Query: "$64,000 quesiton"

Grant Barrett gbarrett at WORLDNEWYORK.ORG
Wed May 9 11:44:13 UTC 2007

On May 8, 2007, at 17:55, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
> Jerry is correct. "The $64 Question" was a radio show with (you'll
> laugh) $64 as the top prize.  A simpler time.

In a nice coincidence, last night I was reading the autobiography of
Jack Paar, who was host of the radio show. According to Paar, by
1959, when the book was published, "64-dollar question" was already a
catchphrase. It seems the show was called "The $64 Question" after
the catchphrase caught on, not before. For what little it's worth,
Wikipedia seems to confirm this.

Here he's writing a little self-mockingly but also indignantly about
the quiz shows and their scandals:

"In 1950 I replaced Eddie Cantor on radio as emcee of 'Take It or
Leave it'--the predecessor of the rigged '$64,000 Question.' [...] On
'Take It or Leave It' the top prize was $64. There was some reckless
talk, before I took it over, of upping the prize to $640. However,
cooler heads prevailed and the spendthrift notion was vetoed. [...]
My modest little quiz, whose phrase 'the $64 question' has passed
into the language, soon passed from the scene. It couldn't compete
with the big quizzes, passing out loot with the abandon of a dying
tycoon with a guilty conscience." --Jack Paar, "I Kid You Not," pp.
189-190, Little Brown, New York, 1959.

Grant Barrett
Double-Tongued Dictionary
editor at doubletongued.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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