The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 7 (November 1, 1929)
What is a Conundrum?
What is a Conundrum?
Dear Reader, what is a conundrum? Perchance it is one of those cerebral eruptions which run thus:—
My first is a liquorice ladder, my second wears a tail at both ends and wags in the centre, my third is something you can't have until you get it if you haven't got it, my fourth is like nothing on earth, my fifth is what auntie says when she catches her thumb in the wringer, and the whole bundle of brain-fever leads to the knowledge-college. No, astonished reader; let the Wizard of Wessex put this brand of mental myosis across each month in the “Monomaniac's Monthly,” but for us the straight and narrow banana, the dinkum engine-oil, and the permanent way of sanity.
We itch not to ask you: “Why is a Wherefore?” or “When is Wednesday?” the answer to both of which, as you know, is “Because no matter how large a pane of glass you can break with a sledgehammer …” Nor do we wish to corrugate your roofing with the species of educational epilepsy which causes in-no-cent little children to gnaw their rulers down to the last inch and to drink their mapping ink; we refer to such arithmeticklers as this: “If it takes a yard of catsnip at ninepence a nip to make a catastrophe, how many grocers make a gross?”
“If John eats ten pies for lunch, how long will it take the ambulance, travelling as fast as it can amble, to reach the hospital?”
No, no, Nanette, none of these sanity-snatchers appeals to our sense of justice, so erase the furrows from your milk-white brow (see advertisement on page 00—how to unfold the face) and wade on. To get to the point, what is a conundrum? A conundrum, gentle reader, is something you can't eat—always excepting the mince pie, which is more like the mystery that still baffles Scotland Yard.
According to Webster, the only American who has ever made the English language intelligible, “a conundrum is a riddle proposing for discovery some point of resemblance between things apparently unlike.”
While agreeing that Webster, the word-wizard, surely unleashes an earful, we must insist that the things we propose for discovery, resemble each other so closely that it is possible to identify them only by their birth marks. We ask you, “Why is a railway station like the centre of gravity?” and we expect no reply; on the contrary, the solution is so easy that we offer a prize of a free trip on the platform scales at any railway station for anyone who cannot answer it correctly.