Catch Riddle

“Question: What four-lettered word ends in ‘k’ and means the same thing as intercourse?

Answer: Talk”

Catherine learned this catch riddle from her brother who is three years older than her, when she was in 5th grade and he was in 8th grade. Also, he told her this joke when they were playing in the church playground.  He wanted to get his little sister, Catherine in trouble in front of the adults of the church. In fact, Catherine fell for the trick and was chastised by her mother. After finding out about this riddle, Catherine’s brother Robert also was reprimanded. She believes that it was common for young boys to play tricks such as this one to innocent little girls as a means of feeling smarter and superior. She was surprised that such perverted jokes were spread at such a young age.

This catch riddle was particularly fascinating to me because I heard a very similar one when I was younger. I also learned this joke in middle school when I was hanging around on the gym of my church. The version I heard goes as follows:

“Question: What starts with an ‘f’ and ends with a ‘k’?

Answer: A fire truck”

It follows the same concept as the one Catherine heard, in that it involves a letter and the intention of trying to get a person to say a profane word. I believe both of these catch riddles follow an anti-authoritarian theme, especially since they were both said at church.

The overall point of these catch riddles are to make the unconscious conscious and trick someone into saying a word that they are not allowed advised not to say. Ever since we were young, we were told we have to be respectful, but it is natural for children to want to deviate from these rules, especially young boys. The idea of intercourse has been the topic of many jokes popular around young children, and was mostly started by young boys in playgrounds.

The catch riddle mentioned by Catherine was also found in American Folklore: An Encyclopedia, in the section entitled “Riddles and Puzzles.” [1] The author states that riddles are “framed with the purpose of confusing or testing the wits of those who do not know the answer.” The initiating participant, or the riddler, strives to embarrass or confuse the ridder’s coparticipant, the respondent. In this case, Catherine’s brother was the riddler who tried to test Catherine’s wits. The obvious answer to both questions posed above is quite profane, and the riddler obviously had the intention of getting the respondent in some sort of trouble.

[1] Annotation: Brunvand, Jan H., ed. “Riddles and Puzzles.” American Folklore: An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland, Inc., 1996.