Definitely Limericks by Rory Ewins


On the smooth and enticing—not horrid—
Glabellar spot right on her forehead,
A singular curl
Twixt the brows of his girl
Promised Longfellow nights long and torrid.

Henry really should stop paying so much attention to girls’ glabellae.

Huge glaciers covered our land
In the Ice Age: we now understand
That these rivers of ice
Were for humans not nice,
Which is why we’ve decided they’re banned.

As justifications for glacier-melting anthropogenic climate change go, I’ve heard worse. While it certainly would have made it chillier in parts of the world, the last Ice Age, from around 115,000 to 11,700 years ago, was a boost to human development, encouraging tool use and the spread of Homo sapiens into new territories via land bridges exposed by falling sea levels.

Ya fancy a fling on a glacier?
Although that’s enticingly racy, ya
Couldn’t get sillier:
Nowhere is chillier.
Than bed, though the sex’d be spacier.

Spacier isn’t really a synonym for roomier, although a glacier would certainly be roomier than a bed; here it means “more spacey”, as in dreamy, trippy or weird.

A polar bear once did a stint
In a Lancashire sweet shop. A glint
In his eye would appear
When a penguin came near—
He would proffer a Glacier Mint.

Fox’s Glacier Mints are a popular brand of boiled sweet in Britain, where glacier is pronounced with three syllables.

The names of glam rock legends litter
The ’70s charts. One big-hitter
Was Bolan, who made
A pop platform for Slade,
Alvin Stardust, Mud, Sweet, and G. Glitter.

“Pray, tell me, good sir, what’s the password?”
“It’s that fine source of alkali, glasswort.”
“You’re a man of propriety
For our secret society!
You know many a glassblowing-class word.”

The Ancient Secret Order of Glassblowers (which may or may not have been real; I wouldn’t know, it was secret) knew the glasswort well: these bushy plants found in Old World salt marshes and beaches were once burned to produce a crude soda ash for the manufacture of glass, hence their name.

The glimmering galaxies shine
Oh so faintly that few can divine
Their true form, but the Webb’s
Getting warm; Hubble ebbs,
And more powerful scopes come online.

The pestiferous stuff we call glitter
Is a hard-to-remove form of litter.
In seas, microplastic
Is far from fantastic
In the innards of many a critter.

Global warming sounds cosy, but heating
Sounds urgent, a label entreating
Us all to do more
To stop climate change, or
We could find that our time here is fleeting.

Our globalized world has been made
By migration, increasing free trade,
And cultural sharing.
It seems we’ve stopped caring;
Will globalization now fade?

In the past, we’d fight wars over land;
Conquer those we could not understand;
We would rape and we’d pillage.
Now we’re one global village,
Side-by-side in our brotherly band.

Marshall McLuhan’s 1960s term for a world bound together by media came to encompass the many ways in which people and countries became increasingly interconnected as the world globalized. The world, we imagined, would be as one. For a brief moment in the 1990s, it even seemed possible to believe it.

In water, this protein dissolves
In the presence of salt, which involves
Biochemical stuff.
Now I’ve told you enough.
“Define globulin”, this bloody solves.

Maybe I haven’t told you enough. Globulins, a family of globular proteins with higher molecular weights than albumins (which are also, confusingly, globular proteins) also coagulates in heat, and along with albumins and fibrinogen are the major blood proteins.

“A lump in your throat? That’s no joke.
We MDs call that globus. Let’s poke
At the tissue to see
What the issue is... gee,
That’s... um, odd. There’s a frog in here.” “Croak.”

The amount she had saved for their weddin’
In her glory box did her groom’s head in.
“It’s too much for one house!”
Cried the heartless young louse,
“It’s all stuff for the shed, or for sheddin’.”

A glory box, called a hope chest in some countries, was a place in which a young Australian woman kept items in preparation for married life. Although this was usually a box or chest, some keen brides-to-be might accumulate several boxes’ worth, depending on their means. The tradition died out in Australia after World War II.

In this dictionary entry of mine,
I have gloss meaning “lustre or shine”.
In the margins, a gloss
Will help those at a loss—
You thought “phony appearance”? That’s fine.

The sense of gloss as shiny surface soon led to figurative senses of superficiality and falseness. A gloss is also a word inserted in the margins or between lines to explain a more difficult word, or the explanation given for a word in a dictionary or glossary. This note is a gloss gloss.

I gave you my comments on gloss,
So for this word I’m now at a loss...
And what makes me crossest,
There’s no rhyme for glossist.
(Well, that one, I s’pose. Sorry, boss.)

