Oro parece, plata no es. ¿Que es?
Looks gold. Silver is not. What is?
It looks like gold. It is not silver. What is it?
Pablo learned this riddle when he was a child in Pamplona from his mother. He said she would always tell him little riddles to help him build his intelligence. He said that this riddle can only be used in Spain because it does not make sense anywhere else. Whenever you say it in Spanish, the answer is hidden in the riddle. Pablo said the answer to the riddle is platono. In English, platono means banana. The reason it only makes sense in Spanish is because the word platono forms whenever you combine plata and no. Therefore, in Spanish, the riddle says oro parace, plata no es. ¿Que es? Platono. Now, one can understand why it does not make sense in English. Banana does not form by combining the words silver and no. Pablo said that this riddle is primarily for children because it is too easy for adults. He said a lot of Spanish mothers will give their children riddles to help them learn how to think quickly.
Pablo likes this poem because he enjoys seeing people who do not know any better struggle to get the right answer. He said that if you performed this riddle to someone who didnt understand Spanish folklore but knew the language, it would be funny to see them think hard for such a simple answer. A good example of this is a Spaniard telling this riddle to an American who knows how to speak Spanish. Although he might know the language very well, he might not be able to get the right answer because he does not expect it. That is why riddles are great. They not only make you think, but they make you realize how simple the answer was afterwards.
I agree with Pablo that this a nice riddle to give to kids. The answer does seem too obvious for adults but children will have fun trying to guess what the answer is. I also think that this riddle can only be used in Spain and other Spanish speaking countries because of the culture and the language. If an American performed this riddle to another American, it would not make sense because we do not speak Spanish as our national language. I think this joke also represents how people can see the answer right in front of them but still not be able to get it. It does not mean that person is stupid. It just means that he was unaware of the answer directly in front of his face.
This riddle can also be seen in More Riddles for the Spanish Class, a book written by Joseph Raymond. This book provides many Spanish riddles with interpretations of some of them. This particular riddle is found on page 328 along with many others.
Annotation: Raymond, Joseph. More Riddles for the Spanish Class. Vol. 35. American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portugese, 1952. 328.