Posted by: Jack Henry | May 12, 2020

Editor’s Corner: Happy Limerick Day!

Happy limerick day!

One of you fair readers sent me an article on limericks, from the Saturday Evening Post. It’s been some time since I talked about limericks, so I’ll share a little from the article with you and a few more things I found.

Limericks: A How-To Guide

There are four guidelines that you should follow to write a good limerick. Although they do allow some leeway for the creative mind, the farther you stray from these guidelines, the less limerick-like your finished poem will be.

First, its length: A limerick is always five lines long. There’s very little wiggle room here.

Second, its rhyme scheme: A limerick always has an AABBA rhyme scheme, meaning that the first, second, and fifth lines end in a shared rhyme, as do the third and fourth…

Here’s an example. Since The Saturday Evening Post is a family magazine, please refrain from mentally conjuring (or, more importantly, commenting on) the more vulgar version of this classic limerick:

There once was a man from Nantucket
Who kept all his cash in a bucket.
But his daughter, named Nan,
Ran away with a man
And as for the bucket, Nantucket.

You can clearly see the rhyme scheme in this example, but let’s talk about rhythm and meter, the third guideline. Although the number of syllables contained in each line varies from one limerick to another, a good guideline is to have 7-10 syllables in lines 1, 2, and 5, and 5-7 syllables in lines 3 and 4…

The final and loosest rule of limerick writing is its silly subject matter. Humor and wordplay almost always work their way into a good limerick….

Here is something I found on Pinterest that sums up that lesson nicely:

And as for a few samples…well, so many of them are naughty! I found a few tamer ones scattered on the internet, but I’m not directing you to any particular pages because even these were clustered with some that would make a sailor blush.

I sell the best Brandy and Sherry
To make all my customers merry,
But at times their finances
Run short as it chances,
And then I feel very sad, very.

The bottle of scent Willie sent
Was quite displeasing to Millicent.
Her thanks were so cold
That they quarreled, I’m told,
‘Bout that silly scent Willie sent Millicent.”

There was a young lady named Harris,
Whom nothing could ever embarrass,
Till the bath salts one day
In the tub where she lay
Turned out to be plaster of Paris

There once was a runner named Dwight
Who could speed even faster than light.
He set out one day
In a relative way
And returned on the previous night.

The limerick packs laughs anatomical
Into space that is quite economical.
But the good ones I’ve seen
So seldom are clean
And the clean ones so seldom are comical.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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