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I am what I am, cold or hot breath,
Engendering mirth, or possibly death.
A cousin of time, I may not taste nice.
You should see me four times, not the obvious twice.

Who am I?

Hint:

Time is my cousin, but I am my own brother
Like time, I'm myself, yet also another.

[Note: I just made a slight modification to the hint to make it a little more hinty.]

Hint 2:

When writing my name, you must make a choice.
My nature is dual, some call it "same voice".

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I think the answer is

Rhyme/Rime

I am what I am, cold or hot breath,

Rhyme/Rime is a Rhyme. Rhyme is a poetic construct used by living people (hot breath) but rime is frost formed on cold objects by rapid freezing of water vapour (cold)

Engendering mirth, or possibly death.

Rhymes can make you laugh (think limericks), rime might be associated with death

A cousin of time, I may not taste nice.

Cousin here refers to rhyming and rhyme/rime rhymes with time/thyme. Thyme tastes nice but a rhyme may not.

You should see me four times, not the obvious twice.

The obvious twice is the rhyme of 'breath' with 'death' and 'nice' with 'twice' but possibly four times are referring also to 'am' with 'am' and 'time' with 'times' (edit: also the second pair of rhyming words both contain ice)

Time is my cousin, but I am my own brother

Time rhymes with rhyme, but rhyme is rhyme and is a homophone with rime.

Like time, I'm myself, yet also another.

rhyme/rime is rhyme and rime. Time is time and a homophone of thyme

When writing my name, you must make a choice.

Either rhyme or rime

My nature is dual, some call it "same voice".

Dual nature of rhyme/rime, "same voice" = homophone

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  • $\begingroup$ You got it! I have some slightly different reasoning for some clues. I'll put them in another comment. $\endgroup$ – paste Apr 26 '16 at 21:44
  • $\begingroup$ SPOILERS - I am what I am: rhyme/rime is a rhyme. Cold or hot breath: these are two different things, rime is cold and rhyme physically manifests as hot breath coming out of your mouth. A rhyme may not taste nice like thyme does. The obvious times are the rhymes, like you said; the subtle ones are that the second pair of rhyming words both contain "ice" (in reflection, not my best clue :\ ). Also, "same voice" is the translation of homophone. $\endgroup$ – paste Apr 26 '16 at 21:54
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    $\begingroup$ Note that it's a homophone, not a homonym. Homonyms are spelled the same. (Though, rime is also an older spelling of rhyme) $\endgroup$ – paste Apr 26 '16 at 22:17
  • $\begingroup$ According to wikipedia homonym can satisfy either of our definitions: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homonym But you have a point, it is very clear what homophone means. I'll change it. $\endgroup$ – hexomino Apr 26 '16 at 22:52
  • $\begingroup$ @hexomino "-nym" mean "name." $\endgroup$ – SendersReagent Apr 27 '16 at 0:03
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A guess:

alcohol:

I am what I am, cold or hot breath

Alcohol was used formerly to help people who were cold, and sick people, with fevers making them hot.

Engendering mirth or possibly death

Alcohol can make you happy, but too much can kill you.

A cousin of time, I may not taste nice

Alcohol needs time to age. Some alcohol (eg rubbing alcohol) doesn't taste nice.

You should see me four times, not the obvious twice

Not sure. Maybe something to do wtih too much alcohol causing double vision?

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  • $\begingroup$ No. Good guess though :) $\endgroup$ – paste Apr 24 '16 at 16:35
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My try

A date:

I am what I am, cold or hot breath

Whether you like it not, there's not much one can change about the date. (nor the weather)

Engendering mirth or possibly death

Date of birth / Date of death

A cousin of time, I may not taste nice

'Time and date', 'Date' is also a fruit (which you may or may not like in taste)

You should see me four times, not the obvious twice

Not sure here. I'll try and assume it means you shouldn't stop after dating a person once or twice?

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  • $\begingroup$ but... date tastes nice ! $\endgroup$ – Fabich Apr 25 '16 at 14:52
  • $\begingroup$ This is a pretty good guess. I think this answer is closer to the nature of the solution. $\endgroup$ – paste Apr 25 '16 at 14:53
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Could it be

Seasons

1.

In winter because of temp difference between the body and outside we release water vapor in form of steam which might relate to hot breath.

2.

Spring brings happiness and fall brings death for plants

3.

Seasons change with time

4.

We have four seasons winter summer spring and fall

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  • $\begingroup$ I like your answer! Unfortunately, it's not the solution. Good guess, though! $\endgroup$ – paste Apr 25 '16 at 3:26
  • $\begingroup$ 'It may not taste nice' could also refer to 'seasoning'. $\endgroup$ – Tim Couwelier Apr 25 '16 at 11:32
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You can be

(electric) current

Because:

I am what I am, cold or hot breath

Current can heat or cool the conductors (Peltier's effect etc.) Also letter "I" is used for designation of current, so "I am who I am" can be about it.

