‘Jeopardy!’ Answer Made Us Ask If We’ve Been Using This Common Phrase Wrong

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Jeopardy! clues usually have straightforward answers. You either give the correct answer in the form of a question or you’re wrong. However, sometimes the clues can have multiple correct responses. In fact, in a recent Jeopardy! game, the show claimed that only one contestant responded with the accurate idiom. But when it comes to how idioms are used differently throughout the country, should both responses have been accepted? Let’s take a look.

In the Jeopardy! episode that aired on December 13, a clue in the first round left people wondering if they’ve been using the wrong idiom. The clue read, “As in an old kitchen-based catchphrase meaning things are going well, ‘Now we’re’ doing this.’” Two answers were given, but only one response was accepted.

Sean, one of the contestants, first responded with the idiom, “What is cooking with fire?” However, he was ruled incorrect. The next contestant, Brett, answered with the response that was deemed correct: “What is cooking with gas?”

For many people, both sayings are familiar and seemingly have the same meaning. The phrases both mean to do something with enthusiasm or excellence. Since they have the same definition, can you say that one is right and the other wrong?

Is It ‘Cooking With Gas?’ Or ‘Cooking With Fire?’

Well, it depends on how you classify the two idioms. Turns out, one of these idioms originated first and the other is a derivative of the original. Apparently, “now you’re cooking with gas” is the first of these phrases to be used. In fact, various sources claim that this idiom was first used as early as the 1930s.

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According to The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer, “[now you’re cooking with gas] alludes to gas stoves, which began to replace slower wood-burning stoves about 1915.” The expression appeared to gain steam when gas companies began promoting gas cooking stoves in the 1940s. The phrase even appeared in the 1941 issue of American Gas Association Monthly – Volume 23.

However, the first use of the idiom may come from an unexpected comedian–Bob Hope! The comedian caught wind of the expression thanks to an executive for the American Gas Association, Deke Houlgate. In the 1930s, Houlgate came up with the phrase and shared the expression with some of his friends, who just happened to be writers for Hope. Hope apparently loved the phrase because he began to use it in his comedy routines.

Although the expression originally uses the term gas, it has evolved over the years. Depending on what part of the country you live in, you may say that you’re cooking with gas, heat, or fire. Since the idiom has changed over time, should the first answer to the Jeopardy! clue have been accepted? We’ll let you decide.

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