Definitely Limericks by Rory Ewins

I wrote these for the Omnificent English Dictionary in Limerick Form, a magnificent, ambitious, and slightly insane attempt to write a limerick for every word in the English language, one letter group at a time. You can see my additions and revisions there, but I like to keep them here as well; the menu below leads to permanent pages for each letter group. You can also see some miscellaneous and co-written pieces, an area especially aimed at OEDILFers, and a page of limerick biographies of famous artists. One of these limericks, and a video of me reading it, featured in an AP article about the OEDILF at the end of 2017, and briefly on the Washington Post and New York Times sites. Two featured in The RSPB Anthology of Wildlife Poetry, edited by Celia Warren (A&C Black, 2011).

“Pray, tell me, good sir, what’s the password?”
“It’s that fine source of alkali, glasswort.”
“You’re a man of propriety
For our secret society!
You know many a glassblowing-class word.”

The Ancient Secret Order of Glassblowers (which may or may not have been real; I wouldn’t know, it was secret) knew the glasswort well: these bushy plants found in Old World salt marshes and beaches were once burned to produce a crude soda ash for the manufacture of glass, hence their name.

“My good man,” said my drunk Uncle Fred,
“Could I pay you next Thursday instead?”
“I suppose that you can.”
“How obliging! Good man.”
“Uncle, please don’t good man me,” I said.

Good is often used in expressions of approval of another’s actions, such as good man, good chap, and my good man. This has given rise to the compound verb (my) good man, meaning to address someone in that way—especially condescendingly.

He writes tragedies: typical that he in
A clothes shop tries cloaks Greeks look natty in.
The shopkeeper jokes,
“Euripides’ cloaks,
You mend all dese. Try this himation.”

Who does the shopkeeper think he is, Aristophanes? That joke’s ancient.

The himation (him-MAT-ee-un) was a rectangular mantle or wrap usually made of wool and worn over a chiton (a kind of tunic worn by either men or women) or a peplos (a body-length dress worn by women) in Ancient Greece. When worn by men, the himation was draped over the left shoulder and wrapped around the rest of the body, leaving the right arm free. For women, it could be worn over either shoulder.

Graphemics, the study (in writing)
Of graphemes and glyphs, is inviting
For linguists who savour
Words’ sounds. Others favour
Graphetics: looks only. No fighting!

Graphemics is the linguistic study of graphemes, the smallest units of writing corresponding with sounds; a specific shape representing any particular grapheme in a given typeface is called a glyph. Graphetics, by contrast, is concerned with the physical properties of shapes used in writing, whether printed or handwritten.

’22, it turns out, is the year
Artificial intelligence is here.
Its pictures and chat
Are half-decent, and that
Fills some writers and artists with fear.

After many years of being more promise than reality, AI could be said to have arrived in 2022, first with the emergence of tools that create convincing images, such as DALL-E 2, Midjourney, and Stable Diffusion, and then with the appearance of ChatGPT, which can produce reasonably convincing text in almost any subject and style: short essays, computer code, movie scripts, and even limericks. Here’s what ChatGPT produced when I asked it to “write a limerick about artificial intelligence”:

There once was a machine so grand
It could understand any command
With AI so advanced
It seemed quite enhanced
But some thought it was just a sham.

I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t rhyme very well, and my metre is off.

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