20
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A lazy insect's friend am I
My teeth are what you know me by

Oft mistaken for my cousin
Look close - she's fat while I am thin

I know that I'm not worthy of leading
Except sometimes in the early morning

Yet my siblings appreciate when
I am standing right beside them

If at a cross purpose we should appear
Either they or I would disappear

And when I rise alone up above
Then shall they all become one, and how!

But don't you try to put me down
For consequences untold abound

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  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "None of your business!" $\endgroup$ – Pikamander2 Apr 16 '16 at 20:52
25
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You are...

Zero.

Explanations:

A lazy insect's friend am I/ My teeth are what you know me by

In Beetle Bailey comics, bucktoothed (also lazy) Private Zero is lazy Private Beetle's barracks mate and good friend.

Oft mistaken for my cousin/ Look close - she's fat while I am thin

I look like the letter O, but am written slightly skinnier

I know that I'm not worthy of leading/ Except sometimes in the early morning

Numbers are generally not written with a leading 0 (because a leading 0 is worthless), but in a 24-hour clock, you might report an early-morning time as "0800 hours".

Yet my siblings appreciate when/ I am standing right beside them

Putting a 0 to the right of other numbers increases their value (i.e. they appreciate).

If at a cross purpose we should appear/ Either they or I would disappear

Multiplying a number by zero makes it disappear, and adding it to zero makes the zero disappear. Both operations can be represented by crosses.

And when I rise alone up above/ Then shall they all become one, and how!

Raising something to the power of zero makes it one.

But don't you try to put me down/ For consequences untold abound

You can't put 0 in the bottom of a fraction because that's dividing by zero (the result of which is undefined or infinite).

Without a difference

Zero can mean "no difference"

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  • $\begingroup$ I suspect that the freind of a lazy insect is a "zero", or someone who can make even a lazy insect look good in comparison (i.e. a foil) - and this is reinforced by the second line (zero has no teeth, thus it's not intimidating, compared to anything) $\endgroup$ – user2813274 Apr 17 '16 at 0:51
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    $\begingroup$ "Without a difference" probably refers to the fact that the riddle references all the main arithmetic operations except subtraction. Great riddle and solution! $\endgroup$ – user17947 Apr 17 '16 at 3:33
  • $\begingroup$ That was a quick reply @histocrat! Good work with the first couplet, @humn! $\endgroup$ – KeyboardWielder Apr 18 '16 at 5:04

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