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Are you Game for Limericks?

When you read our dashing lim'ricks
Some stand out from all of the rest.
Pick your faves.
And choose your raves,
Do you like the winners best?

Read the entries.


(Fanfare of French horns. Note that prolonged cheering may drown out the first words.)

        The limerick, says the Encyclopedia Brittanica, first hit the literary scene in the 18th century, returning from France with the Irish Brigade as lyrics of a popular song whose chorus was, "Will you come up to Limerick?" Each verse, which was usually made up on the spot, told the adventures of persons from various Irish cities. By 1846, when Edward Lear's "Book of Nonsense," was published, the limerick was a familiar form. One sample:

       There was an Old Man with a beard
       Who said, "It is just as I feared,
       "Two owls and a wren,
       "Three ducks and a hen
       "Have all made their nests in my beard!"

        As time passed, limericks became more sophisticated and more popular. By 1877A song from the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta "The Sorcerer" is in perfect limerick form:

       My name is John Wellington Wells.
       I'm a dealer in magic and spells.
       In blessings and curses
       And ever-filled purses
       In prophecies, witches and knells.

        But the best limericks of all are more than verses. They're also jokes — rhymes with an unexpected twist and a clever, and funny ending. This one's a classic:

       There was an old man of Khartoum
       Who kept two live sheep in his room.
       "For," he said, "They remind me
       Of one left behind me,
       I just can't remember of whom!"

        To qualify as a limerick, a little five-line verse must rhyme in an a-a-b-b-a pattern. That is, the first, second, and fifth lines all rhyme with each other, and the third and fourth lines share a different rhyme. And limericks are written in mostly dactylic verse: The stress in the first, second and fifth lines is Ta-DAH-da, ta-DAH-da, ta-DAH, and the stress in each of the third and fourth lines is ta-DAH-da, ta-DAH. It's acceptible for the ending of the first line to have an extra beat or two, but in that case, the second and fifth lines must match that pattern perfectly. And the same is true of lines three and four. Rhyming words need not all be single words, nor must they be spelled alike. Here's an example: (and it helps if you know that the city name is pronounced "Wooster):

       There was a young lady of Worcester
       Who often would crow like a rooster.
       And she used to climb
       Two trees at a time,
       Which was hard — but her sister would boost her!

        Some limericks are rather horrible, such as this one:

       A slender young miss from Bohemia
       When asked if she might have anemia
       Replied, "No indeed,
       For I love a good feed
       But I constantly practice bulemia!"

        And of course many familiar limericks are very . . . naughty (descriptive adjective courtesy of Monty Python). We won't offer you a sample of those, thank you very much.

More LIMS, these by our readers

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