Definitely Limericks by Rory Ewins


He’d be mayor, would he, eh? I think not!
Does this Goose have the votes? Does he, what!
This cabbage-eating son
Of a cucumber! None
Should give journeyman tailors that spot.

This derogatory term for someone from a class or region stereotypically associated with eating cabbages dates back centuries. In Act II of Samuel Foote’s 1764 play The Mayor of Garratt, one character responds to a public reading of a letter from the candidate Timothy Goose—“a journeyman tailor, from Putney”—with: “A journeyman tailor! A rascal, has he the impudence to transpire to be mayor? D’ye consider, neighbours, the weight of this office? Why, it is a burthen for the back of a porter; and can you think that this cross-legged cabbage-eating son of a cucumber, this whey-faced ninny, who is but the ninth part of a man, has strength to support it?”

My cabbage-like sister loves soup,
Eating bowl after bowl of dull goop.
Its cabbage-like smell
Leaves me feeling unwell.
Now she’s serving up me a bowl. Poop.

Does this beetle find cabbages sweet?
Does it nibble on fleas, from their feet
To their noses? Pray tell,
As to know would be swell:
What do cabbage-stem flea beetles eat?

The answer is (a), cabbages. Strictly speaking, cabbage-stem flea beetles are only one of several species of flea beetle called cabbage flea beetles (formerly cabbage fleas), but it’s the main species so called today: that is, Psylliodes chrysocephala (or chrysocephalus), a widespread pest in the UK and northern Europe.

“Hey, Cadbury! Cadbury Kid!”
Someone shouted. “Who, me?” wondered Sid.
“Yeah, mate, you. You might laugh,
But a glass and a half,
And then right off your barstool you slid.”

In Australia, if it doesn’t take much to get somebody drunk they might get called Cadbury, Cadbury’s, or Cadbury Kid, after a long-running series of commercials claiming that every block of Cadbury chocolate contains “a glass and a half of full-cream dairy milk”. (An Australian beer glass typically holds 375 ml, so a glass and a half of beer is only a single Imperial pint.) The British multinational Cadbury (formerly Cadbury’s and Cadbury Schweppes) has long had a presence in Australia: its first overseas factory was built in Hobart in 1918 and is today the largest chocolate factory in the Southern Hemisphere.

Says the leather-faced lady, “Hey, you—
Can you lend me a spare Winnie Blue?”
Yeah, there’s nothing that Madge
Likes to do more ’n cadge
From a stranger a ciggie or two.

“The Romans’ old god of the sky
Was named Caelus, I see. Tell me, why
Call his planet Uranus?”
“The answer’s as plain as
Can be: so these ass puns will fly.”

Or, if you prefer the (supposedly) primary pronunciation of YOOR-uh-nuss:

“The Romans’ old god of the sky
Was named Caelus, I see. Tell me, why
Call this new planet Uranus?”
“A way of ensurin’ us
Piss-lovin’ punsters get by.”

The tale of how Uranus ended up with the wrong name (for certain values of “wrong”) is a roundabout one. William Herschel, who got the credit for identifying the planet, named it Georgium Sidus after his patron George III. Nobody outside Britain liked that much, and an alternative proposed by German astronomer Johann Elert Bode—the Latinized form of Ouranos, the Greek god of the sky—won out. But it seems nobody had told Bode that the Roman equivalent of Ouranos was actually Caelus (SEE-lus).

Said Caelus, “I’d rather see less
Of this planet: its name is a mess.
Who concocted Uranus?
I’m wounded they’d deign us
An ass. Who’s that meant to impress?”

Caernarfonshire: county in Wales
That became part of Gwynedd, which fails
To explain all the facts
About each of these tracts,
But I’ll let some old bard tell their tales.

If your mater loves lettuce, don’t tease ’er,
’Cos this romaine salad will please ’er
Brute cravings with ease.
Ave Parmesan cheese,
Coddled egg, and some croutons: hail Caesar!

Despite its name, the Caesar salad is only somewhat Latin: it was invented in the 1920s by Caesar Cardini, an Italian restaurateur and chef in Tijuana, Mexico. There are many variations on the original recipe, whose other main ingredients were olive oil, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce.

Fresh coffee, self-served with a smile,
Fine burgers and fries in a pile,
Pert checkout girls, cooks
Giving welcoming looks:
In my dreams, cafeteria-style.

