USC Digital Folklore Archives / Riddle
Folk speech
Game
Riddle

Two men are found dead in a cabin

Context: This riddle was told to an audience of one in a fraternity dining hall.

Background: The informant learned this riddle during a long car ride, when he was trying to pass the time

Q: Two men are dead in a Cabin in the middle of the woods. How did they die? * The guesser is allowed to ask as many yes/no questions about the cabin as they want, until they have the answer.
A: It is the Cabin of an Airplane, which has crashed in the middle of the woods.

This riddle plays on the word Cabin, and requires an understanding of English vernacular language.

Folk speech
Humor
Riddle

Running A Race

Piece:
If you are running a race, and you pass the person in second, what place are you in?

Informant:
MB is a 16 year old girl from Wilmington, Delaware. She is in high school, and she was born after the year 2000, a post internet era child.

Background:
I asked my sister to share with me some riddles and jokes that she was hearing in school to compare them to the ones that I used to hear and tell. She shared this one with me and it instantly wrung a bell. The answer is almost obviously second place but many people will incorrectly guess first because without giving it much thought it can seem like passing second means leaving second and entering first.

Folk speech
Humor
Riddle

Masked Men

Piece:
You leave home in a rush, make three left turns, return home, and find two masked men waiting for you. Who are they?
An Umpire and a Catcher. This is a game of baseball.

Informant:
SW is a late 30s white male. He is from New England. He lives, breathes, and dies sports. It came to no surprise that when I asked him to recall some jokes and riddles from when he was a kid that he would spout to me a sports based riddle that I would not understand until the answer was revealed.

Background:
Coming from a sports family I’m sure this was a hot riddle for my stepfather. The answer seems almost obvious once you’ve heard it, I believe that is part of the appeal, to make the guesser look foolish at first before rescuing them and shining light on the answer. My stepfather told me how he distinctly remembers hearing this riddle as a kid and being so excited to share it with his siblings and family. This goes to show how even a riddle can be folklore in a home and the impact it can have on a person.

Folk speech
Game
Humor
Riddle
Tales /märchen

4 Questions, 4 Tests

This conversation is between the collector (C) and the informant (I).

I: I’m going to ask you four questions, and this isn’t just for fun. It’s going to test you on your greatest strengths and weaknesses. Are you ready?

C: I’m ready.

I: The first question is, “How do you put a giraffe in a refrigerator?”

C: (After a long pause) I don’t know.

I: You open the refrigerator, put the giraffe inside, and close it. That was to test if you overthink simple questions. The second question is, “How do you put an elephant in a refrigerator?”

C: You open the refrigerator, but the elephant inside, and close it.

I: Wrong. First, you have to take out the giraffe. That was to test whether you understand the consequences of your actions. The third question is, “The whole jungle has an animal meeting, and all but one animal show up.Who isn’t there?”

C: (After a long pause) I give up.

I: The elephant! He’s still in the refrigerator. That was to test your memory. You have one last question, and it’s the most important one: “You need to cross a river. It is filled with crocodiles, and you have no boat. How do you get across?”

C: You distract the crocodiles?

I: You don’t need to. They’re still at the animal meeting. That was to test whether you learn from your mistakes.

Context: The informant is significantly older than the collector, which might add to the educational aspect of the joke.

Interpretation: Obviously, this is first and foremost for entertainment. But it does teach the audience to think through their answers carefully, understand that actions have consequences, and learn from past experiences. It is a silly series of questions with a surprising amount of moral value. It is distinctly structured for educational purposes, and therefore places the joke-teller in a position of authority and wisdom over the audience.

 

Humor
Riddle

Was haben Frauen und Handgranaten gemeinsam?

“Was haben Frauen und Handgranaten gemeinsam?

Ziehst du den Ring ab, ist dein Haus weg!”

“What do a woman and a hand grenade have in common?

When you take the ring off, your house is gone!”

Context: The informant went to school on a military base in Weisbaden, Germany, and spent the majority of her childhood there. She heard this joke from classmates who were mostly male.

Interpretation: This is perhaps meant to be cautionary toward young men. It is based on the stereotype that women use men for money, and could perhaps make men more cautious when choosing a wife so that they do not have to worry about “taking the ring off.” It uses humor to make women and marriage threatening, which is a common occurrence in American stand-up comedy. Furthermore, it subtly warns against divorce, which could suggest to the audience that an unhappy marriage is better than a divorce.

