Definitely Limericks by Rory Ewins


Fibrinogen’s made in the liver.
Without it, your blood flow’s a river—
It helps it to clot.
If you don’t have a lot,
That can cause haemophilia. [Shiver.]

The plasma protein fibrinogen converts during clotting into the protein fibrin, which forms a net in blood vessels, trapping platelets and cells. A fibrinogen deficiency is one possible cause of haemophilia, whether it involves lower than normal levels of fibrinogen (hypofibrinogenaemia), fibrinogen that doesn’t work properly (dysfibrinogenaemia), low levels of fibrinogen that doesn’t work properly (hypodysfibrinogenaemia), or a complete lack of fibrinogen (afibrinogenaemia).

My lover is known for her fieriness,
A feature that draws my admiriness.
She’s hot like the sun,
In both temper and fun—
It’s a lot of what fuels my desiriness.

Having saved almost nothing by fifty,
I have fifteen years left to be thrifty:
Having one of those pensions
That everyone mentions
To pay for baked beans would be nifty.

Good mornin’, love—you’re lookin’ neat ’n’
Trim—darlin’, enjoy it, it’s fleetin’.
Now, let’s help that figure
Avoid gettin’ bigger!
Some muesli? Oh, really? You’ve eaten?

In reciting his spell, Harry’s mission
Is to reach every wizard’s ambition:
Make herbaceous plants scarier.
He chants, “Scrophularia!”
Yep, he’s Figworts School’s finest magician.

Figwort is the common name for around 200 species of herbaceous flowering plants of the genus Scrophularia, found throughout the Northern hemisphere.

My girl was so gone, had to pinch ’er
To get her attention; the clincher
Was, “Next, we’ll watch Fight
Club.” She’ll stay up all night
To watch drama directed by Fincher.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,
Social Network and Seven: a few
More of David F.’s movies
(Oh, and Zodiac) prove he’s
A man who will always come through.

David Fincher (b. 1962) started out as a director of music videos in the 1980s, working with, among others, Rick Springfield, Paula Abdul, Madonna and Sting. His first feature film, 1992’s Alien3, had a mixed reception, but his second put him on the map: Seven (1995), a crime drama about a fictional serial killer, was later followed by his adaptation of the Swedish serial-killer novel The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011). Zodiac (2007) and his Netflix series Mindhunter explored real-life serial killers of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Along the way, Fight Club (1999), The Social Network (2010) and Gone Girl (2014) cemented his reputation as one of the best directors of his era.

Defend Finland, the land of the Finns?
My list of its merits begins:
Jean Sibelius! Lakes!
Northern Lights! Goodness sakes,
Angry Birds! And the Moomins! All wins.

Since the moment we learnt to make fire,
The flames have leapt higher and higher.
Now they light up the night
As we burn all in sight,
The earth scorched by the torch of desire.

My cat would complain when I woke her
By moving the logs with the poker,
Disrupting the heat
That was reaching her feet,
So I’d sit by the fireplace and stroke her.

This whitefella officer’s cold.
“Stay here, son, and do what you’re told.”
He asks me, “What place
Are you from?” “Here.” “Your race?”
“First Australian.” “You don’t look that old.”

Australia’s indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are increasingly being called the First Nations of Australia, First Peoples of Australia, and First Australians. Unlike the young man here, Aboriginal Australians often refer to themselves by their cultural group, such as Koori, Murri, Noongar or Palawa.

You’re the first one to walk through the door
In the New Year in Scotland? Then you’re
The first foot. Aye, and putting
Yourself there’s first footing.
How the Hogmanay revellers roar!

In northern England, Northern Ireland and especially in Scotland, the first foot or first-footer is the first person to enter a home on New Year’s Day, usually as a celebratory ritual just after midnight. Traditionally, the first-footer should be someone who wasn’t already in the house at midnight, and should bring gifts of a coin, bread, salt, a lump of coal, and whisky. In Scotland, a dark-haired man as first foot is thought to bring good luck for the year ahead, whereas light-haired men, redheads and women are ill omens.

If a train trip’s your personal heaven,
Come to Paddington, six past eleven,
Platform 3, carriage B,
And prepare to go “Squee!”:
First Great Western will take you to Devon!

Said a fishmonger, “Och, how I wish
There were words for the eatin’ o’ fish!’
Aye, there is one, ye say?
Ichthyophagy? Yay!
Also fish-eating? Nae, that one’s pish.”

The Oxford English Dictionary dates the first use of the fancier piscine term to 1656, fifty years after the more straightforward one; but the one nobody uses has been a separate entry since 1899, and the other only became a separate entry in 2024. That’s dictionary-makin’ for ye.

Said the fishmonger’s daughter, “I wish, oh
I wish I could work as a fisho
Like Dad! Selling snappers
Ain’t nearly as crap as
Fish fingers at Coles. I’m ambisho!”