Engendering mirth, or possibly death.

It's hard to imagine our life without electricity, but people can die from electric shock etc.

A cousin of time, I may not taste nice

Both the current unit (ampere) and the time one (second) are SI base units. So in this sense current is "the cousin of time" (there may be another explanation, such that the current depends on time etc). Also, abnormally large current may not "taste nice" for electrical machines.

You should see me four times, not the obvious twice.

There are 4 adjectives what are used with the word "current" in electromagnetism: "alternating", "direct", "neutral", and "charged". But in practice (outside of science), you'll probably use only the first 2 of them.

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  • $\begingroup$ Good guess, but not the solution. Welcome to puzzling! $\endgroup$ – paste Apr 25 '16 at 14:22
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I thought of this answer last night but didn't feel like working it out. The new hint definitely supports it, though I still can't quite fit everything. Could you be...

Thyme?

I am what I am, cold or hot breath,

Thyme is a common herbal remedy for many things including cold, fever, and bad breath. Bonus - thyme contains an active ingredient found in modern-day mouthwash.

Engendering mirth, or possibly death.

Cultural uses for thyme include burning as incense and use in baths by the Greeks to bring forth courage, and also as an embalming agent by the Ancient Egyptians.

A cousin of time, I may not taste nice.

"Time" $\approx$ "thyme", and certain people may or may not like the taste of it as a seasoning.

You should see me four times, not the obvious twice.

The weakest link in the bunch -- refers to perennial herbs, but thyme is quite hardy and can withstand high heat and freezing temperatures, so may be available year round, especially if grown indoors.

Time is my cousin, but I am my own brother
Like time, I'm myself, yet also another.

There are many kinds of thyme (lemon, lavender, etc.)

When writing my name, you must make a choice.
My nature is dual, some call it "same voice".

This refers to the homophone ("same sound/voice") time vs. thyme.

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  • $\begingroup$ Ooh! You're almost there. Very close. In fact, you've pretty much worked out some clues... $\endgroup$ – paste Apr 26 '16 at 20:33
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Could you be

Tick-tock ?

I am what I am, cold or hot breath,

Tick tock can refer to the heart beat, with either cold or hot blood

Engendering mirth, or possibly death.

The heart is synonym to joy or love, but also of compassion for dead people.

A cousin of time, I may not taste nice.

Tick tock is the sound of a clock, also called tick-tock. I don't know about the taste part.

You should see me four times, not the obvious twice.

Obviously, there are two obvious parts in tick-tock, but maybe we should count four??

Time is my cousin, but I am my own brother Like time, I'm myself, yet also another.

Tick and tock could be brothers?

When writing my name, you must make a choice. My nature is dual, some call it "same voice".

You might have to choose between tick or tock, but the same tick-tock would produce both sounds.

Old answer

Incomplete answer

Age

I am what I am, cold or hot breath,

Cold and hot referring to young and old? Or alive and dead?

Engendering mirth, or possibly death.

Happiness for birthday, death ultimately

A cousin of time, I may not taste nice.

Age is a cousin of time. May not taste nice when food is rotten?

You should see me four times, not the obvious twice.

Four ages: reference to Tolkien?

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  • $\begingroup$ Interesting. Not what I'm looking for though. Good guess :) $\endgroup$ – paste Apr 25 '16 at 14:21
  • $\begingroup$ Just saw your edit. Still not there yet! $\endgroup$ – paste Apr 26 '16 at 17:25
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You could be:

Mood

I am what I am, cold or hot breath,

"blowing hot and cold" means oscillating between moods

Engendering mirth, or possibly death.

A good mood engenders mirth, always being in a bad mood could lead to death in the extreme case

A cousin of time

In grammar, mood could be considered a cousin of tense

I may not taste nice.

Couldn't relate this one... Perhaps a bad temper?

You should see me four times, not the obvious twice.

The obvious moods are good and bad, but English grammar has four moods.

Hint 2:

"mode" is an alternative to "mood"

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  • $\begingroup$ That's not it, but you've written an interesting answer! $\endgroup$ – paste Apr 26 '16 at 20:07
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Are you:

Life?

I am what I am, cold or hot breath,

Life passes like a breath. Sometimes people die from cold or fire, but most pass with their last breath.

Engendering mirth, or possibly death.

Some people live a life of joy, others live a "dead" life.

A cousin of time, I may not taste nice.

A life is a measurement of time to some, but also takes place in time. Some do not always like their life.

You should see me four times, not the obvious twice.

Not just life and death, but perhaps four stages of life (infant, strong middle life, weaker old life, end of life in death).

Hint:

Time is my cousin, but I am my own brother

Life may be considered the brother of death, but each are in a way the same as death is just the end of life.

Like time, I'm myself, yet also another.

Perhaps again a reference to death. Life is the opposite of death, but they are in a way the same.

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  • $\begingroup$ That's not it, but good try. Thanks for guessing! $\endgroup$ – paste Apr 26 '16 at 14:23

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