Definitely Limericks by Rory Ewins


Playing records, the part I loved most
Was to flip ’em and sample the host
Of odd B-sides thereon.
Will those days soon be gone,
Now that seven-inch singles are toast?

In Britain, “the top of the pops”
Means a song that you’ll see in the shops
From London to Tayside—
The number one A-side
Of singles that haven’t been flops.

He stops as they walk to the car.
“You’re one in a million, you are.”
A breeze starts to blow.
“I... love you, you know.”
The woolly-haired temptress says “baa”.

“The critics may all be discounting
My hopes, but I’ll soon be amounting
To more than a cabbage,”
Said Professor Charles Babbage.
“Analytical engine, start counting!”

Charles Babbage (1791–1871), professor of mathematics at Cambridge University, is considered the father of computing, although his design for a mechanical “analytical engine” was never built at the time.

Babirussa: An East Indies pig
That has canines prodigiously big
Curving out of his snout—
If you see ’em, wig out,
’Cos the pig gets indignant, you dig?

“Baby carrier’s strapped in the seat.
Now, please hand me your brother—we’ll neat-
ly and carefully place him
Inside it, and face him
Towards... hey, don’t throw him, son!” “Yeet!”

This kid is clearly revelling in the opportunity to teach his sibling some Gen Z slang: as well its use as an exclamation after throwing something, yeet is also a verb meaning to throw or chuck. Yeeting your baby bro into a hard plastic portable seat with a handle isn’t ideal. Baby carrier can also mean a sling or backpack worn by an adult for carrying a baby close to one’s body:

So, a carrier’s also a sling.
“What, you mean, like, a weapon-like thing
Good for yeeting away
Baby brothers, yeah? Slay!”
(Let’s give Child Protection a ring.)

As her parent, I know that I oughta
Respect what life’s lessons have taught her,
And how much she’s grown,
But for decades I’ve known
That she’ll always be my baby daughter.

Said Professor Erasmus Kildare,
When denied an Emeritus Chair
In Babyish Studies:
“You guys aren’t my buddies!
I hate you! I hate you! Not fairrrr!”

Mummy Universe says to her kid,
“Who came out of a hole, then? Who did?
Who’s an ickle wee universe?”
(Yes, it’s a puny verse,
Baby—hey, don’t flip your lid.)

In cosmological theory, baby universes are young, small universes in a conjectured multiverse. US physicist Lee Smolin (b. 1955) proposed that universes are “born” in black holes and vary from generation to generation in a selective process. In 2023, theoretical physicists modelling the expansion of our own universe considered the possibility that it is expanding because it keeps crashing into and absorbing baby universes. Disappointingly, their paper wasn’t titled Saturn Devouring His Son.

Sees the cards being played near the bar...
Now he’s wishin’ and hopin’ they are,
Say, a five and a four,
’Cos he knows he would score...
Walk on by, Mr Burt Baccarat.

San Jose will fall silent today:
Mr Bacharach’s walked on by. Say
A li’l prayer for the man;
Find his songs, if you can—
They’re what the world needs now to play.

Burt Bacharach (1928–2023), American composer, songwriter, record producer and pianist, wrote hundreds of pop songs, many with lyricist Hal David and later with his third wife Carole Bayer Sager. His songs were recorded by over a thousand artists in his lifetime, although he was most closely associated with the singer Dionne Warwick. Dozens of Bacharach's songs topped the charts in the US and the UK from the 1950s to the 1980s, and two won Oscars (he also won for his score of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid). Anyone who had a heart would find something to enjoy among them.

A bachelor’s handbag’s a chook
In a bag—a pre-roasted one. Look,
It gets tough on your own,
Doing shopping alone
And then having to go home and cook.

This Australian slang term for a supermarket roast chicken carried in a plastic bag evokes some poignant stereotypes of single men (or amusing, depending on whether you are one).

Betrayal’s his favourite tack,
And he writes out of spite—mind your back.
If you value your life,
Watch his mouth and his knife:
He’s a backbiting, backstabbing hack!

Capt. JONES: We’ve been hit in the wings!
Gonna crash in Khe Sanh! [Alarm RINGS.]
All the chutes are gone, too!
Holy mother of... [CUE
BKGD. MUSIC: Adagio for Strings.]

There was a young hacker from Hammet
Who’d find an address and then spam it
With offers of cash,
’Til the server wou*t76cccccc
(Oh no. Where’s my backup, goddammit!)

