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, 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).
Sharp pictures and thunderous sound:
Yes, my HDTV and surround-
sound home cinema’s great!
But there’s quite a long wait
Getting popcorn delivered, I’ve found.
Mate, y’know what I reckon is strange?
That although we might think it’s small change,
Our Oz mountain chain’s not.
Of the ones the world’s got,
Number five is the Great Dividing Range.
The East Australian Cordillera of mountains, plateaus and hills running parallel with Australia’s east coast is the fifth-longest land-based mountain chain in the world, after the Andes, Africa’s Southern Great Escarpment, the Rockies, and (just pipping it at the post) the Transantarctic Mountains. It’s longer than the Himalayas and the Urals, the longest entirely within one country, and one of the largest by area, covering almost three times as much territory as the Rocky Mountains. Its mountains just aren’t very tall, mate.
Yet more war reports are, I hear, trending,
And the prospect’s remote of their ending.
Too much heartrending news
Has been racking up views,
And our hearts, rent apart, now need mending.
Feast thine eyes on this chivalrous knight:
His plate armour is polished and bright,
And his headgear’s unique—
Why, it’s shaped like a beak!
Yes, his helmeted pate’s quite a sight.
Our product had faced a decline
In its sales, which was not at all fine.
But they’re turning around,
And our profits were sound
From the start of last quarter. More wine!
I’ll hand on this land to my son,
To complete all the work I’ve begun.
Dad handed it on
Once to me; now he’s gone,
All these handyman jobs are no fun.
“Why’s it CHCH for Christchurch, NZ?
Should be CHCHCH,” Christopher said.
“Christ, there’s three cees and aitches
In Christchurch—see, mate?” “Jus’
Ch-choose CH-RST-CH-RCH instead.”
For this verse, you have to pronounce the South Island city’s abbreviation of CHCH as CHUH-chuh, like the locals do (although they might spell it CHIH-chih); hence, also, CHUH-chuh-chuh and chuh-urst-CHUH-urch, like the locals don’t. When I lived there, I lovingly called it Chirst-chruch, in honour of the typos I kept making in emails.
Frank’s stamps have him stumped. “Hey, what’s this?
Where the hell is Helvetia, then, sis?”
His frank sibling says, “Sheesh!
It’s from Latin, capiche?
It’s the name of that miss who is Swiss.”
Helvetia derives from the Latin Helvetii, the Celtic tribe who lived on the Swiss plateau in Roman times. Although poetically used as a synonym for Switzerland, it’s properly the name of the country’s national personification, a female figure with spear and shield who first appeared in the 17th century—the Swiss equivalent of Marianne or Uncle Sam. The name is well known to philatelists, numismatists, and visitors to Switzerland, as it appears on Swiss stamps and (with an image of Helvetia herself) its ½, 1 and 2 franc coins. Other Swiss coins are designated Confoederatio Helvetica, the proper Latin name of the Swiss Confederation, which gives Switzerland its two-letter country code of CH and top-level domain of .ch.
Thanks to all of the blood on the floor,
Tex’s boots were more wet than before.
“Why the hell’d I get suede?
I wanted ones made
Out of Gore-Tex, not soaking in gore.”
Gore-Tex is a waterproof fabric invented in 1969 by a former Teflon employee and his son, made from expanded polytetrafluoroethylene, a variant of Teflon. Although Gore’s patent expired in the 1990s, thanks to strong branding Gore-Tex remains a market leader. The company intends to move away from using ePTFE, which like Teflon is hazardous to the environment.
Gynaecologists these days show meekness
With patients: they speak with obliqueness.
But doctors of old
Were misogynist! Bold!
“Women’s troubles!” they’d scold, “Female weakness!”
My uncle succumbed to the urge
To encumber my Inbox with glurge—
Sentimental, twee drivel
That makes your brain shrivel—
A form-letter scourge I’ll now purge.
The butterbur, burdock or clote
Was a vegetable once of some note
Here in Europe. Japan
Still enjoys, when it can,
Pickled gobo: clote roots get its vote.
The edible burdock is a familiar weed in Europe, named in English for its large leaves (like a dock’s) and its prickly burrs (which inspired the invention of Velcro). Into the Middle Ages its roots were eaten in Europe as a vegetable, similar to carrots or parsnips, and it’s still a popular ingredient in Asia; the Japanese name of gobo has entered the English language.
When a hot, thirsty Englishman needs
A cold beverage, why not fizzy weeds?
Yes, “weeds” is the word, doc,
As dandelion and burdock
Were the roots of the mead it succeeds.
Since the Middle Ages, the roots of the dandelion and the burdock have been used in Britain to make this traditional beverage: originally a light mead made from the plants’ fermented roots, dandelion and burdock is nowadays a carbonated soft drink, in some cases no longer flavoured by the roots at all. It tastes a bit like sarsaparilla.
His first days in office were splendid,
But that honeymoon period’s ended.
Nothing’s changed; it’s the same.
Folk are cursing his name,
As life hasn’t improved as intended.
You’re once, maybe twice, even three
Times a lady crab, found in the sea
Around Britain. I love
You, O velvety glove
In crustacean form—swim here to me!
Come adore the velvet crab, Necora puber, also known as the velvet swimming crab, devil crab, fighter crab, lady crab, or, in the US, English lady crab (to distinguish it from the North American lady crab, Ovalipes ocellatus). The velvet refers to the short hairs on its carapace that give it a velvety texture.
Sunken roads criss-cross Europe: they follow a
Path out of sight of Apollo. A
That’s seen many a boot,
From the Romans’ to Uggs: that’s a holloway.
A holloway or hollow-way is a sunken lane hollowed out of the earth by the feet of people and animals over many years. They can be found all over the world, but especially in places with soft rock and rain, which help the erosion that can sink some holloways as deep as ten metres into the ground, leaving them wider at the bottom than they are at the top. Sheltered by trees, they are a haven for rare mosses, ferns and other plants. Some of the holloways of England are suspected to date back to the Iron Age.
In this cavern, so dark and so cold,
Grows a green, glowing moss: goblin’s gold.
Tiny pinpricks of light
Form this gobsmacking sight,
Like an emerald kingdom of old.
The spores of goblin’s gold form filaments that scavenge for light; tiny lenses focus it deep into the cells on the moss’s surface, where chloroplasts absorb most of the harvested light but reflect green, covering cave floors in a luminous emerald glow.
“A desiccant sucks away moisture,
Not an exsiccant,” Teacher rejoiced. “Yer
A bonehead,” I cry,
“It’s archaic, sir! Why,
With your pedant petard, I have hoist yer.”