7 hilarious limericks you need to know

The limerick form was popularised by Edward Lear in his 'A Book of Nonsense'

Follow us on Google News-khaleejtimes

By Shashi Tharoor

Published: Fri 18 Aug 2023, 5:06 PM

Since so many readers are in a holiday mood in August, I thought I might offer some light entertainment by writing about limericks this week. A limerick is a form of verse, usually humorous and frequently rude or even indecent (which we won’t cite in a family newspaper!), written in five-line, anapestic trimeter — a strict rhyme scheme in which the first, second and fifth line rhyme and have the same meter, while the third and fourth lines are shorter and share a different rhyme.

Wherever it might have originated (presumably in reference to the city or county of Limerick in Ireland), and even though scholars have found a limerick in Shakespeare’s Othello, the limerick form was popularised by Edward Lear in his A Book of Nonsense (1846) and later in More Nonsense Pictures, Rhymes, Botany etc. (1872). Lear wrote 212 limericks, not all of which, alas, have withstood the test of time. His best-known limerick was:

There was an Old Man with a beard,

Who said, “It is just as I feared!

Two Owls and a Hen,

Four Larks and a Wren,

Have all built their nests in my beard.”

Not terribly funny, I think you’ll agree. The most successful limericks are both clever and witty, like this 1880 limerick, in a Canadian newspaper:

There was a young rustic named Mallory,

who drew but a very small salary.

When he went to the show,

his purse made him go

to a seat in the uppermost gallery.

Or this 1902 pun-laden classic by Dayton Voorhees:

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.

The limerick can embody knowledge as well, as in this by the British recreational mathematics expert Leigh Mercer:

A dozen, a gross, and a score

Plus three times the square root of four

Divided by seven

Plus five times eleven

Is nine squared and not a bit more.

Lewis Carroll of Alice in Wonderland fame wrote this (you have to read it aloud to get it):

There was a young lady of station,

“I love man” was her sole exclamation;

But when men cried, “You flatter”

She replied, “Oh! no matter!

Isle of man is the true explanation.”

The American humorist Ogden Nash was funnier in these two limericks:

There was a young lady called 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 was a young belle of old Natchez

Whose garments were always in patchez.

When comments arose

On the state of her clothes,

She replied, “When Ah itchez, Ah scratchez.”

But high among my favourites is this limerick by the self-deprecating former British Prime Minister Clement Attlee (1883-1967) defending his own career:

Few thought he was even a starter.

There were many who thought themselves smarter.

But he finished PM,

A CH, an OM,

An Earl and a Knight of the Garter.

One of the particular joys of limericks is the form is simple enough to replicate. Why don’t you try your hand at writing one today?


More news from Lifestyle