The back an’ the sides of a swine,
Immersed in a bucket of brine,
Then smoked or jes’ dried,
Sliced thin an’ then fried,
Makes bacon. Mm-mmm, mighty fine!

“Don’t tackle a wombat, you fool,”
Said my uncle, “My number one rule.
Those burrowin’ badgers
Will aim for your nadgers,
And doublin’ up groanin’ ain’t cool.”

When the British first arrived in Tasmania, they named some of its wildlife for similar-looking animals from the old world, calling echidnas hedgehogs, thylacines Tasmanian tigers and wombats badgers. Adult wombats can grow up to a metre long and 20 to 35 kilograms, twice the size of a European badger, so watch where they aim their feet.

“So, I went to the clinic today
The tortoise is cactus. They say
It’s too late for a vet...
Yeah, I’m pretty upset.
How should I know he’s in a bad way?”

A quarter of, half of, or one
Hundred pounds? Pony, bullseye and ton
To a Cockney, mate. And!
Thousand quid? Bag of sand.
And five hundred? A monkey. What fun!

Bag of sand is clearly rhyming slang for a grand, but the origins of pony and monkey are more obscure. Pony (£25) originated in the 18th century, when it could also mean 25 guineas. Monkey (£500) dates from the 1820s and spread to Australia, where it’s come to mean 500 dollars. Ton for £100 dates from the 1940s. A bull or bull’s-eye was once a crown piece (five shillings); the modern bullseye for fifty pounds may or may not be related.

On Edinburgh’s busiest street,
The tourists all blether “How neat!”
When a man in a kilt
Starts to wheeze at full tilt
On the bagpipes, while some of us greet.

In Scotland, to blether is to talk nonsense, while to greet means to weep or grieve.

Jim McTavish, municipal baillie,
Would dance up a storm at a ceilidh:
He’d birl and jig
After takin’ a swig
Of a swally thit’s crakin and ale-y.

A baillie is the Scottish equivalent of an alderman. A ceilidh is a traditional dance; to birl (buh-rl) is to twirl or spin; a swally is an alcoholic beverage; and an ale thit’s crakin is nice.

I’m handing the waiter, Sareesh,
Some bakshish for bringing my quiche.
His comeback is strange:
He’s offering change!
It’s meant to be his greenback—sheesh!

What’s balanism? Capsules for cracks;
Stick a medical aid that attacks
Some disease by design
Where the sun doesn’t shine.
There’s your answer: the hole ball of wax.

Bal-anism is the use of suppositories.

The bald eagle, American raptor,
Now faces a challenging chapter:
Its range is reduced,
And its prey have deduced
Where to go to stay free of their captor.

“She’s a spiffing young thing, Jeeves, eh, what?”
“I regret to demur, sir; she’s not.
The young lady, I fear,
Is a trifle austere.”
“What nonsense, man! Balderdash! Rot!”

“I’ve a plan rather cunning, my lord,”
Ventured Baldrick, perusing my sword.
It was pointless, I felt,
So I gave him a belt
Round the shoulder—a fitting reward.

Baldrick: n. a belt worn over the shoulder to hold a sword on the opposite hip; a witless idiot named after same. — Edmund Blackadder’s Dictionarie.

Thanks to stays in each corset, baleen
Once adorned every ballroom-floor queen,
Straining waists without fail;
Now it stays in the whale,
Where it tastefully strains its cuisine.

Thar she blouse!

One particular characteristic
Turned Pat from alive to statistic:
His interest in guns—
In particular, ones
In which he was the object ballistic.

Ol’ Cannonball Pat, futuristic
Propulsion fanatic: artistic,
But lacking in sense.
Putting up a big fence
So he’d stop himself? That’s optimistic.

Many lemurs eat tender bamboo.
So would I—and why not? Wouldn’t you?
It’s a nourishing stalk;
Needs no knife and no fork:
You just break a piece off, and then chew.

Here in Queensland, I once told the Queen,
My job, when bananas are green,
Is to climb up and bend them,
In order to lend them
The curves she’ll have commonly seen.

Australians often jokingly refer to Queenslanders as banana benders. The Australian National Dictionary has identified a possible origin for the term in the furphy retold above, related in a 1937 article in The Queenslander (a weekly news and literary magazine of the day) about a wag’s response to Elizabeth, wife of George VI, when she asked what his occupation was.

“Are those rebels with guns and bandannas
Aware what the company’s plan is?
Our republic is doomed—
Its resources consumed!
O, Henry, it drives me bananas!”

