Tag Archives: riddles

English riddle

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 17
Occupation: School
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 04/29/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main piece: 

The following is transcribed from a riddle between the informant and interviewer.

Informant: A red guy lives in a red house 

Interviewer: A red guy lives in a red house. Ok. 

Informant: A blue guy lives in a blue house.

Interviewer: Blue guy in blue house.

Informant: yes, uhhh a green guy lives in a green house. 

Interviewer: Ok. 

Informant: Who lives in the White House. 

Interviewer: I know it’s not a white guy right? 

Informant: Oh my god. I thought you would get this one. 

Interviewer: What is it?

Informant: The president. The president lives in the white house. 

Background:  My sister was born in LA and she goes to school in Downey. She first heard this riddle about 5 years ago and says it whenever she’s saying any jokes. She tells this joke specifically to see if people fall for it and say “white guy”. 

Context: The setting was in my room during the day. I asked her if she knew of any other joke or riddle and threw this one at me. After failing to find the joke in the first one (the pinecone and pineapple one), she was disappointed I failed at this one too. 

Thoughts: I think I’m not a riddle or joke person. The answer can be right in front of me and I won’t be able to detect it. I can also deduce I’m not a very good listener. It seems like I take things literally and think logically. I followed the pattern of a color person living in the same color house but that’s not it. One has to think outside the box and look at the bigger picture.

English riddle

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 17
Occupation: School
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 04/29/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main piece: 

The following is transcribed from a riddle the informant gave the interviewer. 

Informant: A pine tree grows 10 pineapples. 

Interviewer: Ok. 

Informant: Two of the pineapples out of the 10 fall. How many pineapples are left on the tree?

Interviewer: On the tree? Or are there? 

Informant: Are there on the tree. 

Interviewer: I would say ten minus two so 8 left. But it’s probably wrong. 

Informant: Correct! You’re wrong. There are 0 pineapples on the pine tree.

Interviewer: How come? What do you mean? 

Informant: Because pine trees do not grow pineapples. 

Background: My sister was born in LA and she goes to school in Downey. She first heard this riddle about a year ago. She usually says when there’s “usually nothing to talk about”. She remembers it because “it was pretty good and easy to follow”. 

Context: After giving me a myth, I asked if she knew of any jokes or riddles. She responded with “yes I know this one” and continued with the above riddle. This was taken from my room. Casual. 

Thoughts: I fooled myself. I consider myself a numbers person so when I heard 10 and 2 I just did basic subtraction but I didn’t pay attention to the pine tree and pineapple detail. In a way, I guess it shows I’m not a good listener. All in all, it was a short and concise riddle that served its purpose. It made me say “oooh yeah” after getting the joke. I tried to fool my dad later on but he said 0 so he actually listens. This can be a listening test now that I think about it. A good listener would say 0 and a poor listener would say 8 just like I did. 

Circle House Riddle

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 19
Occupation: student
Residence: MN
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/22/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

O: There are 4 people in a circle house: A mother, a father, a maid, and a baby. One day the baby goes missing. During the interrogation, the mom said she was cooking, the dad said he was on the way to work, and the maid said she was dusting the corners. Who kidnapped the baby?

A: The Dad?

O: Nope.

A: Ah, I get it! The wife was probably lying, so the mom?

O: No. It was the maid because a circle house doesn’t have any corners, girl.

This is a bit of a puzzle but the answer is laid in plain sight. The setup of the riddle gives you the answer. It’s only a matter of listening carefully and knowing your math. Anyone unfamiliar with geometry would be quickly pointed out. The informant communicated that all the riddles she knows now were ones she learned in elementary school which is why it’s so important for them to keep telling it. Riddles can be regional. O’s experience with these in elementary school allows them to tell who experienced a similar community during their formative years.

