Tag Archives: limerick

the limerick

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I’d like to talk about the limerick, a snowclone which has a whole database devoted to its variants. Here is a good approximation of the de-specified form of the limerick:

There once was an X from place B,
That satisfied predicate P,
He or she did thing A,
In an adjective way,
Resulting in circumstance C.

According to Wikipedia, there is no strict requirement that a limerick adhere to this form; that is, while “Hickory Dickory Dock”1 does not fill the above template, it is still technically a limerick. This kind of variation illustrates how the limerick as such isn’t a snowclone, any more than a haiku is a snowclone–restrictions on the number of lines and the rhythm or rhyme of a poem do not a snowclone make. That this template could be devised in the first place is what satisfies my requirements for snowclone-hood.

Edward Lear popularized this form in his 1845 Book of Nonsense, with such entries as:

There was an Old Derry down Derry,
who loved to see little folks merry;
So he made them a book,
and with laughter they shook
at the fun of that Derry down Derry.

Limerick-writing seems to be quite the alive-and-well pasttime, if this database is any indication. Here are some more from “the top 150” there:

This one needs context:

There once was a man named Bertold
Who drank beer when the weather grew cold
As he reached for his cup…
Oh, snap! You just got limerickrolled!

I’ve now been disabused of the notion that the modern limerick has a bawdiness requirement, but I like how this one is suggestive:

There once was a maid from Madras
Who had a magnificent ass.
Not rounded and pink,
as you’d possibly think;
It was gray, had long ears, and ate grass.


Hickere, Dickere Dock,
A Mouse ran up the Clock,

The Clock Struck One,
The Mouse fell down,

And Hickere Dickere Dock.