Issue 187, page 3

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Guestmudgeon Lange Winckler is a Jeopardy fan

On the television program Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? contestants choose answers to the questions asked from four offered solutions. Only one answer can be correct - all the others range from absurd to teasingly but completely wrong. Sometimes the contestants must ask for help, or guess. Yet the answers are firmly right - or wrong. So why do most contestants use a contrary conditional verb form when offering their choice among the four solutions? "That would be .... answer A, Harlan Wolff Shipyards." The phrasing implies that but for some other unstated and opposing condition, the answer would be Harlan Wolff, but in fact the answer is NOT choice A, BUT something else. Phooey! When the contestants answer like that I ache to see the program host yell, "Wrong again! It IS Harlan Wolff! Off you go!"

That's an interesting one.  It doesn't only occur on Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?, either.  You must be a Jeopardy fan (we love it!) -- even if the contestant gives the right answer, it is considered wrong if it is not given in the form of a question. 

Have you heard or read similar or equally distressing usages?

Do tell us. 

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