Folk speech
Riddle

Friday Riddle

Text: Question: A man goes to town on Friday. He stays for three days, then leaves on Friday. How is this possible?

Answer: The horse’s name is Friday.

Context: AA is a student at the University of Southern California studying Business. During the summers when she was in high school, she used to be a camp counselor. People used to tell her this riddle at school when she was a kid. When she went to work as a camp counselor, the kids were telling me this riddle, and it reminded her of being a kid. The following folkloric performance took place in class.

Interpretation: Riddles are not as big in US compared to other parts of the world, and they tend to be seen as an exclusively kid genre. In some societies around the world, riddles can be held in high regard. In some places, for example, you can substitute physical fighting with a riddle contes, or use riddles in part of a marriage ceremonies as a way to test your future son-in-law. The above example of a riddle, however, is mostly known among children, as the way that AA was reintroduced to the riddle at camp is explained above. Riddles, at times, are not popular among adults in our society because adults tend to think our language is fixed, when kids are more flexible to the idea of thinking outside the box. This riddle holds true to providing the essential function of testing the bounds of language capabilities.

AA’s riddle is considered a true riddle. True riddles propose a challenge, and you should be able to follow the clues to reach the answer. Traditional questions and answer structure is employed, as well as specific phrasing along the lines of, “When is A not A?” or “When is A B?” They propose a solution to a seemingly impossible question and generate an apparent “magical transformation” of the language. In terms of the riddle above, if thinking inside the box, it is impossible to enter and leave town on the same day of the week without only staying 1 day or all 7 days (or multiples thereof). However, when considering that prepositions such as “on” can indicate varied states, and that the proper noun “Friday” can be more than just a day of the week, and answer is discovered and the riddle is solved.

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