Definitely Limericks by Rory Ewins


My dissembling donor-sperm sibling—
I’m dabbling in calling him dibling
Has lied to our mother;
He’s troubling, my brother.
(Jeez, half-brother, true, if we’re quibbling.)

What dictionary lists every word
In the language that anyone’s heard
And defines them? And worse,
Tries to do it in verse?
The suggestion is, frankly, absurd.

We’ve been doggedly dictionary-making
Since 2004, all forsaking
Vacations and sleep
To depict the broad sweep
Of the language in verse, our sides shaking.

My teacher replied, with a frown,
“You know when I didn’t come down?
The last shower. I saw
You sneak in through the door.
You were wagging the lesson downtown.”

An Australian who wants to show that they haven’t been fooled might say that they didn’t come down in the last shower. Wagging is the Australian term for bunking off school, skiving, skipping classes or playing hooky.

The only time I ever wagged school† was to see Back to the Future at the movies in my first period of English before lunch (A++ choice, no regrets). I saw no reason not to go to the second period after lunch, though, so it must have been pretty obvious what I’d done. This was in the final non-compulsory years of high school, so other kids did it all the time, and usually for less compelling reasons.

† Not counting the time when I was little and hid under my parents’ dinghy rather than catch the bus to infant school, which I would call more a case of existential angst than skiving.

I was pourin’ a drink, when I thought
I should give some to Mum. “Didn’t ought,”
Said me Londoner mother
When offered another,
Which meant she was askin’ for port.

The Cockney rhyming slang for port derives from women’s traditional reply when offered a glass: “[I] didn’t ought [to accept, but will anyway].”

Wipe your tears, little darling, don’t cry;
All pet rabbits eventually die.
Though his body is spent,
Rest assured his soul went
To that hutch in the sky. (Mmm, mmm—pie.)

It’s got hostages villains will grab; it’s
Got enemies Willis will nab; it’s
Got violence and guns;
And at Christmas it runs:
Yes, this Die Hard flick shows its old habits.

My mother insists that I try on
These trousers, but I’ve had my eye on
Another pair. Still,
Should I die on that hill?
Are red trousers a hill one should die on?

Father Christmas at break-time gets restive
If his cupboard contains no digestive,
Either chocolate or plain.
He will scoff them again
And again (though they aren’t really festive).

Digestives (or digestive biscuits) are round wholemeal semi-sweet biscuits first made in Scotland in the 1830s. They’re now eaten across the UK, with chocolate digestives (digestives coated in milk, dark or sometimes white chocolate) being particularly popular. Their nearest equivalents in the US are Graham crackers.

The digital native’s supposed
To understand puters the most,
Just by being born later.
Empirical data
Suggests it’s a dubious boast.

The digital immigrant, meanwhile,
Is supposedly rather less keen while
Exploring online.
But most oldies are fine:
They’re just busy, or learning, not senile.

The labels digital native and digital immigrant were coined by Marc Prensky in 2001 to capture young people’s ease with information technology (akin to native speakers of languages) and older people’s discomfort with it. Although the terms remain popular with the media, researchers have shown that the realities of digital literacy across different age groups are far less black-and-white than they suggest. Puter is 21st-century slang for those new-fangled electronic doohickeys.

Losing focus when speaking is less
Of a problem for others, I guess,
But my mind won’t sit still.
It’s a curse, if you will.
(Should I curse in this verse? I digress.)

I’m told I should read some Jane Austen—
Romantic, with irony tossed in.
But here’s my dilemma:
Persuasion or Emma?
They’re novels I fear I’d get lost in.

Raise your rifle and shoot, damn it, Billy! Bally
Thing won’t stay long, so don’t shilly-shally.
You’ll fire right past it.
Don’t dither, boy... blast it!
Damned deer disappear when you dilly-dally.

Shorn sheep shuffle off if you shilly-shally,
So take a few notes, will you, Tilly? Tally
Up every fleece
That remains, my dear niece.
Don’t be silly—don’t dither. Don’t dilly-dally.

If ’e really does wanna get slim, ’e
Should leave well alone that dim sim—’e
Might want it (“Mate, fried
Food’s delicious!” ’e’s cried),
But ’e’s dumb if ’e downs one more dimmie.

Dim sims are small dumplings filled with minced meat and vegetables, typically deep-fried and sold at takeaways in Australia. Unlike that of the Chinese dim sum that inspired them, their name isn’t a mass noun: you don’t eat dim sim, you eat a dim sim (or, if you were me as a kid, you ate eight dim sims).

The dinosaurs, mighty and strong,
Lived a long, long, long, long, long, long, long
Time ago. Noah’s flood
Trapped them all in its mud,
Say creationists. I know they’re wrong.

Creationists believe that dinosaur fossils were laid down in the flood. Many also believe that it caused their extinction, but others contend that Noah rescued the dinosaurs along with all the other animals, and that they died out only in recent times. Very, very recent times. That nightmare about dinosaurs you had when you were six? That could have been real.

Diogenes syndrome’s a mess
Of domestic defilement and less
Than exemplary hygiene,
Miss Brodie; that’s why, Jean,
We’re carting off all you possess.

