Memorieʪ come back
When you uʪe thoʪe characterʪ
In your maʪterpieʪeʫ.

ʪorry about my ʪpeech; therapy doeʪn't ʪeem to be working. What am I?

For those who can't read the above, here's a clear version:

Memories come back
When you use those characters
In your masterpieces.

Sorry about my speech; therapy doesn't seem to be working. What am I?


The character is not used in this riddle. But it is in the hint. (But it is not the words 'The character'. That would be silly.)

  • $\begingroup$ was using an s instead of a c in masterpiece in the upper portion of your text a typo or a clue? $\endgroup$ – Green Aug 1 '16 at 22:32
  • $\begingroup$ @A.Manimaran I was replacing everything that sounded like "s" with "ʪ", but you could correct the spelling if you want. It's not important to the riddle. $\endgroup$ – You Aug 4 '16 at 18:12

So, in the light of the hint, perhaps the answer is

that you are a Lisp programmer, and "those characters" are parentheses, perhaps more specifically (since the hint talks about "the character") closing parentheses: ))))).

These are

famously very common in Lisp (a language suggested by the lateral-lisp substitutions in the question)

but I have to confess that I don't see exactly what's going on in the riddle. Perhaps one of two things.

First: Lisp was a very early computer language, and while languages in the Lisp family are still around today they haven't been very popular for some years; and people who like Lisp tend to really like it. So perhaps the idea is simply that when you see lots of parentheses they remind you of the language you love but hardly see any more.


Second: if you are reading a complicated bit of Lisp code and trying to figure out how it fits together syntactically, when you hit those close-parentheses you may then look back at the earlier code to see what open-parentheses they pair up with, which I suppose you could kinda describe by saying "memories come back".

I don't find either of those entirely satisfactory, which probably means either that something cleverer is going on or (if not) that I haven't got into quite the right mindset to appreciate whichever one is right.

A small variation on this theme: perhaps

you are a text editor, or a compiler or interpreter, processing Lisp source code. (And it's the person addressed as "you" in the riddle who is the Lisp programmer.) Then when you reach a close-parenthesis you may actually have to do some kind of backtracking process -- popping a stack, searching backwards in the source code to find the matching left-paren, etc. -- that could be described as "memories come back".

  • $\begingroup$ You did it! YAY!! (By the way, the first is correct, the last two are good interpretations of this riddle. (On a completely unrelated note, I've been reading this lately and would recommend it. That's probably why I posted this riddle; I know no LISP. :P)) $\endgroup$ – You Aug 25 '16 at 0:55
  • $\begingroup$ Looks pretty good. Everyone should implement some version of Lisp at least once :-). $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Aug 25 '16 at 1:00

I can't put it together but I had some thoughts:

Does it have anything to do with the LISP language? You could be John McCarthy, the inventor of LISP but I can't give any solid links as to why other than the lisp connection.


The use of the 'ʪ' digraph could potentially reference the ls command used to list files in UNIX based operating systems and might fit with the 'Memories come back' line but that's probably a stretch.

  • $\begingroup$ The ls digraph is the extIPA symbol for a lisp. $\endgroup$ – f'' Aug 1 '16 at 21:13
  • $\begingroup$ I know. Hence the first idea. $\endgroup$ – James Coyle Aug 1 '16 at 21:24
  • $\begingroup$ You are on the right track. $\endgroup$ – You Aug 4 '16 at 18:11
  • $\begingroup$ @f'', more specifically it's the symbol for one particular kind of lisp, the sort where air flows past the sides of the tongue. (And, more specifically still, for what happens to an [s] as opposed to a [z] with that condition; strictly, e.g., the last letter of "masterpieces" should turn into a [ʫ] rather than a [ʪ].) $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Aug 24 '16 at 23:05
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, hey, the last letter of "masterpieces" did turn into a [ʫ]. But maybe that's because someone edited it after I wrote that comment. (... Yup.) $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Aug 25 '16 at 0:17

I have a highly impressionistic suggestion along the same lines as James Coyle's first. Perhaps you are

an elephant.

Why? Well,

John McCarthy (inventor of Lisp -- cf. the lateral-lisp symbols in the question) was in his later years working on a programming language called "Elephant 2000". This language was so called because "an elephant never forgets" (memories...); he describes it as "based on speech acts" (which kinda goes with the business about speech impediments and speech therapy); and it is explicitly temporal, with programs e.g. able to express ideas about the past state of the program (which kinda goes with the talk of memories "coming back").


the references to "characters" and "masterpieces" seem significant, and I see no connection between those and Elephant 2000, so I don't expect this answer to be correct. The connections in the previous paragraph are extremely handwavy, too.

[EDITED to add: Damn, there was another reason for that answer that I forgot to mention even though it was like half my reason for giving it:]

Also, that ʪ character looks more than a little like an elephant's trunk.

  • $\begingroup$ This is a very interesting and clever interpretation of the riddle. But (it's not the answer.) $\endgroup$ – You Aug 25 '16 at 0:13
  • $\begingroup$ I'm now wondering whether those parens have any significance beyond the mere fact that we're talking about Lisp. $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Aug 25 '16 at 0:16
  • $\begingroup$ (maybe they're "those characters" but I don't see how to turn that into a compelling answer) $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Aug 25 '16 at 0:16
  • $\begingroup$ (so I turned it into a not-so-compelling answer) $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Aug 25 '16 at 0:39

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