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, a page for mature readers, and pages of limericks about fine artists, Australian rock bands and history and politics, Africa, the Americas and the Pacific. 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).

Spared by Sister from Cinder and trash,
Her posthumous Verse made a splash —
Readers — holding their breath —
Saw her gallop past Death —
Em Dickinson loved the em dash —

American poet Emily Dickinson (1830–1886) asked her sister Lavinia to burn her papers after her death, which Lavinia dutifully did with her correspondence—but when she discovered Emily’s forty notebooks containing almost 1,800 poems, Lavinia became obsessed with getting them published. The first edited volume of her work appeared in 1890, but the first complete edition—complete with idiosyncratic capitalization and use of em dashes—wasn’t published until 1955.

“So, a name for it. Need one with heft. Pos-
sibly card payments.” “How about eftpos?”
“That’s brilliant—so catchy!
We’re going with that.” “Gee,
There’s quite a few options still left, boss.”

“Nope, we’re going to use the acronym for ’electronic funds transfer at point of sale’, because every Aussie is going to want to say EFT-poss every time they go to the shops for the next forty years.”

Australia and New Zealand were pioneers of the use of payment terminals at points of sale in the mid-1980s, a technology developed in the US but not widely adopted there until the end of the century. Comparable systems in Canada and the UK were known by other names—Interac and Switch, respectively (although Switch was later subsumed into Maestro)—but Australia and New Zealand stuck with the acronym developed for the terminals themselves, EFTPOS, and turned it into a weird everyday word (in lower-case) for the entire system of using cards to debit customer bank accounts directly at the point of sale.

Biz-to-business, we know: B2B.
Gov-to-government: that’s G2G.
G2B’s gov-to-biz;
Gov-to-citizen is
G2C; G2E—employee.

The United Nations considers e-government to consist of G2G (electronic communication between government agencies), G2B (the online provision by government of business services) and G2C (online services aimed at citizens). Some sources add G2E, online services for maintaining personal information and employee records.

Fairly shaking with great indignation,
Jack Skellington cries, “That location
Is no place for bone.”
He groans when he’s shown
Any heterotopic formation.

My cow’s looking mighty forlorn:
Sucking blood from the base of her horn
Is a horn fly: small, black,
Innerduced here way back
In Old West times, afore she was born.

This European fly, a major cattle pest, was first reported in the US in 1887. It spread rapidly acoss the Americas, reaching Hawaii in 1897 and Argentina by 1991.

Potatoe’s, tomatoe’s, and pea’s:
Greengrocery good’s such as these
Are for sale in our store—
Fruit and veg and, what’s more,
Punctuation. Next customer, plea’s!

Oh, GoldenEye? Such a good movie—
A chance for Pierce Brosnan to prove he
Could make a great Bond.
What, that duck on the pond?
The Bucephala clangula? Groovy.

The goldeneyes are a genus of diving ducks (originally Glaucionetta and now Bucephala) found in the northern hemisphere. Formerly restricted to two species, G. clangula (the common goldeneye or just goldeneye) and G. islandica (Barrow’s goldeneye), the label now also applies to B. albeola, the non-golden-eyed bufflehead, previously the sole species of Bucephala but now joined there by the reassigned B. clangula and B. islandica. Various other species of fish, insects, birds and even ducks have been called goldeneyes. Ian Fleming claimed not to have named his Jamaican estate, which gave Brosnan’s first Bond movie in 1995 its title, after any of them.

Is it Guinea grains, cubeb, or grains
Of Selim? None in toto explains
Guinea pepper—and then
There’s its old sense, cayenne.
Spicy seeds bless West African rains.

Guinea pepper has been variously applied over the years to cayenne pepper (a type of Capsicum annuum), grains of paradise or Guinea grains (Aframomum melegueta), Ashanti pepper or Guinea cubeb (Piper guineense), and Senegal pepper or grains of Selim (seh-LEEM, Xylopia aethiopica).

If a neighbour said, “Don’t look at me
Homosexually,” I would, let’s see,
Fly a big rainbow flag
While parading in drag
Past his house, yelling, “Kisses for free!”

My grandmother Jean, a Dundonian,
Was terrible—truly gorgonian.
She would make us rehearse
A McGonagall verse
Every bedtime. Och, verra draconian.

And if we should quarrel,
She’d take a soft coral
And shove it in parts Caledonian.

As well as an adjective related to the mythical Gorgons, gorgonian relates to the Alcyonacea, an order of cnidarians commonly known as the soft corals, which are also called gorgonians. Dundonians—if not gorgonians—are known for their fondness for the poems of William Topaz McGonagall.

An ame, alm, alme, awme, awame, aum,
Aume, awm, aulm, or (South African) haum
(Also ham), or an aam,
Auln or aulne, might do harm
If imbibed, whatsoever its form.

Whatever the liquid, if you imbibe an aum of it you’re not going to feel well afterwards. This historical liquid measure from Germany, the Low Countries and South Africa ranged from 136 to 200 litres; the word was also applied to barrels of that quantity.

Various historical sources helpfully point out that an aum is “L. galons”, “40 gallons, and as many pints over and above”, “50 Stoops, each Stoop 7 Pints English Measure”, or “4 ankers = 8 steckans”, to which one can only say Gott sei Dank, Godzijdank and dankie tog for the metric system.

While wandering home from the shops,
Bobby peers through the trees, and then stops.
Someone’s hiding in place.
“Who goes there? Show your face...
Leave this wood!” he shouts, “Holt! It’s the copse!”

The band Soundgarden’s lead, Chris Cornell,
Could sound mellow, and man could he yell.
“Black Hole Sun”, “Jesus Christ
Pose”: those two songs sufficed
To take listeners to heaven and hell.

Widely considered one of the greatest singers in rock music, Chris Cornell gained fame in the 1990s as lead singer of the Seattle grunge band Soundgarden, and later as a solo artist and front man (with members of Rage Against the Machine) of Audioslave. He struggled with depression, and took his own life in 2017 at the age of 52.

By the paddock (you’d call it a field),
At the T-junction, car tyres squealed
As we came to a halt.
Mate, this crash was your fault:
That sign said “GIVE WAY” (you’d say “YIELD”).

Each government agency slogs
Through the business of bureaucrats; logs
Every relevant datum.
Some citizens hate ’em:
Inside this machine, we’re all cogs.

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