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Jun 19, 2007
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Toponyms coined after places in Ireland

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(LIM-uhr-ik) Pronunciation Sound Clip

noun: A humorous, often risque, verse of five lines with the rhyme scheme aabba.

[After Limerick, a borough in Ireland. The origin of the name of the verse is said to be from the refrain "Will you come up to Limerick?" sung after each set of extemporized verses popular at gatherings.]

"First of all, the limerick judges at this newspaper would like contestants to know that we are acutely aware that 'Journal' rhymes with 'urinal.' Almost as much fun as reading limericks was reading excuses from the people who wrote the limericks. It was as if we had caught someone reading the Sex With Aliens Weekly at the supermarket. Diane Harvey, of DeForest, for example, began her entrant thusly:

    'It is with a deep sense of shame that I submit the following puerile, low-brow limericks and confess the guilty pleasure I had in writing them. As one who normally leads a completely respectable life, I cannot tell you what an illicit thrill it was to shed the trappings of responsible adulthood and for a 'brief shining moment' indulge in rude juvenile humor once again.'
"Several writers put the 'Journal-urinal' rhyme to obvious use, and a few similarly included good-humored critiques of columnist George Hesselberg, as in the one by Dan Barker, of Madison:
    There once was a parrot named 'Colonel,'
    Who read all the papers diurnal.
    But his favorite page
    On the floor of his cage
    Was the Hesselberg page from the Journal."
Limerick Tricks: Readers Turn Their Talents to Punny, Funny Rhymes;
Wisconsin State Journal (Madison); Jun 2, 1996.

See more usage examples of limerick in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.


Tolerably early in life I discovered that one of the unpardonable sins, in the eyes of most people, is for a man to presume to go about unlabelled. The world regards such a person as the police do an unmuzzled dog, not under proper control. -Thomas Henry Huxley, biologist and writer (1825-1895)

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