Paul Atkinson got his 15 minutes of fame, but not the way he wanted it.
Atkinson, a firefighter from Oregon, was a contestant on the Wheel of Fortune television show recently. He said he would solve a puzzle and proceeded to mispronounce curio in the phrase "corner curio cabinet."
He later told ABC News that he had never heard the word "curio" before and simply didn't know how to pronounce it.
A replay of his response seems to show that he mispronounced corner as well, probably because he was trying to figure out how he was going to pronounce the next word.
The poor guy had just landed on a $1 million wedge. Losing that probably frustrated him more than the loss of $2,350 toward his daily winnings. To top everything else off, Atkinson was dressed up in a tuxedo, with a red bow tie, so he kind of stood out from the other players.
He also told a reporter that he was nervous because Pat Sajak was right next to him.
"I knew I messed up. I knew that something awesome could've happened, but I totally goofed it," he said.
Truth be told, we've all goofed up on pronunciations. Earlier this week I was interviewing a public relations woman who lives on the East Coast. Her cell phone cut out so badly I had to call back on her land line phone.
"I get terrible reception here," she said.
"I've had the same problem at my home since we put on a metal roof last year," I said.
When she started laughing, I was puzzled at what was so funny.
"I love the way you Midwesteners say roof like the sound a dog makes when it's barking," she said.
I had, indeed said "roof" so that it would rhyme with "woof." She pronounced it correctly, so that it would sound like "spoof." The good news for me was, I hadn't lost any money or made my goof -- hey, that does rhyme with roof -- on a television show in front of Pat Sajak and millions of viewers. I was not traumatized by my mistake.
There was nothing petty or mean in the lady's manner, and I laughed along with her.
When I was in elementary school, I wouldn't have been as nice with my own critique of other people's mistakes. I loved to catch mistakes by classmates and teachers. One classmate drew my laughter when she was reading about the Sioux Indians and pronounced it as "sigh-ox" instead of "sue."
And woe unto the teacher who made a mistake. During one spelling test, a boy who sat a few desks away from me asked the teacher, "How do you spell that?" She automatically started to spell the word before dissolving in laughter that she had slipped up. The students laughed. I laughed harder than most and got an angry glance from the teacher.
Other people are traumatized when they become the butt of jokes. James Earl Jones, the actor who provided the voice for Darth Vader and a wealth of other well-spoken characters, had to overcame stuttering as a child.
"My stuttering was so bad I barely spoke to anybody for eight years," Jones once told a British reporter who was writing about his performance in Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof."
No, I'm not making this up just to bring this back around to the word "roof."
Atkinson may never again have a chance to win $1 million on Wheel of Fortune, but he'll never forget how to pronounce "curio." And he looked good in his tux, so maybe something good will come from his appearance on the show. He's the star of a video that's gone viral and lots of Americans feel bad for the guy.
Deep down, we all know we've made bigger mistakes than he did.