Author Archives: Nina Lu

The Abalone Riddle

Post #2- The Abalone Riddle

Context/Relationship to the Piece: My informant heard this from two different sources, one from a friend and the second from this website called minute-riddles, where you’re supposed to find the answer to a riddle in less than a minute. They told it to their mother, who knew the answer immediately and said it was “due to her generation,” according to her. 

Main Piece: “A family, a mother, father and their blind son, go on a vacation. The plane crashes. Unfortunately, in the plane crash the mother dies and the father and son have to survive on a deserted island. The father finds food and tells the son it’s abalone, which the son eats. Later on, when they’re off the island and the father passed away, the son goes to a restaurant that serves abalone. He orders it, it comes, he eats it, and then he walks out the restaurant and jumps off a bridge. Why does he do that? 

He ate his mother on the island.

Analysis: This piece is what’s known as a “dark” riddle, meaning that in order to think of the answer you have to let your mind wander to a darker place. What intrigued me about this piece of folklore from my informant was the difficulty I and my informant had with coming up with the answer versus her mother. Therefore, this piece of folklore is impacting different generations differently, based on the environment we grew up in. My mother also grew up in China around the same time, and she often tells gory stories about how her and our relatives had to find food in a time when food was scarce. Therefore, since they’re more familiar with real stories that are similar to the riddle, they’re more likely to think of the answer immediately, whereas we were not.

Grape Skin Chinese Tongue Twister

Context:/Relationship to the Piece: My informant told me that they used to hear this tongue twister a lot in Chinese school and they’ve been saying it over and over since then to try to get it right, but then since they’ve been repeating it so much for so long now it’s just stuck in their head. There are a lot of repeating characters that sound the same, such as “pu” “tu” and “bu,” along with “tao” and “dao,” which makes this a good, challenging tongue twister. 

Main Piece: “吃 葡 萄 不 吐 葡 萄 皮 ,不 吃 葡 萄 倒 吐 葡 萄 皮” Translation: “Eat grape but do not spit out grape skin, do not eat grape but spit out grape skin.”

Analysis: This tongue twister originated from China, as it is in Mandarin. Despite the fact that the words in a tongue twister are not changeable/the actual tongue twister itself cannot be edited by multiple people who can add their own variations to it, I added it to the USC folklore archives as an appreciation for how far it’s traveled, hence indicating many people it’s traveled through. People in China brought the tongue twister over to the Chinese-American population here, teaching it to their students through Chinese school. My informant’s personal relationship with the tongue twister itself also intrigues me. She personally took it on as a challenge to memorize it, and now it’s hard-wired into her brain. She added it to her own folklore archives by becoming an active carrier of this tongue twister.