The American writer O. Henry coined the term banana republic in his 1904 short story collection Cabbages and Kings, inspired by his time in Honduras. U.S. fruit companies dominated the country’s economy and politics—and those of neighbours such as Guatemala—in the early 20th century.

His life was cartoonish, replete
With hilarious scenes of defeat.
When he tried to walk tall,
He would meet with a fall
From banana skins left in the street.

After dark, gunna bandicoot spuds
From the cockies: to dig through the mud’s
A bit desperate, to steal
A few spuds for a meal,
But I’m leavin’ the tops and the duds.

This late-nineteenth-century Australian term indicated the practice of surreptitiously removing potatoes from the roots of the plant while leaving the rest intact.

He went down to the creek an’ he panned it,
Then, jes’ as he carefully planned it,
Gave all of his gold
To the bank fer to hold—
Where it all was done stole by a bandit.

Cap’n Processor started to gripe
As the bits all processed down the pipe:
“He’s a modem abuser,
Our byte-hungry user...
More bandwidth! He’s just loaded Skype!”

“Wasn’t Joseph the banksia man?”
Asked our grandma. My sister said, “Gran,
These are like in May Gibbs.”
With a poke in the ribs,
I said, “See the resemblance? I can.”

Banksia seed pods, commonly called cones (even though banksias aren’t conifers), are yellow, orange, red or pink when they flower, but dry to a grey, wooden, whiskered appearance, not unlike Grandma. The early twentieth-century children’s author May Gibbs (1877–1969) made them the baddies in her books about the gumnut babies (most famously Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, 1918), where they were the Big Bad Banksia Men. Banksia man then entered the language as a nickname for the dry cones.

The Banksia genus of around 170 species of flowering trees and shrubs is named for Sir Joseph Banks (1743–1820), the English botanist who travelled with Captain James Cook on the Endeavour and collected specimens on Australia’s east coast in 1770.

A bap is a small roll of bread
Here in Britain; it’s what you are fed
If you fancy for luncheon
Some savoury muncheon—
Though chaps nibble wraps now, instead.

Hold a barbie or two on your lawn
And yer wintertime blues’ll be gone.
Chuck a snag on the grill,
Crack a Tooheys, and chill:
Come an’ barbecue up a raw prawn!

A burly Murwillumbah copper
Came (socially speaking) a cropper
When telling his guests
Of his wrongful arrests—
By cripes, what a barbecue stopper.

A barbiton (bit like a lyre)
Is a pleasure to play—why not try ’er?
This instrument sings
When you strum Grecian things,
But it bites if the strings are barbed wire.

The blowies are buzzing that coot—
You can tell from his Barcoo salute.
He’s been waving all day,
But they won’t go away.
They must reckon his noggin’s a fruit.

In Dunedin, a beer-drinking student
Drank more than was actually prudent.
The eager young scarfie
Was soon feeling barfy,
Digestible contents protrudent.

Scarfies are uni students in Dunedin, NZ.

In Britain, the subject of weather
Brings colleagues and strangers together,
But one more refresher
On air and its pressure
And I’m at the end of my tether.

Barometry is the process of measuring atmospheric pressure. Borometry is the process of discussing barometry.

I said to the fishmonger, Grundy,
“Good sir, do you have barramundi?”
“The tropical perch
Found in Queensland? I’ll search...
Nah, we ran outta that one on Sund’y.”

The instrument sounded all clunky;
The pegs on its barrel, too funky.
That organ rehearsal
Made peanuts of Purcell,
But that’s what you get from a monkey.

The jockeys tune out punters’ cries
As they focus their eyes on the prize
Of a Melbourne Cup win.
Now the race can begin:
Horses gallop at barrier rise.

When the waters are wavy an’ bluey,
They find ’em a shoreline that’s chewy,
Take bites with their motion,
Digest in the ocean,
And spit up a barrier. Ptooey!

A barrier spit is a long barrier built up by the waves that runs parallel to shore and protects the waters behind it (like an island, but connected to the mainland at one end). Unlike a sandbar, its crest lies above the normal high water mark.

Today has brought only dismay?
This is what an Australian would say
(Instead of a shocker)
Is a barry, per Crocker:
You’re having a barry—bad day.

Rhyming slang has seen a resurgence in Australia in recent years, as in this example employing the name of the Australian actor Barry Crocker.

This motorcar’s base price? Ten grand.
For that, you get this: a car. And!
There’s a motor as well.
(Any extras we sell
Cost you more, though, you do understand.)

