Uptalking 'Jeopardy!' champion's 'annoying accent' didn't stop her from winning

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Laura Ashby, a Georgia attorney — and, more importantly, the author of a rock 'n' roll version of "Much Ado About Nothing" — dominated the competition on "Jeopardy!" earlier this month and was invited back for last night's episode. That's much to the chagrin of Twitter, which couldn't handle the "interesting" inflection of Ashby's voice.

"Where is she from?" people demanded to know. She's from Georgia. That was established in the interview at the beginning of the show. But it has nothing to do with her distinctive manner of speaking, a pronounced "uptalk," marked by a rising intonation as she ends her sentences.

Uptalk is most closely associated with the classic '90s "valley girl" speech pattern, and although people of all genders use it, it's held against women in particular as a sign of low intelligence or lack of assertiveness — to the point that some say it's hurting their careers.

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Uptalking 'Jeopardy!' champion's 'annoying accent' didn't stop her from winning
CHEERS -- 'What is... Cliff Clavin?' Episode 14 -- Air Date 01/18/1990 -- Pictured: (l-r) Alex Trebek as Himself, John Ratzenberger as Cliff Clavin-- Photo by: Kim Gottlieb-Walker/NBCU Photo Bank
CHEERS -- 'What is... Cliff Clavin?' Episode 14 --Pictured: (l-r) John Ratzenberger as Cliff Clavin, Alex Trebek as Himself-- Photo by: Kim Gottlieb-Walker/NBCU Photo Bank
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Alex Trebek, host of the "Jeopardy!" quiz show, speaks to an audience of primarily media about an upcoming "Jeopardy!" show featuring an IBM computer called "Watson" in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., Thursday, Jan. 13, 2011. It's the size of 10 refrigerators, and it swallows encyclopedias whole, but an IBM computer was lacking one thing it needed to battle the greatest champions from the "Jeopardy!" quiz TV show - it couldn't hit a buzzer. But that's been fixed, and on Thursday the hardware and software system named Watson played a competitive practice round against two champions. A "Jeopardy!" show featuring the computer will air in mid-February, 2011. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
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FILE- In this Friday, April 28, 2006, file photo, Alex Trebek holds the award for outstanding game show host, for his work on "Jeopardy!" backstage at the 33rd Annual Daytime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles. Sony Television spokeswoman Paula Askanas said Sunday, June 24, 2012, that Trebek is in a Los Angeles hospital recovering from a mild heart attack. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File)
Emmy award-winning game show host, Alex Trebek gestures to the 400 fans on hand to watch him receive his newly-dedicated star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles, Monday, May 17, 1999. Trebek, who hosted the game shows "Wizard of Odds," "Concentration" and "To Tell the Truth, is celebrating his 15th year anniversary with TV's "Jeopardy!" (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
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Ashby is both sharp and sure of her answers, though: She's now a two-day "Jeopardy!" champ with total winnings of thirty-six thousand eight hundre-eh-hed dollars. Haters to the left.

Although Laura Ashby may be the most high-profile example of uptalk in Jeopardy! history, she's far from alone. So far, in fact, that there's been an entire study on contestants who pitch up the ends of their responses.

William and Mary sociologist Thomas Linneman reviewed 100 episodes of the show in 2012 and noted that "overall, "Jeopardy!" contestants use uptalk 37 percent of the time." For men, it seemed to indicate uncertainty — they were more likely to employ it when they were failing on the show. For women, it was the opposite: The better their performance, the more likely they were to use uptalk, as if to apologize for winning the game.

Laura Ashby's not apologizing for anything, nor should she be. She uptalked practically every answer, whether she was ahead or behind. She was ahead most of the time.

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