What Do You Call an Old Snowman? Answer

default image

What Do You Call an Old Snowman? The Answer is Water – A Deep Dive into the History, Science and Pop Culture of Riddles

What do you call an old snowman? The answer is water! This classic winter-themed riddle offers a fun brain teaser about the lifecycle of snow. In this deep dive, we’ll unravel the history, science and pop culture presence of riddles like these that stimulate our minds.

As an avid riddler and science geek, I’ve always found joy in the “Aha!” moment of solving clever word puzzles. Riddles have been around for millennia as a form of entertainment and education. They provide an engaging outlet to exercise our critical thinking – a welcome break from the usual logical and analytical thinking required by our hyper-digital world today.

So how did riddles originate and what makes them such a persevering facet of human culture? Let’s enthaw the origins of riddles before cirrus-ly drifting into some flurry facts around snow science and investing how pop culture has embraced riddle-me-this wordplay. Grab a hot cocoa and get ready to have some fun!

A Long, Puzzling History

Riddles have their roots in ancient oral storytelling traditions across cultures as a way to pass down knowledge. The oldest discovered riddle hails from the Sumerian civilization over 4,000 years ago etched into cuneiform tablets. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and Chinese characters also depict symbolic riddles used to impart wisdom.

One of the earliest known riddles comes from Greek mythology – the Riddle of the Sphinx. In the story, a ferocious creature named the Sphinx terrorized the city of Thebes by demanding travelers solve her riddle before entering, lest they be killed. When Oedipus came to the city, he successfully answered the classic “What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs in the evening?” by responding “a human” and defeating the Sphinx. This demonstrated how riddles could be used to test cleverness and wisdom.

Riddles became common literary devices in ancient texts like Viking sagas or Anglo-Saxon poetry to indirectly impart moral lessons. Even characters in the Bible told riddles, like Samson challenging Philistine guests with his lion and honey riddle at his wedding. Their prevalence across ancient civilizations shows how riddles were likely invented independently by cultures worldwide as engaging education devices.

Jumping to more modern times, riddles saw a popular resurgence in Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries. Newspapers and books began compiling riddles as a regular form of entertainment. British universities picked up the tradition, with students collecting riddles in manuscript joke books. The ubiquitous “Why did the chicken cross the road?” riddle also seems to have originated from this period.

Today, versions of historic riddles continue to be told, along with new ones that reflect modern language and culture. A Google search delivers millions of riddle examples at our fingertips – proving these puzzles still provide joy and a mental workout, now for the digital age.

Snowman Science – Why Does Snow Melt Into Water?

To understand the snowman riddle, let’s melt into some science behind snow. Snow forms when water vapor in clouds becomes ice crystals. Once these ice crystals gain enough mass, they fall as snowflakes.

A single snowflake contains around 200 million water molecules arranged in a highly intricate hexagonal symmetry. The precise shape depends on the atmospheric conditions during its formation. No two snowflakes are exactly alike given the probabilistic nature of water molecule configurations.

So what makes snow white? When light enters the ice crystal lattice of a snowflake, the wide variety of angles and surfaces causes the light to reflect and scatter in many directions, making it appear white to our eyes. Other forms of frozen water like frost and ice appear transparent or blueish because of how the light passes through.

When snow falls on the ground, the snowflakes accumulate into the familiar packing we use for snowmen and snowballs. Though solid and cold to the touch, snow remains a highly porous aggregate of ice crystals with pockets of air. These air pockets are what gives snow its excellent insulating properties to maintain temperatures below freezing. Snow‘s loft also makes it soft for constructing those frosty creations.

But this delicate structure is susceptible to warming and melting. When the sun comes out or temperatures rise, the ice crystals start absorbing heat energy. This excites the water molecules out of their fixed positions in the crystal lattice causing the bonds to break down. As the crystals melt, the water molecules flow closer together and the snow turns to liquid water.

