[ Issue 7 ]

Where Three Ways Meet is one of Emily Bronto's favourite Bikwil features

Bikwil has a thing about Down Limerick Lane

Down Limerick Lane

With Issue 7 Bikwil commences a new occasional series entitled Down Limerick Lane.  Today's offerings are from landoc and NonesuCH, preceded by an introduction on limericks generally by Harlish Goop.

[ Print This Issue ]  

[ Help with Printing ]

 Music Player 


Down Limerick Lane — Harlish Goop


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?".

H.W. Fowler 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:

There was a young lady of Wilts,
Who walked up to Scotland on stilts;
When they said it was shocking
To show so much stocking,
She answered, '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:

There was an Old Person of Hurst,
Who drank when he was not athirst;
When they said, “You’ll grow fatter,” he answered, “What matter?”
That globular Person of Hurst.

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:

The traditional 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 here.


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?”

Contents  Read Next Item  Read Previous Item
Top of Page

Home | Visitors' Guide | Random Read | Current Issue | Essays & Poems | Catalogues
Site Search
| Likeable Links | Subscriptions | About Us | FAQ | Testimonials | Site Map