Enigma (e-nig’-ma): Obscuring one’s meaning by presenting it within a riddle or by means of metaphors that purposefully challenge the reader or hearer to understand.

Little Ones: How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

What? You laugh and point to your heads and wag your fingers around?

I’m crazy?

That could be, but it is more likely the opposite is the case. The big word here is “if.” Woodchucks chucking is a sort of sophisticated pun playing with the word “chuck.” To some extent it is a critical commentary on the naming of the fat brown mammal. It does not “chuck” anything and there is no wood involved in its life. Nevertheless, this does not preclude the insertion of the word “if” illustrating, much like the tree that falls in the forest with nobody around, that we don’t know with absolute certainty whether woodchucks are chucking wood with nobody around. We don’t. Moreover, the homophones “wood” and “would” (how much wood would a woodchuck chuck) indicate the inadequacy of language, bridge the material (wood), the sentient (woodchuck), and the moral (would), and suggest it may be in the woodchuck’s nature to chuck IF it may indeed do clandestine wood chucking with beavers, assisting them at night in the construction of their dams. If you put a beaver and a woodchuck together, the only thing that distinguishes them are the beaver’s webbed feet and it’s big flat tail. Woodchucks have neither. Perhaps the woodchuck has an ancient genetically coded desire to “be” a beaver and chuck.

So, what have we learned today boys and girls? Answer: asking questions about woodchucks chucking wood is unhealthy. It’s like asking how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. When you speculate and conjecture it should be about the stock market or gold futures, or you may find yourselves chucking wood at the penitentiary.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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