A smasher, by crashing, would mash ’er;
A slasher, by gashing, would trash ’er;
A dasher would pash ’er;
A flasher’d abash ’er;
But bashers, by fashion, would thrash ’er.

In Aussie slang, to “pash” is to kiss, which is a lot more fun than being bashed.

So they caught you outside in the nude
Doing something unspeakably rude
To Her Majesty’s statue
While screeching, “Take that, you!”?
Then basically, Bishop, you’re screwed.

Eight months pregnant, and Jade’s feelin’ cravy:
“Some booze? Nah, that’s too misbehave-y.
Somethin’ spicy? Or salty?
A hot Basil Fawlty!”
Jade, think of the basin of gravy.

Leave it out, Jade. Everyone knows a Basil Fawlty (balti, a British Indian curry popular in London’s East End—and in the rest of the UK) is murder on the ol’ Derby Kelly (belly). And all that spicy food can’t be good for the basin. When’s it due again?

Said the white guy, “That dude’s Larry Graham?
What a loser.” When I replied, “Dayum,”
He said, “Hey, I’m no racist
I just can’t stand a bassist.
I hate all bass guitars.” “So don’t play ’em.”

Larry Graham (b. 1946), of the funk band Sly and the Family Stone, is one of the most famous bass guitarists in rock, known for his distinctive slapping technique. Other musical genres can feature different kinds of bassists, playing the double bass, keyboard bass, or tuba.

It’s thoroughly battered, my fish:
Not assaulted (’cos why would I wish
To do that?); and it’s not
Some half-cut piscine sot;
No, I’ve battered and fried it. Delish.

That fish lying there on the floor
Is just totally battered. What’s more,
He looks utterly fried.
Yes, it can’t be denied:
He’s an odd fish, and pissed, that’s for sure.

Battered is just one of hundreds of words for being drunk in British English. Fried is more of an American one, although it was good enough for Noël Coward... but then he was a bit of an odd fish.

His devices make Ivan content,
But concerned once their power is spent.
When his iPhone gets flatter, ’e
Charges the battery
Till it’s 100%.

We were down at the battle an’ cruiser,
Me an’ Dad, gettin’ Britneys in. “Choose a
Poison: Gary, or Nelson?”
“Pint of Paul, ta. As well, son,
Get one or two Veras.” The boozer.

A few of the tiddlies (tiddly winks, drinks) you’ll find down at an East End battle cruiser (boozer, pub; a boozer is also someone who drinks a lot) have their own Cockney rhyming slang: Britney (Spears) for beers, Gary (Glitter) for bitter, Nelson (Mandela) and Paul Weller for Stella (Stella Artois, the Belgian beer), and Vera Lynn for gin.

He’s strugglin’, our Dazza; because ’e
Is a ridgey-didge, genuine Aussie,
Most pollies will call
Him a battler, and small,
Though his heart is as big as Mount Kozzy.

Mainland Australia’s tallest peak, Mount Kosciuszko (until 1997 spelled Kosciusko), is named after a Polish national hero whose surname is pronounced kuh-SHOOSH-koh, but Aussies traditionally pronounce its name as KOZ-ee-OSS-koh, or Kozzy for short.

Aussie pollies (politicians) love to bang on about little Aussie battlers (or just battlers) when talking about everyday people, to show how much they empathise with their struggles. Ridgey-didge means authentic, and can be applied to people in the same way as dinky-di or true blue, both of which mean authentically Australian—like our Darren.

“I’m telling you, son, war is hell.
It was painful to shoot every shell!”
“Gee, pa, I’m intrigued—
Were you battle-fatigued?”
“No, I just couldn’t aim very well.”

Quit your dithering, Captain! Less talk!
Set your feet on the plank and then walk!
There’s a fate worse than death
If you waste one more breath,
And a fate worse than that if you baulk!

I was playing the sergeant at snooker,
When I spied on his hand a verruca;
So I reached in my pocket,
Withdrew a small rocket,
And blasted it with a bazooka.

Most viewers in Britain still choose
The impartial recounting of views
By the government station
Maintained by the nation:
Yes, this is the BBC News.

Do you think Bryan Adams, when he
Said he’d “Run to You”, meant to BC?
This heaven astounds
With its heart-stopping Sounds...
All the kids wanna Rocky, eh, B?

Before he was a somebody, Bryan Adams spent his summers waking up the neighbours in North Vancouver. (Can’t stop this thing we started—please forgive me.)

I ponder the saints and infinity,
The angels, the devils, the Trinity:
You see, my degree
Is a holy BD.
Heaven knows, we could use more Divinity.

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