Definitely Limericks by Rory Ewins


My uncle, throughout his maturity,
Was proud of his welfare-state purity.
He wore nothing unless
It was stamped “DSS”—
His deportment brought social security.

Both Australia and the UK once had Departments of Social Security.

Departmental rebranding is why
BIS has replaced DTI.
“Innovation and Skills”
Offers businesslike thrills;
“Trade and Industry” sounded too dry.

The UK government Department of Trade and Industry existed on and off from 1970 to 2007, when it was split into two new departments which were subsequently recombined into the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills. Handy for anyone in the letterhead business.

Your posters of Ming—Max von Sydow—
And Scarlett Johannson’s Black Widow
In leathery gear
Are disturbing: I fear
You have dubious role models, kiddo.

If you’re after a verse on the duck,
Our old web-footed pal, you’re in luck.
Yes, this limerick reveals
Not just Mallards and teals,
But the... sorry, no room left. You’re stuck.

“Duck and cover,” the government said
In the Fifties, “both body and head.
Be like Bert: stay alert!”
Huh. You’ll never get hurt?
If the bomb hits your school, you’ll be dead.

Duck and cover was a method of supposedly protecting oneself from a nuclear blast by dropping to the ground and getting under cover. The phrase was the title of an educational film from the Cold War featuring a cartoon turtle, Bert, who “was very alert; when danger threatened him he never got hurt”. A generation of American schoolchildren learned from Bert and from their teachers to crawl under their desks if they saw the flash of an atomic bomb. Although such advice is helpful in earthquakes, as it could protect you from falling masonry, I wouldn’t fancy your chances under a desk in an all-out nuclear attack.

“Wotcher, Tommy. How’s things? You survivin’?”
“You could say that, cocker. I’m thrivin’.”
“Oh? What did I miss?”
“Oh, you know: bit o’ this,
Bit o’ that. Bit o’ duckin’ and divin’.”

When a Cockney cock sparrer ducks and dives it usually means he’s up to something shifty, although ducking and diving can also just mean getting up to all sorts of things.

Lady Luck can at times be a bitch.
Take the case of my dumb neighbor, Mitch:
Shot his foot with his gun,
Sued the shoe store, and won.
Sheer dumb luck made the dumb bastard rich.

The dunnart, marsupial mouse,
Has the pointiest snout in da house.
It eats insects and hops
From its home to the shops
To buy bugs to bring back to its spouse.

Dunnarts are small nocturnal mouse-sized marsupials, members of nineteen dasyurid species of the genus Sminthopsis. I dunno if there are dunnart supermarkets selling pre-packaged insects, but who knows what they get up to in the grasslands, deserts and forests of Australia’s southeast and southwest. Dunnarts hunt during the night for beetles, crickets, spiders, small reptiles, amphibians and even small mammals. For such formidable predators, they are incredibly cute.

In English, it isn’t our style
To use verb forms for this; rather, I’ll
Use an adverb or phrase.
I’ve been thinking of ways
To use durative aspect a while.

All languages have ways of indicating the duration of an action and whether it is ongoing. In many this is achieved by modifying verbs using affixes; in English, we use adverbs or adverbial phrases, such as still or for a while. This is the durative aspect, called by others the delimitative, continuous, progressive or extended aspect.

On the Pampas, the southern sun shone
On Dusicyon avus, now gone.
There were some still alive
When Columbus was. I’ve
Heard the ghosts of these wolves still howl on.

Dusicyon avus has no common name in English, which is unusual for a canid so recently extinct. On the Pampas of Argentina it appears to have survived until 700 years ago, and in southernmost Patagonia until as recently as 400 years ago. It was about the size of a German shepherd and closely related to the warrah or Falkland Islands wolf, which descended from it. There is evidence that humans may have kept some as pets, and tantalising accounts from the Selk’nam people of Tierra del Fuego of a “big fox” suggest that some could have survived into the 20th century.

The dust mite eats skin cells and craps
Out an allergen, knowing, perhaps,
That it means that we’ll wheeze
And occasionally sneeze
When the breeze wafts it into our laps.

Many camcorders capture DV,
On a hard disk or cards like SD.
Your recordings of Bridget’ll
Linger on Digital
Video; no-one’ll see.

As the day slowly draws to a close
And your waking hours dwindle, suppose
What the evening may bring:
One enchanting last thing,
To diminish to dreams as you doze.

The doctor had scribbled: “Dx:
A neurotic obsession with sex.”
The prescription he wrote
At the foot of the note:
“A lie down, cup of tea and a Bex.”

Dx is medical shorthand for “diagnosis”. Bex powders and pills were compound analgesics widely used in Australia (particularly by women) until the 1970s, when they were withdrawn because of their addictive and kidney-damaging properties. The expression “a cup of tea, a Bex and a good (or nice) lie down” lingered in the vernacular for years afterwards.

All those jocular hairdressers try
To concoct punning business names: why,
That salon over there
Is called “Colour Affair”.
How I wish they’d just curl up and dye.

The trouble with digital zoom
Is it doctors the details: that room
May look bigger to me
When I shoot with DZ,
But I can’t tell what’s what or who’s whom.

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