Australians love shortening job titles, and this one is pretty straightforward. We don’t, however, actually shorten ambitious to “ambisho”.

It pays for you not to get pally
With bulls you might find in the mallee,
Unless you’re as fit
As the bull is, else it
Then decides that you’re not up its alley.

The mallee (often capitalised) is the scrubland of Victoria and other parts of southern Australia. Someone who’s as fit as a mallee bull is in very good health, and hopefully can run fast.

Fits and starts: when it’s in, it departs
From its old form, by fits. The phrase charts
Language change over years—
Stopping, starting—so here’s
A fine instance of in fits and starts.

You could buy an FJ once to suit
Any Aussie: sedan, van or ute.
Of the cars made by Holden,
This model’s an old ’un;
Them bodgie blokes thought it was beaut.

The Holden FJ was manufactured from 1953 to 1957, during the height of Australia’s “Bodgie and Widgie” era.

The Falklands’ domain, .fk,
Could provoke (as in “no f-king way”),
Those who call them Malvinas,
Who are not quite as keen as
The locals on what ICANN say.

Argentina maintains a claim to the islands it calls Islas Malvinas, and has complained to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers about the continued existence of the Falkland Islands’ domain, dot F K.

The term flag-waving—literal waving
Of flags—describes ways of behaving
That are blatant appeals
To our partisan feels,
Like [insert country/ruler] “God save”-ing.

When a takeaway offers you flake,
It’s no choccie deep-fried by mistake.
If yer still in the dark,
It’s the Aussie for shark,
Served with chips and a Coke or a shake.

If wrapping your jaws around Jaws
Is a prospect that gives you some pause:
What you’ll put in your tummy
Is probably Gummy.
Great Whites you can’t bite, say state laws.

Aussie slang for a flannelette shirt
Is a flanno, say some—doesn’t hurt,
Though, to call it a flannie.
Either way, it’s uncanny
How it hides any sign of the dirt.

Flannies are long-sleeved buttoned and collared shirts made of flannelette (which apparently makes them slightly different from flannel shirts, but I can’t tell the difference). They usually have a plaid or tartan pattern, and have long been popular winter wear in Australia’s colder regions.

Here in Wollongong’s sewers, uncouth
Rodents wallow in excrement. Strewth!
Like a fancy-pants human,
I’m preenin’ and groomin’:
As flash as a rat with a gold tooth.

This Australian expression tends to imply that you’re ostentatious and overdressed. Looking flash means you’re dressed up pretty good.

Flash Gordon’s alive! Here’s the thing:
He’s a captive of Emperor Ming.
On the planet of Mongo,
Some plans can go wrong. “Go
Ahead, puny man. Kiss my ring.”

Who will save every one of us? Flash!
Since his capture right after their crash
Onto Mongo, the thing
He wants most? To stop Ming
And save Dale, with a last flying dash.

The character of Flash Gordon was created by comics artist Alex Raymond in 1934 to compete with Buck Rogers, and the strip became so popular that it ran until 2003 (and was revived in 2023). Flash featured in 1930s movie and radio serials, a 1950s live-action TV series, various animated series, and in the 1980 movie Flash Gordon, which has attained cult status thanks to its memorable visuals, plethora of quotable lines and rock soundtrack by Queen. The movie shows Flash, his love interest Dale Arden and scientist Hans Zarkov travelling to the planet Mongo and confronting its emperor Ming the Merciless (played by a deliciously evil Max von Sydow), who wears a distinctive ring with special powers. It climaxes with Flash and the Hawkmen storming Ming’s palace to prevent the emperor’s wedding to Dale. The actor playing the Hawkmen’s leader, Brian Blessed, essentially built a career on his line of “Gordon’s alive!”—one of many snippets of dialogue peppered throughout the Queen soundtrack album.

In Australia, the Flash Gordon strip was initially titled Speed Gordon to avoid the local connotations of flash of being showy or ostentatious. The change didn’t last, but it did give rise to the phrase in more trouble than Speed Gordon, meaning “beset with extraordinary difficulties”.

I’ve been workin’ me arse off! O’ course, Ted!
Been goin’ all day. I’m exhausted—
As flat as a tack.
No, I’m not stayin’ back.
Ya can’t make me. You’ll hafta use force, Ted.

Fish ’n’ chips in Australia means flatties:
Grab a rod, go an’ nab a few fatties,
Scale ’n’ fillet ’em, batter
Or crumb ’em (don’t matter),
And fry. Also good: flathead patties.

Although we’d call ’em fish cakes. Various species of flathead (family Platycephalidae) are among the most popular table fish in Australia.

We needed to furnish our flat,
So I ordered some chairs. That was that.
Well, not quite, as they came
As a flat-pack, the same
As the table. My wife: “Build ’em, stat!”

