Category Archives: Riddle

I have a head and I have a tail, but I do not have a body. What am I?

Q: I have a head and I have a tail, but I do not have a body. What am I?

A: A coin

Background: Y is a 20 year old who was born and raised in New Jersey. She now resides in Los Angeles, California. 

Context: This riddle was told to me at a hangout among friends.

Analysis: I liked this riddle because of its simplicity. It relies on knowledge that everyone would have about coins and, perhaps, animals. The barrier to entry for understanding this joke is very low, which is what makes it so compelling. Like most riddles, the answer is not impossible, but just out of reach. It’s simple enough for the audience to have an “oh, of course!” moment when the answer is revealed. This shared moment among audience members and the performer of the riddle works well with the riddle’s wordplay. 

The Lost Dutchman’s Mine

–Informant Info–

Nationality: American

Age: 53

Occupation: Senior VP for a development company

Residence: Pheonix, Ariozna

Date of Performance/Collection: 2022

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): N/A

(Notes-The informant will be referred to as MW and the interviewer as K)

Background info: MW is a father of 2 who grew up and now resides in Pheonix, Arizona. I was told this story over the phone.

K: So, what’s the uh title of the story? And how do you know it? Like who told it to you or where did you like hear it?

MW: It’s called The Lost dutchman’s mine, and I heard about it from uh…my parents and friends, I guess

K: It’s one of those things you just kind of always hear? Is it like a fireside story or…?

MW: Yeah, yeah. It’s definitely a fireside story, but not really like…scary, ya know? Just a story you hear around.

K: Ok cool, uh…whenever you’re ready to tell it, go-ahead

MW: So the story goes that uh…way back in the 1800s, like during gold rush time there was an uh…Dutch guy that came down to Arizona. One day he went into an uh…bar or something in the settlement with this huge *exaggerates voice here for emphasis* chunk of gold. Everyone asked him where it came from, and he uh refused to uh tell them outright. He only left one hint for people.

K: What was the hint?

MW: Oh uh…It was like…you could see the entrance of the mine from weaver’s needle which is a mountain in Arizona. It’s like an uh peak that looks like the eye of a needle

K: So, has anyone found it? Or has anyone gone like looking for it?

MW: Oh yeah! Loads have gone looking; I think like 2 or 3 people have even died from trying to find it, but no one has found it yet.

K: So, do people actually believe in it? Or is it more of a fun let’s go look kinda adventure?

MW: Like most stories, I guess there are always believers, most people uh…go hik8ing up in the mountains to try and find it in like..highschool or right before college though *laughter* I remember doing it with my friends when I was like 16 or 17.

K: Oh! So there’s a right of passage aspect to it?

MW: Sometimes yeah, definitely.

Interpretation:
I really enjoyed hearing this story. It, at least from my perspective, did encompass the American dream in a sense. The idea of both the gold rush, which has long been held as a pinnacle of American determination and achievement, and the idea of adventure and finding a long-lost mine combine to form, as stated, a tale of the American dream in a sense. Another aspect I want to note is the coming of age part of the story. This story, at least according to the informant, dates back to his great-grandfather. That part of the story represents a lot of long-held more conservative beliefs. Arizona, for a very long time, has held conservative values. The informant noted that it was really only high school boys who went to try and find the mine as a coming of age process. Even later on in life, it was mainly men who attempted. The idea of a rugged mine full of riches hidden deep within the scorching mountains, and someone going to find it, is very traditionally masculine.

Delicate Riddle

Main Performance:

The informant, TB, was recounting a riddle she heard that made her laugh. I will be listed as AK.

TB: “What’s something so delicate that even saying it breaks it?”

AK: “What?”

TB: “You have to guess.”

AK: “Okay… trust?”

TB: “No.”

AK: “Wait- a secret!”

TB: “Hmm, close actually.”

AK: “I can’t think of anything else.”

TB: “Silence.”

Background:

The informant had heard the riddle in an online video where two people were playing a drinking game of trying to get the other person to drink by presenting a riddle their opponent couldn’t crack.

Context:

Notably, two of TB’s friends were around who had also seen the video, and when I said that I hadn’t, she wanted to test out one of the riddles on me. The others were laughing throughout as I struggled through multiple silences between responses, each time not hearing the answer that was in plain sight.

Thoughts:

The riddle has a witty twist of humor that almost makes the person subjected to the answer feel a bit stupid and silly for not knowing it. While being the most obvious response, it makes there a clear insider to the riddle and if you aren’t, the humor is a little bit at your expense. And this is something applicable to most riddles, but for this one it is a large point of contention.

Escape the Box Riddle

Context: The respondent learned this riddle as it was passed from friend to friend in elementary school.

M.A. : I have a riddle? Do I just tell you the riddle?
P.Z. : Yeah, tell me a riddle.
M.A. : Okay, so you’re stuck in a metal box, yeah?
P.Z. : Okay.
M.A. : And there’s no exits, um, and no way out. In the box, you have a table and a mirror. So how do you get out?
P.Z. : Alright, so I have heard this one —
M.A. : Oh, God
P.Z. : So I’m not gonna guess, but I want you to say it.
M.A. : Okay, so to get out, you look into the mirror, and you saw yourself. Okay? And so you take the saw from the mirror, and cut the table in half. And then who halves make a whole, and then you climb out the hole. That is the amazing riddle, thank you.
P.Z. : Bravo. So where did you hear that one?
M.A. : Okay, so I heard it from my brother, who heard it from, I have no idea. I’m assuming probably like school, or friends —
P.Z. : Was this like middle school, high school, elementary school?
M.A. : Um, I was definitely in elementary school when he told me this.
P.Z. : Okay, so that’s also, I heard it from my school around the same time, so —
M.A. : Yeah, I know I was young.

Thoughts: Like the respondent, I had also heard this riddle from a friend in elementary school. It did have slightly different wording, but that is seemingly inconsequential as the crux of the riddle remains the same. Riddles seemed extremely popular as some of my teachers would encourage us to share some in a weekly riddle competition. This had always remained my favorite and in my memory because of the deliver and double entendres.

Pombinha Branca

S. is a 55-year-old female Brazilian immigrant from Sao Paolo and the rural vineyard areas of Brazil. She has lived in the U.S. for about seven years. She says this song was popular around the rural areas and her mother sang it around the house as she cleaned.

This was near an area in San Antonio with a large Brazilian population around all the Brazilian steakhouses. We were picking her and her family up from their work.

Pombinha branca, que está fazendo?
Lavando roupa pro casamento
Vou me lavar, vou me trocar
Vou na janela pra namorar
Passou um moço, de terno branco
Chapéu de lado, meu namorado
Mandei entrar
Mandei sentar
Cuspiu no chão
Limpa aí seu porcalhão!

/

Little White dove, what are you doing?

Washing laundry for the wedding.

I’m going to wash up, I’m going to get changed,

I’m going to the window to flirt.

 A young man in a white suit,

 Hat tilted to the side, my sweetheart,

 I had him come in,

 I had him sit down He spat on the floor.

 Clean up your filth there,

Have better manners.

Pombinha Blanca is a folk song or traditional lullaby sung in a playful key that quickly turns furious both in tempo and key after the “spitting on the floor.” S. mentioned the lullaby reinforced some funny gender norms, encouraging harmony, but presenting the consequences of masculinity spilling over into sloppiness. In this entry, the folk song intended for children indirectly teaches gender norms just as Oring cites in his chapter, Children’s folklore in Folk Groups and Folk Genres. After establishing the social norms of feminine presentations and its rituals.