Definitely Limericks by Rory Ewins


A beachcomber finds on the shore
Old fishing nets, driftwood and more:
The delicate skull
Of a sand-covered gull,
And cuttlefish bones by the score.

His ears look too thin, and this hound
Can rotate them and fly off the ground?
How is that even legal?
This whirlydog beagle
This “Snoopy”—belongs in a pound.

When Snoopy first appeared in Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts in 1950 he looked like a proper beagle puppy, with large oval ears. By the 1960s his ears had become long and thin, while in the 1970s they became more rounded. As they became more stylised, Snoopy began to use them in unusual ways, especially when in one memorable 1960 sequence he became a “whirlydog”. Schulz revisited Snoopy-as-helicopter throughout the 1960s and 1970s. None of it particularly resembled the actual small hound originally bred for hunting hares, although a hunt with massed beagles helicoptering in for the kill does have a certain Apocalypse Now appeal.

I admit it: I’ve borne a slight grudge
Over how my accountant would fudge
My investment returns,
Which is why he now earns,
From this window, the tiniest nudge.

A furry young bear cub took fright
Coming home with his family one night:
“My porridge was eaten!
They’ve broken my seat, ’n
They’re still in my bed that’s just right!”

When I asked, as my cranium bled,
“Mister, why are you hitting my head?”
He said, “Ain’t got the heart
For the testicle part,
So I’m beating yer brains out instead.”

This demo I found on my desk
Is superlative pop, Beatlesque
In its harmonies and
Its guitars—what a band!
It’s a shame the lead singer’s grotesque.

“Tonight! Princess Kate and friend meet up,
And both are seen putting their feet up
At home! What’s this mean
For Australia’s next Queen?”
Bloody hell, ACA, what a beat-up.

In Australia, a beat-up is something blown out of all proportion, usually in news reports and the like. It’s the manufactured outrage beloved of the tabloid press and commercial current affairs shows like the Nine Network’s A Current Affair (or ACA).

When bedding a bedouin, try
To keep up with his wandering eye,
For this Arab’s nomadic,
And sex is sporadic
With any perambulant guy.

“It’s bedtime, Pop—tell me a story!”
“Here’s the Lesson of Joe Pescatore:
He ignored his don’s wishes,
And sleeps wit’ the fishes.
So memento, young Michael, your mori.”

O, shall I compose thee a sonnet?
I worship thy hair, and what’s on it...
(’Tis not what I said;
There’s no bug on thy head,
So no need for the bee in thy bonnet.)

A Londoner said something funny
When a beekeeper offered him money
To purchase his beehives:
“They’re stayin’ with me. Hives
Like these? Worth too much bees and honey.”

Cockney rhyming slang.

The beetroot’s delicious and red,
Like a burgundy turnip that’s bled
On your fingers and palms.
It delivers its charms
In a chutney, or pickled instead.

It grows happily under your feet?
When it’s roasted, it’s pleasant to eat?
Yes and yes? Yet you said
That the tuber ain’t red?
But then how can this veggie be beet?

The answer: it’s a yellow-fleshed Burpee’s Golden, which has shot to the top of my list of Favourite Vegetable Variety Names.

Logicians who see that you’re leaning
To “raising” will start intervening:
Such begging the question
Will give indigestion
To any who know its true meaning.

An argument that begs the question assumes that its central point is already proven, and uses this in support of itself. “You’d have to be crazy to believe that. Look at Joe: he’s crazy, and he believes it.” To the annoyance of philosophers, however, the term is now widely used to mean “raises (or prompts) the question”.

This giraffe I made isn’t a winner—
Its neck should be longer and thinner,
And all those pink dots
Were a poor choice for spots—
But at sculpture I’m still a beginner.

“Pardon me?” Grandpa asks me, “Beg yours?”—
But before I can answer, he floors
Me with: “As I was sayin’,
I started out playin’
In guest spots. Once jammed with The Doors.”