This word for a commentator, a writer of glosses, is now considered obsolete. In the age of social media, we’re all glossists now.

My Great-Aunt Glacinda grew faint
At the glimpse of a door with gloss paint.
“My dear Matt, it’s too shiny!”
Oh mate, she’s so whiny:
The Trump Tower lobby it ain’t.

In the East End of London, a loʻll
Have accents whose t sound is gloʻal.
My Whitechapel daughter
Drinks waʻer, not water,
From a meʻal-walled half-liʻre boʻle.

Glottal relates to the glottis, the bit of your throat that closes when you swallow. The glottal stop, represented in Polynesian languages by a character similar to a left single quotation mark (ʻ) and in Squamish by the character ʔ, is also a feature of Arabic, Malay, and especially... English. It isn’t just in accents like Cockney, either; if you don’t voice a clear t in the word network, you’re using it too. Uh-oh.

My uncle succumbed to the urge
To encumber my Inbox with glurge—
Sentimental, twee drivel
That makes your brain shrivel—
A form-letter scourge I’ll now purge.

There are things we were not meant to know!
Our design’s for the LORD to bestow.
Do not tinker with life!
We shall bring nought but strife
If we gene-splice! Begone, GMO!

The geneticist calmly explains,
“Our design has bestowed us with brains
And the means to create.
Wouldst thou modify fate,
That has shown us these limitless plains?”

Jack Black, a Victorian rat-catcher,
Once took an apprentice: a gnatcatcher.
This minuscule bird
Catches gnats—how absurd
To think rats could be captured by that catcher.

Said a gnome, “This old rock will suffice—
Yes, its gneissose striations look gneiss,”
But a fellow gnome fussed
That this hard lump of crust
Surely couldn’t be that old: “Gno dice.”

The oldest known crustal rocks—around four billion years old—are gneisses. The underground gnomes of Swiss fairy tales might be even older.

“What’s GNU?” queried Linus, confused.
“GNU’s not Unix!” said Richard, enthused.
“So what is it?” asked Linus.
“Let not closed source confine us!”
“I’ll just build my own OS,” Linus mused.

GNU (pronounced like the animal), a recursive acronym for “GNU’s Not Unix!”, is a freely licensed collection of software based on the (closed-source) Unix operating system and other Unix software. As the GNU operating system kernel isn’t production-ready, GNU software is often used with the Linux kernel. This combination is commonly known as Linux or GNU/Linux: Linux founder Linus Torvalds favours the former, while GNU founder Richard Stallman favours the latter.

The fictional Linus here uses the coder’s pronunciation of “oss” for OS.

They’re the greatest! Food-sources-of-note fish;
Dual-barbels-protrudent-sub-throat fish;
Can-blend-into-sand fish:
Let’s give them a hand—fish
To hail for all time! They’re the goatfish!

Goatfish are species of the widely distributed family Mullidae, the best-known being the red mullets of the genus Mullus. These perch-like fish have two barbels protruding from their chins, which they use to probe sediments for food, and can change colour rapidly—many species become paler when resting on sand to evade predators. Are they the greatest of all time? The Ancient Romans thought so.

In this cavern, so dark and so cold,
Grows a green, glowing moss: goblin’s gold.
Tiny pinpricks of light
Form this gobsmacking sight,
Like an emerald kingdom of old.

The spores of goblin’s gold form filaments that scavenge for light; tiny lenses focus it deep into the cells on the moss’s surface, where chloroplasts absorb most of the harvested light but reflect green, covering cave floors in a luminous emerald glow.

Heaven’s dentist was quite at a loss
When inspecting the mouth of the Boss.
“Lord, you know bits of meat
Can get stuck when you eat...
God’s teeth, Jesus Christ, don’t you floss?”

Theological discourse, or God-talk,
To secular ears, can seem odd talk:
“No sex before marriage”,
“It’s end times”, disparag-
ing gay people, “don’t spare the rod” talk.

An impatient young gopher said, “Screw it!
Let’s give it our all. Hell, let’s do it!”
But although Gopher spoke
Of intense, go-for-broke,
Breakneck digging, he never got to it.

I asked him the time: “Do you know...”
“Going on for eight thirty or so.”
“Half past eight, almost? Thanks.
Do you know when the bank’s...”
“Not till ten.” (He’s so quick! Or I’m slow.)

A man going on towards fifty
Thought, “Wouldn’t a sports car be nifty!”
To convince his poor wife
That fast driving’s the life,
He then bought her a Swift—pulled a swifty.

A man going on towards fifty
Thought, “Wouldn’t a lover be nifty!”
So smartened his hair
And began an affair
With a pop music fan—pulled a Swiftie.

