Definitely Limericks by Rory Ewins


When pronouncing the name of Geelong,
Don’t say “GEE-long”, as that would be wrong,
And say “juh”, never “ghee”.
Does it leave you at sea,
This Victorian city? Stay strong.

The second city of the Australian state of Victoria, Geelong, lies about 65 km southwest of Melbourne.

For your dinner this Christmas, I’ve heard
That the one that you want is the bird
Like a honking great duck.
Tell you more, you’re in luck—
We have multiples. Geese is the word.

If you’re hopelessly devoted to goose, you’ll already know that geese is the bird’s (word’s) plural, and not a popular Broadway and movie musical set in the 1950s (that would be Grease, featuring the hits “You’re the One That I Want”, “Summer Nights”—tell me more, tell me more—and “Hopelessly Devoted to You”).

This illness to which you are fated:
It’s to one or the other sex weighted?
Whether woman or man,
Please accept, if you can,
That the malady’s gender-related.

His humour’s like Wilder’s; routines
Are like Kelly’s; like Hackman, he means
To impress when he acts.
All these traits he enacts:
They’re inherited—all in the genes.

The thought of a general election
Fills Remainers with abject dejection,
As Brexiteers glory
In thoughts of a Tory
Supremacy, free from correction.

When it was called on 18 April 2017, Theresa May’s snap election of 8 June was widely expected to increase the Conservative majority in the UK House of Commons and devastate a Labour opposition twenty points behind in the polls, giving the Tories carte blanche in Brexit negotiations.

Young Millennials crave each new app;
Aging Boomers would rather a nap;
While Gen X, in between—
Seldom heard, seldom seen—
Rules supreme in the generation gap.

Gen Xers are known for our sense of irony. (Here’s a reading of this limerick.)

The problem with generative AI?
It will promptly, unknowingly, lie.
When considering text
And what’s probably next,
It makes claims that make smart readers cry.

Artificial intelligence really isn’t intelligent—and therein lies the problem.

A genitourinary ailment
In the past meant your bladder might fail; meant
A gentleman pissing
Could even risk kissing
His todger goodbye. Such bewailment!

See how Genovese cake lovers lunge
For a slice of this wonderful sponge!
This génoise (Genoese?
It’s been called both of these)
Has a crumb in which tongues love to plunge.

Genoise (zhen-WAHZ) is a sponge cake leavened with stiffly beaten eggs. The recipe dates to the 17th century, but it isn’t Italian: it’s classically French. It’s also called a Genoese (jen-oh-EEZ) or Genovese (JEN-uh-veez) cake or sponge, but using these English adjectives for things pertaining to the city of Genoa doesn’t make its origins any clearer.

“Is the chef Genoese? Why’s this bake
Named for Genoa? Surely the cake
Comes from France.“ “Oui, c’est vrai.
C’est génoise. ’Ow you say...
C’est un gâteau français.“ “Mon mistake.“

These rundown apartments need paint,
But their period features are quaint.
If we gentrify one
By repairing it, none
Will object, because classy it ain’t.

In his innards, unruly events
Are afoot, and the pressure presents
Quite a challenge: the timing
Is tight as he’s climbing
The stairs, pissing off to the gents.

His results came; we both feared the worst,
But our boy looked about fit to burst.
“How’d you go then, my son?
An Attila the Hun?”
“Even better than that: a Geoff Hurst!”

This lad has done well in his degree at the University of East London, getting even better than a 2:1 (upper second class honours): instead, he’s managed a first. Sure beats a Desmond Tutu or a Douglas Hurd.

Around nine hundred years ago, deaf
To the facts of the matter, old Geoff
Cooked up stories of royals
Today’s research spoils.
The Death of the Arthur, eh, chef?

Geoffrey of Monmouth (c. 1095–c. 1155) was a Welsh cleric whose chronicle The History of the Kings of Britain (Historia regum Britanniae, c. 1136) included one of the earliest accounts of King Arthur. Geoffrey claimed to have translated the Historia into Latin from “a very ancient book in the British tongue”, and for four hundred years was taken at his word, but modern historians don’t believe him—or the bit about Merlin’s prophecies, or his tales of how Brutus, great-grandson of Aeneas of Troy, settled in Britain on the instructions of the goddess Diana after defeating its resident giants.

The Russians took Georgia at first,
Then the Soviets did—just the worst—
Then it broke free at last;
But when further years passed,
Russia went back for more. Is it cursed?

Georgia, or in the Georgian language and script საქართველო (Sakartvelo), was an independent kingdom for centuries until Russia annexed it piece by piece in the nineteenth century. After the Russian Revolution it enjoyed a few years as the independent Democratic Republic of Georgia until the Soviet Union annexed it. Georgia seceded as the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, and a decade later set its sights on NATO and EU membership, prompting a Russian invasion and subsequent occupation of the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in 2008.

