Definitely Limericks by Rory Ewins


My normal emotion’s chagrin
When exposing my pasty white skin
On a beach in the Med.
But on Bondi, instead,
I’m embarrassed because I’m so thin.

IKEA’s opponents prepared
For its annual meeting. Unscared,
They assembled their case;
Knocked up tables apace.
Sad for them, it was all-too-well chaired.

From London, ’e’s travelled some miles:
Now ’is Khyber’s in Chalfont St Giles,
Where Chalfonts, or farmers,
Are causin’ ’im ’arm, as
The countryside’s known for its piles.

Chalfont St Giles, a village twenty miles west-northwest of London, has lent its name in Cockney rhyming slang to haemorrhoids, or piles—not the sort of piles that you’ll find in the Buckinghamshire countryside (“country piles” are country houses or stately homes, so-called after an old term for castles). Piles are also known in rhyming slang as farmers, short for Farmer Giles. Neither the countryair nor conversing with rural folk is known to inflame painful afflications of the Khyber (Pass, arse).

A chalkie’s a school teacher—park
That thought there—or a bookmaker’s clerk.
He’ll help lay a bet—
Or explain, better yet,
Why a flutter, kids, isn’t a lark.

A chalkie in Australia is either a school teacher or a bookmaker’s clerk; it’s possible, I suppose, that he or she could be a teacher moonlighting as a bookie’s clerk, or vice versa. Although Australians traditionally have rhymed clerk with park, younger generations seem to be shifting under American influence to rhyming it with work; I blame the director Kevin Smith.

Is a culture so terribly strange
Whose traditions are subject to change?
Some begin, others end.
Evolution’s our friend,
As it helps to extend custom’s range.

My book in limerick form.

A fine astronomical prize,
Chamaeleon hides in the skies
Of the southernmost nations.
(Note: no constellations
Are known to hide out and eat flies.)

The flap of a butterfly’s wing
Causes chaos: that one little thing
Set the weather adrift,
Gave the markets a lift,
And made fractal bloke Mandelbrot king.

Okay, so chaos theory didn’t actually cause climate change, the stock-market boom, or all those early-’90s T-shirts with funny patterns on them (actually, maybe it did cause those), but it’s a powerful tool for explaining any nonlinear dynamic system. Just watch out for those effective Lepidoptera.

The chapati, a flat wholemeal bread,
Is a food on which Hindus are fed.
Don’t spread it with jam
Or with Vegemite, ma’am:
It’s intended for curries instead.

My chapbook is tiny and wee;
A bookish chap sold it to me.
My thighs I doth slap
At its verses and crap—
Like this limerick, good chap. Tee-hee-hee!

He was Arthur, and Brian, and still he
Was Graham, a Python, and really
Quite gay; in his journal,
Wrote “Ni!” as he [COLONEL
INTERRUPTS: This is getting too silly.]

Graham Chapman (1941–1989) was one of the six members of Monty Python, the legendary British comedy group. He played the lead in their films Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) and Life of Brian (1979), and many other memorable roles in their television series and other films. As a writer, he worked most closely with John Cleese, and he also mentored and wrote with a young Douglas Adams.

Johnny Appleseed’s legend had grown
Like the trees from the seeds he had sown
Near the southern Great Lakes,
But his fans made mistakes—
Johnny Kudzuseed’s less fondly known.

John Chapman introduced the apple to large parts of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. Kudzu has reached Illinois from the South and should smother his legacy any day now.

To assassinate someone is crude,
But their character? That’s simply rude.
A murder is one thing,
But slurs aren’t the done thing:
They learn that you spread ’em, you’re screwed.

A characteristic attraction
Of limericks is bawdy distraction
From wordy pursuits.
So what are the fruits
Of a wordy one? Boredom? Inaction?

Looks like Charlotte got loaded on chardy—
She just made a move on that yardie.
Yeah, beggin’ yer pardon, eh—
Char drinkin’ chardonnay,
Always the life of the party.

As well as the popular white wine, Char clearly has a thing for blokes employed as car yard gophers, or in Australian slang yardies.

“So that’s thirty-eight balls of red wool
And twenty of black. The bag’s full.”
“Thanks so much!” He looked pensive;
“It was bloody expensive.”
“Like, what did they charge?” “Wounded bull.”

In Australia, to charge like a wounded bull is to set excessively high prices.

Cockney rhyming slang, surely, perforce,
Has to rhyme. Take this term for a horse:
I’m quite at a loss
As to how Charing Cross
Gets pronounced near Bow bells “Charrin Crorse”.

