Riddle and raddle


Senior Member

In the book "Parrot and Olivier in America" by Peter Carey, Parrot returns home for vacations and he describes his first encounter with his mistress's mother (whom he calls "mother-out-law") in the following way:

"As for conversation, Maman was occupied arguing with her Pennsylvania stove, riddling and raddling and poking and punishing it, until – seeing me about to take my breakfast out on the front porch – she sternly ordered I must never show my face out there as this access was reserved only for the clever Jew."

Could you, please, explain to me, what "riddling and raddling" means? I can see that it could be a kind of onomatopoic phrase where the sound is important. Nevertheless, I can't see the exact meaning (poking???).

Thanks for your answers.
  • panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Riddle, verb, in this context means:
    ■ remove ashes or other unwanted material from (a fire or stove) with a sieve.

    I suggest that "and raddling" has been added because it sounds good :)

    Riddling the stove involves poking the fire so that the ash falls down through the grate and can be removed. The process encourages the fire to burn more vigorously.


    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    From the OED:
    raddle, verb:
    Eng. regional (north.)

    trans. To beat, thrash (a person); freq. in to raddle (a person's) bones and variants.
    I imagine that she knocks against the stove to stir up the fire, or to knock loose pieces of burning wood that have been caught in awkward places. I suppose that riddle comes with it for the sound. However, there is a verb 'riddle' which means to use a riddle ~ a sieve used for sifting ashes.

    Cross-posted with Panjandrum.
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