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It moves in war
Abhors the floor
Takes many forms
And is a controversial norm

An encounter with it
Will leave one tearful
And as an omen
It makes many fearful

Though as journeyers swear
It's useful where
One wants to prevent
Spoiled fare

What is it?

To clarify: I'm using "norm" in the sense of something that's seen/encountered fairly often

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  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Don't be discouraged by the fact that the riddle as originally stated had many answers that worked. Writing riddles can be great fun! I look forward to seeing more of yours. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Mar 13 '15 at 8:46
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! Yeah they're fun to come up with, and it's cool seeing people's creativity in the answers $\endgroup$ – Ben Mar 13 '15 at 13:46

10 Answers 10

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First thing I thought of:

Smoke.

It moves in war,

Smoke is blown about from flame, engines, explosions, gunfire, and is spread by the wind. If the battle moves, the smoke will move with it.

Abhors the floor,

Smoke is carried by hot air, and therefore rises. Even in an indoor fire smoke is thinnest near the ground.

Takes many forms,

Depending on the source, smoke clouds, smoke plumes, puffs of smoke, walls of smoke, wisps of smoke....

And is a controversial norm.

We've all seen smoke. It's not unusual. If we do see it outside of a specific context such as a bonfire or BBQ, though, most people will get excited. This could also mean smoke from cigarettes, which is a common although decreasing habit that many people dislike.


I answered this before a few more specific clues were added, so I'll fill them out down here.

An encounter with it
Will leave one tearful

Smoke irritates the eyes, causing tears.

And as an omen
It makes many fearful

As mentioned in a previous clue, if people see smoke where they don't expect it's considered a bad sign. It usually means fire or destruction of some type.

Though as journeyers swear
It's useful where
One wants to prevent
Spoiled fare

Meat can be smoked to greatly increase the time before it spoils. In past times, this could be used for a journey as food that wouldn't rot before you reached your goal.

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  • $\begingroup$ That's it! I've updated the original question to add more specificity. "Controversial" was in fact referring to cigarette smoking, so you're right on all accounts $\endgroup$ – Ben Mar 13 '15 at 1:05
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I immediately thought of a:

flag.

Usually, in a war,

a flag is carried by advancing troops.

It abhors the floor because:

you are not supposed to let a flag touch the ground.

It takes many forms:

There are obviously many different flags.

And is a controversial norm:

Saw a headline about a controversy over flags being flown at UC Irvine I believe, not more than a few days ago.

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  • $\begingroup$ "norm" may refer to "standard" $\endgroup$ – d'alar'cop Mar 12 '15 at 19:41
  • $\begingroup$ Ooh that's a good one! I hadn't thought of that but it fits really well. I'll leave the question open for now to see if anyone comes up with the answer I had in mind but I really like this one too. $\endgroup$ – Ben Mar 12 '15 at 19:48
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    $\begingroup$ @d'alar'cop The OP has edited the question re "norm". $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Mar 12 '15 at 20:16
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I don't think this is the intended answer, but it fits everything fairly well.

A gun.

It moves in war,

The arms trade flourishes during war, and guns are always changing hands. Alternatively, as troops move around they take their guns with them.

Abhors the floor,

You'd better not drop a gun on the floor, or it might go off and shoot you in the foot!

Takes many forms,

Cannons, pistols, revolves, rifles, shotguns, machine guns, sub-machine guns, blunderbusses, ... you want me to go on?

And is a controversial norm.

I don't know where the OP comes from, but in the US,

possessing a gun is a pretty normal thing (I believe over 50% of households do?), and there's a lot of controversy over gun laws.

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  • $\begingroup$ Another good answer! It looks like I need to learn to make my riddles more specific, would it be bad etiquette to go back and add more to this riddle that invalidates the answers given already? $\endgroup$ – Ben Mar 12 '15 at 20:13
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    $\begingroup$ @Ben No, that's fine. Another riddler (Michael Rize) had to do that for several of his riddles here. FWIW I always err on the side of putting in loads of different clues just to make absolutely sure the riddle isn't "too broad" ... but it shouldn't be too simple either! $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Mar 12 '15 at 20:16
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Is it

Money?