We’re now going on towards fifty†
Definitions of this, which is nifty.
Going on towards—“nearly”—
Is a phrase people clearly
Enjoy. †I meant three. Pulled a swifty.

Although it’s a small hatchback, the Suzuki Swift has a top speed of over a hundred miles an hour, so it actually can be pretty swift. In music circles, Swifties are fans of the popular singer Taylor Swift. In Australian slang, a swifty or swiftie is a deception, trick or sleight, so to pull a swifty means to pull a fast one, i.e. to deceive someone.

To an Aussie, the Gold Coast means one
Of the cities of Queensland; we run
To its theme parks and beach,
Surfers Paradise, each
Being perfect for watersport fun.

The City of Gold Coast, the second-biggest city in Queensland, Australia, is best known for its suburb of Surfers Paradise (which, like other Australian placenames, officially has no possessive apostrophe) along the sandy Surfers Paradise Beach lined with high-rise apartments. A city since 1959, the Gold Coast lies south of Brisbane, and is home to Sea World, Wet’n’Wild and other theme parks.

Grizzled men of the Yukon once told
Of the rigours of panning for gold:
How a gold-miner must
Search for nuggets and dust
In a stream where the waters run cold.

The mining of alluvial deposits for gold most commonly involves swirling ore and water around a large pan until gold particles settle to the bottom. These hard-to-find particles, flakes and small nuggets are known as gold dust.

True fans of the band often told of
How quickly their tickets were sold—of
The scalpers and queues,
And of missing-out blues.
They’re like gold dust—they’re hard to get hold of.

It’s a golden age. Everything’s good.
Our society works as it should.
Life is peaceful and rich.
It’s one son-of-a-bitch
Of a dream: wish it had been, or could.

Golden rice provides vitamin A
For deficient consumers. Let’s say
That you live in a garret
With nary a carrot:
This gives you enough every day.

Golden staph is a threat and a half
In our hospitals. No-one would laugh
If their leg got chopped off—
Don’t ignore, then, or scoff
At a cut in the skin on your calf.

Staphylococcus aureus, commonly known in Australia as golden staph and elsewhere as staph, is a bacteria species that lives on the skin or in the nose which can cause a range of infections from the mild to the fatal. Around thirty percent of people worldwide carry it, and for most it’s harmless, but if it infects a wound and enters the bloodstream it can lead to meningitis, pneumonia, sepsis, and other serious infections. Antibiotic-resistant MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) caused more than 100,000 deaths worldwide in 2019.

Whether held in your hand or a bottle,
Any sprig of this plant that you spot’ll
Say “I’m from Australia”,
Its yellow regalia
The mark of our land’s golden wattle.

“This here’s the wattle, the emblem of our land. You can stick it in a bottle, you can hold it in your hand. Amen!”—Monty Python’s Flying Circus, “Bruces Sketch”

The golden wattle is a flowering tree endemic to New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia and established as a weed in Tasmania and Western Australia. It has become naturalised in New Zealand and parts of Africa, Asia and the Mediterranean.

Gold of pleasure’s just gold, is it not?”
“Well, the difference is this one has got
Oil-rich seeds.” “Oh, black gold?”
“No, just plant-based, I’m told.
It’s related to mustard.” “Sounds hot.”

Camelina sativa is a brassica, also known as gold of pleasure, camelina or false flax and by a few other names. In its native Eurasia, it’s traditionally been cultivated as an oilseed crop. The plant has also spread to the Americas and Australasia.

With a name like goliath, this grouper
Is gonna be big—super-dooper
In terms of its size.
If a fisherman tries
Reeling in one, he’ll swear like a trooper.

The (Atlantic) goliath grouper (Epinephelus itajara) can reach a length of 2.5 metres and a weight of almost half a tonne. Its Pacific relative, Epinephelus quinquefasciatus, can reach a similar size. The Atlantic goliath grouper was traditionally known as the jewfish, but was renamed by the American Fisheries Society in 2001 after complaints that the name was culturally insensitive. There has been a moratorium on fishing them in continental U.S. waters since 1990 because of concerns of overfishing.

“It’s cream-coloured... hard... yes, that tracks.
From a Javanese tree... some more facts:
Made from latex, in big—”
“Hey, I don’t give a fig!
Just gimme that darn gondang wax!”

Gondang is the name of a village and district on the island of Java, Indonesia, and the local name for a species of fig tree found across southern Asia and in parts of Australia and the Pacific, the latex of which yields a wax when boiled with water. The naturally hardening latex from another fig species was once used to make a type of rubber.