That’s easy, me ol’ mucker. It rhymes for people born and raised near the church bells of St Mary-le-Bow in the East End of London. Charing Cross itself is in Westminster, a couple of miles up the Thames.

“Hey, pardon me, boy, but what’s down
This here line?” “Why, a place of renown!
It’s the Tennessee hub
Of our train network, bub:
Chattanooga, the choo-choo-based town.”

For many years, most trains bound for Dixie passed through the Southern city of Chattanooga. Nowadays it’s known for more than the Glenn Miller tune... if you live down that way. If not, it’s known only for the Glenn Miller tune. Sorry, Chattanooga.

“BUG ALERT.” The old hacker has scoffed: “Where
Is that, then?” It holds it aloft, where
In moments it’s nixed.
Now this coder’s transfixed:
Checking programs help fix other software!

A piece of software can’t literally hold a bug aloft, but then a software bug isn’t literally a bug, either (even if one early computer bug was famously caused by a literal moth). This weary cynic has seen it all, but for some reason hasn’t seen a checking program before—which is odd, because they’re a pretty common tool for checking source code for syntax errors.

The slivers of cheese that he fed ’er
Were far from the tastiest Cheddar,
But her love of the bland
Made her promise her hand.
Now he’s feeding her Edam to bed ’er.

The happy grey Cheezburger cat
Is a shorthair, short-legged and fat,
With a cheesy cat grin
(I can has epic win?),
Using lolspeak for “Where’s my prize at?”

The modern internet meme, with a caption in all-caps written in lolspeak (a form of broken English) over a photograph or other image, arguably began with the Happy Cat, a British shorthair which first appeared on the site Something Awful in 2003. In 2007, one of these cat memes broke out into the wider internet: the original Happy Cat, captioned “I can has cheezburger?” by blogger Eric Nakagawa (Cheezburger). Such was its viral success that Nakagawa sold his website several months later for a reported US$2 million. The site now serves as a hub for several meme-related websites, including FAIL Blog and Know Your Meme.

The “I Can Has Cheezburger?” cat
Is a meme of distinction—one that
Spawned a company (think
It’s called Cheezburger, Inc.)
That will sell you a lolcat mouse mat.

In Act I, Chekhov’s heroine sang
Of her soldier’s big weapon: he sprang
From his chair and embraced her,
Then roughly disgraced her.
At the climax, she grabbed it, and... bang!

There really is too much to tell, see,
Of Cheltenham, Chelmsford and Chelsea.
They’re English, of course,
Which betokens, perforce,
There are no other places as swell, see.

Or so some would say. Actually, they’d make a passable Cook’s tour of southern England for anyone planning to visit only places whose names start with Chel-.

Some weapons leave peacemakers flustered:
“Those chemicals just can’t be trusted.”
But others, alas,
See the virtues of gas:
The alternatives don’t cut the mustard.

Thought America, “Baghdad is busted!
Its chemical weapons are clustered
In silos and bunkers.”
But some wars are clunkers:
Seems all Iraq’s missiles had rusted.

“My dear, though the chersonese near you
Has an isthmus you seem to revere, you
Should know—I’ll convince you—
It’s just a peninsu-
la.” “La, la, la, la, I can’t hearrr you!”

Our stubborn geography-admirer knows better: a chersonese (stressed on ker) is a particular kind of peninsula, with an isthmus.

Dig around in most anywhere’s dirt,
And you’re likely to find, if alert,
Microcrystalline quartz
Of a number of sorts,
Such as agate, flint, jasper—all chert.

I landed a freshwater cheven
(Or chavender) after eleven.
This luckless young chub
Made delectable grub:
Down the little red lane to fish heaven.

Izaak Walton’s Compleat Angler has some tempting recipes.

In Chicago, an overcoat fits
Any gangster, like victims of hits
By Capone and his men;
At their funerals, then,
In these boxes you’d put all the bits.

Overcoat had been U.S. slang for coffins since the nineteenth century, but Raymond Chandler localized it in his 1939 novel The Big Sleep.

Yer confused about chicken salt? Look,
There’s no chicken. Don’t use it to cook.
That’s orright—not your fault.
It’s all spices, herbs, salt,
MSG—for hot chips, silly chook.

You can, o’ course, also sprinkle this yellow-orange seasoning onto rotisserie chicken as well as hot chips, an’ I s’pose you could cook with it if you really want. The chicken salt developed in 1970s Australia and found in takeaways around the country contains no chicken (so “vegan chicken salt” is just.... chicken salt), but some fancy-pants restaurateurs in places like New York have made versions with chicken skin in them. Silly chooks.