Those sad cases of elderly hoarders living in squalor are said to suffer from Diogenes syndrome. The betrayed fictional school-teacher may well have ended up a victim once she was past her prime; Edinburgh flats can harbour dark secrets.

“You tripped on some razor-sharp wire,
Then landed head-first in a fire.
Your calmness is baseless:
You’re footless and faceless!”
“But groin-height—that would have been dire.”

“There was an old man of Cashmere,
Whose movements were scroobious and queer;
Being slender and tall,
He looked over a wall,
And perceived two fat ducks...”—Edward Lear.

From More Nonsense, Pictures, Rhymes, Botany, etc. (1872)

It’s apparent that what we have here
Has been quoted directly from Lear.
With its quaint, if quite dubious,
Inclusion of scroobious,
I fear the effect’s rather queer.

We have show kitchens—when we saw Burt, he
Said, “Angel, yer kitchen’s sure purty”—
But here in Manila,
Our staff use the griller
In kitchens we frankly call dirty.

In Philippine English, a dirty kitchen is for everyday cooking by household staff, unlike those purely for show or special use by the owner. Angel is a popular unisex Filipino name.

He’s displaying discretion, to start;
Disassembling in public’s not smart.
Piece by piece, he’s begun
To dismantle his gun.
Discretely, Bond handles each part.

Disc galaxy: circle of stars
With a shape that when seen from afar’s
Like a record of light.
Found a new one last night
Through my telescope—light your cigars!

Disc galaxies are flattened circles of stars which sometimes include a central galactic bulge. They can be either spiral galaxies (your classic galaxy shape, like the Milky Way) or lenticular galaxies with mainly aging stars. Some are also starburst galaxies (galaxies with an exceptional rate of star formation); M82, the Cigar Galaxy, a starburst galaxy once classified as irregular, is now believed to be a disc galaxy visible to us from its side.

Discourse markers can help one arrange
Spoken language. Their form can, well, change:
They’re phrases or pauses
That situate clauses.
In any event, they aren’t strange.

For a start, I’ve used a couple there: well and in any event. In other words, a discourse marker is a word or a phrase (or even a pause for effect) used to situate a clause or sentence in a larger context by organizing discourse into, one might say, different parts.

Discriminatorily, Joh
Said, “You’re not using my bar, oh no.
We don’t serve your kind here—
Not one stein of wheat beer.
Take your Hitler Youth Brüder and go.”

Tomorrow won’t belong to them if he has anything to do with it. This adverb is most often used to refer to unjust or prejudicial treatment on racial or other grounds, but can occasionally imply discernment.

Those who dis the Olympics won’t know
That its discus sport’s this: discus throw.
They also won’t know a
Top-notch discus thrower
Will throw a great discus-based show.

Disembodiment means that your spirit
Has fled from your body; it’s clear it
No longer enjoys
All the fury and noise
Of existence—some spirits do fear it.

Disenfranchisement means you’re deprived
Of a right; those in charge have contrived
To discard what you had—
Say, your vote. Ooo, you’re mad!
Now it’s gone, but your anger’s survived.

You claim it’s a promising trend?
Your hopes are unfounded, my friend.
We’re still at the start, and
I’m feeling disheartened;
Just wait till we get to the end.

The mainland’s a continent which,
To Tasmanians, lies over the Ditch:
That’s our name for Bass Strait.
You’re a mainlander? Wait—
Make a “Ditch = Tasman Sea” switch.

Most Australians and New Zealanders refer to the Tasman as the Ditch, with or without a capital d, and travelling between their countries as crossing the Ditch. Tasmanians, though, use the term to refer to Bass Strait. Local sailors even use it to refer to the Derwent River in Hobart.

When a marriage has run its sad course,
This arrangement now comes into force.
No more shouting or fights,
Only long, lonely nights
Lie ahead, once you’ve had a divorce.

Start the clock. Separation’s in force;
We’re apart now. When that’s run its course,
We’ll be formally done.
While the lawyers have fun
With our money, we’ll have our divorce.

Now that Roger and I are divorcing,
Monogamy’s no longer forcing
Our hand: we can sleep
With whoever. (That creep
A new lover’s already been sourcing.)

If you’re pining to stash all your pelf
On a flashy designer-made shelf,
But the price is too high,
Why not try DIY?
You save cash if you do it yourself.

Spinning records did not, as a rule,
Win me nods of approval at school,
But now manning the decks
Earns me oodles of sex,
Because superstar DJs are cool.

Kampuchea, the land of Pol Pot,
Though it claimed to be, really was not
In the least “Democratic”.
DK’s chief fanatic
Killed millions; most starved or were shot.

Why explore London’s Docklands by car?
You could go by, instead, DLR,
And be travelling light
Until late in the night.
Rail’s superior, guv’nor, by far.

“Your level one Dwarf rolls a six,
And his axe chops the door into sticks.”
“And now—we attack!”
“You’ve been stabbed in the back.”
“Hey, DM, what’s your game with these tricks?”

Your game is Dungeons & Dragons and you are the Dungeon Master, the one orchestrating the worlds your fellow players explore.

Procreation, dear readers, is rife
With all manner of trouble and strife.
In the midst of each cell
Sits the ladder to hell:
DNA is the spiral of life.

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