"The sphinx riddle behind the stories is, how to belong and be free at the same time"

Discussion in 'English Only' started by jiyan iskender, May 23, 2008.

  1. jiyan iskender Member

    Paris
    french-arabic
    "The sphinx riddle behind the stories is, how to belong and be free at the same time".
    Is that sentence correct ? It refers to novels and to the essential - though not explicit - problem they deal with.
    Thank you.
     
  2. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    What is a "sphinx riddle"?
     
  3. jiyan iskender Member

    Paris
    french-arabic
    It is supposed to be the question the Sphinx asked any one who wanted to enter the city of Thebes. If you could not answer, you were killed. Only Oedipus gave the right answer.
     
  4. Grop

    Grop Senior Member

    Provence
    français
    Hi, you may notice this is a unique riddle, not a generic sort of riddle. How is it related to the question: how to belong and be free at the same time? This is not what the Sphinx asked to Oedipus.
     
  5. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    I agree with Grop: the riddle that the Sphinx asked was a very specific one, and so when referring to the Sphinx's riddle (and notice I would put an apostrophe+s on that) one is usually referring to the question about which creature goes on four legs in the morning, etc.; the term is not generally used as a proverbial expression for any conundrum.

    I will also note that the problem you describe (how to belong and be free simultaneously -- and again, that phrase is very unclear in English) is not a riddle behind stories.
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2008
  6. bibliolept

    bibliolept Senior Member

    Northern California
    AE, Español
    Could one, creatively, refer to a very difficult--one that is legendary for being impossible to answer--be referred to as a Sphinxian riddle?
     
  7. jiyan iskender Member

    Paris
    french-arabic
    Thank you! I suppose it's a french mistake. So forget the Sphinx. How would you express that the question at stake in the novels I'm talking about is how to belong and be free (remain free ?) simultaneously ?
     
  8. bibliolept

    bibliolept Senior Member

    Northern California
    AE, Español
    It might be called a conundrum, dilemma, a balancing act, an unanswerable question.
     
  9. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    California
    English - US
    Speaking only for myself, here is why I wouldn't use it that way here:

    The essential puzzle of the Sphinx's riddle was how the same thing could be three different things in sequence. Jiyan's puzzle is how to be two (apparently) incompatible things at once.

    [Also: What was at stake in answering the Sphinx's riddle is that if you got it wrong you would die. And the riddle was, in fact, not impossible to answer, as Oedipus proved.]
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2008
  10. jiyan iskender Member

    Paris
    french-arabic
    Bibliolept, Cagey, this is really interesting and thank you for going at the heart of the matter. But still, how would you express my idea in clear English without the Sphinx stuff ?
     
  11. bibliolept

    bibliolept Senior Member

    Northern California
    AE, Español
    Cagey, I guess it depends on how literally you interpret "Sphinx." For example, a sphinx is just a mysterious or enigmatic person. That's a very broad application of the term. We create the language. (Oh, and I know that the riddle had an answer. I was very precise in writing "legendary.")

    Jiyan, did you read my suggestions in post #8?
     
  12. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    California
    English - US
    I think bibliolept's suggestion of conundrum would work well. Here is the American Heritage Dictionary definition from Dictionary.com:
    A paradoxical, insoluble, or difficult problem; a dilemma: "the conundrum, thus far unanswered, of achieving full employment without inflation" (Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.)
    The definition suggests other possibilities, including dilemma. Bibliolept's other suggestions look good too.
     
  13. jiyan iskender Member

    Paris
    french-arabic
    Thanks, all of you.
     

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