The Highlands are heavy with stones
Piled neatly in mounds, where unknowns
Sometimes lie, sometimes not;
Sometimes wholly forgot.
Aye, this cairned land is riddled with bones.

Cairns, near the Barrier Reef,
Isn’t big, so I’ll try to be brief:
A tropical city;
The Daintree is pretty;
The salties could bring you to grief.

Gateway to the Cape York Peninsula, Cairns offers unparalleled opportunities for skin-diving, visiting the World Heritage Listed Daintree Rainforest, and being eaten by a saltwater crocodile.

The tough, callused skin on my feet
Is because I walk round in the street
Without sandals or socks.
It can handle most rocks,
And in summer it copes with the heat.

A camelopard’s covered in spots:
His neck, for example, has lots.
This fellow’s been slotted
With pards (i.e., dotted),
But leopards will tie him in knots.

In case you haven’t guessed, he’s a giraffe.

My friend the photographer scoffed,
“Use a camera phone? Don’t be so soft!
They’re a fad, nothing big”—
Till at Blondie’s last gig
He saw tons of them waving aloft.

“Call me Dave”? Cameron wasn’t some bloke,
But our terrible leader, no joke.
Not just one time, but twice,
The man rolled Britain’s dice.
Now he’s sold us a pig in a poke.

Self-described “compassionate conservative” David Cameron became leader of the British Conservative Party in 2005 and prime minister in 2010, overseeing years of government austerity and worsening inequality. After narrowly avoiding the break-up of the United Kingdom in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, he held a further referendum in 2016 on Britain’s membership of the European Union, in the hope of silencing the Euroskeptic minority within his party. He resigned on the day that referendum result was announced.

A chameleon whose skin was inert
Tried to blend with a branch till it hurt.
As his brow sweated beads,
He announced, “What I need’s
Camouflageable hide—or a shirt.”

On a road trip, our Dad knew that when
We would reach for the tape deck and then
Put in ours, he should scramble
For gentle Glen Campbell:
The right tone’s a cowboy, for men.

Singer of “Gentle on My Mind”, “Wichita Linesman”, “Rhinestone Cowboy”, and Many More!

As a camper, I slept in a tent,
But a campervan made me repent:
Its small built-in kitchen
And beds left me itchin’
To travel the badlands of Kent.

He’s an actor of such extreme campiness!
All those double entendres—what scampiness!
I could slap his wee paws!
But I shouldn’t, because
It’s a guaranteed path to foot-stampiness.

The canny Canadian lynx
Looks askance at the bobcat and thinks,
“We could probably mate,
But I’m too overweight,
So he’ll think I’m a slob, not a minx.”

Though half the size of its European cousins, the Canada lynx is still larger than its relative the bobcat.

Is it “Canberr-a”? “Canb’ra”? “Can-berra”?
In terms of pronouncing it, there are
Three ways. You can tell
When you’re wrong: locals yell,
“First one’s fine, second’s best, third’s an error.”

Australians use the first or second pronunciation of the name of their capital, especially the second if they’re Canberrans. No Aussie uses the third.

In the plural, these flicker their light
In the darkest recesses of night;
And when singular, too,
You will find that a new
Candelabrum can make a room bright.

The original singular/plural of candelabrum/candelabra has forked in multiple directions, much like the arms of the candelabra itself.

Americans know it as candy,
And kids understand that it’s dandy.
We British say sweets
For these sugary treats,
Which describes how they taste, which is handy.

Aussie tourists say, “Don’t be a wally:
A candy or sweet is a lolly,”
But here that’s a lollipop.
(“Really? Good golly, pop,
Why’s this a land of such folly?”)

The candytuft, white, pink, or purple,
A blossom to make a bird chirp, ’ll
Make people peep too,
From Gibraltar right through
To the gardens of Constantinurple.

Most candytuft flowers come from Spain, but other species come from as far away as Turkey.

Cane sugar is made from the juice
Of the sugar cane, which can produce
Its sweet share of the stuff.
(Photosynthesis buff?
You can surely put this to good use.)

Sugar cane is one of the most efficient of photosynthesizers.

The cannula stuck in my arm
Will ensure that the nurse cannae harm
Me by missing my vein
With her needles again
(“Och, they say that the eighth time’s the charm!”).

When a tourist in Whitechapel views
Some new trainers, the labels confuse
Him—“These Reeboks are boats?”—
Till the shopkeeper notes,
“Around ’ere, pairs o’ shoes are canoes.”

