A very early version, found in an old book by a member of the Stumpers list, goes like this:
"There are three words in the English language that end with 'gry'. Two of these are angry and hungry. The third word is a very common word, and you use it often. If you have read what I have told you, you will see that I have given you the third word. What is the third word? Think very carefully."
The next page of the book gave this answer:
"Three, the question has nothing to do with angry, hungry, or any of the many other obscure words that end in 'gry', it is a simple question asking you what the third word in the sentence is. As you take tests, remember this."
The full text of the e-mail containing this version is quoted at the bottom of this page.
As asked on the Bob Grant radio show (New York City) in 1975, which many experts believe to be the earliest documented version, it went:
"There are only 3 words in the English language, all adjectives, which end in -gry. Two are angry and hungry; the third word describes the state of the world today. What is it?"
(Several sources say this was "taken from an old book", which leaves open the question of whether it was from the same book referred to in the e-mail above, or whether there were already multiple forms of the puzzle going around.)
According to Ross Eckler of Word Ways magazine, while there are "nearly one hundred" words ending in -gry, none of them are common. But only one of them (besides angry and hungry) is an adjective, and that is meagry, a word found in the Oxford English Dictionary which means "meager." So meagry would seem to answer the question, at least in this form.
Yet another version that many believe is the original, "right" form of the question, goes thus:
"Two words that end in -gry are 'angry' and 'hungry'. There are three
words in the English language. What is the third word? It's a common word
that everyone knows."
In this case, the answer is the third word in the phrase "the English language", i.e. "language"! The part about "angry and hungry" turns out to be a red herring. (from COPYEDITING-L list and the rec.puzzles Usenet newsgroup's FAQ) People who don't know the trick to this puzzle, by changing the wording when they pass the question along, have mangled the question until there is no real answer! Most people now seem to accept this as the "real" answer.
A similar suggestion (from Charles Wiedemann of Hackettstown, NJ, printed in Marilyn Vos Savant's column in Parade magazine March 9, 1997) is that the original form was
"There are at least three words in the English language that end in G or Y.
One of them is "hungry" and another one is "angry". There is a third word, a
short one which you probably say every day. If you are listening carefully to
everything I say, you just heard me say it three times. What is it?"
When the listener gives up, you explain: "You assumed I said "G-R-Y", but in fact I said "G or Y", and the word is "say". Because so many people read Parade as part of their Sunday newspaper, this version is gaining ground.
The other word ending in -gry by Dave Friedman at http://www.fun2play.com/gry/
has still more links and yet another solution ("What is the third word" is not a question but the answer, he suggests)! Useless Knowledge (an apt summary of this whole thing!) quotes the form of the puzzle that would give this answer as follows:
There are two words that end with "gry".
Angry is one and hungry is another.
What is the third word.
Everyone uses it every day and
Everyone knows what it means.
If you have been listening,
I have already told you what the word is.
Notice that the third line "sounds" like a question when read.
In this version, what is the answer to the puzzle! (At least, I guess, when he's not playing second base.)
Still another variation which appeared on Stumpers is worded as follows:
There are three words in the English language that end in gry. The first ONE is hungry, the second is angry, and the third everyONE uses everyday. If you have read this carefully I have given a clue.
Worded this way, with such emphasis on "one", one could make the case that one possible answer is "one", in other words, the "third ONE".