I always like to read interesting tidbits about the inner workings of my favorite game show.
Ed wants to know:
I have a question I’d like to ask, if I may. When Alex tells you the category for Final Jeopardy when you make your wager but before the question, are you also able to write “What is” to begin your answer? Or do you have to wait until you get the question to begin? It seems like that would be a few seconds longer to think if you’re having a difficult time with the answer.
During the commercial break before Final Jeopardy, the show stops tape so that the contestants have all the time they need to make their wagers. Once wagers are locked in, contestants are instructed to write the correct question word (“Who” or “What,” depending) on their panels. (No “is”/”are”/”was”/”were” though! No hints on gender or number are forthcoming.)
It’s true that this gives you more time to think/write once the clue is revealed and the music starts, but I think the real rationale behind the rule is to keep a nervous contestant from accidentally omitting the “who” or “what” in Final Jeopardy. I’m hazy on the details, but I believe that at least once in the early Trebek days (before contestants were instructed to pre-write the question phrasing) someone lost a game despite a correct Final Jeopardy answer because they didn’t PIITFOAQ. (This acronym, pronounced “pit-folk,” is how in-the-know Jeopardy! types abbreviate “phrase it in the form of a question.”) To avoid another audience-aggravating event of that kind, they started prompting for the “Who” and “What” off-camera.
Oh, just kidding about PIITFOAQ. But I wish that was a word.