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Have a Laugh With Limericks

This is a call to all limerick lovers to come together and launch a revival of this fun-filled verse form. In the name of self-entertainment - as opposed to being entertained - give the TV, the VCR, and the Nintendo a brief rest, and let the spirit of mischievous creativity develop within you.

A revival? Yes, it would seem that interest in the limerick is at an all-time low. It is saddening to think that there may even be some readers who are asking, "What is a limerick?" Here, one must avoid the temptation to quote Webster's dry definition, lest the inquirer be instantly turned off, and to use instead a classic example of this nonsense. Best known, perhaps, is the famous:

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There was a young lady from Niger

Who went for a ride on a tiger

They came back from the ride

With the lady inside

And a smile on the face of the tiger.

This one has survived years of controversy over the fact that there are no tigers on the entire continent of Africa. And it clearly defines the form of the limerick: five lines - with the first, second, and fifth rhyming, and each nine beats long - the third and fourth lines rhyming and six beats long.

But the form and rhyme do not make the limerick. It is the fun of telling a brief story using imagery that may be outrageous, or even unimaginable, and with a play on words, or a pun, or a surprise ending. In appropriate limerick form.

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Limerick popularity has not always been in its present sad state. There have been periods when a great many people, even famous authors, found amusement in the funny little verse.

Last lines were the basis for a tremendous surge in limerick popularity in more modern times. Contests were commercially sponsored in which the first four lines were given, praising a product, and the contestant sent in his or her last line together with proof of purchase. Glittering prizes were offered and brought participation by millions.

But you need not wait for the next contest to let the muse speak to you. Plunge in! The inspiration can come in so many ways. You may start with an unusual name, as with Finnerty. What a lovely Irish flavor! Or a smattering of some foreign language could provide the right impetus.

Sometimes, when our thought is open, a verse will come in complete form in the middle of a wakeful night. Such was the case with this one of mine:

An old dray-horse whose tail had been bobbed

When she saw it she cried I've been robbed.

They've taken the hairs

To upholster some chairs

It's the tale of my life she half-sobbed.

Perhaps this was just a night mare. But come, now it's your turn.

Write a verse with a beat anapestic

It need not be grand or majestic

For it's meant to amuse

And with mirth to suffuse

Tell a rib-tickling story fantastic.

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