“Yeah, it was for a TV show back in 1980—no, hang on, 1970. I was the sound guy. Anyway, we were filmin’ out in L.A., and The Doors let us into the sessions for L.A. Woman. They’d been warmin’ up for a bit, playin’ ‘Crawlin’ King Snake’, and then Ray Manzarek—that’s the guy on keyboards—Ray had to duck out for a leak, so I stepped in for a minute until he came back. Don’t think I made it into the footage, though, so you couldn’t see me in the final clip. Turned out it was Jim Morrison’s last performance—last one on film, anyway—before he carked it. Funny fella, really intense. Anyway, here’s me bangin’ on about the olden days, and I haven’t asked you how your job at the supermarket’s goin’...”

“You bewdy! A goal! That’s worth six!”
“Nah, it’s just a behind, mate; his kick’s
Sent it past the tall post
Through the outer ones. Most
Referees would call one point. The pricks.”

An Aussie rules ref wouldn’t be likely to mistake a goal kick for a behind, but you never know with those bastards.

The truth of it started to seize us:
We knew that the blizzard would freeze us.
Captain Scott scrawled his notes.
It was too much for Oates—
Out of him, the thought scared the bejesus.

In Belgium, the Eurocrats play
In a palace of chocolate all day,
Then swan around Brussels
To gobble the mussels
And waffle the evening away.

“Captain Haddock! It’s Snowy! He’s dead!
Rastapopolous shot off his head!”
“Why, that Visigoth! Vandal!
Iconoclast! Scandal!
Never mind. Here’s a sheepdog instead.”

A Belgian sheepdog, naturally.

In 1914, many died
In this faraway land. Tassie’s tried
To remember their fate
Via sausage: tastes great,
A few slices of Belgium, pan-fried.

The large, mild, pre-cooked sausage known elsewhere as bologna, baloney, mortadella or luncheon meat in Tasmania is called belgium (with or without a capital b), having been patriotically renamed from German sausage during the Great War. In New South Wales the same sausage is called devon, in Victoria it’s stras(s) or Strasburg, in Queensland it’s Windsor sausage, in South Australia it’s fritz, and in Western Australia it’s polony. New Zealanders call it Belgium sausage, which would strike Tasmanians as tautological (because Belgium already means a kinda sausage, don’t it).

Leaders of great bellicosity
Respond with a hellish ferocity
To any attacks:
For example, Iraq’s
Gone to hell with ferocious velocity.

The hilarious verse of Hilaire
Is replete with dénouements that scare:
Lessons painfully learned,
Such as “liars get burned”.
Moral: children, be good, or beware.

Hilaire Belloc is best-remembered for his Cautionary Verses and other poems for children.

That Bellona! The woman’s a bore,
Droning endlessly on about war.
Roman goddess, eh? Bless.
I had thought, I confess,
Having Mars was enough. Who needs more?

Bellona, whose name was originally Duellona (both names related etymologically to English words like duel and belligerent) was a belligerent deity who liked duelling. She was best buds with Discordia, goddess of strife, and hung out with the Furies, together bringing fury and discord to Ancient Rome.

Other Roman gods of war, apart from Mars (who was always good for bringin’ it), included Minerva, Nerio, Quirinus and Vacuna, none of whose names lend themselves to apposite puns.

No longer a chance that we’ll sup
Fine champagne from a gold-plated cup;
No more Wagyu to eat.
Now we’re out on the street,
’Cos our business has gone belly-up.

Me sauce wasn’t bad, but I felt
That it needed a really good belt
Of red wine...and, of course,
So’s the chef (on the sauce)...
An’ again... (wassat burnin’ I smelt?)

In Australian slang, adding a good belt of an ingredient means you’re adding a fair bit of it—a fistful or a healthy glug. If I only gave my pasta sauce a belt of red wine I wouldn’t be adding as much.

Beltane is pagan desire
Made flesh: as the flames travel higher,
The May Queen parades
From the tall colonnades
With her drummers and maids by the fire.

The ancient Celtic spring festival of Beltane (bel-tane) has been revived in modern times in Edinburgh. On the night before May Day, dozens of performers gather under the imitation Parthenon on Calton Hill and are followed from bonfire to bonfire by scores of tourists, locals, and Christian protesters.

With chromium shortages banning
The use of that metal in tanning,
The French, in the War,
Were compelled to use more
Benzoquinone than they had been planning.

Quinone was used instead of chromium by French tanners during the Second World War. The compound reacts with collagen, giving leathers with a shrinkage temperature of up to 90°C.