Riddle

Feminist Riddle

I am a big fan of riddles, and I decided to search online for some specifically geared towards exercising the brain. Below, I recorded one I had never heard before, and most stood out to me

Riddle:

Question: Three doctors said that Robert was their brother. Robert said he had no brothers. Who is lying?

Answer: Neither, the doctors were his sisters.

Analysis:

I enjoy this riddle because clearly it is clever, but beyond that, I like that it is a slight take on feminism and misogynistic undertones. It merely suggests our mind is trained to associate siblings with firstly brotherhood, and also careers such as doctors. Usually, a classic feminist motivation is to clear up sexism in the work force, specifically in demand-driven jobs such doctors, surgeons, lawyers, etc. To me, this is an interesting example of folklore because I think it offers historical, political, and social context of feminism. It reflects, depending on when this riddle actually emerged, on a certain social climate of the time. It would be even more interesting to learn of the origination of this riddle.

 

Website Citation: For more references of other similar riddles, visit the following URL:

https://www.wimp.com/20-tricky-riddles-that-will-exercise-your-brain/

 

 

Riddle

Riddle of the Days

I am a big fan of riddles, and I decided to ask my friend, marked KB, if she knew of any. She shared with me one.

Riddle:

Question: Can you name three consecutive days without using the words Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday?

Answer: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.

Context:

Phone conversation in which I recorded KB’s recounts of folk similes as well as a riddle she grew up learning.

Background:

KB is a freshman at the University of Southern California and grew up in Austin, Texas.

Analysis:

I enjoy this riddle because it is clever and something I never would have thought of. It would be interesting to further research this riddles origins and possibly link it to specific heritages or cultures.

Riddle

Riddle about the Future

What is something that is always coming, but we will never get to? Tomorrow!!

This riddle is kind of tricky but one of those sayings that it is so obvious. Essentially, this riddle makes you think about what could potentially happen but you would never be able to get to, and there are so many possibilities for this. It could be about crossing an ocean, and never being able to get to the other side, but that’s actually possible. It could also be about going into space or and never getting to Mars, however it’s as simple as thinking about how we are always living in today and there’s a past present and future. Tomorrow is always going to be tomorrow, but we will never be up tomorrow because tomorrow will always be the day that you’re in, today.

 

Folk speech
Riddle

Knight, King, Queen

The informant of this one asked me the riddle. At first I couldn’t make it out, so she told me it again. Upon hearing it the second time, it became evident. The riddle goes as so: One knight, a king, and a queen go out on a boat. On the water, the king falls off. How many people are left on the boat? The answer: two. The answer seems like it should be one, because when phrasing the riddle it sounds like “one night,” not “one knight.” The informant is unsure of where she heard this one and assumes it was probably when she was young. It was not from her family so she assumes that it might be from summer camp. I enjoyed this riddle because most riddles I don’t get. There was a smile on the informant’s face when she told me this and I think she was smiling because she knew I would get it. The informant plans to pass this riddle along to her own family and friends throughout her lifetime.  I think I’ll share this riddle amongst my friends after hearing it.

Folk speech
Humor
Riddle

The Language of Ubbi Dubbi

Informant Info: The informant is an 18-year-old from St. Louis, Missouri. She is currently a freshman studying Public Policy at USC.

Interview Transcript:

Interviewer: From all of our previous interactions, I know you have a habit of a funky little language. Can you tell me more about it?

 

Interviewee: The language is called ubbi dubbi, and it originated on a show called Zoom, which is a PBS kids show. All you need to do is put ub in front of every vowel when speaking. We started speaking it in middle school and then in high school everyone seemed to be super into it. It got bad enough that at a certain point that teachers had to put “No phones, no calculators, and no ubbi dubbi” on tests because kids would cheat through it. But yeah, I still like to make memes with it or I’ll just randomly speak it for fun to throw people off.

 

Analysis:

You must love the good old forms of variation and multiplicity. This collection is an example of how popular media can influence folklore, particularly through kids. The language was a silly piece of a kids show, yet the humorous sounds inspired the informant to make a hobby out of speaking it.  I’ll give her credit… it’s harder than it seems to speak it successfully. But, nonetheless, it shows popular media being taken and morphed into an actual language.

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