Can you pronounce ‘Solzhenitsyn’? These three ‘Jeopardy!’ contestants could not

A smiling woman wearing glasses stands behind the "Jeopardy!" host's lectern
Mayim Bialik hosted a recent “Jeopardy!” episode where all three contestants failed to correctly pronounce the name of a Russian author.
(Tyler Golden / ABC)

Fans of “Jeopardy!” voiced their displeasure with a ruling during a recent episode where all three contestants failed to properly pronounce the name of Soviet dissident author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

Mayim Bialik, who has been splitting “Jeopardy!” hosting duties with Ken Jennings since July, read a $1,600 clue under the category “The Quotable Alex”: “An author & former prisoner: ‘Socialism of any type and shade leads to a total destruction of the human spirit.’”

The three contestants — Sami Casanova, an actuary from New York; Juveria Zaheer, a psychiatrist from Ontario, Canada; and returning champion Hannah Wilson, a Chicago data scientist — all guessed the correct author, but each failed to properly pronounce Solzhenitsyn’s name, according to Entertainment Weekly.


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“This is a tricky one to pronounce,” Bialik said to the contestants, denying points to all three.

The game show’s devoted fans were not pleased with the ruling.

“If you’re not going to accept anyone’s attempt to pronounce Solzhenitsyn, don’t write a clue about him,” former “Jeopardy!” contestant Pasha Paterson tweeted.

“Eh I did not like that Solzhenitsyn ruling,” @runyourplate agreed.

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Many commented on the difficulty of pronouncing Russian words and names, especially if you are a non-native speaker of Russian.

“I think all three had the right person in mind, but none of them was a native speaker of Russian or related language,” @kratzy1 wrote.

Twitter user @Lili_Lightly echoed the concern, pointing out that “the insistence on pronunciation ignores those who have read extensively but not heard the word out loud.”


“Clearly all three contestants knew the answer but couldn’t properly say Solzhenitsyn like a Russian native,” @Lili_Lightly continued.

The debate also carried on to Reddit, where one user pointed out how “the show usually gives some strong leeway” for pronunciations, as long as they are reasonable based on the spelling of the name or term.

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“I don’t think it mattered in the long run of the game, but it sets an awkward precedent for the future,” the user wrote.

In the end, the awkward moment had little impact on the outcome, as Wilson continued her four-show run, walking away with $34,200, according to the show’s website. She has won $124,801 during her streak. Casanova came in second and Zaheer was third.

Wilson will defend her title Tuesday evening against Raquel Matta, a copy editor from San Pablo, Calif., and Joe Forti, a project manager from Windham, N.H.

In recent months, the show’s “Celebrity Jeopardy” landed in hot water with fans after an episode referenced the suicide death of Brian Laundrie, who killed girlfriend Gabby Petito while the two were on a road trip in 2021. Fans called the use of the case as a clue “unnecessarily morbid” and in “incredibly poor taste.”