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I don't hear this phrase used often anymore; of course it was common many years ago when people still actually sent postcards instead of Instagram posts. Since it's not used often now, trying to find the origin and meaning behind it has resulted in conflicting or vague descriptions.

So what does it mean, and does it have more than one meaning? For example, it might be genuine request for answers to a proposed question, but they're expected to be brief. However, I've heard it being used in a sarcastic tone, like "Will Covid-19 cause a recession? Answers on a postcard, please."

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    It is, I think, more simple than you think. The point about a postcard is that it is only suitable for very short messages. So if you literally ask for answers on a postcard, you are physically limiting the length of answers to the little a postcard permits. Then it came to be a metaphorical way of asking for brief answers. Now, of course, limits are set by number words or characters.
    – Tuffy
    Jul 18, 2020 at 16:09
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    It's virtually 'That was a rhetorical question.' Jul 18, 2020 at 16:23
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    I'm suddenly dreading the day people start saying "Answers in a tweet, please.".
    – Pharap
    Aug 15, 2022 at 17:55
  • Then to belabor the obvious, someone might sound sarcastic when asking "Will Covid-19 cause a recession? Answers on a postcard, please," because he thinks that the answer to that question will necessarily be very long, too long to fit on a postcard.
    – Chaim
    Aug 15, 2022 at 19:47

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It used to be common for magazines to print in each issue a conundrum or quiz question for their readers, with a small prize for the first correct reply, or the first X-number of correct replies. Up until a certain point, a postcard cost less to send than a letter, and postcards were easier for the magazine staff to sort, so the standard instruction was "Answers on a postcard, please, to [the magazine address]". So this became a catchphrase for "If anybody knows, please tell me". This was a favourite expression of Jack Knight's in DC's Starman comic book of the 1990s.

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It is used to express a quick, often obvious answer,

answer on a postcard:

  1. A brief, concise answer, reply, or opinion, especially one meant as a quick response to a general question.
  • I'd like to get people's opinions on where to go for a summer vacation. Answers on a postcard, please!
  1. An answer that is considered obvious or self-evident.
  • We'd like to get into more complex reasons for inequality, so please avoid just giving answers on a postcard.

(Fareflex Dictionary)

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According to one Victoria S Dennis:

It used to be common for magazines in Britain (and over the Atlantic for all I know) to print in each issue a conundrum or quiz question for their readers, with a small prize for the first correct reply, or the first 10 correct replies, or whatever. Until a few years ago a postcard cost less to send than a letter, and postcards were easier for the magazine staff to sort, so the standard instruction was "Answers on a postcard, please, to [the magazine address]". So this became a catchphrase for "If anybody knows, please tell me".

I cannot be sure of the accuracy of this claim, but it seems reasonable.

It can indeed be used sarcastically, but as with most other phrases that has to be derived from the context.

As for why it's a dying phrase, that's likely because postcards are a dying art.

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