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  #1  
Old 06-11-2010, 03:22 PM
Skarath Skarath is offline
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Why is a Raven Like a Writing Desk

Well, I've read the column on it, and it's wonderful in answering.

Yet........there's one small problem, with the provided answers and with the author's own attempt at an answer.

It seems that the answers are aimed more at HOW a raven is like a writing desk.

It doesn't say WHY a raven is like a writing desk. Much akin to saying "How are you going to ties your shoes?" "Why are you going to tie your shoes?"

Two entirely different things. If the raven is going to be compared to the writing desk, that's all grand and all, but WHY is the raven like a writing desk? That, is a little snag that can usually just be trod over with "Why and how are much the same thing." Yet to that I answer: Why and how may be very similar to the point of being almost the same, yet they are NOT the same.

So you see, the answers have been being provided, and have been done quite well........but they are answering the wrong question!

ETA: Link to column http://www.straightdope.com/columns/...a-writing-desk -- Rico

Last edited by Rico; 06-12-2010 at 05:20 AM.. Reason: Add link to column
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  #2  
Old 06-11-2010, 03:34 PM
Giles Giles is offline
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The structure "Why is X like Y?" is one of the traditional structures of riddles, which Lewis Carroll was just following. For example, "Why is a horse like the letter O?"
SPOILER:
Because it needs a "Gee" to make it "Go"

That riddle wouldn't work so well with "How".
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  #3  
Old 06-17-2010, 03:23 AM
chorpler chorpler is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Giles View Post
The structure "Why is X like Y?" is one of the traditional structures of riddles, which Lewis Carroll was just following. For example, "Why is a horse like the letter O?"
SPOILER:
Because it needs a "Gee" to make it "Go"
Wait, I don't get it. What's a "gee"? Is that a command for a horse or something?
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  #4  
Old 06-17-2010, 05:46 AM
Fake Tales of San Francisco Fake Tales of San Francisco is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chorpler View Post
Wait, I don't get it. What's a "gee"? Is that a command for a horse or something?
Yeah, it's also used for dog-sledding. 'Gee' to go right, 'haw' to go left.
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  #5  
Old 06-17-2010, 06:53 AM
Daithi Lacha Daithi Lacha is offline
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Originally Posted by Fake Tales of San Francisco View Post
Yeah, it's also used for dog-sledding. 'Gee' to go right, 'haw' to go left.
And also with a wooden toy.

Here is a thread on a nonsense riddle that seemingly got lost in its own translation when "why" & "how" were juxtaposed. The explanation seems strained, though.
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  #6  
Old 07-01-2010, 05:08 AM
Peter Morris Peter Morris is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chorpler View Post
Wait, I don't get it. What's a "gee"? Is that a command for a horse or something?
Gee-up, abbreviation of giddyup, command given to a horse to make it start running.
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  #7  
Old 06-11-2010, 08:36 PM
Cheshire Human Cheshire Human is offline
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"Why did the chicken cross the road?" vs. "How did the chicken cross the road?". Hmmm. The world wonders....
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  #8  
Old 06-11-2010, 08:59 PM
John W. Kennedy John W. Kennedy is offline
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There are at least four different gross meanings of "why" in English:
  1. What is the physical cause?
  2. What is the psychological motivation?
  3. What is the logical antecedent?
  4. What is the moral justification?
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  #9  
Old 06-11-2010, 11:16 PM
Skarath Skarath is offline
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Moral reasons for the raven and the chicken...now that's a scary thought
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  #10  
Old 06-13-2010, 01:21 AM
qazwart qazwart is online now
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I thought that the column was quite clear: There is no answer. The whole riddle was a joke!

Riddles were popular in England at the time Alice in Wonderland was written and could be found all over. The whole point of this riddle is that the Mad Hatter, who asked, didn't know the answer. It's as if the Hatter was asking a legitimate question (like if he asked "What's the capital of England") and not some child's riddle.

As Cecil pointed out, those who couldn't get the joke made up their own answers. So, if you don't like their "How" answers, make up your own "Why" answer, and let us know.
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  #11  
Old 06-13-2010, 02:11 AM
Irishman Irishman is offline
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Giles said:
Quote:
That riddle wouldn't work so well with "How".
Actually, that riddle works fine with "how" instead of "why", but you are correct, that was a traditional riddle structure that Carroll followed, and "why" can mean "how".

Why is a raven like a writing desk?
SPOILER:
Because he likes it that way.


YMMV.
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  #12  
Old 06-13-2010, 08:25 PM
Marcus Tullius Marcus Tullius is offline
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In Troilus and Cressida, Act 2, Scene 3:

THERSITES (the jester): Agamemnon is a fool; Achilles is a fool; Thersitesis a fool, and, as aforesaid, Patroclus is a fool.