Whitechapel is in the East End of London, where rhyming slang abounds. In the UK, sneakers or tennis shoes are called trainers.

Yellow blooms, with your delicate shape,
Yielding oil from your seed, like the grape:
Why the name of canola?
Is it just to console a
Consumer who’s frightened of rape?

Made of cotton or hemp? No, it’s not,
But this plastic replacement is hot!
The walls of your tent
Won’t be easily rent
When a canvaslike fabric it’s got.

When a canvasser knocks on your door,
Don’t inform him his party’s a bore,
That his leader lacks pluck
And his policies suck:
Simply bury him under the floor.

I would have said “ignore”, but that would be rude.

“It’s a venue of ample capaciousness,”
Said the vicar, impressed with its spaciousness.
But his flock, though devout,
Were vexatiously stout,
Which no doubt’s what brought out his “good gracious!”-ness.

Some painters of landscapes enlisted
Imaginary places: they twisted
The things they had seen
Into what hadn’t been.
Their capriccios had never existed.

Marvel’s Captain America—Cap—
Is in comics and films (not all crap!).
A flag-waving shield’s
What this brave hero wields
Against Nazi Red Skulls: Whudd! Zok! Thwap!

Captain America, created in 1940 by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, is one of Marvel Comics’ best-known superheroes, and has been a stalwart of the Marvel Cinematic Universe since 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger, with many other film and television appearances from the 1940s onwards. His arch-enemy is the Red Skull, a Nazi even more Nazi than Hitler. In one of his comics appearances, Cap battled a world turned entirely into Red Skulls after a mass infection—in a series published a month before the Covid-19 pandemic.

When the kids in the playground regale ya
With tales of Cook’s chook-catching failure
And of losing his pants
In the middle of France,
There’s a chance that their chant’s in Australia.

Captain Cook Chased a Chook is an Australian children’s rhyme with many variations. One has Cook chasing the chicken in question “round and round the history book”, but most set the scene in Australia:

Captain Cook
Chased a chook
All around Australia.
Lost his pants
In the middle of France,
And found them in [rhyme failure].

(The last word is often Tasmania.) Other variants tell of the renowned English explorer losing his hat in Ballarat, of “never coming back to find them” (either hat or pants), and the frankly terrifying tale of how he “rode a chook down the Murray River, hit a rock, split his cock and left his balls to shiver”. Historians have failed to corroborate any of these accounts.

“Take a Captain’s at this!” Holds a book
Right in front o’ me face, silly chook.
“What’s all this? How to Chase
Fowl All Over the Place?”
“Yeah, y’know—like that English bloke. Cook.”

Having been settled involuntarily by half of the London underworld, Australia incorporated a lot of Cockney rhyming slang into its vernacular, such as butcher’s (hook) for “look”. This local equivalent is short for Captain Cook, after the Englishman who explored Australia’s east coast in pursuit of an elusive chicken.

In this faraway land claimed by Spain,
I’m the governor, that much is plain,
But a captaincy-general
Sounds fancier. When are all
The colonists coming again?

A captaincy in Spain and Portugal was a district under the rule of a captain, such as in a colony, and a captaincy-general, captain-generalcy or captain-generalship was a colony or province with a captain-general as its governor (the first two could also refer to the office of captain-general itself). Captaincies-general were divisions of viceroyalties in their empires, so would effectively be colonies within colonies: for example, Guatemala was a captaincy-general within the Viceroyalty of New Spain.

Captain Marvel? Which one do you mean?
The “Shazam!” kid, or one that you’ve seen
In the Marvel films, based
On their comics? I’ve traced
The name’s trademark—it’s far from routine.

The character Captain Marvel, also known as the Captain or Shazam (after the magic word said by Billy Batson to turn himself into the superhero), first appeared in a Fawcett Comics title in 1940. DC Comics brought suit, alleging that the character was too close to Superman (but what’s his magic word, eh?), and Fawcett stopped publishing the character in the 1950s. Fawcett later sold the rights to DC, who incorporated Shazam into the DC Universe; he appeared in a 2019 movie and a 2023 sequel.

Meanwhile, Marvel Comics secured its own trademark by publishing a comics series of that name in 1967. The first Marvel Captain Marvel was Mar-Vell; several Captain Marvels (Captains Marvel?) later, it’s Carol Danvers, who began as his sidekick in the comics in 1968, became Ms. Marvel in 1977, and took over the main suit in 2012. The Danvers Captain Marvel has appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since 2019.

