Definitely Limericks by Rory Ewins


In his studio, Dad has been saving
Zinc plates he’ll be photoengraving.
I’m helping by fetching
The acid for etching...
I’m struck by a printmaking craving.

Nostalgia will do that to you. As a young man I used to help my dad in his studio, particularly on the large prints he produced in the 1980s, which needed two pairs of hands to lift and position the inked plates on the paper; zinc plates were cheaper than copper and so lent themselves well to larger work. He transferred the images to the plates by photoengraving or photoetching, a technique that involves coating a metal plate with a photosensitive ground, exposing the image with ultraviolet light, and using acid to etch the image into the metal: that is, engraving it by corroding away the exposed surface. (An alternative to acid is to use electrolysis.) The ground is then removed with solvent, leaving an etched plate ready for inking and printing. Etchings can also be produced by drawing directly onto a plate by scratching through the ground and, again, using acid or electrolysis to bite into the plate. The smells of acid and printmakers’ ink are two of my madeleines.

Etymologists, we, as we try
To define any word that we spy.
And we do it in rhyme!
People ask all the time
Why we do. A rare few can tell why.

EU freedom to move with impunity
For a lifestyle or job opportunity
Is for many a boon,
But others hope soon
We’ll all stay in our local community.

It’s resulted in Euro-disunity.

A eudaemon (called also good spirit)
Is benevolent—no need to fear it.
It’s like Casper: a ghost
That will give you the most
Friendly vibes should you ever be near it.

A eudaemon was a type of daemon, deity or spirit in Greek mythology, the opposite of an evil cacodaemon. These guardian spirits sometimes represented the souls of the dead.

Ben Franklin’s armonica charmed
Many listeners; one thus disarmed
Was Ernst Chladni, who made
His own euphon (which played
On euphonious—no ears were harmed).

Chladni’s ethereal-sounding euphon (sometimes called a euphone or a euphonium, not to be confused with the brass euphonium) was an eighteenth-century instrument inspired, via Franklin’s armonica, by playing water-tuned wineglasses with wetted fingers. Chladni’s instrument used glass rods of different pitches, which were concealed in a case and played with a keyboard. The euphon is the direct ancestor of the Cristal Baschet; a titanium euphone was developed in the 2010s by Frédéric Bousquet.

How the euro seemed shiny and new
At the dawn of 2002!
Has its currency passed?
Set your flags at half-mast,
As our leaders don’t know what to do.

For financial terms, Blofeld’s the guy:
“They’re in foreigners’ currencies...? My!
Come now, 007—
You don’t know it? Oh, heaven!
Eurobond! I expect you to try.”

Eurobonds are fixed-term instruments that pay an annual guaranteed rate of interest, issued in currencies from outside the country in which they were issued. Originally, they were issued in Europe, hence the terms Eurobond, Eurocurrency, Euromoney, Eurodollar, Eurosterling, Euroyen, and so on, but now the practice is more widespread. Thus, a U.S. corporation selling bonds outside the U.S. that are denominated and paid for in dollars and yield interest in dollars is selling Eurobonds. Now that there’s an actual currency called the euro, the potential for confusion is even greater. How many Eurobonds could a Euroeuro bureau sell, if the Euroeuros weren’t sold in Europe?

Europeans call Europe their base,
But their forebears engaged in a race
To displace many others.
Colonial brothers
At times brought the label disgrace.

In Europe, it’s jam-making season.
One berry’s especially pleasin’:
The one that I clasp
To my breast is the rasp.
Why not straw, black, or blue? Ehh, no reason.

The raspberry, known in North America as the European or red raspberry to distinguish it from the black raspberry, is a soft red berry that grows on canes and is cultivated worldwide. Unlike the related blackberry (my actual favourite for making jam), raspberries leave behind their torus or stem when picked, giving them a hollow core.

He’s developed a bad case of gout,
Thanks to overconsumption of stout.
On the other hand, though,
He’s the new CEO
Now of Guinness. It all evens out.

No relation to the CEO of Diageo PLC, the company that now owns the iconic Irish brand.

Eventually, this will all end.
How you cope with that thought will depend
On your outlook, and how
Soon it happens from now.
Make the most of this limerick, my friend.

Evolution’s first feathered creation
Was a dinosaur. Then, evolation
(i.e., flying away)
Saw them turn, day by day,
Into masters of long-range migration.

An obsolete term for the act of flying away.

My ewer’s accrued many ewes
On its surface; I choose to peruse
Ovine feminine stencils
On vase-shaped utensils,
Like pitchers I use to hold booze.

Well-behaving—like Flopsy and Mopsy—
Computers are growing like Topsy.
A quintillion is better flops
Than giga- or petaflops:
Not long till they’re all exaflops-y.