Let’s examine the science behind this phase change from ice to water:

  • Heat energy causes water molecules to vibrate and move around, transitioning from an ordered solid state to a more chaotic liquid state
  • For ice to melt, its molecules must absorb enough heat energy to overcome the hydrogen bonds holding them in place, about 334 Joules per gram
  • The melting process requires this “heat of fusion” before the ice actually turns to water, keeping the temperature fixed at 0°C or 32°F
  • Once enough energy is absorbed, the water molecules break free and flow more freely, turning the snow to liquid water

So that’s why an old snowman ends up melted into a puddle! The sun’s radiant energy gets absorbed by the ice crystals, adding enough heat to overcome the solid state and turn the snow to water. The riddle takes this everyday winter phenomenon and flips it into a clever linguistic puzzle.

Pop Culture Riddled with Riddles

Pop culture has embraced riddles as mind-bending plot devices and ways to exhibit intelligence. The Riddler in Batman comics and movies bases his entire criminal persona around perplexing riddles and puzzles for the Caped Crusader to solve. Riddles demonstrate how cunning wordplay and abstract thinking can pose challenges even for the World’s Greatest Detective.

The Riddler’s first comic appearance in 1948 saw him announcing crimes through riddle-laced newspaper ads that Batman had to decrypt. His trademark green suit covered with question marks reflects a life of obsession over puzzles and mind games. The Riddler’s compulsion to construct elaborate riddles reveals an intellect matched only by his madness.

In the 2008 Dark Knight movie, the Riddler masterminded an ingenious heist by having his gang infiltrate separate banks simultaneously while leaving a riddle for Batman to figure out which bank they would actually rob. This showed how riddles can be used to misdirect and confuse.

The Saw horror series took grisly inspiration from the Riddler with the iconic Jigsaw killer. Jigsaw kidnaps victims and places them in mechanical death traps, giving them twisted riddles and clues to solve in order to survive. Like the Riddler, Jigsaw views himself as a intellectual challenging others to use their wits, showing how riddles can have life-or-death stakes.

The mysterious Heinstein riddle resonated with the public consciousness when it first appeared in Life Magazine in 1962. The paragraph-long riddle weaved an abstract metaphorical scene involving “one-story intellects”, “two-story intellects” and dangers to avoid. Readers became obsessed with solving the vague puzzle and it even made the New York Times’ front page when the magazine finally revealed the interpreted answer.

Even the magic of J.K. Rowling‘s Harry Potter series hinges on clever riddles. To find the entrance to the trials guarding the Sorcerer’s Stone, the young wizards must let their logic reveal “if you seek below, use both above”. Ravenclaw’s common room can only be accessed by answering a unique riddle posed by the door knocker. Rowling showed how riddles can turn seemingly mundane objects into magical portals.

So in the halls of Hogwarts or the lairs of evildoers, riddles continue find new mediums to challenge minds. Pop culture both amplifies the mystique of riddles and makes them more accessible. Riddle-lover that I am, I must thank Batman and the Riddler for fulfilling many childhood dreams!

Riddle Me This – The Benefits and Appeal of Riddles

So why have riddles persisted through millennia and still remain ubiquitous in pop culture today? Riddles provide a fun intellectual test for both kids and adults to stimulate thinking in new ways. The challenge becomes not just answering, but untangling the web of wordplay and hidden meanings. Solving riddles gives a sense of satisfaction at having met the puzzle’s test of critical analysis.

Let‘s explore some of the benefits riddles provide:

  • Exercise critical thinking – Riddles build skills in deductive reasoning, inference, abstraction and logic to unpack the indirection. This trains flexible thinking.

  • Engage imagination – The mental imagery conjured while trying to parse eccentric riddle phrases builds creativity.

  • Improve concentration – Focusing intensely on the precise riddle wording activates the brain’s problem-solving faculties.

  • Enhance language skills – Processing the linguistic tricks and metaphors develops verbal aptitude. Riddles particularly help children expand their mental dictionary.

  • Teach principles indirectly – Riddles embed life lessons without being preachy, building interpretation skills.