It moves in war,

Economists say that war moves money.

Abhors the floor,

Who leaves their money on the floor, or the floor meaning no money or Broke. Don't like that.

Takes many forms,

Coins, bills, checks, gold bars, etc.

And is a controversial norm.

Most controversies are about or at least involve money.

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  • $\begingroup$ Oo, nice one! That could be it. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Mar 12 '15 at 22:04
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Might it be

spies

it moves in war

spies get used all the times in wars. proper intelligence can make or break an army.

it abhors the floor

spies don't like "being on the main floor". they want to stay hidden so they aren't noticed.

it takes many form

spying can be done towards the enemies; towards your own people; and towards other companies; and towards your family (like a mother reading her child's text messages).

and is a controversial norm

There is currently much controversy about the government spying on their own inhabitants, but when war is around, people would prefer spying to occur to save their lives.


I have 2 more ideas:

workers

and

lobbying

but I don't have time right now to explain them because I need to get some sleep. I'll explain them tomorrow.

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Is it

Death

It moves in war

Death is everywhere in war, once here, once there

Abhors the floor

Life is no longer on the ground

Takes many forms

Can be any form of death

And is a controversial norm

An encounter with it Will leave one tearful

Yes, loved or near ones death will make one tearful

And as an omen It makes many fearful

Death an an omen makes people stop doing something

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1
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Three out of four not sure about "abhors the floor". What about:

border (moves in war, takes many forms, is a controversial norm)

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  • $\begingroup$ Begin the answer with ">!" $\endgroup$ – Aggie Kidd Mar 12 '15 at 19:01
  • $\begingroup$ the only thing I can think about your answer abhorring the floor is that many of them are in the sea, or in the middle of rivers $\endgroup$ – SeanC Mar 12 '15 at 22:38
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The front line is always moving, leaving a trail of destruction, taking many shapes, being disputed over and is not a happy place; most ominous and frightful it is, however we must hold the line, lest all be lost.

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I think this fits

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones

It moves in war

Obviously they move in war zones

Abhors the floor

It's a flying machine/device

Takes many forms

Many implementations/different models

And is a controversial norm

UAV use is controversial in war but it's becoming common as technology advances

An encounter with it
Will leave one tearful

A UAV attack is fairly targeted and will leave bystanders who aren't killed tearful

And as an omen
It makes many fearful

It has become a symbol of American aggression in the middle east (I'm not positive that this is true, but expect that it is)

Though as journeyers swear
It's useful where
One wants to prevent
Spoiled fare

This is kind of a stretch but using drones as an alternative to bombing the heck out of a place helps prevent massive civilian casualties and destruction of infrastructure. Alternately, you could say using drones as an alternative to sending in ground troops spares the lives of your soldiers.

Another similar possibility

Missiles

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0
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Huh. I came up with

Salt.

Wasn't too sure how it would fit the first verse unless it was some weird way of thinking about

The SALT treaty from the Reagan era

But it fit the 2nd and 3rd pretty well.

EDIT:

Ok, so yeah why did it fit the 2nd and 3rd verses.

Well I was thinking about cholorine used in swimming pools, which is a form of salt that burns the eyes (trust me on this). But sure, tears are salty, and so "artificial tears" have salt content, so if you put it in your eyes, it will "leave one tearful", and there is a superstition about spilling salt at the table, and people throwing salt over their shoulders to ward off bad luck. As for the 3rd verse, before refrigeration, salting was used as means of preserving meat. It was really the 3rd verse that made me think of salt, and then looking back, it could fit the second verse as well, but the first verse is just a stretch, no doubt. :)

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  • $\begingroup$ You might want to clarify how it fits the 2nd and 3rd stanzas. I see connections to the salt content in tears, a pillar of salt, and meat preservation. $\endgroup$ – Engineer Toast Mar 13 '15 at 16:23
  • $\begingroup$ Edited as suggested. $\endgroup$ – Tab Alleman Mar 13 '15 at 18:33

protected by Rand al'Thor Mar 14 '15 at 11:56

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