POSTED: Sunday, September 22, 2013 - 12:00am
UPDATED: Sunday, September 22, 2013 - 12:04am
ENTERTAINMENT NEWS (HLNTV.COM-CNN) — Corner curio cabinet. Kor-ner kyoor-ee-oh kab-in-ett. All together now: CORNER CURIO CABINET!
This is the phrase Paul Atkinson will be repeating for the rest of his life. The Oregon firefighter was a contestant on a recent episode of "Wheel of Fortune," and was one letter away from possibly winning $1 million, which, as any "Wheel"-watcher knows, is no easy feat.
His puzzle? "CORNER CURIO CA_INET." So easy. All he had to do was say the phrase aloud, and a rare $1 million prize would be within his grasp. Unfortunately, whether it was the excitement of the moment or a sudden constriction of his sharp-looking bow tie, his answer came out something more along the lines of "Corno curro cabnet."
With a quick review and a terse buzzer, the "Wheel" judges denied him the solution. Fellow contestant Luis swooped in and snatched the victory with a slightly more precise articulation.
Atkinson may have dropped the ball on the big prize, but he has certainly earned the sympathy of a nation. "Did 'Wheel of Fortune' judges act unfairly?" reads one article. "Did Paul get robbed?" asks CNN's New Day blog.
Atkinson appeared on CNN's "New Day" on Thursday and discussed his flub.
"It's painful, every time I watch it, and I've watched it hundreds of times," Atkinson said with an exasperated smile.
He confessed that it was the "curio" that caught him up. "I had never seen that word before," he said. "... So I was so stressed out about pronouncing 'curio'... so I was staring at the word when I said 'corner,' I cut the 'o' at the end, and I said 'corno.'"
It was a tough break, but Atkinson appears to have remained good-natured and he says he's not bitter at the "Wheel" powers-that-be.
"The people at 'Wheel of Fortune,' they were so nice," Atkinson said. "Pat Sajak, he came up to me at the commercial break and said, 'Don't worry, it happens hundreds of times and far worse than you have ever done.'"
Atkinson also said that he felt "terrible" after the incident, but a couple of rounds of tequila with a buddy and a night of Vegas gambling cheered him right up.
Believe it or not, the "Wheel of Fortune" judges seem to be pretty strict on the pronunciation front. A similarly sad situation happened in 2012, when a woman was denied a prize after she left the "g" off her pronunciation of "Seven swans a-swimming." Atkinson can at least take heart in knowing his isn't the first mistake like this, and probably won't be the last.
And if you're wondering, a "corner curio cabinet" is a piece of furniture in which you can store "curios," or small items of interest.
For example, Atkinson could have stored his million-dollar prize in his "corner curio cabinet."
Instead, it is filled -- presumably -- with regret.