Capybaras will capture your heart:
They’re a capital rodent, and smart.
In captivity, they
Like to caper and play
With your carp—hard to keep ’em apart.

The largest of all living rodents loves nothing better than to jump into a pond or other body of water, especially when there are jaguars around. Sounds pretty smart to me.

Global warming, you say? Goodness gracious!
That really is rather vexatious.
From smoke when we burn
Off the trees? Live and learn...
Who knew forests were so carbonaceous?

Your fervent belief in the Rapture
Has, sadly for everyone, sapped your
Desire to care
About what’s in the air:
All the carbon we now need to capture.

To judge by our carbon emissions,
It seems that our only ambition’s
To burn all the oil
And coal in the soil
And weather the climate conditions.

Carbon fibre is lightweight and strong,
Made from graphite, by drawing out long
And thin filaments, heated
And otherwise treated,
Then woven. It’s tough as King Kong.

Gorilla fur is no substitute.

When he fell on his sword, id est died,
Cleopatra, his lover, then cried,
Hic jacet a Marcus
Antonius carcase,”
Soon prostrate, per asp, at his side.

Hic jacet is “here lies” in Latin; id est is “that is”, i.e. i.e.

A car dealer buys and sells cars.
If you’re cursing the Hummer that mars
The secluded outdoors
And your trip to the stores,
They’re the people to put behind bars.

The cardigan: elderly coat
Made of wool from a sheep or a goat.
Dressing lamb up as mutton’s
Not hard—just sew buttons
On jumpers. (Designers, take note.)

Cariamas from southern Brazil
Carry llamas from mountains to kill—
Or they would if they could.
Their legs aren’t that good,
So a lizard’s their typical thrill.

The cariama looks like a small secretary bird, with long legs and small wings. It’s a relative of the extinct phorusrhacoids or “terror birds”, ten-foot-tall carnivores that stalked the plains of Cenozoic South America kicking llamas downhill, or whatever it is that terrifying birds do.

Me cousin from Currajong said,
“You know me ol’ man, Uncle Fred?
Well, I’m sad to report
He’s your ex-uncle, sport,
’Cos he’s carked it. He’s cactus. He’s dead.”

Carmenta, a prophetess, gave
Birth to 23 letters, to rave
Reviews: Romans admired
Innovation. Inspired
By this goddess, my legs I’ll now shave.

Nicostrate or Nicostrata, as the Ancient Greeks knew her, was a prophet who fled to Latium in pre-Roman Italy. The Romans came to worship her as Carmenta, goddess of childbirth and prophecy, patron of midwives, and protector of mothers and children. Carmenta was also associated with technological innovation, and according to legend she invented the Latin alphabet (three letters of which, J, U and W, are post-Roman). Wearing leather or other forms of dead skin was forbidden in her temple, so I imagine a full wax would have gone over well.

“Carn Hawthorn! Carn Hodge! Carn the Hawks!”
Is the way that a barracker talks;
When the footy-mad fool’s
Got a craving for Rules,
“Carn the ref!” is the last thing he squawks.

A carnage admirer will thrill
At the number of men he can kill—
And of women, and girls,
And of boys that he hurls
Through a... ’scuse me, I’m feeling quite ill.

A cow nibbles nettles herbivorously.
A bear gobbles cattle carnivorously.
A babe in a cot’ll
Drink milk from a bottle.
A man eats the lottle—omnivorously.

A carry-oot’s barry if you
Want some batter to go wi’ your Bru.
Chip supper or fish,
Any other is pish.
Think I’ll carry some haddie oot noo.

In Scotland, a takeaway is a carry-out. Irn Bru is an orange carbonated beverage that doesn’t taste of orange. Barry means splendid or good, while pish doesn’t.

Find your fortune and fame by cartooning!
Draw a handful of pictures impugning
Some government hack,
And your witty attack
Will make women start actually swooning.

Fame, fortune, and attractiveness not guaranteed.

From the loftiest lodgings of Lhasa
To humble abodes in Mombasa
And streets in Seville,
Every family will
Need a residence, dwelling, or casa.

This system of teaching the law
Uses cases decided before,
So that lawyers-in-training
From prior explaining
Learn how to make justices snore.

The case system.

I’m nuts for a cashew, aren’t you?
It’s a nut that I’d never eschew.
When they’re roasted and salted,
I’ll soon have them bolted,
And cache a few more when I’m through.

