Definitely Limericks by Rory Ewins


Of electoral systems, the most
Problematic is first-past-the-post.
Get a single vote more
Than the others, and you’re
Declared winner: a dubious boast.

FPP treats an election as a race to the highest number of votes in any particular seat, no matter how many candidates take part. Depending how many people run against you, you can win a seat with as little as thirty, twenty, or even five percent of the overall vote. This can sit uneasily with any claim that you have a popular mandate to govern.

Americans like to say fracas
In ways that unnervingly shake us.
The letters up back are
The source of this fracas:
In different directions they take us.

The motion of pictures is reckoned
In terms of their frame rate. Per second,
The frames have flown past
Viewers’ eyeballs so fast
The illusion of movement has beckoned.

Mes amis, voici France en un glance.
C’est un land of good fortune (bonne chance).
In Paris, don’t embarrass
Toi-même and say “Paris”.
Mange baguettes and fromage: you’re in France!

A schoolteacher noting the lack
Of comic-strip kids who were black
Prompted Schulz to create one.
Though never a great one,
Peanuts’ Franklin would often be back.

Charles M. Schulz created the Peanuts character Franklin in 1968 after a letter from a Los Angeles schoolteacher in the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King. Although concerned about appearing patronizing, Schulz managed to avoid it, although some critics saw the character as nondescript and tokenistic. Franklin certainly lacked the distinctive traits of his classmates Peppermint Patty and Marcie, but as more of an everyman he often stood in for the reader while observing the weirdness of Charlie Brown and his friends. In the strip he was only known as Franklin, but Schulz gave him the surname Armstrong (in honour of fellow cartoonist Robb Armstrong) for a 1994 Peanuts animated special.

Cathy Freeman, Australian runner,
Won the 400 gold in a stunner:
This sprinter made flames
At the 2000 Games.
If yer gunna run fast, then yer gunna.

Aboriginal Australian Cathy Freeman (b. 1973) won the women’s 400 metres at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, having ranked fifth in the heats; prior to Sydney, she won silver in Atlanta in 1996 and came first at the 1997 and 1999 World Championships in the same event.

In December, the weather front stalled,
And it hit 36, which soon palled.
Then a cool ocean breeze
Began treating the trees...
In Freo, the doctor had called.

The temperature hitting 36°C isn’t too far off the December record in the port city of Fremantle, Western Australia, of 41.1°C. The breeze that brings relief to the city on a hot summer’s day is known as the Fremantle doctor, from a similar figurative use of doctor in the West Indies. The WA towns and cities of Albany, Geraldton, Esperance, Eucla and Perth also have their own doctors, but Freo’s is the best-known.

When you write about radio, you
Will use frequency frequently. Do
You like saving a letter
Or two? Even better:
Waive seven, by typing fq.

The case neoliberals have made
About why to engage in free trade
Has held sway for some years;
Old protectionist fears
Are outmoded, although not allayed.

The Polar Explorers excluded
Him, membership card marked “Intruded
Sans knowledge of ice caps”.
“How cold! Please be nice, chaps...”
They’re freezing me out here, he brooded.

“I’ll... just freshen up,” says Aunt Mabel,
Looking ever-so-slightly unstable,
And everyone poises
For terrible noises
To follow her flight from the table.

Uncle Oliver Overton cried,
“Bring me buckets of chicken wings, fried!
Cooked in extra-hot grease,”
To his long-suffering niece.
Still, she did get the house when he died.

That candle appears to be singeing
The delicate lacework that’s fringing
The edge of the tablecloth.
Easy now, Mabel—cloth
Isn’t forever. Stop whingeing.

“It’s easy to mispronounce fringing,”
I hear etymologists whinging.
Their dancing and singing
Has left my ears ringing.
I’m cringing at variant binging.

Unlike whing(e)ing, ting(e)ing and bing(e)ing, there appears to be no fringeing, impingeing or (since 1600) cringeing, and few sources recognise hingeing. Meanwhile, singeing and swingeing are only spelled with an e, for some unfathomable reason.

Hear that chorus of ribbits and choking?
That’s the sound of amphibians croaking.
Our creation of smog
Spells the end for the frog.
That’s why Kermit is so antismoking.

With amphibious habitat gone,
Wild harvest of frogs can’t go on;
Hence the frog farming craze.
Farmer Kermit spends days
Chasing frogs hopping hither and yon.

No, not a farmer frog, a farmer of frogs. With wild harvests of most edible species becoming unsustainable, frog farming is a growing aquaculture industry, particularly in Asia, where the whole carcass is consumed, not just the legs. Surprisingly, the first French frog farm wasn’t established until 2010.

A froghopper’s nymph makes his home
In a spittle-like coating of foam.
There he says, with a shrug,
“It’s a place where a bug
Can relax while his predators roam.”

As well as deterring predators with its acrid taste, the foamed-up plant sap known as cuckoo spit, frog spit, or snake spit prevents froghopper nymphs (or spittlebugs) from drying out. Spittlebugs can jump 100 times their own length, while some adult froghoppers—a group of hemipteran insects in the suborder Auchenorrhyncha—can jump up to 70 cm vertically.

A frugivorous diner eats fruit.
Take the toucan, whose beak is a beaut:
He’ll strip a whole tree
Of its guavas with glee.
(What, you thought they ate Froot Loops? How cute.)

Kellogg’s Froot Loops taste samey as hell,
But cartoon toucan mascots can sell
Any sugary cereal
To kids, which I’m leery’ll
Soon mean my two cannot spell.

Apparently, individual Loops are all the same artificial froot flavour despite their different colours. Toucan Sam clearly won’t be winning any spelling bees.

Your pastor hates pasta? I’ll bet he
Hates Monsters of Flying Spaghetti.
No true Pastafarian
Finds noodles scary, an’
Doubting their glory is petty.

The Church of FSM worships an omniscient bowl of spaghetti and meatballs, the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Those who have been touched by His noodly appendage refer to themselves as Pastafarians. Those who haven’t refer to them as smartasses. Such doubters clearly haven’t considered the appeal of an afterlife full of pirates carousing around a beer volcano.

The length of this Colchester st.
Is many Imperial ft.
If a Roman had put
His imperial ft.
On this st., we would call it jes’ nt.

Colchester was once the capital of Roman Britain. The Roman foot, at around 29.6 cm, was slightly shorter than an Imperial or US foot of 30.48 cm.

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