Final Jeopardy: American Authors

The Final Jeopardy question (12/28/2012) in the category “American Authors” was:

In 1886 he wrote: “My books are water; those of the great geniuses is wine. Everybody drinks water.”

New champ Nichole Mancone defeated a 3-day champ yesterday and picked up $21,100. Today she is up against the last of this week’s new players: Sandip Amin, originally from Matteson, IL and Paula Menasche, from Coral Gables, FL.

Nichole found the Jeopardy! round Daily Double in “Holidays & Observances.” She had a very serious lead with $5,800, $4,800 more than Sandip in second place. She bet $2,000 and she was RIGHT.

At the beginning of each term, Supreme Court justices work one week, then get Monday off for this. show

Nichole finished in the lead with $10,800. Paula was second with $1,200 and Sandip was last with $600.

Sandip found the first Double Jeopardy Daily Double in “Italian History.” He now had $3,600, $6,300 less than Nichole’s lead. “Why not make it a true Daily Double?” he inquired. Why not, indeed. He guessed the Rubicon and that was WRONG.

The Etruscans’ territory extended roughly south to this river, where the hero Horatius stopped them at the bridge. show

Paula found the last Daily Double in “Starry Night.” She had $7,600, $8,000 less than Nichole’s lead. She bet $1,000, and she was RIGHT.

Other than The Sun, the first star surface directly photographed was Betelgeuse, the shoulder of this constellation.. show

Nichole finished in the lead with $17,200. Paula was next with $8,600 or half of that. Sandip was done, being in a negative $400 situation.

Only ONE of the contestants got Final Jeopardy! right.


Although the clue says it was written in 1886, there are plenty of conflicts about when it was written. Some who quote it feel compelled to include ‘sic’ after ‘is’ in the line “those of the great geniuses is wine.” Sometimes it has a semi-colon in the first sentence and other times a comma. The semi-colon does seem highly suspicious.

In any event, the quote is mentioned in the book I Never Metaphor I Didn’t Like where it says Twain wrote it in a 1887 letter to a friend, but also wrote it earlier in an 1885 journal entry.

Paula got it right and doubled her score to $17,200.

Nichole thought it was “Henry David Thoreau” (who died in 1862). But what’s this? Nichole lost $5,000, finishing with $12,200 and losing the game!

Paula will return as the new champ on Monday. Wow! It just goes to show that almost anything can happen on Jeopardy! because it sure looked like this game was a lock for Nichole even if it ended in a tie.

We say almost anything because what probably will never happen is that Alex Trebek will pronounce Henry David Thoreau’s name correctly. He always gives it the French pronunciation but it was, in fact, Americanized and should be pronounced to rhyme with “furrow” or “thorough,” with the accent on the first syllable.

“Thoreau’s French extraction is apt to be misleading, for he was by birth and temperament a complete New Englander, and prided himself on being “autochthonous” at Concord. It is an error to pronounce the name as a French one. The Life Of Henry David Thoreau by Henry Stephens Salt.

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1 Response

  1. Linda Lashbrook says:

    I looked up the quote in Mark Twain’s Notebook. He did not make the grammatical error shown in the Jeopardy clue. He said “…those of the great geniuses are wine.”