Rest assured that child-friendliness features
At Kid Land, where cuddly farm creatures
And Nerf ammunition
Are key to our mission.
(There’s a bar for you parents and teachers.)

I mildly derided my bride
For childishly chiding our guide
On our honeymoon tour.
She was sooo immature—
That Ghost Train was such a cool ride.

Sales really got outta control
For the snack-in-a-bag Chiko Roll.
Thick egg pastry, deep-fried,
Pulpy filling: it tried
To stay sexy, but time took its toll.

Effectively a supersized spring roll, the Chiko Roll (chick-oh) contains no chicken, but instead is filled with a mixture of cabbage, barley, beef or mutton, carrot, onion, green beans and celery, all partially pulped into a tasty grey mush and encased in a pastry thick enough to withstand being eaten one-handed at a footy match. At their peak in the 1970s, forty million Chiko Rolls a year were dropping into Australian takeaway deep fryers and sliding into their custom bags, and the brand’s ads—featuring a “Chiko Chick” draped over a motorbike and fondling her favourite hot pastry tube—were the stuff of schoolyard legend. With changing tastes over the decades, and the wider availability of more appealing lunch options, the Chiko Roll has become harder to find—I’ve tried and failed on recent visits home—but as of 2023 it’s still around (and doing a great line in retro-’70s marketing, by the look of it).

Now, children, let’s sit for a while,
And I’ll read you... No hair-pulling, Kyle!
Now, this story is... Bridget!
Don’t fiddle and fidget!
You’ll make me so cross that I’ll... I’ll...

They’ve grown, and you wonder now, how’d
You find purpose without them. They’re loud,
And they’re funny; above
All, they fill you with love,
And they make you impossibly proud.


Children’s, possessive (viz., more
Than one child’s), is an odd word for sure.
Only brethren and oxen
Cohabit the box in
Which children sits. (Sistren? Fine, four.)

What that means is you get in a mess
(At least I do) when adding an s.
What I find so bewilderin’s
That writing it childrens’
Is wrong. Could be childses’, I guess.

Childs’? Childrenses’? Many of us know that children is one of a handful of words that retain the Old English plural ending of -en, which makes their possessive forms a challenge for the typo-inclined. What you might not know is that only oxen had it in Old English itself. The rest were added in the Middle English period, when people went mad for -en, even adding it to words that were already irregular plurals, like brethre and childer. If we do go the full Gollum and end up with childrens or childrenses, we’ll be following a long tradition.

The children’s books shelved in this room
Belong to my kids. Don’t assume
That they’re theirs, though; they’re mine.
No, I wrote them. That’s fine...
Children’s authors know not to presume.

The house I grew up in had stacks
Of white chimneys. I couldn’t relax
In the summer—they all
Needed painting. I’d crawl
On the roof and re-cover their cracks.

I was actually painting their chimneystacks, the parts above the roof.

“I’ll have army and navy, thanks, china.”
What’s that? He’s a hawk? Some hardliner
Who’d ask that vast state
For more military? Wait...
“Yeah, more gravy, mate.” (Phew. Only minor.)

Cockney rhyming slang.

“Chinese gooseberry” didn’t quite suit
The promotional plans for this fruit
In New Zealand. Their game
Was to simply rename
It the kiwi: brown, furry and cute.

The bunch of cilantro cried: “Slander!
How dare you call me, coriander,
The herb Chinese parsley?
A parsley? How ghastly!
That personally gets up my dander.”

He attempted one chin-up too far:
Couldn’t haul himself up to the bar
On the ninety-ninth try.
“Never mind,” said some guy
Who was watching. “Chin up, man. Cigar?”

The chip of Great Britain’s a fry
In America; U.S. chips I
Know as crisps here, because
I’m in Blighty. In Oz,
I eat chips—or hot chips, with a pie.

Most know that what the British call chips are fries in America, even though they’re different (chips from a British chippy are softer and more thickly cut than French fries from McDonald’s); and quite a few know that what Americans call chips are crisps in Britain; but Australians know that you’re all wrong, and that they’re all chips, made from fried sliced potatoes. We rely on context to tell us what’s what, although we’ll sometimes call the crisp variety potato chips (like Americans do) and the warm variety hot chips if necessary, such as when they’re served with a meat pie or a bit of flake.

