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What Is It about a Chicken Crossing a Road? -- Writer's Poke #87

For Writers:

No one over the age of three would probably find the original answer to the riddle the least bit amusing, and yet "Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road" has been a part of American culture for at least 160 years. What is its staying power?

Something about the image of a chicken crossing a road must speak to us at a deeper level. Taken as a riddle, the answer is obvious, but sometimes the obvious answers are the most difficult to see, and even harder to comprehend.

Taken as a joke, literally dozens if not hundreds of variations and punchlines have been offered, replacing the obvious answer in the original with a witty parody that imagines how famous politicians, movie characters, and other celebrities might answer the question.

Still, what is it about a chicken crossing a road that has kept our cultural attention for the past 160 years?

Speculate on the real cultural significance to the riddle "Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?" Are there other jokes or riddles that stick around in everyone's collective memories? What is the purpose of such jokes and riddles?


Revise/alter/parody the riddle "Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?" and/or its punchline. Why is your version better? Is it likely your version will be around in 160 years? Will it replace the original? Why or why not?

"Don't count your chickens before they cross the road." -- Author unknown


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