The meter is perfect, the rhyming is flawless... but there
is no real substance to the verse! It takes nothing to write a five-liners like this, and that is
exactly what they are worth. (I've got a drawer full of them!)
Those of us who are comfortable with all the words in
the English language are not opposed to the use of the variety of words for coital activities,
and will freely use them in the telling of a story. But, the focus should be on the story, not
just the words.
Okay... that one goes into the drawer also,
but not until I have made the point that something might be added by the image of a couple
banging away in an erotic state of altered awareness, totally oblivious to the fact that their
pounding has sent the bed crashing through the floor.
There once was a man from Saint Clair,
Who was screwing his wife on the stair.
When the banister broke,
He doubled his stroke,
And finished her off in the air!
There is another point that should be made at this juncture.
Telling someone why a joke or a limerick is funny, does not make it funny. If you have written
a good limerick, you will never need to explain it!
Also while on this topic, I feel obligated to inform you that
something is lost if you are heading for a dirty word and you telegraph it in your first two
lines. For example, we pretty much know where a limerick is going if it begins with:
A horny young fellow named Tuck,
With a coed was really in luck...
At trick, however, is to do a last minute change of
direction, so that the readers are surprised when the verse does not go where they had
anticipated. For example:
A horny young fellow named Tuck,
With a coed was really in luck,
By the end of the day,
Tuck had gotten his way,
For she ironed his shirts for a buck.
An exhaustive search could have turned up a hundred better
examples by writers more clever than I, but in the press of the moment (the pun was intended),
mine will suffice to make the point. Now into the drawer with it.
The above example, however, as benign as it is, allows me to
make still another point. My first posting of this limerick brought a quick response from a
fellow who strikes fear in the hearts of all aspiring writers of limericks. I had first written
the above limerick about a "fellow named Buck," and ended with, as the last line, "For she
ironed his shirts, each crease and tuck."
This is one of those damned-if-you-do and
damned-if-you-don't kind of limericks, because the meter either works or doesn't,
depending on where you have grown up and how you have learned to pronounce a word. Being a
native of Pittsburgh, when I wrote "For she ironed his shirts, each crease and
tuck" I heard the word "ironed" as a single syllable accented word. In Pittsburgh we
arned the clothes, and with this geographically-fixed pronunciation, the meter worked.
The "Limericks Doctor," however, pronounces the word iron as a two syllable word
(I-ron) and for him, the original last line did not work.
Webster and the "Doctor" are in agreement.)
The problem is, of course, that my new line "For she
I-roned his shirts for a buck" will not work if you speak
Regional dialects can pose a problem at times.
Most collections of limericks should start with a
disclaimer that states "Any similarity to persons living or dead is purely intentional," for
in addition to dwelling on superhuman sexual feats or extraordinary sexual organs, we do want
to poke fun at typical human frailties, botched sexual encounters and bizarre fantasies. However,
you need to minimize the use of concocted full names, lest some fellow hunts you down
for having randomly given a factitious one-eyed whore the full name of his devoted wife.
Hay, let's be honest... we've all risked the wrath of a Mother Superior by writing about the
likes of "The wayward nun Mary McGrath." Even when a limerist is careful not to give a full name
to a character, few shy away from poking fun at the clergy.
There once was a nun from Podunk,
Who has so much sex that she stunk.
But the Bishop caught wind,
Lost control - with her sinned,
And when finished he buggered a monk.
It is a convenience that we can make up an improbable name
of a town or a character in the quest to find something that rhymes. A good rule of thumb,
however, is to do this only once in a limerick. Albin Chaplin, in Limericks Ruthless &
To his wife wrote a G.I. named Chape:
Politicians and other famous and infamous people who have
make their way into the public domain are fair game. Witness the flurry of limericks about
Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. "Have we no respect?" you ask?
"I'll be spending six months at the Cape,
But there's no need to cry.
There's a whore house nearby
And the girls keep our peckers in shape."
If sex is the most frequent topic in limericks (and the more bizarre the better),
sexuality is closely followed in popularity by the topic of injury, mutilation, or death (usually
of an outrageous or gruesome nature). It is as though in the writing of limericks we find
permission to explore and exaggerate our lustiest fantasies, as well as confront and laugh at our greatest fears.
One might say that the limerist's mind dwells primarily on matters of both coming and going.
A sexy old fellow named Bonner,
Is remembered, though long since a goner,
For when he got sick
His wife cut off his dick,
And cast it in bronze in his honor.
It is fun to discover an old limericks that, with a little
bit of tweaking, will address a current event. In The LIMERICK edited by G. Legman, is
a limerick by an anonymous author. As you read this verse, that Legman dates back to 1946, you
will see its potential.
"I'll admit," said a lady named Starr,
"That a phallus is like a cigar;
But to most common people
A phallic church-steeple
Is stretching the matter too far."
This comment on Freudian symbolism stirs thoughts of more
"I'll admit," said a fellow named Starr,
"That a phallus is like a cigar;
But to lie to the nation
And deny penetration,
Is stretching the truth just too far."
It is not fair to plagiarize another's limerick, or to make
minor changes and then claim it as your original. However, I do think it fair to present the
original limerick, acknowledge the author (if known) and then go on and do a playful revision.
Indeed, it can be great fun playing off of the concepts of
another writer. In the book 1001 Lewdest Limericks, the editor of the collection presents
this delightful teaser:
There was a young girl of East Lynn
Whose mother, to save her from sin,
Had filled up her crack
To the brim with shellac,
But the boys picked it out with a pin.
Another anonymous writer has added to the image with the
There was a young lady from Cue
Who filled her vagina with glue.
She said with a grin,
"If they pay to get in,"
They'll pay to get out of it too."
These prompted me to write two of my own.
While we're on the topic and talking
There's the woman who had trouble walking.
You could tell by her stride
She had something inside,
No doubt the remains of her caulking.
I don't mean to sound quite so smutty,
But there once was a girl who was slutty.
So she wouldn't roam,
Her dad kept her at home
And packed her vagina with putty.
I dare not end this section on tips and hints without
mentioning the "proper" appearance of a limerick as mandated by the finest tradition (and the
compulsive nature of those who oversee such matters).
In observing the proper format, you must begin each of
the five lines with a capital letter and you must always indent lines three and four.
Know of another hard and fast rule or helpful hint?
E-mail it to Dr. Birch.
It will be posted and you'll receive credit for your suggestion.
ASK AND YE SHALL RECEIVE
10/28/00 The following "rules" come from Arthur Deex, a.k.a the "Limericks Doctor" who wrote,
"I notice that you have referred, albeit obscurely, to a pair of well known (by me at least)
rules of limericking."
Wilkin's Rule: No limerick is ever improved by having to explain it.
Rosenheim's Rule Against Proper Noun Dependence: Don't ever betray the outcome of
line five by the proper noun which ends line one. E.g., From the roof of his outhouse, Herr
The Rule Against Comma Proliferation: Each limerick should have at least one punctuation
mark and it better not be a comma.
The Inverse Exclamatory Rule: Exclamation marks do not improve insipid limericks- they
make them insipider.
Deexís Rule a.k.a The Pattern Recognition Fallacy: Never try to rhyme "manís laughter"
with "man slaughter." English doesnít work that way.
The Franco Dissemination Pitfall: Never tell a limerick to a Frenchman; He wonít
understand it and besides it will make him irritable and hard to get along with.
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