Definitely Limericks by Rory Ewins


When young Jack cross-examined my client,
The big oaf came across as defiant:
He said, “Fee, fi, fo, fum,”
And made threats. Pretty dumb—
I should know not to act for a giant.

I’m a humble hermaphrodite, ma’am:
An increasingly rare giant clam.
For a bivalve, I’m big,
But I’m harmless, you dig?
I won’t clamp you. That ain’t what I am.

The killer clam of legend appears to be a myth: giant clams close their shells too slowly and incompletely to pose a real threat to divers, and there are no confirmed cases of death by giant clam. We’re a threat to them, though: overfishing of giant clams, for food and for their supposed aphrodisiac properties, has pushed them to extinction in some parts of the world.

In my search for a rhyme for Gibraltar,
I fear that my efforts will falter:
I’ve found, to my shock,
That its prominent Rock
Wasn’t cleared yet by any pole vaulter.

The Rock of Gibraltar is 426 metres high, and the world record for pole vaulting is a bit more than six metres, so there’s some way to go.

The British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar was ceded to Britain in 1713 and has been a bone of contention with neighbouring Spain ever since.

Pronouncing the image-type GIF
Has sparked many a web-user tiff.
Is it “jif”, like giraffe?
Or like giggle? Don’t laugh,
’Cos it’s “jif”, its inventor says. Stiff.

As if.

Mr Hooper’s retirement gift
Was a timepiece too heavy to lift.
“What’s this clock made of, lead?”
He exclaimed—then dropped dead.
“Hooper’s present no longer,” we sniffed.

Floating-point operations? My speed
Is in billions per second! My creed:
When the gigaflops stop,
Then I’m shutting up shop.
I can flaunt a fair few flops indeed.

Maybe, but you aren’t the flopsiest supercomputer: as of May 2022, that one can perform over a quintillion (1018) floating-point operations per second—to be exact, 1.102 exaflops or 1,102,000,000 gigaflops.

Terry Gilliam’s weird animation
Helped Python become a sensation:
A cutout parade,
Which would aid his crusade
For a telly-to-fillum migration.

Terry Gilliam (b. 1940) grew up in America, so probably wouldn’t say fillum for a film or movie unless he was being silly—which, given his role in Monty Python’s Flying Circus, is on the cards. His Python animations—surrealistic scenes featuring cutout illustrations and artworks blended with his own colourful drawings—led to his directing their 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, as well as to some minor on-screen roles. In the 1980s he moved into film direction entirely, resulting in such memorable creations as Brazil (1985) and 12 Monkeys (1995) and his many attempts to film Don Quixote.

This net used by fisheries kills
By entangling fish by their gills.
It hangs like a wall,
Trapping porpoises, small
Or large turtles, and others it stills.

Gill nets are ancient in origin, and so effective that their use is now closely monitored. After the introduction of cheap synthetic fibres in the 1960s commercial fishing fleets increasingly engaged in gillnetting, most notably to target tuna. The nets’ netting can be adjusted to allow undersized fish to pass through, but larger animals can still get trapped, and many turtles, dolphins, whales, seals, manatees and dugongs die in them.

From the tip of his sword to the hilt,
Every surface was covered in gilt.
I inquired, feeling bold,
“Is that glister all gold,
Or from traces of blood thou hast spilt?”

Said Polly to Percy, “I balk
At your cunning endeavours to talk.
Such obsequious mimicry
Is obvious gimmickry.
An honest pet parrot would squawk.”

In our story, the gingerbread man,
A person-shaped biscuit, began
As a substitute child
Who broke free and ran wild.
(Just suspend disbelief, if you can.)

With the boast, “Run as fast as you can—
You can’t catch the gingerbread man!”
He’d evade all who did,
Every farmer, cow, kid,
Till he met a sly fox with a plan.

“Ride my tail as we swim,” said the fox,
And he did. “Ride my back to those rocks,”
And he did. “Ride my head,”
And he did... Snap! He’s dead.
(Many fairy tales feature such shocks.)

The moral is, be more discreet
In your dealings with strangers you meet.
Never boast you’ll elude ’em
Or gloat that you’ve screwed ’em,
When, man, you’re enticing to eat.

Jeremiah, the jolly giraffe,
Enjoyed nothing as much as a laugh,
Till his laughter cut short
When his antlers got caught
In a tree, and his neck bent in half.