A masterpiece? Not to my mind—
It has woodchips and resin behind!
That so-called Vermeer
Is a phony veneer.
It’s been painted on chipboard, you’ll find.

An Aussie announced, “I’m a chippie!
Need a carpenter?” “Och, pal, that’s trippy:
We’re a chippie as well—
It’s fish suppers we sell.”
“Oh. Small woodchips, then, mate.” (Nice one, skippy.)

If you pop into a chippie in Scotland (a chip shop, one that sells fish and chips) and don’t want to order a fish supper (fish and chips), you might instead order a small chips (a small serving of chips), or go for a large chips if you’re really hungry. Skippy is a term used by Australians of Mediterranean descent for those of British descent, after the 1970s TV show Skippy the Bush Kangaroo. Other cross-cultural misunderstandings are available...

A chippie’s an Aussie who’s good
At handling Australian wood—
He’s a carpenter. Yanks
Building homes there give thanks
That the word doesn’t mean what it could.

She’s chatty and cheerful and chirrupy,
Likes ponies and horses all stirrupy,
Thinks lambsies are lovely,
Is gentle and dovely
And sugary, sickly and syrupy.

Rain pattered, relentlessly drizzly,
On earth full of gravel, all chisley,
And soaked through the loam
Into Grandpa’s new home...
(I’m a mole, so the ending ain’t grisly.)

The chivachie conquered, or nearly,
The Valley of Death, cavalierly,
But woe, the six hundred!
Foes volley’d and thunder’d;
Which wasn’t that chivalrous, really.

An archaic word for a cavalry raid—with light apologies to Tennyson.

Ernst Chladni once had some plates handy,
And—dusting them lightly with sand—he
Vibrated them, bowing
Their edges, thus showing
Acoustical properties. Dandy!

Ernst Chladni (KLAD-nee, 1756–1827) was a Saxony-born physicist and musician remembered today for his in-depth investigations of Chladni plates. As Robert Hooke had observed a century before (though there is no evidence that Chladni knew of Hooke’s observation), drawing a bow over the edge of a metal plate makes the plate resonate, and dusting it with sand beforehand reveals the nodal lines where no vibration occurs. Thanks to Chladni’s later work, the resulting patterns became known as Chladni figures or Chladni patterns. He also developed Chladni’s law, which describes algebraically the relationship between a plate’s nodal properties and its vibrations. Chladni patterns vary depending on the shape and material of the plate, and are still used by instrument makers to refine acoustic instruments such as violins, cellos and guitars.

Chladni invented two keyboard instruments: the euphon and the clavicylinder. As if that wasn’t enough, he was also the first to propose that meteorites are extraterrestrial in origin, rather than being ejected from volcanoes as was believed at the time. The mineral chladniite, discovered in 1993 in iron and achrondite meteorites, was named in his honour.

It’s chockers; it’s totally full.
Couldn’t stuff in another, no bull.
Wait, a little more space...
Chuck it into the case,
Hold the end of this strap and then pull.

“A reservist’s a chocolate soldier
Who melts in the heat—you ain’t bold, yer
A choco! What are ya?”
“A soldier, sir!” “Nah, ya
Dill, choco—I already told yer.”

Choco is a derogatory term for a member of the Australian Army Reserve, mostly used by regular soldiers. Civilians might instead call them a cut lunch commando. A dill is an idiot.

Reckon Aussie fast food is a joke? Oh
My God, not to this army bloke: “Oh,
For giant spring rolls
They beat squash!” he extols.
Yes, this choco loves Chiko, not choko.

Chiko: much-loved item of Australian fast food
choko: chayote or christophene, a type of squash

An evergreen tropical tree
Made of chocolate? I’m bouncing with glee!
It comes from it? Wow—
So I plant this cacao,
And there’s even more chocolate for me?

What me grandmother put on me plate
Wasn’t really that terribly great:
Those boats of cold gravy
Could drown a whole navy.
It’d choke a brown dog, it would, mate.

Would a chokeberry cause you to croak?
If it’s stuck in your throat, you may choke
On this tart little fruit.
You should give it the boot,
Right along with this obvious joke.

Hey, Chris! Take a break from your smoko
And sample a christophene. Joke? Oh
No, no. Please don’t frown,
Chris... now chow chow chow down.
That’s chayote, you’ll note: yep, it’s choko.

