Limericks are humorous, frequently risqué verses of three long and two short lines that rhyme in an “aabba” pattern.
They were popularized by Edward Lear, in the late 19th century. (Fun fact: It is said that the term, “limerick” is from the chorus sung between improvised verses from the song, “Will you come up to Limerick?”) When done well, limericks use puns, spoonerisms, and double-entendres. The earliest known American limerick (1902) is:
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.
Putting words together in playful patterns is fun. Remember the long-standing children’s poem:
Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear.
Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair.
Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t very fuzzy, was he?
Another example of linguistic mischievousness was a novelty song from World War II:
Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey.
A kiddley divey too, wooden shoe.
It’s more fun to say than any sense it appears to make. However, the bridge of the song explains:
If the words sound queer and funny to your ear,
a little bit jumbled and jivey,
Sing ‘Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy.’
Okay, it’s antiquated and trite – but c’mon, it’s amusing; admit it.
How we arrange words gives us a sense of joy and satisfaction.
Say “Aluminum Anemone” out loud. Go ahead. No one’s listening. Notice how it feels on your lips? No, it doesn’t make sense; it’s just pleasurable to pronounce.