Advent

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 59
Occupation: Entrepreneur
Residence: Salt Lake City, UT
Date of Performance/Collection: April 23, 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

  • Context: The following informant, S, is a 59 yr. old man with three kids and a wife. Though the family does not identify as Christian, they celebrate Christmas and participate in the Christian tradition of Advent. This conversation took place when the informant was asked about any specific family traditions surrounding holidays. 
  • Text:

S: “So… for those who don’t know… Advent is a Christian celebration… uh… I think it’s tied in to the Twelve Days of Christmas too when you add it up, but I could be wrong… I don’t know about that… but, basically it’s the entire month of December it starts on December 1st and the day is December 25th… where you actually don’t get an advent… oh and each day you get a little… a little gift… sort of leading up to Christmas. But on Christmas day, you don’t get a little gift for Advent, you get your Christmas gifts. Um… and that… for me at least, started when I was… well as long as I can remember with my mom. And she would have an Advent calendar and we would open that up and… I think she had clues for us, if I’m not mistaken… and we would go find the little gift. It was was usually like a piece of chocolate for each of the three of us, I had two brothers… uh… nothing big… and maybe on the weekend a toy… but you know, nothing massive.

And that carried over when I first had, at least for me, I don’t know about my brothers, I’m sure it did, knowing my mom… but when I had my first kids, I started to get a box in November… from my mom… around Thanksgiving time… with all of the gifts and clues to go with them for the 24 days leading up to Christmas. So all I had to do was put the clues in the Advent calendar and run the process, and all my kids loved it… well of course my mom passes away a few years ago and… a couple years before that, I think actually, I started doing the clues myself and getting the gifts and what not.

Me: “What are the clues like?”

S: “Well, it’s a shame, I don’t remember what they were like as a kid. But what I do now… um… I either do a little sort of rhyming scheme sort of couplet thing… or I do a riddle… or I do something to do with the number of the day… umm or some combination of that stuff. Plays on words all the time ‘cus that’s sort of riddling. As [my kids] have gotten older I’ve tried to make it a little more challenging to figure out what it is and hidden them a little bit more… they used to be in plain sight way more often than they are now.”

Me: “And is it like each kid gets a clue or…?”

S: “One clue for the three [kids]. And [my kids] actually rotate, [they] decided to go youngest to oldest… uh [the youngest] does the first, [the middle] does the second, [the oldest] does the third and then [they] rotate through. Uhh…”

Me: “Reading the clues?”

S: “Reading the clues out loud. And then everybody… well it depends what kind of mood people are in… some days [my kids] decide to sit and not participate and sulk, but most days all three of [my kids] go and look, and of course mom, when she figures out the clue, can’t hold herself back and has to yell out where it is ‘cus she’s so proud of herself for figuring it out.”

  • Analysis: This version of Advent is similar to other versions I have heard of. Mainly, I have heard of pre-made Advent calendars with chocolates or small gifts inside each day. The main difference between this version of Advent and others is the addition of clues and hiding the presents. This type of Advent is more of a game, that includes riddles and rhyme schemes that lead to the hidden presents. This is the Advent I grew up knowing, and until I began to go over to my friends houses around the holidays I was unaware that Advent was not a game in all other households as well.

Letter “E” Word Riddle

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 18
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA/ Denver, CO
Date of Performance/Collection:
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

SB: I have one riddle that I know. And it’s what starts with E and ends with E and has one letter in the middle…

VG: Eye.

SB: No (laughs)-

VG: Oh, ha!

SB: Eye? Starts with E, ends with E, has one letter in the middle.

VG: Eye

SB: What?!

VG: E.Y.E.

SB: Oh, I guess that works too. The riddle is honestly not that exciting- it’s an envelope.

VG: Oh, haha! Where’d you learn that?

SB: Um, well, when I was little I was really into riddles, so I had a little riddle book that my parents gave me, and that’s the only riddle I remember from it…

VG: When did you use the riddles? Just on the- friends?

SB: Yes, I used it as a way to make friends. I thought it would make me more popular. It did with the weird kids, but generally it was not a big hit. That’s why I only remember one.

 

Background:

Location of story – Denver, CO

Location of Performance – SB’s dormitory room, Los Angeles, CA, night

 

Context: This performance was done just between SB and I in response to me asking if she had any urban legends, riddles, or holiday traditions. I am very close friends with SB. This story follows one about a conspiracy theory about the Denver airport being linked to Satan.

