Riddle: I make things short, but I am pretty long myself. What am I?




This Conundrum is a bit tricky! We should really focus on the two different parts of the question in order to understand the answer. Those two parts are:

  • it is pretty long
  • it makes things short

Conundrums like this, use confusing diction to throw you off, and get you thinking in the wrong direction t begin with. For instance, this Conundrum says “I make things short…” which tends to force most people to think about something that changes the physical size of something else. This is only partially true for the answer of this riddle. First we should find a list of things that are long, and try to narrow down the list by things that make stuff short.

  • knives are long
  • boats are long
  • books are long
  • abbreviation is a long word


This conundrum begins its misdirection by making you think it is specifically asking about a physical item that makes another physical item shorter. Naturally, many people think about a knife, because sometimes knives are used to trim parts of an object off. First, knives can be long or short though. The riddle specifically talks about the item in question being long. Right away, knives do not always satisfy the first part of the quandary.

Next in the conundrum is the fact that the item needs to make other items shorter. Knives can in fact make things shorter. Think about cutting a carrot into round slices. As you cut the carrot, you make the original item shorter. But, alas, knives can do more than make other items shorter.

Knives can also put holes in an object. Technically, that does not make the object shorter in any way, it simply makes an opening so that light or material can escape through it to the other side. Knives can also be used to sculpt another item into something else, without making the entire item shorter. For instance, when you whittle a wooden block into a horse sculpture for your nephew. Knives can also cut items into strips, so that they can later be mended together to form a longer item.

Because knives are so versatile, it is unlikely that they are the answer. The answer should satisfy both parts of the conundrum, but that satisfaction should be because of the primary function of the item. In this case, the knives can sometimes satisfy both, but sometimes not. We should move on.


Our conundrum begins with identifying that the item will be long. Well, boats are long, at least when compared to something that is not long, like a stick of gum. Boats can come in many different shapes and sizes though, and honestly a boat being long, is all a relative statement. Long in comparison to what. For now, we should assume that all boats are long, just in case Eyezak the Riddle Robot wanted us to assume that.

But do boats make other items shorter? Well, boats do “cut through” water, especially speed boats, which tend to have those sharp keels in the water that push the water to each side violently as they speed through the water. But is that making the water shorter? No, not really. This Conundrum requires it to make something shorter though, so what else can a boat be used to shorten something else?

Boats can help you cut time off your trip. Yes some boats can be fast. Most boats are faster than the average Human swimmer. Do they make all lengths of time on trips shorter though? Nope. They only tend to cut time off 1) trips on the water, and 2) trips where you would otherwise have to swim. Even still we would not really typically say that all boats make our trips shorter.

Mostly because boats do not really make things shorter, we cannot use this answer inside the Eyezak the Riddle Robot app to solve this conundrum. We need something that more consistently makes stuff shorter and that is more consistently long. What is next?


To satisfy this Conundrum and its 2 different parts, we must first find something that satisfies one of those parts. Books can be long, which satisfies the first part of the quandary. Not all books though. Novels and textbooks tend to span hundreds, or even thousands, of pages. Meanwhile, children’s books and field manuals tend to only span tens of pages, if that. This does not bode well for books being the answer we should give Eyezak the Riddle Robot for our Conundrum.

Some books can shorten the time it takes you to learn about a topic, assuming you read quickly and the author was knowledgeable. We would also need a matching pair between your method of learning and the author’s method writing. In general though, books can be used to learn about something more quickly. But not all books right?

Correct. You have two main root-level classifications for books: fiction and non-fiction. Fiction books are typically for strictly entertainment, and contain little, if any real education value, in the context of factual information. Non-fiction on the other hand tends to be more factual based information about a specific topic, with very little embellishment at all. Typically, the Non-fiction variety tends to shorten the time it takes to learn something, while the Fiction ones tend to extend it.

Based on the fact that not all, and not even the majority of, books shorten your learning time, and the fact that not all books are long to begin with, it is pretty safe to say that books are not the answer to this Conundrum, and that we should not try to fool Eyezak the Riddle Robot with it. The next item is a different direction than all of them so far.


Our Conundrum is about abbreviations. This is a picture of the abbreviation WTF.

To this point we have talked about items that make other items physically shorter. We have also touched on more abstract ideas like making time shorter, for both traveling and for learning. But none of those have panned out. This item is a bit more abstract.

Abbreviation is a long word, always. The average English word is 4.7 letters long, while abbreviation is a staggering 12 letters long. It is not the longest word out there, but it is certainly longer than the majority of English words. Since that is the case, it is fair to say that abbreviation does satisfy the “I am pretty long myself” part of the Conundrum. Does abbreviation make things shorter though?

Actually, yes. Abbreviations are actually, by definition, shorter versions of full-length words. There are no abbreviations that are shorter than their full length words. The only function of an abbreviation is to make the full-length version more manageable both in writing and in reading or saying. Therefore it also satisfies the other part of the Conundrum, “I make things shorter.”

Abbreviations meet both criteria, and do so always. Because of this, you can see that it is the answer the Conundrum posed by the Riddle Robot Eyezak. We had to think a bit more abstractly than usual, and divert ourselves from thinking about the obvious answers. Eyezak knew we would think about those and it is why he used the phrasing he did. If you think there is another answer or need clarification, please add a comment below.

One Last Thing:

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