Heard any good ones lately?
Any good nazo-nazo, that is. Nazo-nazo are Japanese riddles and, as is the case with so much Japanese humor, abound in word play. Fortunately for those non-Japanese-speaking readers who like to be let in on the joke, these riddles often employ both gairaigo (foreign loan words), of which there are literally thousands to choose from, and foreign words whose Japanese pronunciation yields amusing results. Herewith some examples:
Q. You and I, the best of friends, use what word to describe our relationship?
A. Friendship, or yuai (you-I).
Q. The population of which country is composed entirely of infants?
A. New Zealand, or, as it is pronounced in Japanese, Nyuujiirando. Nyuuji means "infant."
Q. Which American group, to judge by its name, can't decide whether it has four or five members?
A. Chicago. Shi ka go means "four or five."
Q. A young girl gets on an elevator. Does it go up or down?
A. Up. A gaaru is the Japanese pronunciation of "a girl" and agaru means "to go up."
Q. What European city is famous for its large population of twins?
A. Frankfurt. A frankfort is a soseji (sausage) and soseiji are twins.
Q. An osama is a kingu (king), but what is a naked osama?
A. A sutorikingu (streaking).
Q. What fowl lives on a hill?
A. A duck, or ahiru. A hiru is the Japanese pronunciation of "a hill."
Q. In what American state is it always morning?
A. Ohio, or ohaiyo, as in ohaiyo gozaimasu (good morning).
Q. What animal loves everybody?
A. The mule, or raba. Rabaa, you've probably already guessed, is the Japanese pronunciation of "lover."
Q. What American state is famous for its waterworks?
A. Missouri, or mizurii. Mizu uri means "to sell water."
Q. When is a k-i-s-s only a k-s-s?
A. When it lacks love, or ai (i).
Q. What American state frowns on love affairs?
A. Georgia, or lofia. Joji iya means "love affairs are disgusting."