The derivation of
the word "limerick" is a bit obscure, even for the great
Oxford English Dictionary. After reminding us that Limerick is the chief
town in the Irish county of that name, the OED continues:
Said to be from a
custom at convivial parties, according to which each member sang an
extemporized 'nonsense verse', which was followed by a chorus containing
the words "Will you come up to Limerick?".
helpfully gives us a specification of the limerick's form:
A nonsense verse
in the metre popularized by Edward Lear in his Book of Nonsense (1846),
of which the following is an example:
was a young lady of Wilts,
Who walked up to
Scotland on stilts;
When they said it
To show so much
'Then what about kilts?'
But although Lear
started it all, as originally used by him the limerick's last line was
almost always a variant of the first or second, not a completely
different and startling idea as today's version has it. Lear's usual
format — there are a handful of exceptions — goes more like this:
I understand that
Kingsley Amis took a disdainful view of this anticlimactic repetition in
Lear, but according to Quentin Blake, editor of a recent collection of
all Lear's nonsense, Lear "intuitively . . . [knew] what was best
for him". The more modern version Blake describes in these words:
limerick, as it went on to develop, comes to a smart conclusion which is
clinched by the final line. There's often a momentary twinge of
anticipation as you sense the rhyme ahead — an effect which the dirty
limerick in particular is glad to make use of. Lear forgoes that —
it's not his kind of humour at all.
After all, Lear was
writing for children.
You'll have noted
already that the third line is sometimes given as a single line with an
internal rhyme, sometimes as two separate lines. The rhythmic effect
remains the same, however.
What follows are
some limericks concocted by a couple of non-Irish Bikwilians, two from
landoc and three from NonesuCH.
Furthermore, I have been requested by our editor to encourage other
readers to submit as many limericks as they like to Down Limerick
Lane. For legal reasons, better keep them original.
Did you spot the
error in the above article?
We make amends
A Tasmanian, at home in Tasmania
Met a Scotsman, on tour of Australia:
“When I ask of your region,
You say you’re Glaswegian,
So shouldn’t you come from Glasmania?”
If you come from the town of Newcastle,
Novocastrian’s your tag on the parcel;
If you come from Enzed,
Be heppy and gled,
Novozealian as a name is an astle.*
(* With apologies to a
well-known opening batsman.)
A young lady who came from St. Peters
Had a girth that was measured in metres;
When viewed from the rear
It was patently clear
She was one of the world’s greatest eaters.
A young secretary buffing her nails
Said, “You know you can bank on the Wales;”
My boy-friend’s a teller,
A lovely young feller,
My interest in him never fails.
A chap from my old alma mater
Had trouble with personal data;
As he went down the aisle
Someone wiped out his file,
And left him persona non grata.
A fractions young child on the plane
Kept shrieking Again and AGAIN.
I said, “I know it’s not nice,
But can’t we pack him in ice,
And salvage what’s left of my brain?”