Wednesday, February 28, 2018


Liz from Suttons Bay, Michigan, asked about the word conundrum. Currently, a conundrum is a puzzling question or a problem, but it has a colorful history.

In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, it was an insulting or abusive term meaning a ninny or a tiresome pedant. Soon thereafter, it came to mean a whim or conceit.

By the 18th century, it meant a pun – word play based on a similarity of sound. The meaning may have developed at Oxford University as an in-joke -- a humorous parody of Latin. Mock Latin was the height of humor in those days.

Before settling on a puzzling question or enigma, it referred to a riddle involving a play on words.

Conundrum has been a very popular term in book titles, including

·      Conundrum, by Jan Morris
·      ConUNdrum: The Limits of the United Nations and the Search for Alternatives, edited by Brett Schaefer
·      Conundrum: The Challenge of Execution in Middle-Market Companies, by Lawrence Kendzior
·      The Conundrum: How Scientific Innovation, Increased Efficiency, and Good Intentions Can Make Our Energy and Climate Problems Worse, by David Owen
·      Conundrum: Cadbury’s Crème Egg Mystery, by Don Shaw
·      The Conundrum of Masculinity: Hegemony, Homosociality, Homophobia and Heteronormativity, by Chris Haywood et al
·      Cracking the China Conundrum: Why Conventional Economic Wisdom is Wrong, by Yukon Huang.

And that’s just for starters!

Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about two year’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.


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