As of May 2022, the fastest supercomputer can handle over a quintillion (1018) floating-point operations per second—to be exact, 1.102 exaflops or 1,102,000,000 gigaflops.

A lady one day, feeling bored,
Took a dip in a lake with her sword,
When along came a king.
“I’ll be having that thing,”
He exclaimed, as he claimed his reward.

Most versions of Arthurian legend associate Excalibur with the Lady of the Lake, distinguishing it from the Sword in the Stone.

“A desiccant sucks away moisture,
Not an exsiccant,” Teacher rejoiced. “Yer
A bonehead,” I cry,
“It’s archaic, sir! Why,
With your pedant petard, I have hoist yer.”

“Ow, my knee!” “It’s a pen. I just flicked you.
Ha, ha! It’s a hammer. I tricked you.”
I said to him, “Righto.
Didja like my excito-,
Um, motion? I’m sorry I kicked you.”

Excito-motions are reflex actions. The spinal group of nerves, composed of the excitor and the motor nerves, are said to be excito-motory: impressions are transmitted to a nerve centre and reflected back to produce muscular contractions without our thinking about it first.

Excortication, or stripping off bark,
Isn’t something I’d try for a lark,
Because buck naked trees
Would most certainly freeze
In the cold, or a breeze, or the dark.

I was struck by an angering thought:
My plans for the 12th are as naught!
My request for excusal
Was met with refusal—
I’ll be stuck on a jury in court.

I seem to get cited to attend court for jury duty every eighteen months. On most occasions I’ve applied to be excused, but once decided to go through with it, only for the trial to be discontinued after a guilty plea.

I’m exhausted. I’m knackered. I’m shattered.
By the forces of life I’ve been battered.
All that effort’s no fun
When you’re back at square one,
Starting over, like none of it mattered.

You’ve invested your money in shares
And now need to retrieve it. But where’s
This new charge come from, eh?
The fund managers say
That this exit fee helps them. Who cares!

Back-end loads are fees paid by investors when selling mutual fund shares, expressed as a percentage of the value of the fund’s shares. They’re usually higher in the early years of an investment, to discourage selling too soon. Back-end loads are also called exit fees or exit charges, but those terms, particularly in a UK context, apply in other situations as well: for example, a fixed-term mortgage or utilities contract might incur an exit fee if ended early, and an Inheritance Tax exit charge is incurred in some cases when money is moved out of a trust.

If you’re at a loose end, with a chance
To, then fodagut watch The Expanse,
Now on Amazon Prime:
Im tugut—sublime
Science fiction ensured to entrance.

Whether Inners or those from the Belt,
Its characters struggled; fans felt
It got everything right
In depicting their plight
As they worked with the kaka dey dealt.

The Expanse is a series of nine novels, short stories and novellas (2011–22) by James S. A. Corey, the pen name of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. In 2015 it became a TV series on the Syfy cable channel, who cancelled it after three seasons for being too expensive. Amazon Prime Video took over production for three further seasons before again cancelling it in 2022. Six of the nine novels were adapted overall.

One feature of the TV show was its engagement of a linguist, Eric Armstrong, to develop the Belter Creole (Lang Belta) spoken by the people of the Asteroid Belt, who live in an uneasy relationship with the Inners of the United Nations of Earth and Luna and the Martian Congressional Republic—the inner planets. Key phrases are sprinkled throughout their dialogue even when they’re speaking English, such as fodagut (please), im tugut (it’s great) and kaka (shit), and their Beltalowda accents sometimes affect their English grammar (hence dey dealt here means “they were dealt”).

If your friends are all fellows for whom
Catching up involves dwelling on doom,
Don’t just sit there and fume:
Get some stuff that goes BOOM!
An explosive will scatter the gloom.

We’re on Skaro; the Daleks are near.
Then the Doctor says, “Quick! Disappear!”
In a panic, I try,
But hear one of them cry:

Mr Johnson, your diction’ry, here,
Is too rich for my liking, I fear.
It’s costly! Extortionable!
It’s quite disproportionable.
A farthing a word is too dear.

Samuel Johnson defined over forty thousand words in his famous dictionary, which at a farthing a word would come to over forty pounds; its actual price at publication in 1755 was four pounds and ten shillings, still a lot of money at the time. His dictionary contained the then-current word disproportionable, but not extortionable; nowadays we would end both with -ate rather than -able.

Though I fancied its polka-dot collar,
The price on the shirt made me holler.
Too high! Disproportionate!
Excessive! Extortionate!
I wouldn’t buy that for a dollar.

Move closer, dear, will you, because
Your aunt’s eyesight is not what it was.
Let me look at those shoes.
Always red ones you choose!
My dear Dorothy, this isn’t Oz.

The Eurozone (shorthand: EZ)
Is a region investors have fled.
Once it bustled, and trusted
Its banks. Now they’re busted,
With state after state in the red.

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