Flat-pack furniture was once the domain of IKEA, but in the days of online shopping is increasingly the norm, with everything from shelves to king-size beds arriving in large, flat cardboard boxes—some assembly required.

Matty ran out the door of our flat
To the cafe; called after him, “Matt,
Get us all a flat white.”
He called back, “Yeah, orright.”
Brought ’em back, and we drank ’em flat chat.

In Australia, flat chat, flat tack and flat out all mean moving at top speed, as fast as you can. A flat white, meanwhile, is a method of preparing espresso partway between a cappuccino and a caffè latte invented in Australia in the 1980s and taken up in the UK twenty years later.

Is he busy? My certainty’s shrinking;
He might just be lazy, I’m thinking.
“You workin’ hard, mate?”
“Yeah, boss, goin’ great.
Flat out, like a lizard that’s drinking.”

While flat out means as fast as you can, the Australian phrase flat out like a lizard drinking means being busy. In the past, the phrase could also mean the opposite: instead of going flat out, someone flat out like a lizard drinking was like a lizard spread flat on the ground, not doing much.

You can tell by the way that he’s winking
At strangers: he’s hammered, I’m thinking.
He’s sculling that beer
Like a man with no fear:
Flat out (like a lizard), he’s drinking.

Flat out like a lizard drinking can also mean doing something quickly, and is occasionally abbreviated to flat out like a lizard. To scull is to down a drink in a single draught.

To encapsulate Greek gods, I’ve found
That to highlight key features is sound.
Hermes’ fleetness of foot
Meant he’d speedily put
First his left foot, then right, on the ground.

A flesh tunnel stretches your lobe
Round a hole. A whole finger could probe
In the consequent gap:
I would try it, but... crap,
Dude, I can’t. I’m an ear-probing-phobe.

Flesh tunnels are also known as ear tunnels...

An ear-piercing: jab! And you’re through.
There are nerves in your earlobes, a few,
But it doesn’t much hurt.
Cutting deep to insert,
Though, an ear tunnel? Hey, you do you.

There’s someone still trapped in that wreck—
Has he broken his neck? Better check.
His shirt’s bloody and ripped...
“You okay? Your car flipped.”
“I’m all right,” the bloke says. “Flippin’ ’eck.”

Flipping heck, like blooming heck, is a euphemism for something a bit stronger. Flipping and even flip can also appear on their own.

They flogged me a flagging old horse
After flogging it. Showing remorse
(So, they flogged themselves), they’d
Given back what I’d paid
By next morning. I flogged on, perforce.

Flog means here, respectively, to sell or offer for sale, to steal (Australian slang), to reproach oneself or feel guilt for one’s actions, and to proceed by painful effort (UK slang). All ultimately derive from its primary sense of “to beat, whip, or chastise by beating with a rod or whip”.

I’m the flopsiest supercomputer,
Flipping facts in a flash to your router.
My processing chops
Can hack trillions of flops:
I’m a floating-point numbers sharp-shooter.

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

The most natural beauty you’ve seen
Is fair Flora, the young Roman queen—
Nay, a goddess—of flowers.
Among her great powers
Is bringing to mind margarine.

Not only did Flora—Roman goddess of flowers, spring and youth—have a brand of margarine named after her (mah-juh-REEN, U.K.), she landed the entire plant kingdom. Take that, Chloris, Greek goddess of flowers, with your chlorine. (Actually, that’s from the Ancient Greek for “pale green”, χλωρός, khlōrós—the same root as the name of this Nymph.)

When you’re flossing, an absence of stealth
Is inherent. No, not dental health,
But an earlier meaning
Of boasting or preening—
Of flirting, or flaunting your wealth.

My dentist insists, “You should floss!”
“Should I really?” I wink, “You’re the boss,”
And I blow him a kiss.
He’s nonplussed. “I meant, miss,
Round your teeth, to prevent further loss.”

Flossing is 1930s slang for flirting or showing off. The dental meaning of the verb didn’t emerge until the 1970s, although the term dental floss for the item itself dates to the early twentieth century.

“Hey, look at that cat: he’s so fluffy!”
“A cat? All I see is some scruffy
Drunk dude. Where’s the cat?”
“Man, that dude’s where it’s at.
He’s a cat, and he’s drunk. Don’t be stuffy.”

Fluffy was 1880s slang for “drunk and incapable”. It’s unlikely to have been remembered by jive-talking hipsters decades later.

If a colour is fluoro, it glows
With a vivid, bright hue (I suppose
The word glow’s not quite right).
Plus a fluoro’s a light
That’s fluorescent, an Aussie bloke knows.

On his doghouse, poor Snoopy would mutter
“It’s lonely up here” at times. But a
New day by chance brings
Frantic flapping of wings,
As pal Woodstock flies in: flitter flutter.