Winona the millipede knew
The quinone she’d secreted on you
Would dissuade you from eating her:
Nothing was beating her
Millipede kill-impede brew.

Quinone (stressed on the second syllable in America) plays a role in hardening shells and cuticles in arthropods, and is also useful for fending off predators.

It’s because of Sir Tim Berners-Lee
That we’re all of us gathered here. See,
He invented the Web,
So that any old pleb
Could post any old gibberish. Whee!

As of now, I can safely attest
That to live on this planet is blessed.
Since our species began,
It’s been perfect for Man:
Of the options, it’s clearly the best.

From now onwards, though, things may get a bit shaky.

What help art thou needing to bed me?
Which surface assists for to spread ye?
Will haystacks suffice?
Would this carpette be nice?
Doth mine bed on its bedstead bestead thee?

You’re the person on whom I depend;
You’re the one I would back to the end;
You’re the port in my storm;
You’re encouraging, warm
And unparalleled: you’re my best friend.

When you’re facing a tough day ahead,
And you’re chasing a base for your spread,
Forget muffins: what most
People stuff in is toast—
Some would say, the best thing since sliced bread.

If the falling of bombs upon Slough
Seems attractive, and running a plough
Through the rubble that’s left
Wouldn’t leave you bereft,
Come, you’re ready for Betjeman now.

John Betjeman was a spirited defender of traditional England against the encroaches of modernity, nowhere more than in his 1937 poem about a certain business centre west of London.

The prequel show, Better Call Saul,
Followed Jimmy McGill’s rise and fall
As a lawyer-turned-criminal.
Six seasons of liminal
Shenanigans kept fans in thrall.

The prequel to Breaking Bad was, like its predecessor, one of the greatest TV series ever, showing how conniving lawyer Saul Goodman (played by Bob Odenkirk) started out as kind-hearted but flawed Jimmy McGill, before (aided and abetted by his partner in law, love and shenanigans Kim Wexler, played by Rhea Seehorn) gradually slipping towards the underworld and life as Saul Goodman—and beyond.

“How’s the carpet they laid in your flat
When the old one got chewed by a rat?”
“Well, y’know if some guy
Pokes a stick in your eye—
Say a burnt one? It’s better’n that.”

“You bee-yoo-tay!” I heard some old coot
Cry with glee at the cricket; “You beaut,”
I could also include; ’e
Yelled further, “You bewdy!”
He thought things went well, no dispute.

You won’t find beeyootay in dictionaries (yet); it’s an exaggerated pronunciation of beauty in Aussie shouts of joy or triumph. Bewdy, you will find—it’s a bit more all-purpose—along with beaut. (Cricket here is the ball game enjoyed by 1½ billion people worldwide—this bloke isn’t admiring Jiminy.)

“FYI, O’Neill,
IMHO, I feel
You’re a guy with no class,
And a PITA.”
“OIC, sir. Well, BFD.”

Brigadier General (BG)
Is a rank in the mil-i-tair-ee.
He’s the one that a colonel
Addresses as sir, ’n ’ll
Bellow if you disagree.

It’s been Bharat in English for years,
But now India’s ruler’s sparked fears
It’ll only be that.
Cue confusion—“Buh-rat?”—
From outsiders, to nationalist jeers.

Article 1 of the English version of India’s 1949 constitution states that “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States”, so the modern country has also always been Bharat (BHAH-rut). The name goes back to ancient times, before the newfangled Greeks came along and named the country after the Indus River, and long before the Mughals in the sixteenth century popularized the name Hindustan. In September 2023, the government of nationalist prime minister Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party began promoting the name Bharat in international settings, fueling rumours that the official abandonment of the name India was imminent.

Bhopal is in Madhya Pradesh;
It’s a city where memories are fresh
Of the havoc once wreaked
When some holding tanks leaked
And the culprits all prayed to Ganesh.

BHP: an Australian giant
On the stock exchange. Scores are reliant
On its mining for ore
In the desert; far more
Than just Aussies—Japan’s a big client.

The Broken Hill Proprietary Company (incorporated 1885) was named for the New South Wales town of Broken Hill. Over the twentieth century it became a mining giant, supplying much of the steel for Japan’s car industry. In 2001 it merged with Billiton to form BHP Billiton, “the world’s largest diversified resources company”.

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