Author Archives: cmcgartl

Letter Riddle

Text: “Take away my first letter and I remain the same. Take away my last letter and I remain unchanged. Remove all my letters and I’m still me. What am I?”

Answer: a mailman

Context: My informant heard of this riddle when he was in middle school, during which one of his teachers had a book of jokes and riddles that they would read out to the class at the end of each day, and this one in particular stuck with him as it was one of the few that no one could figure out

Analysis: I agree with my informant that this riddle is exceptionally hard to figure out, especially in comparison to other riddles that rely on word play. I think the most difficult part of this is that each clue involving a letter gives the listener a red herring to play with the spelling of the word mailman. Because of this, I agree with my informant’s former teacher that this would be a great riddle to share with their students, as its unusual solution would likely keep the kids thinking.

Albatross Riddle

Text: “A man sits down in a restaurant, and orders albatross soup. He takes one bite, then immediately leaves the restaurant and kills himself. Why did he do it?”

Context: My informant heard this riddle while on a backpacking trip over summer break with his friends in high school. Unlike a traditional riddle, this riddle requires the listener to ask yes or no questions about the man and his situation, until they gain enough information to deduce the answer: the man was on a plane with his wife, and the plane crashed on a deserted island killing her. Before they got rescued, the survivors had to do whatever they could to survive, and the man ultimately ate what he was told by the other survivors to be “albatross soup”, which was really prepared from his wife’s remains. When the man sat down in the restaurant and tasted real albatross soup, he realized it tasted different than when he was on the island, and deduced that he ate his own wife.

Analysis: Because the riddle requires the listener to construct the story from very little initial information, this riddle puts a fun twist on the normal form of the riddle. The yes or no questions allow the listener to feel as if they are uncovering a hidden truth, and the dynamic between the listener and the riddler, combined with the mysterious and dark nature of the initial prompt makes the game fun for both participants. 

Twist on Known saying

Text: “If at first you don’t succeed, hide all evidence that you tried”

Context: My informant is a friend of mine who first heard this proverb from her older sister. She said when she first heard it, and how it put a clever twist to the known saying: “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”, she began sharing it with her friends, and repeating it whenever someone would bring up the original saying.

Analysis: While the proverb is fairly simple, and meant to be a humorous way to subvert a listener’s expectations, it has some interesting interpretations. Replacing the motivational message to never give up with the idea of hiding that one ever tried, appeals to a person’s desire for ease and comfort. While most would agree trying again is usually best, there is usually a desire to take the easy way out, which the proverb pokes fun at.

Italian Chef Joke

Text: “Did you hear about the Italian chef who died? He pasta way”

Context: My informant is a friend of mine who first heard this joke when it was told to him and his friend “a few years back”. My friend says that while he didn’t immediately find it very funny, his friend thought it was so funny he began crying laughing. Since then, my friend says this cheesy pun has become an inside joke that always gets them laughing despite how unfunny they may find the original line.

Analysis: I find it interesting how a joke my friend found to be unfunny can become one that continuously gets him laughing simply because of the reaction of someone around him. I think this shows a somewhat unintentional yet crucial aspect of the jokes we tell. While on the surface level they are intended to get a laugh, the ultimate goal is to bring people together, which this joke definitely succeeded in.

Snow Day Superstition

Text: “Did you have any snow day traditions or superstitions when you were growing up?”

“I remember when my brother and I were little, I’m not sure where we heard it from, but we believed that if you saw the first snowflake fall, and wished for a snow day, we would get one … I remember one year my brother and I were playing outside over the weekend when it started snowing. We wished for the snow day and it came. I remember we couldn’t wait to tell our parents about it, and that we totally believed it was because of us.”

Context: My informant is a friend of mine who grew up in Michigan. Growing up in a state that gets regular snow, he says snow day traditions were pretty popular, and that he had heard of and tried a bunch of different traditions, but this one was his favorite.

Analysis: My informant’s tradition is pretty different from most snow day superstitions, which mostly involve the person going out of their way to do something, such as wearing pajamas inside out and backwards or flushing ice down the toilet to cause a snow day. My informant’s tradition however is somewhat based on luck, in that if you have to be watching when the snow starts. I think this adds something special to the snow day traditions, in that because you can’t do it every time snow is predicted, if the snow day comes, it’s pretty convincing to a young kid that it was because of them.