  • Provide a brain break – Riddling gives the brain an alternative workout from daily analytical thinking, refreshing the mind.

Here are some examples of how riddles achieve these benefits:

Riddle Language and Logic Mechanisms Principles and Skills Developed
What gets wetter and wetter the more it dries?

A towel

Paradoxical phrase that seems illogical on surface. Dual meaning of "dry" as absorb and become dry. Paradox resolution, inference, lateral thinking
A doctor and a boy were fishing. The boy was the doctor’s son, but the doctor was not the boy’s father. Who was the doctor?

His mother

Misdirection through assumed gender roles. Homonyms of "son" and "father". Critical reading, avoiding assumptions
Feed me and I live, give me drink and I die. What am I?


Metaphorical imagery. Contradictory phrasing. Interpretation, abstraction

Riddles take familiar concepts like towels, family and fire and give clever new perspectives to tease our thinking. The mental gymnastics required provides great brain training.

For kids, riddles provide added development benefits:

  • Fosters listening and language skills through wordplay
  • Encourages playfulness with concepts
  • Improves memory recall for content indirectly described
  • Entertains without electronics or expense

As kids decipher the question, imagine the possible answers and articulate explanations, their linguistic and cognitive abilities grow in a fun way. Riddles become an engaging brain teaser for children and a great educational supplement for parents and teachers.

For adults, riddles deliver light-hearted stimulation from logical routines and practical thinking that dominate work and digital life:

  • Provides an amusing diversion from mundane tasks
  • Lets the brain flex different mental muscles
  • Spurs conversation and social bonding through collective riddle-solving

Via email forwards, social media, books or friendly banter, riddles fill gaps in the day with uplifting puzzles to unwind. The burst of accomplishment from cracking the code offers a dose of contentment.

So rejoice fellow riddlers! While computers can now solve complex mathematical proofs and master human games like chess and Go, rhetorical riddles remain a creative feat exclusive to our minds. The abstract thinking and linguistic dexterity to craft clever poetic stumpers or unravel baffling word problems is utterly human. No algorithm can yet replicate this ingenious mental talent.

Riddles have been honing our cognitive skills since ancient times and will continue challenging young inquisitive minds. The next time your brain needs a break from its routine, take a riddle for a spin and enjoy exercising those mental muscles in new ways!

The Snowman Riddle Revisited

We’ve now explored riddles extensively, so let’s revisit our original question – what do you call an old snowman? As we’ve discovered, snow is made of intricate ice crystal structures that melt away into water over time. This phase change from solid to liquid provides the basis for this winter-inspired stumper:

Question: What do you call an old snowman?

Answer: Water!

By taking this common weather observation – snow melting when temperatures warm – and phrasing it from an unexpected perspective, the riddle creates a clever cognitive challenge. We know snowmen are built from snow and snow turns to water when it melts. But describing this phenomenon by asking what to call an old snowman requires some mental jumps to arrive at the simple answer: water.

This riddle demonstrates many hallmarks that make an effective, rewarding puzzle:

  • A question phrased indirectly to hint at the answer
  • Commonly known concepts presented from a novel angle
  • Few words with multiple meanings to decipher (old, snowman)
  • Simple answer that clicks satisfyingly once reasoned out

While silly on the surface, the snowman riddle encapsulates what makes these linguistic conundrums such fun engaging activities for the mind. Solving riddles provides that thrilling “Aha!” moment when the pieces click together and the answer is uncovered. We can all relate to the childhood joy of deciphering a riddle’s code and learning something new in the process.

So stay curious my friends! Enjoy the mental adventures and linguistic twists and turns that riddles offer. Keep looking at the world through a puzzling lens to continuously challenge your thinking. And next time you come across a melting snowman, be sure to wish him well as he returns to his watery origins!


Written by Alexis Kestler

A female web designer and programmer - Now is a 36-year IT professional with over 15 years of experience living in NorCal. I enjoy keeping my feet wet in the world of technology through reading, working, and researching topics that pique my interest.