Definitely Limericks

I wrote these for the Omnificent English Dictionary in English 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 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).

The noble Australian pound
Was the currency formerly found
In the land of my birth.
Just two bucks, it was worth.
You can still find its coins on the ground.

If you’re lucky, and eagle-eyed. I found an old George V penny in my family’s garden once, and post-1938 kangaroo pennies from time to time. They were all swept away—Australian halfpennies, pennies, threepences, sixpences, shillings, florins, crowns and pounds—by decimalisation in February 1966.

This collection of kangaroo collars
Cost A$80
And 99c,
But in my defence,
That’s a steal for marsupial scholars.

What, you thought I meant dog collars made of kangaroo leather? Researchers use these to tie up roos for closer examination, obviously. (The A$, or AUD, is the Australian dollar—so here, eighty Australian dollars and ninety-nine cents.)

“Fa-la-la, bring me barrels of wine!
Snapped the minstrel, “And quickly, you swine!
I’ve a headache tonight.
7 hhds of white
And 12 hhds of red should be fine.”

A hogshead (abbreviated hhd, plural hhds) is a large cask of liquid, usually alcohol, of a specified volume that varied from 45 to 61 imperial gallons over time and for different beverages, eventually ending up at 52.5 imperial gallons for wine and 54 gallons (either imperial or the older, slightly larger English brewery cask gallons). A tobacco hogshead was even bigger, at least 120 imperial gallons in volume and 1000 pounds when fully packed. I’ll leave the metric conversions to beer, wine and whisky merchants.

This silvery liquid, Hg,
Quickly poisons the fish in the sea.
We shouldn’t just settle
For keeping this metal
From drains: keep it arm’s length from me.

The fact we saw alchemists prizing
Hg has a way of disguising
Its value to science:
Weather forecasts’ reliance
On thermometers’ mercury rising.

One of the seven metals of alchemy, mercury (also called quicksilver or formerly hydrargyrum) has been known since ancient times. In modern science and medicine, mercury and its compounds have had applications in dental amalgams, vaccine preservatives and antiseptics, although their medical use is in decline owing to their extreme toxicity. For that same reason, most thermometers now use pigmented alcohol instead of mercury.

Food with sweetener always tastes neat,
And this high-fructose corn syrup’s sweeeet!
Sure, it keeps us all fat,
But hey, what’s wrong with that?
What competes with a sweet corny treat?


“My iMac is cactus!” I cried.
“The h-hard drive is totally fried.
All I see’s a s-stinking
Disk icon that’s blinking.
The H... DD... h-has... d-died.”

Some trumpet the drug HCQ
To stop COVID-19, but if you
Want to take my advice...
Well, I’d say to think twice.
It isn’t what doctors would do.

Hydroxychloroquine, an analogue of chloroquine developed in 1946, is primarily used to prevent and treat malaria, as well as to treat rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and porphyria cutanea tarda. It was studied along with chloroquine for its potential to treat COVID-19, but clinical trials found it ineffective and a possible cause of dangerous side effects.

In a primary classroom, you’ll see
Children using, to write, an HB.
This medium hard
Pencil writes well on card
And on paper. All drawn from a tree.

And for the pencil leads, from a mixture of graphite and clay. The equivalent of a US #2 pencil, the HB (for “hard black”) is ubiquitous in British and Australian primary schools. I always preferred a softer 2B.

I went to the hairdresser’s, but
His salon looked as if it was shut.
Through the window, he gave
Me a big drunken wave;
Now my hair—just like him—is half-cut.

This British and Australian slang term for “half-drunk” has, strangely, no “completely drunk” equivalent.

Vladimir Putin just knew
The Ukrainian Army was through,
So was totally shocked
To be thoroughly mocked
As they stood fast and cried, “’ey, f— you!”

Founded on the country’s independence in 1991, the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU, or in Ukrainian ZSU or ЗСУ) consists of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Air Assault Forces and Special Operations Forces. In 2022 they have offered stout resistance to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

A Russian, while looting a fridge,
Sees a missile fly over the ridge—
A HIMARS-launched rocket—
And grasps, to his shock, it
Is headed towards the Kerch Bridge.

The M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System developed in the late 1990s for the United States Army has proven invaluable to Ukraine in the summer of 2022, destroying multiple enemy ammunition depots in the east and south of the country. At the time of writing, the Armed Forces of Ukraine are almost within HIMARS range of the recently-built Kerch Bridge connecting Russia to occupied Crimea.

The invasion? Our progress is slow.
The enemy’s stubborn, you know.
When we mobilize troops,
We discover that—oops—
They say, “Hell no, we’re not gonna go.”

Or in late 2022, «Ни за что, мы не собираемся идти.»

“Wanna catch some World Wrestlin’, man?” “Hell yeah!”
As I’m sure you can probably tell, yeah,
I dig a buff dude
Runnin’ round semi-nude.
(I like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin as well, yeah.)

The World Wrestling Entertainment (formerly World Wrestling Federation) wrestler “Stone Cold” Steve Austin popularized this phrase by chanting “Give me a hell yeah!” to his audiences.

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