 210 110 30 210 210 90 210 56 380

(No asking Ogi)

You want to put the fear of God into people by yelling Jeopardy! answers at a TV? Uh, okay. I can think of a few things that would make you even scarier. Maybe a tattoo of a cute little baby chick on your forearm.

Personally, I think the key to seeming smart is to pick your spots. It doesn’t matter who you’re with–teenaged stoners, Jeopardy! contestants, nuclear physicists–everyone has a bunch of subjects they know nothing about, and they sound like dumbasses when they get cocky and start spewing forth uninformed opinions under the misconception that the more you talk, the more you must know. Sounding off on a subject you know nothing about isn’t going to fool anyone–it’s just going to puncture whatever mystique of infallibility you’ve already built up. If you’re dead certain about an answer or an insight, proffer it, smile slightly, and then just walk away. Otherwise, skip straight to “smile slightly and walk away.”

People assume I know stuff all the time when I have no idea. They think I’m keeping silent out of modesty, or Zen calm, or want them to learn to fish for a lifetime, or something.  Like Jeff’s row of numbers, above. I have no freaking clue. “380” made me throw out my working theory that it’s some interior-angles-of-a-polygon thing. Can anyone help? Anybody? Ogi?

Posted by Ken at 11:43 am