Strictly speaking, a giraffe’s antlers aren’t antlers (or horns), they’re ossicones.

We learn, from the time when we’re small,
That giraffes are incredibly tall.
They have knobs on their head,
And aren’t stripy—instead,
They have spots. And long tongues. And that’s all.

Let’s rejoice, Aussies all, ’cos we’re girt
(That’s encircled) by sea. Rip the shirt
Off your back, and lie down
On the beach ’til you’re brown
(Though some 50+ sunscreen won’t hurt).

“Clark, avoid stressing damn if you can;
The censor’s a sensitive man.
To help our film live,
Try to emphasize give.”
“Frankly, Selznick, I don’t like your plan.”

Gone With the Wind (1939) was made when using damn in movies was prohibited by the Motion Picture Production Code; after lobbying by producer David O. Selznick and others, the code was amended to allow exceptions for historical accuracy or literary quotations. Legend has it that to soften the impact of damn in Rhett Butler’s last words to Scarlett O’Hara (“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn”) actor Clark Gable delivered give a damn in the unusual way recommended by the fictionalized Selznick here.

“Is that a roast chicken you’re carvin’?
You’re wonderful, Mum—I’m Hank Marvin.
And you’ve made me—gor’ sake!—
A big cheese give an’ take!”
(Give and take means a cake. Her boy’s starvin’.)

His name isn’t Hank, either. Just two more examples of Cockney rhyming slang.

We went to that place where you smash
Up appliances, paying good cash
To destroy stuff. My mate
Said it’s really a great
Thing to try. Thought I’d give it a bash.

One of various Aussie equivalents of the American phrase give it a whirl.

When you Yanks mean “to give it a try”,
Ya say give it a whirl, but not I.
I’m an Aussie, true blue,
Dinki-di: unlike you,
I’ll say give it a burl till I die.

The phrase appears to derive from the Scottish birl, meaning spin or whirl. So it’s, um, the same. Hey, look over there!

“Okay, let’s get this road on the show.”
“You mean show on the road, Dad.” “I know...
Let’s get started.” “I’ll try.”
“Just relax. We won’t die.
Start the engine, son. Give it a go.”

This phrase appears to have originated in Australia, where it’s still widely used—one of various Aussie equivalents of the American phrase give it a whirl—but subsequently spread to Britain and beyond.

If he’s told you to give it a rest,
Your instructor believes that it’s best
That you cease and desist,
As now off he is pissed.
Somewhat silencing, most will attest.

That bloke at the bar: what a perv!
I’d avoid him if I was you—serve
Someone else. Got the look
Of a psycho—it shook
Me right up. You should give him a swerve.

That bend on the hill, “Dead Man’s Curve”,
In yer Mini? You won’t have the nerve
To go round that at 80
Kilometres, matey.
I reckon best give it a swerve.

In Australia, you can give people a swerve as well as objects, places or situations: that is, avoid them.

Death welcomed me. HELLO THERE. I
AM THE REAPER. “Hang on—did I die?”
I gulped. “Well, I’ll give it a try.”

With a tip o’ the black hat to Pterry.†

†Otherwise known as Terry Pratchett (1948–2015), author of the Discworld novels, who had a fondness for footnotes and channeled Death long before he met him in person.

1 GJ is one billion joules,
Or a gigajoule. Fossil-based fuels
Provide GJs aplenty:
Three barrels, ’round 20.
Don’t waste all that energy, fools.

A barrel of oil provides approximately 6 gigajoules of energy. 1 gigajoule is equivalent to 278 kilowatt-hours, so a typical UK household consumes about 16.5 GJ of energy per year (4,600 kWh, 2010 figures), equivalent to a little under three barrels of oil. The average US household uses 2½ times as much, around seven barrels.

1 gigajoule also translates to 239,000 kilocalories or food calories, around 100 times the adult recommended daily intake of 2500 kcal for men and 2000 for women. So, if we could eat oil, a barrel of it would feed an adult for almost two years. If we could plug ourselves into our (UK) household electricity supply, our power bills would go up by about 20%. And if we could run our household power supply on Big Macs (508 kcal each in the UK), we would need to feed it a little over 21 a day. (An American household would need 50, even with the slightly higher calorie count of US Big Macs.)

The language the Greek people speak
Is called Greek, or in shortened form, Gk.
Yes, the language’s name
Is exactly the same
As the people’s. That’s hardly unique.

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