Definitely Limericks by Rory Ewins


“Your email attachment was broken,”
Wrote my manager. “Surely you’re jokin’,”
I replied. “It’s a Word doc.
Not working? Absurd, doc.”
“Enough!” he mailed. “Outlook has spoken.”

We are gods when our children are three.
When they’re ten, we’re the top of their tree.
But once they’re fourteen,
They’d prefer us unseen:
“Mum and Dad, you’re embarrassing me!”

I employ punctuation, well, freely: on
A good day, a colon; ideally, on
A case-by-case basis,
An em-dash displaces
A splice—it’s my comma chameleon.

Or—as fans of Culture Club might sing—my “comma, comma, comma, comma, comma chameleon”. The humble em-dash has spared many a writer the ignomony of a comma splice.

Anthropologists work from two views,
Either inside or outside. We choose
An insider’s view? Emics.
In etics, though, we mix
No more: an outsider’s we use.

An emic approach to anthropological analysis takes the viewpoint of a particular cultural group, while an etic one takes a detached, outsider’s view; these different viewpoints are the emic and the etic. The use of the emic in studying cultural groups is called emics and of the etic is etics.

We excel at emission of gas,
And engage in it daily, en masse,
Spewing dangerous fumes
In voluminous plumes
From our cars and our chimneys. Alas!

Emojis are perfect for chat.
Here’s a 🐼 , a 🐶 and a 😺,
Some 🌹🌹🌹, a 🌵...
You’d 👍 some, to practice?
Don’t 😨—just copy all that.

Emojis are perfect for chat.
Here’s a [panda], a [dog] and a [cat],
Some [roses], a [cactus]...
You’d [like] some, to practice?
Don’t [worry]—just copy all that.

These emperors tower over all
Where the blizzards relentlessly squall.
In the bleak August night,
Male penguins sit tight
On their eggs, heeding fatherhood’s call.

“On our empire, the sun never sets,”
Said Victorian Britain. But let’s
Compare past ones, like Rome:
In the end, you head home—
Though a colony never forgets.

There was once a poetical man
Whose limerick lines didn’t scan.
I’ll offer a sample:
He wrote, for example,
“The Empire of the Rising Sun was Japan.”

An homage to that infamous young man from Japan who would “always try to cram as many words into the last line as I possibly can”.

It’s a meeting of cabinet, where
There’s a minister absent—look there.
Is he poorly (cough, cough)?
No, he’s merely pissed off.
He objected, then left: empty chair.

A policy of strategic withdrawal from meetings or votes in response to a political dispute.

When a minister won’t come on air,
Wily broadcasters then empty-chair
Them, to highlight their absence.
In a gift-of-the-gab sense,
They’re probably better off there.

All the kids of Australia sing
As they emu bob, “Kiernan is king!
If we all pick up litter,
Our home becomes fitter
For living in. Do the right thing!”

Ian Kiernan (1940–2018) co-founded Clean Up Australia in 1989, a community campaign to clean up litter which built on Keep Australia Beautiful’s “Do the Right Thing” campaign and other anti-littering efforts. He became a household name, and helped take the Clean Up campaign global in the 1990s.

The British chose here, Emu Field,
To test nukes of low kiloton yield.
No surprise, I expect,
That the weapons’ effect
Was hushed up until somebody squealed.

Once the place gets too radioactive,
They look for a spot more attractive.
When authorities finger
The site Maralinga,
For locals the tests are impactive.

Years later, the land’s handed back
To traditional owners, who lack
The resources to clean it.
“We’ll do it—we mean it,”
Say authorities. “We’ll have a crack.”

The cleanup takes ages, and fears
It won’t work prove well-founded. So, here’s
The result: people live
On a land that will give
Off its poison for thousands of years.

The British conducted their first nuclear weapon tests in 1952 on the Montebello Islands in Western Australia, but when the fallout blew over the mainland rather than out to sea they looked for a more remote location, settling on Emu Field (also known as Emu Junction or simply Emu) in the Great Victoria Desert. Two tests were conducted there, but it was considered unsuitable as a permanent test site, and a new site was chosen for further tests in 1956–57. The new site was named “Maralinga”, from an Aboriginal word for thunder—although not in the language of the Aboriginal people living in the area, who were forcibly relocated.

In the 1970s, thanks to the efforts of investigative reporters and whistleblowers, the impact of the tests became more widely known—including that fallout from Maralinga had blown as far as Brisbane on Australia’s east coast. Maralinga was returned to its traditional owners in 1985, and the British and Australian governments paid for a cleanup operation there in the late 1990s. In 2021, however, researchers established that hot particles still persist in its soil. The half-life of plutonium, the main focus and legacy of the tests, is 24,100 years.

Magnolia felt such repulsion
At regular household emulsion
That viewing beige paint
Made her shudder and faint,
And occasionally have a convulsion.

Perhaps it was because she shared her name with the UK’s most popular colour of emulsion, a water-based matt paint used on interior walls.