What’s that round-looking writing that we see
By the Black Sea? A problem for me: see,
You can only decrypt
This მხედრული script
If you’re Georgian: say, from Tbilisi.

The word on the fourth line is Mkhedruli (muh-KHED-roo-lee), the script used in modern Georgia. There are three scripts for written Georgian: Asomtavruli, the oldest (4th or 5th century) and the equivalent of capital letters; Nushkuri (9th century), a slanted lowercase script used in religious manuscripts; and Mkhedruli (10th century), again lowercase, used for royal documents. Mkhedruli became dominant by the 19th century.

Herschel’s named his new world Georgium Sidus,
But a say in this matter denied us.
This in turn should explain us
Preferring Uranus,
As Brits and their King can’t abide us.

Although it was known in ancient times, Uranus was considered a star until William Herschel observed it through his telescope in 1781 and declared it a comet. Herschel stuck to that position for two years, until the weight of astronomical opinion persuaded him it was a “Primary Planet of our Solar System”. When King George III awarded him an annual stipend for his discovery, Herschel in turn named the planet Georgium Sidus, or “George’s Star”, which is a pretty good deal for £200 a year.

Nobody outside Britain liked the name much, and various alternatives were suggested (one of which was Neptune, which came in handy later). In 1782, the German astronomer Johann Elert Bode proposed the name Uranus, the Latinized form of Ouranos, the Greek god of the sky. This became the front-runner, but it wasn’t until 1850 that the last holdouts, Her Majesty’s Nautical Almanac Office at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, switched from Georgium Sidus to Uranus.

If Bode had known that the Roman equivalent of Ouranos was actually called Caelus, think of all the puns we’d have lost.

The German Expressionists peaked
In the oughts, teens and twenties: they sneaked
In their feelings in bright-
coloured paintings, the sight
Of which troubled the Nazis, who freaked.

German Expressionism, or simply Expressionism, began in the art world in the first decade of the twentieth century, two key groupings being Dresden’s Die Brücke (The Bridge) and Munich’s Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider); Expressionist paintings featured heavily in the Nazi Party’s 1937 exhibition of Degenerate Art. The movement also touched on literature, music and cinema; German Expressionist cinema flourished in 1920s Berlin with such films as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) and Nosferatu (1922), which influenced the Hollywood horror movies and film noir of the 1930s and beyond.

Mandrake’s hypnotic effects—
A gestural, hand-waving hex—
Cast a spell over Narda;
In rapturous ardour,
She purrs, “Let’s have magical sex.”

Mandrake is skirting close to a serious breach of consent here, even if he and Princess Narda are infatuated with each other. The comic strip Mandrake the Magician, created by Lee Falk, ran from 1934 until 2013. It took Mandrake and Narda 63 years to tie the knot.

I say, fellows—well you may scoff,
But because the man called me a toff
There can be little doubt of it:
When he shouted, “Get out of it!”
That ill-mannered oik meant “piss off”.

This problem—what most comprehend of it—
Is prickly. Not what we intend of it,
But our law, Aussies feel,
Will give most a raw deal:
Of a pineapple, get the rough end of it.

In Australia, to get the rough end of the pineapple (originally wrong end) is to receive unfair or inequitable treatment.

Avaricious, improvident glee
Fuelled a mortgage-repackaging spree
That the banks thought was great
Till ’07/’08:
Good clean fun till it meant GFC.

The global financial crisis of 2007–2008 triggered a Great Recession whose effects are still felt a decade later.

A Governor-General (GG)
Is a glorious figure to see
On a gee-gee: of course,
A GG on a horse
Isn’t common. I’ve seen only three.

You’re in Adelaide? Then, if you can,
Book a ticket up north on The Ghan.
When you’re heading to Darwin,
Why travel by car when
This train tracks Australia’s span?

The Ghan, in operation since 1929, is considered one of the world’s great train journeys. Initially running from Adelaide to Alice Springs in the centre of Australia, since 2004 it has crossed the continent from south to north or vice versa in 2½ days with tourist stops along the way.

Street culture pervades the libretto
Of my musical set in the ghetto;
There’s hip urban drumming,
And rapper gangs humming
The chorus of “Mack the Stiletto”.

I call it The Threepenny Hamilton Side Story.

The ghosts on an old TV set
Were just duplicate signals, and yet
I am sure there were those
Who immediately froze,
And cried, “Momma! It’s Auntie Annette!”

When she tried to be cooler (well, coolish),
Her dress-sense became, frankly, ghoulish:
Blood-red scarves, pitch-black shirts,
Skull-white make-up. It hurts
To see grandparents looking so foolish.

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