Snoopy’s feathered friend Woodstock first flew into Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts in 1967; his name was revealed in 1970. Snoopy famously slept on top of his doghouse rather than inside it—inside was where he kept his Van Gogh.

While gambling online, Gran would mutter,
“It’s only a small bet—a flutter.”
Then her keyboard got stuck
And placed thousands; bad luck.
Selling up,at least, helped her declutter.

The Flyspeck or Speck is what some
Once called Tassie. Don’t get it? Come, come:
It’s a nickname that tries
To make fun of its size.
It’s the size of Sri Lanka, though, chum.

Tasmania is also around the size of the Republic of Ireland (though not the whole island of Ireland) and a bit bigger than West Virginia. Don’t be fooled by the Mercator projection.

Madagascar once used to use francs
For its businesses, budgets and banks.
This French-derived cash
Du peuple malgache
Should be shortened to Fmg, thanks.

The Malagasy franc, abbreviated either to Fmg (for franc malgache) or MGF, was the currency of Madagascar for most of the twentieth century. In January 2005 it was replaced by the ariary, a denomination with which it had coexisted for many years, at a conversion rate of five to one. At the time of its replacement, 1 Fmg was worth €0.000087.

If some lecherous bloke at a bar
Starts to snigger out loud, “Fnarr fnarr,”
Just what does he intend? Oh,
Some crude innuendo,
Like, “She’ll have a large one.” Har har.

To fold up a napkin, pay heed:
Take a corner—yes, one’s all you need—
Lift it slowly, and then
Bring it over; again,
Take another, and lift... watch your speed...

Rapid folding is extremely dangerous. You could break your napkin.

You’re loaded, girl—you’ll always view
Common people as coarse, through and through.
Common people are jokish,
Traditional, folkish:
Common sense says we’re never like you.

“Common People” by Pulp, one of the defining songs of Britpop, reached number two on the UK charts in 1995.

My partner loves recipes—look
At her blog for some good grub to cook—
And from those, plus her tweets
About all that she eats,
Wrote her foodoir: her cook-memoir-book.

My foot pump inflates, with each hiss,
Any air mattress, starting with this
Double-bed-sized one here.
Further hissing, I fear,
Is from punctures I happened to miss.

Author Ford Hermann Hueffer adored
His old grandad, and so, feeling bored
With his own middle name,
Copied his. Now the same
Grandson doubles as Ford Madox Ford.

If you’ve ever wondered about the name of the English author of The Good Soldier (1915), there’s your answer: Ford (1873–1939) published his early work under the name Ford Hueffer, then inserted Madox in tribute to his artist grandfather Ford Madox Brown, then after the First World War changed his German surname as well. As well as his work as a novelist, poet and critic, Ford founded and edited two influential literary journals, The English Review and The Transatlantic Review.

When the forecast was sunshine, it snowed.
A light drizzle? The dams overflowed.
Now they say we’re due drought,
And I can’t figure out:
What does this doubtful statement forebode?

Those foresters! Give ’em their dues
(That’s the people, not grey kangaroos),
They can cut down trees good—
But does that mean they should?
For Tassie’s old growth, they’re bad news.

Strictly speaking, it should be give ’em their due. The narrator don’t do idioms too good.

In Tassie, a forester is someone who elsewhere would be called a logger, rather than one who manages and protects a forest (or if they do, it’s with the eventual aim of cutting it down). Since the 1980s, forestry has been the focus of fierce conservation battles around the protection of Tasmania’s old-growth forests, some of which once boasted the tallest trees on earth—but no longer do. The forester is also a Tasmanian subspecies of the eastern grey kangaroo.

The pardalote Father had spotted
Had feathers with spots clearly dotted
Along them—not forty,
But sixty, he thought he
Could count (Pa was clearly besotted).

The forty-spotted pardalote is the rarest of Australia’s four species of pardalotes, or peep-wrens. Unlike the other three species, the endangered forty-spot is confined to Tasmania, mainly to Bruny Island and Maria Island in the state’s southeast and east. The dots on its wings run closer to sixty than forty, so whoever named it clearly gave up counting too soon.

The forty-spotted pardalote is the subject of one of my favourite family spoonerisms, which I gladly share here with the world: the sporty potted fart-a-lot.

“See that forwardmost topmast?” “Which, where?”
“’Neath the topgallant—look in the air.
The fore-topmast, it’s called.
I shall climb there.” Enthralled,
The crew watch him reach out: “I’ll be there.”

The masts of traditional sailing ships were made of sections (limited as they were by the length of timber), with the royal mast or topgallant at the top, the topmast beneath it, and the mast beneath that. On a three-masted ship, the masts from bow to stern were the fore-, main- and mizzen-masts, so the topmast of the foremast was the fore-topmast. The Four Tops, who reached number one in the US and UK with their 1966 single “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)”, weren’t named after one.

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