Do the rivers on Endor all drain
Into basins? Well, that would explain
Why they’re called endoreic
Like Ewoks, you see? (Ick.
Now “Yub Nub” is stuck in my brain.)

Endoreism (-REE-ism) is river drainage towards the interior of a land mass; waters in an endoreic basin never reach the ocean, although they might reach an inland sea or lake. Neither noun nor adjective has anything to do with the forest moon of Endor or its teddy-bear-like warrior race the Ewoks from the original Star Wars trilogy. (Over the final minutes of Return of the Jedi (1983), the Ewoks sang “Yub Nub” to celebrate victory over the Empire... until George “Darth” Lucas replaced the song with orchestral music in his 1997 special edition of the film, which has since largely displaced the original.)

I feel a profound enervation
Of body and mind... dissipation
Of energy... tiredness...
That follows the wiredness
Whenever I’m led to temptation.

At the showroom, I stop admire
The sports cars; there’s one I desire
So much, I might burst.
I’m glad I checked first:
Its engine compartment’s on fire.

When it’s cut, many studies have shown
That agglomerate—engineered stone—
Is a health risk. In Oz,
It’s been banned now, because
Silicosis results from dust blown.

Engineered stone, also known as agglomerated stone or agglomerate, has emerged as a serious occupational health and safety risk since the start of the century. The composite material, made of crushed stone bound by an adhesive, has been widely used in kitchen countertops, the cutting and finishing of which creates plumes of silica dust. Without the right safety precautions, the risk among workers of developing silicosis, a debilitating and potentially fatal lung disease, is high. In December 2023, Australia became the first country to ban the use, supply and manufacture of engineered stone.

The English: a diffident race,
Who display, on the whole, not a trace
Of imperial pride,
Nor a stubborn divide
Between classes. (Says he, with straight face.)

You’re once, maybe twice, maybe three
Times a lady crab, found in the sea
Around Britain. I love
You, O velvety glove
In crustacean form—swim here to me!

Come adore the velvet crab, Necora puber, also known as the velvet swimming crab, velvet swimcrab, velvet fiddler, devil crab, fighter crab, witch crab, lady crab, or, in the US, English lady crab (to distinguish it from the North American lady crab, Ovalipes ocellatus). The velvet refers to the short hairs on its carapace that give it a velvety texture.

“My moonlight has no care for me!”
Wrote the world’s oldest author. We see
Who now carries that banner:
Sumer’s Enheduanna
From 2300 BC.

These words, attributed to the high priestess Enheduanna (approx. 2285–2250 BC), daughter of Sargon of Akkad, are preserved in long narrative poems recorded on clay tablets from Ur and Nippur. For centuries, Mesopotamian students practiced cuneiform by inscribing them onto clay; the surviving versions date to 500 years after her death. Some academics claim that these scribes or even contemporary ghostwriters wrote Enheduanna's poems, in a display of skepticism all too familiar when it comes to the historical achievements of women.

Writing limericks, they aren’t all top-shelf:
When I shoehorn in rhymes—like, say, elf
The results can look lazy.
You reckon I’m crazy?
I don’t—I’m enjoying myself.

Ennui isn’t “ennui”! You’ve gone
And mis-stressed it! I’m tired of this, John—
It’s all bull. Please don’t say it’s
Your accent—no way it’s
Correct. I’m annoyed. It’s not on.

Ennui—that listless feeling of weariness and dissatisfaction at having too easy a life—comes from the same French roots as annoy. It can be stressed in opposite ways on opposite sides of the pond: for Uncle Sam it’s ahn-WEE, while for John Bull it can be either on-WEE or ON-wee.

My wall unit holds a TV,
DVD player, Blu-Ray, CD
Player, hi-fi, and games
Console. Plainly, my aim’s
Entertainment: it’s central for me.

Thanks to entropy, bits disap ear
From the univers . Look over here,
And you’ll s e the decay’s
Irreversible: days
Of pere nial heat de th draw n ar.

The heat death of the universe is only 10100 years away, so make sure you’ve got your affairs in order.

Over time, information in an isolated system can only be destroyed, not created, just as entropy can only be generated but not destroyed. Entropy can therefore be seen as a measure of missing information: it measures the amount of information missing for a complete probabilistic description of a system.

When algae in Canada bloomed,
These pigs, thanks to how they consumed
And excreted, left less
Algal food in their mess.
The Enviropig, though, was still doomed.

The Enviropig was genetically modified to produce the enzyme phytase, which breaks down phosphorus, in its saliva. As a result it excreted 30% to 70% less phosphorus, potentially reducing the amount ending up in rivers and thereby limiting the growth of algae, which would otherwise deplete the oxygen available for fish. The Canadian research project received five million dollars of funding over almost two decades, but was halted in 2012 when funding dried up as a result of changing attitudes towards genetically modified food. The sixteen Enviropigs were humanely baconized... erm... euthanized, but their Envirogenes live on in cold storage.

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