 

Analysis: This is a prime example of how riddles have been used historically as a social tools. SB was able to implement these in order to demonstrate her own wit to potential friends as well as vet them herself to see if they enjoyed the performance. It is also interesting to note that my answer fit the prompt, but she would still not accept it because that was not how the riddle has historically been performed. It does not matter if my answer is correct because it is not the one that she desired. To me, this demonstrates that the riddles people choose to perform are extremely personal and reflect personal preference, just as choosing clothing or music might indicate.

Pair of Chinese Number Riddles

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Taiwanese-American
Age: 22
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA, USA
Date of Performance/Collection: April 22, 2017
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Chinese

“A riddle… This one, this one’s uhh, a good riddle, because it also translates to English. So it’s umm, there’s a fisherman, oh, umm…

So you know how there’s Chinese New Year, right? And fifteen days after Chinese New Year, because Chinese New Year is a two-week celebration, fifteen day celebration, and the last day is the lantern festival. And at a traditional lantern festival, you uhh, you have a parade with a bunch of lanterns, you eat, like, a specific food, which is called like… Literal translation is, like, ‘soup balls,’ but it’s like, uhh, kinda like mochi kinda thing, it’s rice, rice balls, and like, sugar water… and then, umm, you also do riddles, that’s like also part of the festival.

So I learned this riddle when I was participating in that holiday, we had like… something… umm… and the riddle is:

‘A fisherman went out one day, and, umm… so first he caught… 6 fish without the head, then 9 fish without the tail, then 8 fish except these fish were only half a fish each. How many fish did he catch in total?’ ”

Like… whole fish?

“It’s a riddle! [laughs]

Okay, the answer is zero. And you’re like, ‘What the, what the heck?’ Because umm, if you take the number 6, and write it in Arabic numerals, and you take off the top half, it becomes 0. Same with the 9, if you take the bottom half it becomes 0. If you take 8 and you cut it in half, then it’s 0. So you have 0+0+0! [laughs]

It’s some trickery! Yeah!”

Why Arabic numerals?

“Umm, well, this isn’t, this isn’t like a really old one, but like, I just learned this one in the context of this Chinese event. And like, Chinese people like numbers, too, you know? [laughs]

It’s part of it, So like, I dunno if this part is a trick. There’s a version where… Is there a version? No, I don’t remember any other specific riddles, but I know there were a lot that had to deal with, like, what the actual Chinese numbers were written as in Chinese. I don’t remember any of those riddles. But I remember there was like a series of them…

Oh! There’s one… umm… it’s uhh… what is… you take half of six and round down, what is it. And you need to know how six is written in Chinese. It’s written like… dot on top, straight line, and then two dashes that are like kinda sloped into each other on the bottom. And you take half of six and round down, the actual meaning of the riddle is: You look at the bottom half of six, and that’s what eight is written as.

So then the question would be like half of six, round down. And all the little kids would be like ‘three!’ And you’d be like ‘no!!! It’s eight!’ And then they circle it on the board, and you go ‘wooooooow!’ [laughs]

Yeah, so that was like, basic level riddles.

Easter Treasure Hunt

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 24
Occupation: University Administrator
Residence: Auckland, NZ
Date of Performance/Collection: March 26, 2016
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

The informant is a new professional in post-secondary administration. He lives in New Zealand, but he is originally from Apple Valley, California and went to university at the University of California, Irvine, where he was involved in student affairs and studied computer science. His background is Italian and Polish, and he has 3 older siblings.

This piece relates to an Easter tradition he performs with his family, and, more recently, his flatmates.

“Well, it’s Easter today, so that’s kind of on my mind. And so for Easter, what me and my family do is… rather than doing, like, a normal Easter egg hunt where you just go outside and hide a bunch of Easter eggs and go and just try to find them, like haphazardly and they’re all in random places, we do kind of a scavenger hunt. Or no, not a scavenger hunt, like a… map and clues, in a way? So you get the first clue and then that gives you another clue and that gives you another clue, and at the end there’s a basket with the Easter chocolate and the Easter bunny and all that.

Um, and so we’ve done that, ever since I can remember with me and my brother and sisters. To my best memory, we just kind of—my brother and sisters both really like those kinds of clues, so they just did it one year for one of us, and it just kind of became a tradition. But I don’t know, my parents never did it, it was just the siblings. My parents didn’t give us clues and we didn’t give them clues. Like my parents gave us the baskets to put at the end of it, eventually, but they didn’t participate. So I think that it’s my brother and sisters that came up with it. I don’t know where they got it from, or if it was their idea.”

