View Full Version : $64,000 question cliché: Not useful any more?
03-17-2004, 12:08 PM
In a meeting recently, I used the cliché "That's the $64,000 question" to signify that something was the BIG question, the most important question we had to answer.
Now, that cliché comes from a TV quiz show that debuted in 1955. The big prize of the show was $64,000, a large sum of money in 1955.
Of course, it's now 2004 and we have "Who wants to be a millionaire?"
So for a couple of reasons, the "$64,000 question" cliché may be outdated, but I sense that it's not. Am I wrong?
P.S. I was born in 1960 and therefore never even saw this show, but I still knew what the phrase meant while I was growing up.
Only Mostly Dead
03-17-2004, 12:16 PM
I didn't even discover the phrase until we were reading through a play to perform in a middle school drama club. It stumped all the kids there, and I don't think the supervising teacher knew it too well either (though she was only in her 20s).
But, in the intervening years, it's become a fairly common thing for me to mutter when I'm testing out some social hypothesis (read: bar bets), and it doesn't seem like too many people are lost or need explanation. So I guess for us children born in '82, it takes a little while to become exposed, but it's easy enough to embrace.
03-17-2004, 12:32 PM
I was born a few years after Spiff, but I can remember people still saying "$64 question", from the old-time radio show that started it all. The amount doesn't really matter. I understand the whole nine yards (http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a2_252.html) without asking, "Yards of what? Why nine?"
03-20-2004, 06:40 PM
A more appropriate cliche to refer to Millionaire would seem to be "the million dollar question"... which I do believe I've heard. But yeah, the amount doesn't really matter.
03-20-2004, 07:44 PM
I like to think that the 64,000-dollar question was inflated to start with, and has actually settled into a more accurate definition thanks to inflation. I always thought of the phrase as referring to a very important question, but not THE most important question. And now, $64,000 is very important, but not THE most important.
03-20-2004, 08:10 PM
Plenty of clichés are "outdated," but I quite like, and wouldn't want to lose, these vestigial pieces of history:
Don't take any wooden nickels
That and a dime (nickel? whatever it was) will get you a cup of coffee
Penny for your thoughts
You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear (who carries a silk purse nowadays?)
You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink (when did you last attempt this?)
A bee in your bonnet
The third rail in American politics
03-20-2004, 10:12 PM
While I've never heard the expression "The third rail in American politics", it certainly doesn't seem outdated to me. The trains here in Boston use an electrified third rail for power, and I'm sure we're not the only city where this is true.
vBulletin® v3.7.3, Copyright ©2000-2013, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.