Definitely Limericks by Rory Ewins


Feel free to quiz sleepy ol’ me on
Eoan: no typo for aeon,
This word about dawn
Sounds a lot like a yawn.
(Dammit, missed—now the loo seat has pee on.)

This obscure word is pronounced ee-OH-un.

Many forebears of mammals today
First became in the family way
In the Eocene epoch.
They flourished, you see, doc,
When warmth kept the ice-caps at bay.

The Eocene epoch, from around 56 to 34 million years ago, was when levels of atmospheric CO2 were last higher than 500 parts per million, levels we are heading for again this century. During the Eocene there were no polar ice-caps, sea levels were 100 metres higher than today’s, and smaller mammals like the early horses and primates thrived.

The supposed first tools made of stone
Were some roughly chipped flints. These alone
Named an age Eolithic.
We now think it’s mythic.
They’re natural rocks, it’s been shown.

British flint nodules once thought to be early stone tools (called eoliths) were later shown to be most likely produced by natural erosion.

As the dawn breaks, and daylight draws near,
Watch the bloke with the fangs disappear.
The rise of the sun
For a vampire ain’t fun.
Eosophobia: Dracula’s fear.

An épicerie’s really a deli,
But French-er; the cheeses are smelly,
The confit is ducky,
And those who are lucky
Can buy escargots canned in jelly.

The epigram suffers, in verse
Or a sentence, the satirist’s curse:
You can sometimes be thought
One whose substance falls short
If your points are not prolix, but terse.

Epistemology: How do we know
What we know? What’s philosophy show?
For many at college,
Such theories of knowledge
Are ones they would rather forgo.

They duck this hard work at their cost;
Without critical thinking, we’re lost.
We may think that we know it all,
Have “proofs” we say show it all,
But our reasoning could be criss-crossed.

Two and two, when they’re added, give four.
Try them multiplied: “Blimey!” you roar,
The answers are equal!”
But wait, mark the sequel:
Only zero works also. No more.

Ere-done sins turned your heart black as coal,
Which is tricky when Heaven’s your goal.
Do some penance for God—he
Likes purging a body,
Or once did—it cleanseth the soul.

The ere-done practice of bodily penance (“done formerly”, in Middle English) may have gone out of fashion in its sackcloth-and-ashes form—in the fifteenth century, one source recommended prayer over “bodily penaunce” as it better “clensiþ þe soule of ere done synnes”—but some Christians still skip a meal occasionally or turn the shower to cold before getting out.

When it comes to mistake-making, there’re
All manner of causes for error:
Impossible missions;
Misguided ambitions;
Incompetence; slothfulness; terror.

“Your book on Welsh land use has lots
Of mistakes. Look, ‘er W’—what’s...”
“Erm, an erw is not
An, um, error. It’s what
The, er, Welshry called acres or plots.”

Just as Welshry is an old term for the Welsh people, an erw (EH-roo) is an old Welsh land measurement (and later, more generally, a term for an allocated portion of land). The area of an erw varied at different times and in different places.

I recoil from the dish escargot
Rather rapidly. Why? Well, you know
That it’s garlicky snails—
We snails turn our tails
When a plate of our pals is on show.

Cet escargot rapide ne mange pas d’escargots.

Eschatology? Heaven forfend.
Although, seeing you study the End,
Do you reckon we’ll fry,
Or rise up to the sky?
Either way, there’s a worrying trend.

A cooler (U.S.), as a rule,
In New Zealand’s a chilly bin; you’ll
Hear it called, though, an esky
In Oz, which is pesky:
From Eskimo—no longer cool.

Insulated, portable ice chests or ice boxes, usually now made of plastic and styrofoam, go by different names around the English-speaking world; rounding out the list is the U.K. term cool box. Australia’s name for them is unfortunate, as it dates from a time when the Inuit were known by a name now considered offensive, particularly in Canada and Greenland. Thankfully, our habit of shortening words softens the impact somewhat. Esky was and is a brand-name, but by the 1960s was being used generically for any portable cooler.

“Welcome, dear, to my bachelor pad,”
Murmurs Esquivel—not sounding bad,
But narrating a tune.
“Zu-zu-zu!” the girls croon,
“Boink, boink.” That’s his jazz: slightly mad.

Juan GarcĂ­a Esquivel (1918–2002), known to many by his surname alone (with exclamation mark!), was a Mexican band leader, pianist and composer whose 1950s Latin-influenced jazz came to be called space age pop or lounge music. He would often incorporate unusual sounds, wild stereo effects and nonsense vocals into his music, which enjoyed a revival in the 1990s.

Estonia, Soviet state
For too long, had to patiently wait
Till it got its own say
In its own Baltic Way.
Now in NATO, its future looks great.

Estonian is the second-most-spoken Finnic language after Finnish, but for centuries Estonia was under Swedish, Polish and then Russian rule. At the end of World War I it repelled German and Soviet attempts to invade it and secured its independence, but in World War II it was annexed by the Soviet Union, occupied by Nazi Germany, and then reoccupied by the USSR. In the late 1940s, Stalin deported tens of thousands of Estonians to Siberia.

In the 1980s, Estonia was at the forefront of challenges to centralized rule in the USSR. In August 1989, two million Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians formed a human chain, known as the Baltic Way, along their borders with Russia; independence finally returned in 1991. Estonia has since joined NATO, the EU, the WTO and the OECD, and has pioneered e-government and electronic voting. Provided that renewed Russian expansionism in the 2020s can be kept at bay, its future is indeed bright.

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