Are you continuing with this tradition now that you’re living away from your family?

“I’m trying to continue it, cause I really liked it and it’s like, kind of my Easter thing now, like, whenever I think of those types of clues I think of Easter. And, like, I like those those types of puzzles, like things that you need to solve. It’s kind of continued in my life outside of the holiday but I associate that with Easter. Like for example, today my flatmate gave me an Easter egg hunt, but it wasn’t the kind of hunt that I’m used to in that sense, like it was just the hide it everywhere and go get it, and that kind of triggered a bunch of memories for all the different hunts I did with my family, and I remembered that I want to do it again and bring that tradition and continue that tradition on.”

Analysis:

This tradition interests me for a couple of reasons. It contains both elements of the Easter egg hunt with chocolate prizes, including eggs and the symbolic Easter bunny, and a kind of riddling competition. The informant showed me some pictures of clues that were used over the years, and they range from plays on words to codes that need to be cracked to logic puzzles. Each clue, like a traditional riddle, had the answer hidden somewhere in the question, although as they were in text form rather than shared orally, the answers were often embedded in the text itself.

It’s also interesting that the parents were not involved in this tradition, as it is often parents that hide the eggs for children in Easter egg hunts. It reflects the general trend in the United States that riddles and riddling games are primarily thought of as activities for children, as the children wrote the clues for one another and the parents provided only the prize at the end. However, the informant is attempting to continue this tradition with his flatmates in New Zealand, who are all adults.

Big Book of Riddles

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American - (Welsh)
Age: 53
Occupation: Homemaker
Residence: Winnetka, IL
Date of Performance/Collection: Saturday March 26th, 2016
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): French

D is a 57 year old man. He is a practicing cardiologist at a hospital in the northern suburbs of Illinois. He identifies as American as he grew up in Boston, but he strongly associates with his Scottish heritage as well. D completed his undergraduate studies at Dartmouth University and he attended Cornell University for his degree in medicine. During his studies, both undergraduate and med school, D studied abroad in France two times. While in medical school, D studied at the Faculté de Médecine et de Maïeutique de Lille in Lille, France. English is his primary language, yet he is also fluent in French.

Me: Do you have any riddles?

D: Well there was this riddle book that I used to love. “Big Book of Riddles” by Bennett Cerf. The book is probably 40 to 60 years old, and my parents still have it. I loved reading it with my kids when we visited them. The riddles were for children, but everyone always had a good laugh. My kids and my wife and I go though the book every time we visit. It has gotten to a point where we know every riddle in the book from memory.

Me: Can you tell me some of the riddles?

D: Sure. Why do firemen wear red suspenders?

Me: Why?

D: To keep their pants up!

Me: Ok.

D: What did the pig say when the farmer caught him by the tail?

Me: I don’t know?

D: This is the end of me.

Me: That’s a good one.

D: What do you call something that’s big, red, and  eat rocks?

Me: Umm.

D: A big, red, rock eater!

Me: They really gave these a lot of thought didn’t they.

D: Well the thing is, if you make it simple and put a small twist in it, it makes it a lot funnier.

Me: Hmm.

D: What makes more noise than a cat stuck in a tree?

Me: Uh…I have no idea.

D: Two cats!

Me: Wow.

D: What time is it when there is an elephant sitting on your fence?

Me: …

D: Time to build a new fence!

Me: Oh my god.

D talks about the book fondly and still gets a good laugh out of them. The are just stupid, dumb fun and he enjoy’s the feeling of being a kid again when reading them. The book still remains in his family after 40 to 60 years! His children will likely pass the book down to their kids as well, and if not the book then at least their favorite riddles. It’s funny how something so simple and childish and seemingly dumb can bring someone so much joy. It’s funny to think that reading a book of riddles can be a family tradition, but it is.

Here’s the link to the book: http://www.amazon.com/Book-riddles-Beginner-books-Bennett/dp/B0007DL5JU/ref=pd_sim_14_2?ie=UTF8&dpID=415%2BjVvyVCL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL160_SR115%2C160_&refRID=05WW8ZMV8F9E8CX6H72H