Riddles are statements or questions that rely on double-meanings and word-play as a means to conceal an answer. Stupid riddles typically rely on simplistic logic or puns for answers. One example from the Brain Candy area of the Corsinet website asks, "Why is the longest human nose on record only eleven inches long?" The answer is, "If it was twelve inches it would be a foot."Continue Reading
In the above example, the word "foot" uses two different meanings, as a measurement and a body part. The question relies on the person being posed the question to use the first definition exclusively, when the second definition of a foot is contained in the answer to the riddle.
Riddles generally fall under two main categories, either enigmas or conundra. Enigmas are defined as problems to be solved using metaphorical and allegorical language to obscure obvious solutions. They usually require careful thought in order to arrive at an answer. A conundrum, in contrast, leans more heavily on double-meanings to complicate arriving at an answer. Puns are also a common device in conundra.
Early examples of riddles occur throughout Old English literature. Various enigmas and conundra occur as early as the 11th century, as is found in the Exeter Book, a collection of surviving Old English manuscripts.Learn more about Brainteasers