The fruit of the chayote plant, Sechium edule, is eaten as a vegetable in Asia, the Caribbean, Australia and New Zealand, and known in English by many different names: in the UK and parts of the Caribbean it’s a christophene, in Louisiana it’s a mirliton, in the rest of the US it’s a chayote (rhyming with coyote), in Jamaica it’s a chocho, in India it’s a chow chow, and in Australia and New Zealand it’s a choko. I knew it as the latter, and figured it must be because it would choke a brown dog. (Not a fan.) Smoko is a break for a smoke or a cuppa.

Ken referred to his hen as a chook
And from Henry received an odd look.
You see, Kenneth was Aussie,
And Hank, well, because he
Was a Yank, he knew something was crook.

Chook is Australian slang for a chicken, and crook is Australian slang for “wrong” (as in that’s crook) or “ill” (as in feeling crook).

Get a move on, ya big tub of lard—
Go an’ round up the chooks in the yard.
Come on, after them chickens!
Yeah, run like the dickens!
Now, shut that gate! There, not so hard.

Here’s a reading of this limerick.

This metrical term won’t describe
Its own stress pattern; poets would gibe
At a KOR-ee-am-BUS.
To avoid any fuss,
Call it -AM-bus—and never imbibe.

The choriambus, more commonly known as a choriamb, is a poetic foot consisting of two long syllables separated by two short ones (a trochee followed by an iamb). Choriambus is not a choriambus.

An atheist pupil cried, “Miss,
If I’m Christless, how come my name’s Chris?”
“Yes, it does seem quite odd
That it references God.
You should ask your dad Zeus about this.”

So it’s Christmas, and what have I done?
Not completed my card list, for one,
Or bought tinsel, or food,
Or some gifts for my brood...
I could get away clean if I run.

A strippergram? Not for a vicar—
The strain is too much for his ticker.
Gorillagram? No—
Too Darwinian, bro.
But a Christogram—that one’s the kicker.

I’m sorry to report that a Christogram is actually a graphic symbol of Christ, not a fancy-dress entertainment for parish birthday parties.

A chronopher carries the time
From a source to the furthermost clime
Using pulses of power.
When wondering the hour,
We hail its electrical chime.

In chrysotype, chloride of gold
Developed the negative; old
Photographic techniques
Sometimes need a few tweaks,
And it’s been reinvented, I’m told.

This photographic process, invented by John Herschel in 1842, used minute particles of colloidal gold to fix an image on paper. Gold was unsuitable for capturing the original image, but worked for making prints from negatives; but like so many early experiments in photography, the process lost out to silver halide. A hundred and fifty years later, Herschel’s process was adapted by Mike Ware to create a new chrysotype process, which produces monochrome prints in shades of mauve, violet, blue or green. Unlike silver-based prints, these have the advantage of being permanent: if printed on archival paper, they won’t fade over time.

A truckie of plentiful girth
On the Nullarbor suffered a dearth
Of Swan Lager. He knew
What he then had to do:
Chuck a U-ie and drive back to Perth.

Once found across almost the whole
Of Australia, the chuditch’s role
As a predator’s waned.
A quick quoll poll’s explained
How our actions have taken their toll.

The western quoll, Dasyurus geoffroii, also known as a chuditch (plural chuditch), was once found across 70% of mainland Australia, but is now confined to the southwestern corner of Western Australia, thanks to habitat loss and deliberate targeting by farmers and hunters over many years. It has a darker tail than the eastern quoll and an extra toe on its hind foot.

There’s a word we beware of down under,
And given its meaning, no wonder:
A sensible fella
Will wear an umbrella
When, hurled from a window, comes chunder.

“I’m perfectly sober!” he thundered,
But given his colour, I wondered.
His face a bright pink,
He made straight for the sink,
Held the sides, leant his head in and chundered.

The Argentine bird called the chunga
Has an ardent, insatiable hunger
For insects and snakes.
Its appetite makes
It a terror—though many years younger.

The chunga is a relative of the extinct phorusrhacoids or “terror birds”, ten-foot-tall carnivores that stalked the plains of Cenozoic South America kicking giant sloths to death, or whatever it is that terrifying birds do.

That waterway? Naught but a runnel!
I’ll make it my mission to tunnel
Beneath its expanse
From Dover to France.
The Thirties will bring us a Chunnel!

The Channel Tunnel was a word and a dream long before it was a reality.

Ol’ Churchill knew just what to do
When it looked like his country was through.
“We shall never surrender,”
Said Blighty’s defender.
“Instead, we shall fight World War II.”

I chuse to use spellyngs abstruce,
Nott to mention, of course, owt of use:
So to say, I preferr
(Althowh uthers demurre)
To use spellyngs that bryng me abuse.

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