Hello. This week we’re going to go out on the Internet and explore riddles. In overly simplistic terms, I guess we could say a riddle could be defined as a seemingly impossible question, offered as a challenge to an audience.  And, I think, that should make sense to you now that you’ve done your reading.  But, I’m going to give you a few examples of course.  The original word riddle is from the old English word raedan, meaning an advice or opinion.  And riddles are certainly universal. They’re found everywhere.  I’ve seen them in all the countries I’ve been in, although, in the undeveloped countries, they seem to be much more popular, even among adults.  Some places still use riddles as adult entertainment. Today, you know, in the developed countries, kids will still ask them.  But you don’t find them quite as common, at least true riddles.  

 

Riddles certainly have been popular in myth, legend, and literature.  You come across them in, certainly, fairy tales quite a lot.  In literature, great examples, if you've read Oedipus, you might remember the story. After Oedipus, unknowingly, kills his father, the goddess Heras and the monster known as the Sphinx arrives.  And posed the following riddle to all the locals, and of course, kill those when they were unable to answer.  And the riddle was, “what is it that goes on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon and three legs in the evening?”  And luckily or unluckily -- but anyways, Oedipus was able to answer the riddle and say that it is man that in the morning of his birth, essentially as a child, a baby, infant -- he would travel on four legs.  In morning of his life, that’s how he would travel, and then, in the noon of his life, he would walk and in the evening of his life, he will be back to three legs, because he would have a cane.  I think Brunvand mentioned some other famous ones, like Solomon and Sheba.  It’s even reputed, I think, that Homer was said to have died from sort of anger after being unable to answer a riddle posed by the fishermen of Ios.  And the riddle was quote, “what we caught, we’ve threw away, what we didn’t catch, we kept.”  Let me say that one more time,” what we caught, we’ve threw away, what we didn’t catch, we kept.”  And again, if you remember how I define the riddle, a riddle could be defined simplistically, as seemingly impossible question offered as a challenge to an audience.  Well, believe me, I didn’t get that one either, but the answer was “lice.”  In other words if you caught one, you threw it away and it you didn’t catch one, you kept it.  And I think Brunvand might also talk about Samson.  And the riddle that he had, at the time -- he was a Hebrew judge, and he gave a challenge.  A riddle challenge to a group of Philistines at his wedding and the riddle was, "out of the eater came something to eat; out of the strong came something sweet."  And that’s, actually, you can locate that in the bible if you would like.  I think it’s under Judges 14 something. Anyways, Samson bet the Philistines 30 fine suits of clothes and he gave them seven days to solve the riddle.  Of course, they wouldn’t have had much luck with it.  It’s just like -- I don’t think I would’ve ever figured it out, but they manage to get his wife, Samson’s wife, who was a Philistine, to tell them the correct answer.  And the answer was  what is sweeter than honey, what is stronger than a lion” and it was essentially that he was able to, I mean, the Philistines were able to answer it and he, of course, knew that his wife had told them and so he said, “if you had not plowed with my heifer, you would not have found out my riddle.”  And in order to get the 30 fine suits of clothes, he went out and killed 30 other Philistines, took their clothes and paid the debt with that.

 

Anyways, I think, your text starts off with discussing the true riddle, which is, again, a comparison between the unstated answer and something described in the question. For example, a person might say as a riddle, "I am never hungry.  I have a face but no mouth."  And the first part is -- often the first part offers a description that is fairly general and then it’s followed by a contradictory or at least apparently contradictory statement.  So, someone might say -- "what am I, I am never hungry, I have a face but no mouth."  A possible correct answer could be clock or somebody might say, "what am I?  I have no mouth but my teeth are sharp."  That could be a saw or something like that.  You’ll probably remember some of these from when you were little youngster.

