Just when you least expect it, the misuse of our language can come with a heavy price. Just ask the game show contestant who didn’t choose correctly between flamenco or flamingo.
Flamenco or flamingo? They look very similar and they’re often confused, particularly when referring to impressive moves on a dance floor. But a contestant on Wheel of Fortune lost a fortune by getting them mixed up.
Flamenco refers to a style of dance that originated in Spain and dates back to the 1770s. Wonderopolis describes it as “a Spanish art form made up of three parts: guitar playing, song and dance. Along with its origins in Spain, Flamenco is believed to be influenced by multiple cultures inclunding Latin American, Cuban and Jewish.
Flamingo refers to a wading bird with long slender legs and a long neck similar to a swan. Their color can range from a light pink to a bright red. When I was a kid, the flamingos at Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia were always a bright pink; there was no mistaking those birds. One of their most distinctive features is their legs that bend at the knees backwards rather than forewards. Flamingos often stand on one foot, though scientists haven’t been able to figure out exactly why they do that.
The only thing the two seem to have to do with each other is that both names are believed to have come from the Spanish flama, which means “fire” or “flame.”
But other than that, they’re clearly different. And it’s that difference that recently cost a Wheel of Fortune contestant about $7,000 in prizes when he misread a puzzle as he attempted to solve it.
By the time Jonny, a contestant from North Carolina, attempted to solve the puzzle, “Flamenco Dancing Lessons,” every letter had been exposed. So all he had to do was just read the words in front of him.
But in doing so, he made the mistake others make: he substituted flamingo for flamenco. Listen and see if you can hear it:
When the judges refused to accept his answer, the next contestant did not make the same mistake, correctly pronouncing the word to win that round.
“I just screwed up, that’s all there is to it,” he told Raleigh ABC affiliate WTVD-TV.
In its defense, the show has to uphold the rules, even when they seem a bit strict and everyone knew what he meant to say. Allowing a mispronunciation — particularly one that invovled a different word altogether — to be ruled as a correct answer wouldn’t be fair to previous contestants who’ve been buzzed for similar mistakes.
So now you know the difference between the two. Hopefully, if you’re ever about to win a $7,000 prize, you won’t make the same mistake!