Final Jeopardy: Legal Terms

The Final Jeopardy question (1/10/2013) in the category “Legal Terms” was:

This term for a type of decision is from Old French for “to speak the truth.”

New champ Kristin Morgan won yesterday’s game, in one of those ‘nobody knew Final Jeopardy!, but I ended up with the most money.’ Nonetheless, she is an excellent player and can win again if she can defeat these two players: Natalie Hudson, from Houston, TX and Parker East, from Tallahassee, FL.

Parker found the Jeopardy! round Daily Double in “Movie Taglines.” He was in the lead with $4,400, $800 more than Kristin in second place. He bet $2,000 and he was RIGHT.

2000: “She brought a small town to its feet and a huge company to its knees.” show

Natalie finished in the lead with $5,600. Parker was second with $5,400 and Kristin was last with $5,000.

Kristin found the first Double Jeopardy Daily Double in “Historical Online Check-ins” on the second clue. She was in a tie for 2nd place with Parker at $5,400 and they were both $200 behind Natalie’s lead. She bet $2,000 and she was RIGHT.

1485: @ Bosworth Field, leading my side against those wretched Tudors & I need a ride desperately. show

Parker found the last Daily Double in “4-Letter World Capitals.” He was in third place with $6,600, $3,600 behind Kristin’s lead. He bet $5,000, and he was RIGHT.

Suva, the capital of this island nation, is a shipping & commercial center of the South Pacific. show

Parker finished in the lead with $16,400. Kristin was next with $13,000 and Natalie was in third place with $9,600.

NONE of the contestants got Final Jeopardy! right, presumably.


OK, we don’t know what is going on with Jeopardy’s research department, but here is the etymology of the word “verdict” from the Online Etymology Dictionary (OED) : 1530s, from M.E. verdit (c.1300), “a jury’s decision in a case,” from Anglo-Fr. verdit (O.Fr. voirdit).

Natalie wrote down “voir dire.” She bet $3,401, was called wrong and finished with $6,199.

So we are sure that you noticed that “voirdit” was in the etymology of verdict. And the OED gives us this for voir dire: 1670s, from O.Fr. voir “true” + dire “to say.”’s Legal Dictionary online confirms that “voir dire” is French for “to speak the truth,” and explains that the “voir” in the phrase is not connected to the modern French word for “to see.” Natalie is an attorney and would be familiar with the term “voir dire” but may subscribe to a commonly accepted belief that it means “look, see” when questioning a jury.

Technically, therefore, Natalie was correct and should have won the game with $13,001, but this is how the rest of the game went down:

Kristin wrote down “roll call.” She lost $6,201, finishing with $6,799.

If you know what Parker wrote down, fill us in, because we couldn’t read that. Whatever it was, it cost him $9,601 so he finished in another tie with Kristin, only it wasn’t for second place this time. It was as co-champion.

That was $99 more than Kristin won yesterday, so she has a 2-day total of $13,499, if this decision is allowed to stand, or if they let her keep the money when they correct themselves.

Note from VJ: In my opinion, they should correct this. If I’m wrong, please tell me why.

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21 Responses

  1. vj says:

    It’s just messed up. I looked at their website to see if I could send an email about it, but they do not reply to emails or feedback. They say if you want an answer, write them.

    10202 W. Washington Blvd.
    Culver City, CA 90232

  2. anthony says:

    I am an an attorney and i thought voir dire was correct..although it is the process of selecting a jury it still is a legal term that i have heard during years as a prosecutor….also selecting a jury does involve the decision of which jurors should be removed and/or i think voir dire fits!!!!!

  3. Rob Shepard says:

    posted my comment, then read the others. my wife is a retired attorney. Keith and Linda nailed it. Verdict is a legal term. Voir dire is used in talking about the legal process, buit not a legal term.

  4. Rob Shepard says:

    Parker had no answer, just scribbles. Agree, would be awesome if they brought aLL three back tonight.

  5. vj says:

    @JP – When the prefix “ver” is taken from French, it usually means ‘green’ not ‘true.’ Otherwise Vermont would mean True Mountains. LOL.

  6. Tony says:

    Black’s Law Dictionary very clearly defines “voir dire” as “to speak the truth. This dictionary has been around since at least 1891. I don’t think there is a big issue here. Plain and simple, Jeopardy was wrong!

  7. JP says:

    I am an attorney and I guessed “voir dire” at first but then realized that since that is not a type of decision that I must be wrong. I did not come up with verdict, however. I always assumed the word verdict was latin since the French words used in the law tend not to be portmanteaus. Oh well.

  8. jared says:

    Wow this is really splitting hairs and pretty unreasonable of Jeopardy. I’ve always thought verdict came from the Latin, and voir dire from Old French. I have to agree it’s a poorly written clue and poorly researched on Jeopardy’s part.

  9. Duncan says:

    Since voir dire isn’t a type of decision it’s not correct. That’s like arguing that “3” is a correct response to “an even prime number” simply because it’s prime. You have to match all requirements in the clue.

  10. GB says:

    I learned that Voir Dire came from an old French term that meant to Speak the truth.
    I couldn’t believe that ruling. I hope they fix it.

  11. VJ says:

    @Chris, believe me, the way attorneys say ‘voir dire’ would make Alex Trebek wince :-)

  12. Chris says:

    As much as I would like for Natalie to be given credit for her response, the clue says that the term “is from” Old French, leading me to believe they were looking for a legal term that is no longer actually in French.

  13. Tracy says:

    I spent 10 years in the courtroom and listened to dozens of attorneys define voir dire as ‘speak the truth’. Probably not the best written clue.

  14. VJ says:

    Thanks Linda. I understand your pov even though I don’t agree. I think voir dire actually fits ‘speak the truth – from Old French’ more than verdict. Some sources say the word verdict is derived from Latin, and the coalition of the two words, vere (truly) and dictum (a saying).

  15. Linda says:

    Yes VJ, but voir dire—the questioning of the jurors so they can make a decision– is not the same as verdict, which is the actual decision.

  16. VJ says:

    isn’t the whole purpose of questioning the jurors to make a DECISION on whether or not any should be disqualified from serving? Sorry, still think it’s absurd. and I also believe that if it wasn’t the final question, they would come back and give it to Natalie

  17. Linda says:

    The category was legal terms. Verdict is a “type of decision” in legal terms. Though voir dire in etymology may have some relationship to the word verdict they both do not mean the same thing in legal terms. I think the judges ruled correctly and that Natalie may have overthought het answer.

  18. Tracy says:

    @Keith – “voir dire” does fit the clue – the attorneys are ‘seeking the truth’ by asking the questions OF the potential jurors to decide ON a jury.

  19. elaine packwood says:

    keith, you are also correct…it is NOT a type of decision…it is a ‘PROCESS’ under which potential jurors swear to ‘speak the truth’,voir dire, while being questioned about their eligibility as jurors…

  20. elaine packwood says:

    the contestant who answered ‘voir dire’ to the final jeopardy question was correct…he was ruled incorrect…voir dire does indeed mean ‘speak the truth’ in old french…CORRECT YOUR MISTAKE, JUDGES!!!

  21. Keith Manning says:

    Is “voir dire” a type of decision? I don’t think so – it’s the questioning of potential jurors under oath in a jury trial. Thus it doesn’t fit the clue.