ACHILLES: Derive this; come.

THERSITES: Agamemnon is a fool to offer to command Achilles; Achilles is a fool to be commanded of Agamemnon; Thersites is a fool to serve such a fool, and Patroclus is a fool positive.

PATROCLUS: Why am I a fool?

THERSITES: Make that demand of the prover. It suffices me thou art.
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  #13  
Old 07-01-2010, 05:25 AM
Gyrate Gyrate is offline
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Why a duck?
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  #14  
Old 07-01-2010, 05:45 PM
Cheez_Whia Cheez_Whia is offline
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My oldest daughter has an answer to that riddle: they both have inky quills.

Works for me!
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  #15  
Old 07-02-2010, 04:07 AM
Olentzero Olentzero is offline
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Oooh, that's a good one. Better than the Poe variant, even.

ETA: Your daughter was apparently beaten to it (see Cecil's article).

Last edited by Olentzero; 07-02-2010 at 04:09 AM..
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  #16  
Old 07-06-2010, 06:47 AM
Paul Adrian Paul Adrian is offline
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Why is a Raven like a Writing desk?.....

Skarath is right of course...but it is too tempting... so some more answers:
a) Ravens are reknowned fancy flyers, writing desks are where flights of fancy are recorded.
b) the Norse god Odin had two raven companions named 'Forethought' and 'Memory'. Forethought and memory are deployed by a writer working at his desk.
c) You can find examples of both in the Tower of London.

Last edited by Paul Adrian; 07-06-2010 at 06:48 AM.. Reason: spelling
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  #17  
Old 08-27-2010, 04:03 PM
GilM GilM is offline
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Nevar

My son told me that Lewis' answer was badly edited and his "and it is never put with the wrong end in front!" should have been "nevar" (raven backwards) rather than "never".
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  #18  
Old 08-27-2010, 04:19 PM
Powers Powers is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GilM View Post
My son told me that Lewis' answer was badly edited and his "and it is never put with the wrong end in front!" should have been "nevar" (raven backwards) rather than "never".
Is your son Cecil Adams? Because he mentions that in the very column we're discussing.


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  #19  
Old 08-27-2010, 11:40 PM
Floater Floater is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Adrian View Post
b) the Norse god Odin had two raven companions named 'Forethought' and 'Memory'. Forethought and memory are deployed by a writer working at his desk.
Huginn means thought, not forethought.
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  #20  
Old 02-16-2012, 09:48 AM
asatruancientmariner asatruancientmariner is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Floater View Post
Huginn means thought, not forethought.
Indeed, Huginn & Muninn are ravens of Odin
Only on days that end in 'y' though
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  #21  
Old 08-27-2010, 07:35 PM
GilM GilM is offline
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Sorry, I didn't notice the PostScript. I assumed he would have mentioned it closer to the actual quote. I actually looked for it in the "continued..." area with reader responses.
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  #22  
Old 01-14-2012, 10:45 PM
David Robjant David Robjant is offline
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why is 'wr' like 'r'?

because they sound exactly the same

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/...lies/smack.gif
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  #23  
Old 01-15-2012, 12:16 AM
dropzone dropzone is offline
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Ooh! The sarcasm is strong in this one!

Welcome, David. While using your real name was not entirely thought out (internet anonymity has its advantages) you should fit in nicely.

Boat building and philosophy? Interesting.
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  #24  
Old 03-17-2012, 01:22 PM
David Robjant David Robjant is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dropzone View Post
Ooh! The sarcasm is strong in this one!

Welcome, David. While using your real name was not entirely thought out (internet anonymity has its advantages) you should fit in nicely.

Boat building and philosophy? Interesting.

I have no plans to fit in nicely, the the bunch of you royally missing the point about carroll was too good to miss. Nonsense verse is for fun, ffs.

But I totally disagree about internet anonymity. Its 'advantages' are as morally corrupting as the Ring of Gyges.

I'll grant that if everyone else is going all anon, the bloke leaving a trail of half-witty comments in his own name is at big risk of selection committees finding out who he really is. On the other hand, who is the liar and thief in that context?

Not an Accusation. Just a Thought. http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/...lies/smack.gif
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  #25  
Old 05-30-2012, 11:04 AM
robert@fm robert@fm is offline
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C'mon, this thread doesn't address the really deep questions!

Q. What is the meaning of life?
A. 42.

Q. Why does anyone do anything?
A. I don't know, I was really drunk at the time.

I'm sure there are more...
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  #26  
Old 05-30-2012, 11:59 AM
BrotherCadfael BrotherCadfael is offline
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The correct answer is "because neither one can whistle".
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