Tag Archives: joke riddle

“Mary’s Mother” Riddle


Riddle: “Mary’s mother has five children. Her first four children’s names are April, May, June, and July. What is the fifth child’s name?”

Answer: “Mary”


H is currently a student at USC. She originally heard this riddle from someone at her elementary school in San Diego, California, where the students would tell it amongst each other. After sharing the riddle, H remarked that the important part of the joke seemed to be the “gotcha” twist. They also noted that the names of the four other children didn’t seem to matter as much as there being a pattern to them that might help trick the riddle’s recipient. 


H already pointed out many interesting points of analysis about this riddle. Like H, I find it significant that the point of the riddle seems to be to fool the riddle recipient into forgetting the beginning of the riddle, leading them to give an incorrect answer that would seem logical to the sequence of names. I personally think that the desire to trick someone using this riddle ties in closely with the elementary setting in which H originally heard it. As has been discussed, much of children’s folklore stems from trying to establish a sense of authority in a world in which children have very little. By knowing the answer to this riddle, children may temporarily hold authority over a peer or adult who doesn’t. It is also worth noting that knowing the riddle or a similarly structured one creates an in-group; those children who have been tricked by the riddle can then go on to trick others. By learning the structure of the riddle, the recipient also learns to pay closer attention and look for important details in future riddles or logic puzzles.

John’s Mom Riddle

Text: John’s mom has four kids: Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. What was the name of the fourth? (Answer: John)

Context: I would tell this if one of my peers asked me to tell a riddle. I learned in like elementary school, maybe fourth grade. I’ve seen it on Instagram before. The hope would be that whoever you’re telling it to says Thursday, and you would say “Ha! You’re wrong.” I feel accomplished when I use it.

Analysis: This riddle is an example of a “joke” or “catch” riddle because it is like a practical joke that has an expected response. This riddle was popular with kids because it empowers kids to have knowledge over others in this area, since they don’t have the upper hand of knowledge in most other areas. This riddle also correlates with the “rule of three” in American and Western culture which explains how many ideas and entities in folklore come in groups of three. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday is a clean and matching group of three, and when John is added to make four, it seems illogical and unexpected.

Knock-Knock Joke with a twist

Background: A traditional American Joke with a prequel to build up the punchline.

Person1: “Why did the chicken cross the road?”
Person2: “I don’t know, why did the chicken cross the road?”
Person1: “To get to the idiot’s house”

Person1: “Knock-Knock!”
Person2: “Who’s there?”
Person1: “The chicken”

Informant: This is a cruel joke that I was the unfortunate victim of in my youth.

Analysis: As a non-American, this is the first knock-knock joke that I found funny. Knock-knock jokes are usually meant for children and the informant confirmed that they heard about this from their elementary school friend when they were young

“Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?”: Knock Knock joke

Original Text:

Informant: “Knock knock.”

Collector: “Who’s there?”

Informant: “Banana.”

Collector: “Banana who?”

Informant: “Banana.”

Collector: “Banana who?”

Informant: “Orange”

Collector: “Orange who?”

Informant: “Orange you glad I didn’t say banana again?” 

Context: The informant is 18 and a freshman at USC studying Theater and Anthropology. They state that they “learned this on the bus in elementary school”. They would use it to prank their friends and get a good laugh while in between school activities or on the playground. The informant even laughed while telling the joke to me in this current day. 

Analysis: The informant is a white American that went to public school in Barrington, Illinois. Knock Knock jokes are popular in America, specifically with younger children. The typical format goes as follows. The joke teller begins by saying, “Knock knock”, to which the listener responds “Who’s there”. The teller can then say “x” (any word or phrase), and in response, the listener says “x who?”. The teller then delivers the punch line. However, this particular joke is a bit of a trick joke, designed to stump the listener as to why the joke teller keeps saying “banana”. The phrase “Knock Knock” refers to knocking on the door of one’s home, announcing your presence. The practice of knocking is common, but not wholly universal. This joke reveals one proper way to announce your presence in America, as well as the ideal of privacy. The fruits mentioned in the joke (bananas, oranges) are common in American public school lunches, as well as being cultivated often in the Americas. 

What’s the difference…


Q: Do you remember any other jokes that we used to tell

R: Yeah, …fuck, what were the ones about like-  oh I remember. You know the one that are like whats the difference between this and this.

Q: Oh yeah I think so. Do you have any specific ones

R: Yeah, so, whats the difference between a Buck [male deer] and a Witch

Q: I remember this one but you should say the answer

R: Now it feels weird, no- ok, ones a hunted stag the others a stunted hag

Q: Thats a good one, there were so many

Context: This was told by a high school age boy to other high school age students in upstate New York on a small collective. 

Analysis: I feel like there is not too much of a deeper meaning to this riddle except word play as the other jokes in this group are similar in format but equally random objects with seemingly no connection. For example whats the difference between a coyote and a flea. One howls on the prairie the other prowls on the hairy. This was told by my brother so I remember we also made up some of our own as young adults. It was sort of a way to test wit and mental agility in a similar way to a pun battle for example.