 

There’s also, besides the true riddle, the problem riddle. Now, in the problem riddle, supposedly you actually have a chance to answer it.  In other words, all the facts are there and you might be able to answer it if you were are able to analyze the facts.  That’s the sort of riddle where somebody says, what plants stands for the number four?  And, if you happen to think about it for quite a while, you might know that the -- in Roman numerals I and V equals four so you could say Ivy.  It would be a plant.  Or what do girls in life have that boys and death do not?  Well, the answer is “the letter L.”  Or what makes a road broad?  And that’s actually the letter B in front of road would make it the word broad.  So, the problem riddles are--the answer is actually hidden in there somewhere and you could probably figure it out.  Although, what I found is that most riddles seem to be told rather than asked-- they’re really almost impossible riddles and you’re not expected to answer them. And boy if you do answer a kid’s riddle, when they asked you, they don’t expect you to answer it.  Let me give you example of some of the impossible riddles that I’ve been asked over the years (and I didn’t solve by the way).  What kind of shoes do snakes wear for swimming?  And the person who asked me that was a -- I think a 10-year old boy.  He certainly didn’t expect me to get it.  I knew he was very happy when he said the answer, which was water moccasins.  Or how do you make a strawberry shake?  You sneak up and yell boo.  Or what is the smallest room in the world -- a mushroom.  What kind of ears do trains have?  Engine ears, oh, yes.  So again, those are somewhat impossible riddles and that -- they’re offered, usually, not with the expectations that you would solve them.

 

A section of riddles still popular today among adults are riddle jokes.  And even though, most of them are impossible for us to get.  Some of them are still are popular among kids such as, the knock-knock jokes.  The kids will come up and say knock-knock who is there?  Cantaloupe.  Cantaloupe who?  Cantaloupe tonight, daddy’s got the car.  Or the light bulb jokes are really riddle jokes, if you think about it, because they are asking a riddle.  How many blank that does it take to change a light bulb?  Or most blonde jokes are actually riddle jokes.  What is the difference between a smart blonde and big foot?  Well, big foot has been spotted.  Now, we’re going to not talk much about the riddle jokes in this section.  We’re going to handle the analysis of most humor or humorous jokes later on in the semester.  But I did want to point out that certain types of jokes could be classified as riddle jokes.  Lawyer jokes, how can you tell when a lawyer is lying?  The answer, his lips are moving.  Ethnic jokes, fad jokes, like about O.J. or the Bobbitt’s or Clinton, those kinds of thing.

 

Your text also discusses pretended, obscene riddles.  More adolescent boys seem to be really interested in telling those.  They typically come up and are quite often asked to other boys or girls in front of other people.  For example,  What’s a four-letter word that ends in K and means intercourse?  And of course, they’re expecting you to say something else but the answer that then they say, oh, no the answer is “talk.”  Catch questions are designed to embarrass, and adolescent boys also like that.  That’s where the boy comes out and asks a girl -- do you know what virgins eat for breakfast?  And that’s designed to catch them off-guard, as there is really no best answer.

 

And there’s the palindrome, and the palindromes are, sort of interesting.  These are non-oral riddles.  It’s a word or sentence that reads the same backward as forward.  And some of them were kind of fun.  People actually enjoy creating them.  Again, it’s just a sentence that reads the same frontwards or backwards.  And example would be, "a man, a plan, a canal, panama.”  If you were to read that -- if you were to, actually, type that sentence backward it would still say exactly the same thing.  Or "a dog, a panic in a pagoda" would read the same. Or "may a moody baby doom a yam." That’s kind of adumb one. Or how about this? "Was it a car or a cat I saw," or "ten animals I slam in a net."  Anyways, those particular sentences would read the same forward or backwards.

 

There are also conundrums—these involve word play—a riddle based on punning or other word play.  And they might be something like, “what’s black and white and red all over.”  The answer of course would be a newspaper.  And there are tongue twisters, I think I list a site with lots of them. I’m not any good at those-- I’m always the one who tripped up.  One that used to get me often was the one about the tutors and I think it went  something like “two tutors who tooted the flute, tried to tutor two tooters to toot, said the two to the tutors is it harder to toot or to tutor two tooters to toot.”  And as long I say that at about one word a minute, I might be able to get it.

 

Your text also brings up droodles and other visual riddles.  And that’s an area that you might enjoy.  Now, again this week, I think I’ve listed what I call the amazing riddle contest and you’re welcome to play and see how many you can get.  The riddles listed (although they’re difficult) would be at least possible or problem riddles in that -- you could get the answer.  Not that it's easy but you certainly could and there’s a link to them.