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the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question
A question that is very important and/or difficult to answer. Taken from the title of the 1950s television game show based on the earlier radio program Take It or Leave It, which popularized the phrase "the sixty-four-dollar question." The sixty-four-thousand-dollar question now is whether he should choose his former opponent as a running mate. A: "Do you want to get Italian or Chinese tonight?" B: "Well, that's the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question, isn't it?"
See also: question
the 64,000 dollar question
If a question is the 64,000 dollar question, it is very important but very difficult to answer. Why should I, young, healthy and female, suddenly lose my hair? The sixty-four thousand dollar question remained unanswered. Note: Other large sums of money are sometimes used instead of 64,000 dollar. They asked the million-dollar question: `So what makes a good marriage?' The billion-dollar question is: how much are those benefits worth? Note: In the United States in the 1940s, there was a radio quiz show called `Take It or Leave It'. Contestants had to answer questions for prizes ranging from two dollars for an easy question to $64 for the hardest. A similar television quiz show in the 1950s increased the prize to $64,000 dollars.
The essential or ultimate question. One of the most popular radio quiz shows during the 1940s was Take It or Leave It in which contestants strived to answer question after question until they reached the top prize of sixty-four silver dollars. The questions increased in difficulty, and at any point contestants could choose to stop and keep the amount of money they had won to that point. The phrase “$64 dollar question” became a catchword to the point that it became the program's name, and people applied the phrase to any very important question or matter. Even more popular was the 1950s television spinoff, The $64,000 Question, with the phrase, now adjusted to inflation, catching on in popular speech, but not to the extent that its antecedent did.
See also: question