Paul Atkinson was on the way to living the dream: the “Wheel of Fortune” contestant had landed on the million-dollar wedge, which would have put him one spin closer to the coveted prize.
All he had to do was solve the clue, and there was only one letter missing from the three-word phrase, “Corner Curio Cabinet.” Easy, right?
There was just one problem. Atkinson had never before seen the word “Curio,” and he mispronounced it. When he read the phrase, it came out sounding more like “Corno Curro Cabinet,” and the answer was not accepted.
Host Pat Sajak commiserated with Atkinson, telling him, “It just didn’t come out the way you intended.”
Another contestant read the phrase correctly.
Atkinson, who walked away from the popular game show with $2,000 for his efforts, explained the flub, telling ABC News that he was flustered.
“I was nervous! I’ve got Pat freaking Sajak to my immediate right … I’ve got lights and cameras in my face … ,” he said.
He added: “I’d never seen that word before.”
Atkinson called it his “biggest nightmare.”
“I knew I messed up,” he said. “I knew something awesome could’ve happened, but I totally goofed it.”
Atkinson seems to have taken the whole episode in stride, but there was strong outrage on his behalf online.
One YouTube commenter said the denial of the answer would be a reason to sue. Another blamed the mispronunciation on the man’s accent, while another wrote, “It sounded right to me. Not everyone pronounces words the same way Pat!”
It’s not the first time that “Wheel of Fortune” has stirred the public’s ire with a controversial ruling.
Contestant Renee Durette lost around $4,000 in December because she read the phrase “Seven Swans a-Swimming” as “Seven Swans a-Swimmin’.” The Florida woman was penalized for dropping the “g” when she pronounced the word “swimming.”
Afterward, Durette explained that she naturally dropped the ‘g’s when she spoke, adding that she clearly knew what the word was because she had requested the letter “g.”
The show’s refusal to accept Durette’s answer sparked outrage on Twitter and even the other contestant who was handed the win couldn’t believe it.
And last month, on popular quiz show “Jeopardy!,” a 12-year-old boy competing during the show’s Kids Week was penalized for misspelling the correct answer to the final question. Instead of writing “Emancipation Proclamation,” Thomas Hurley III wrote “Emanciptation Proclamation.”
Judges and show host Alex Trebek said they couldn’t accept the answer the way it was written because the extra “t” changed the pronunciation of the word. The boy has said he feels cheated by the decision.