Cash register: dingus for dough,
With a drawer where the coins and notes go,
And a whatsit to count
Up the total amount
That your thingummy... customers owe.

“Chateau Cardboard?” he whiningly asks,
As he indicates one or two casks.
“Cab Sav? Or the white?
Try the red, it’s orright.
What the booze lacks, the plastic taste masks.”

Should you fondle in hope of elation,
Be warned that it brings castigation,
Like whacking with birches,
From parents and churches,
Plus chastening sight deprivation.

From The Stout Boy’s Book of Upright Verse by Edward Leer, 1858.

There was an old man named Fidel
Who increasingly didn’t look well.
Surely Cuban cigars
And those rocket-finned cars
Should be all that you need to feel swell?

When sated, our cat would sprawl flat
In the sun by the wall, and with that
Would announce to us all
That if vermin should call
She would rather not maul ’em, so scat.

My physicist roommate denied
That his pet was a problem: he cried,
“Is his poop really there?”
I replied, “I don’t care—
Just put Schrödinger’s cat box outside!”

My pussycat, Cheshire, as feared,
Didn’t take to his cat box. It’s weird:
Whenever he went
To the bathroom, the scent
Hung around, but the scats disappeared.

Cow milk, we know, comes from cows,
And goat milk from goats, so arous-
ing suspicion with that milk
Is obvious: “Cat milk
Does not come from cats,” one shop vows.

Just imagine what drove a British supermarket to place this sign next to its bottles of milk formulated for pet cats...

A CAT scanner slices and dices
Your innards—these magic devices
Use X-rays to see
Your insides in 3-D—
While a cat scanner’s useful for mices.

My homage to Catalan, bona
fide language of fair Barcelona:
Some speak it in Spain
And in France. (See, this plain
Way of writing’s my Orwell persona.)

Dear Catherine went out for a chat
On the balcony up in her flat,
But was feeling unwell,
Missed the railing, and fell,
Catastrophically ending with splat.

Six consonants all in succession?
Surely not in an English expression!
I tell you, it’s true,
And you know one, you do—
It’s a catchphrase I’d use with discretion.

The ones you won’t know as well are archchronicler, eschscholtzia, latchstring, lengthsman, and postphthisic.

How to handle those cathode-ray tubes:
Put their phosphorus screens into cubes
Of plastic or wood,
Then, aiming real good,
Shoot electrons at vacuous boobs.

A cattleman isn’t a cow/
human half-breed, with horns on his brow;
He’s a person who tends ’em,
And now and then sends ’em
For slaughter, to turn into chow.

The beautiful village of Caux
Is a place where the peacemakers gaux.
Around it is Switzerland:
Mountainous bits o’ land
Covered in powdery snaux.

This tiny Swiss village, reached by a winding road or a steeply climbing cog railway, has been the scene of many conferences for peace and reconciliation since the Second World War. Its magnificent Belle Époque hotel, once the largest in the country, was rescued from decline by the international organisation Moral Rearmament (now Initiatives of Change). Once host to Rockefellers, Maharajahs and F. Scott Fitzgerald, it now welcomes thousands of delegates each year.

The venue, uphill from Montreux,
With the fair Lac Léman far beleux,
Is a former hotel,
The Caux-Palace: a swell
Place for ethical values to greux.

In caves across latter-day France,
The aurochs and mammoth still dance
Across ochre-drawn walls;
In these ancestors’ halls,
Artists hunted the heart of our chance.

You’ll find cannibal doctors in there,
And a suit made of skin, if you dare.
I’d rather not hector,
But caveat lector:
Tom Harris’s readers, beware!

South Americans feast on the guinea-pig
(A small but obese rodent—mini/big):
They reckon the cavy
Goes lovely with gravy.
You think it sounds fattening? Skinny prig!

The monarch, by royal decree,
Fills her minions with maximal glee
With this birthday backhander
Of Empire’s Commander
(That’s British), i.e. C.B.E.

Russian rockets said “CCCP”,
Which was slightly confusing to me.
If the C was both two
Of those S’s and U,
Then should “Kruschev” have two C’s or three?

What’s to fear from a camera or three
And appearing on CCTV?
Having every move tracked
Is a comfort, in fact.
Why, the state’s like a brother to me.

Now it’s time to create mp3s,
I discover that all my CDs,
Although disks, aren’t compact
When they’re vertically stacked
In their hundreds. Please, nobody sneeze.

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