Gender in Jeopardy! Intonation Variation on a Television Game Show
Gender & Society, forthcoming
Abstract: Uptalk is the use of a rising, questioning intonation when making a statement, which has become quite prevalent in contemporary American speech. Women tend to use uptalk more frequently than men do, though the reasons behind this difference are contested. I use the popular game show Jeopardy! to study variation in the use of uptalk among the contestants’ responses, and argue that uptalk is a key way in which gender is constructed through interaction. While overall, Jeopardy! contestants use uptalk 37 percent of the time, there is much variation in the use of uptalk. The typical purveyor of uptalk is white, young, and female. Men use uptalk more when surrounded by women contestants, and when correcting a woman contestant after she makes an incorrect response. Success on the show produces different results for men and women. The more successful a man is, the less likely he is to use uptalk; the more successful a woman is, the more likely she is to use uptalk.