When chancing the waters of Venice,
Avoid gondoliers such as Denis.
He’s managed to fondle a
Few in his gondola:
His fancy canal boat’s a menace.

Stay, reader, and linger awhile,
As I promulgate Gongorism: I’ll
Write obscure, and yet great,
Baroque verse, in ornate
Gongoristic poetical style.

The Spanish poetry of Luis de Góngora y Argote (1561–1627) must have been a tough read to have inspired these literary terms.

This verse you are reading is good.
Could it be even better? It could
-n’t. (Apart from that there
Enjambed line ending, where
Most would have a full stop, and I should.)

Raise a glass, my friend! Cheers! Your good health!
May this toast bring you vigour and wealth.
Have a cheeky fifth pint!
It can’t hurt. Well, it mighnt.
Might. I think I’ll have one more myselth.

Self. Oh, my head. Why do we say “good health” to usher in a hangover?

Tim, Graeme and Bill on their trandem
Did “Anything, Anytime”: random
Adventures—yum, yum—
That our Aunties thought dumb,
From the Seventies. “Goodies? We’ve banned ’em.”

Tim Brooke-Taylor (1940–2020), Graeme Garden (b. 1943) and Bill Oddie (b. 1941), all members of the Cambridge Footlights in the 1960s, starred in various TV and radio series before going on to huge success in 1970s Britain. Their TV series The Goodies (1970–82), in which they starred as the eponymous trio under their real names (playing exaggerated versions of themselves), tackled a different job-for-hire each episode, often riding to it on their three-person tandem, or “trandem”. Each half hour was its own world, with slapdash costumes and props, slapstick and pop-culture parody, and original songs by Oddie, five of which charted in the UK in 1974–75.

If anything, the Goodies were even more popular in Australia, where the ABC broadcast their shows on an almost-continuous loop at 6pm on weekdays, shaping an entire generation’s—my generation’s—sense of humour. Although many of the references are dated now, and some of the gags betray the casual racism and sexism of the time, the level of invention on display has rarely been matched. “Goody, goody, yum, yum,” as the two different versions of the theme tune went.

After ten years and eight series, The Goodies moved from the BBC to ITV for its ninth (which wasn’t shown by the ABC back in the day, booo) before being dropped as too expensive. A new generation of alternative comedians had emerged, and both Aunties—as the Beeb and the ABC are nicknamed—stopped repeating the show altogether. The three went on to other things—the kids’ animated series Bananaman, Bill’s TV career as Britain’s favourite birdwatcher, and Graeme and Tim on their decades-long Radio 4 panel game I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue—but to Gen X Aussies they’ll forever be the Goodies.

“My good man,” said my drunk Uncle Fred,
“Could I pay you next Thursday instead?”
“I suppose that you can.”
“How obliging! Good man.”
“Uncle, please don’t good man me,” I said.

Good is often used in expressions of approval of another’s actions, such as good man, good chap, and my good man. This has given rise to the compound verb (my) good man, meaning to address someone in that way—especially condescendingly.

Hi, I’m lookin’ for... whatsit... y’know...
That kibble that dogs eat—they show
It on telly. That ad...
This is drivin’ me mad...”
“Mate, we’re all out of dog food.” “Good-oh.”

This interjection meaning good, excellent, or all right, which can also be an adjective or an adverb, can be stressed on either syllable or both in Australia and New Zealand depending on the context. Good-O has been an Australian brand of dog food for many years.

We settled our office dispute
Through the boss’s good offices: shoot,
As a go-between, she’s
Really good, the bee’s knees—
And her worker-bee posters are cute.

Motivational posters showing happy worker-bees might not send the best message to one’s employees—they might mistake them for drones.

Mate, gimme the news—don’t recoil
From telling me whether our toil
Paid off. Did our wells
Strike black gold? Your face tells
Me it’s true! Come on, what’s the good oil?

What’s the oil? It’s the news, the true facts, in Australian and New Zealand slang, now usually heard as the good oil.

In Australia, a son will enjoy
When his father says, “Onya, me boy!”
Or “Good onya!” (Well done!
I approve of you, son!),
So good on you. Now buy him a toy.

While Googlers are googling for “Google”,
One sounds the IP-lawyer bugle:
“It’s been used as a verb!
Such abuse we must curb—
Use of Google for ‘search’ should be frugal.”

The employees of Google refer to themselves as Googlers—but so do people who use their search engine a lot, because the site’s popularity meant that googling quickly became a term for searching online. The implications weren’t lost on the company’s intellectual property lawyers, whose challenges to unauthorised commercial uses led a US court to decide in 2017 that the public use of its name as a verb hadn’t yet rendered the company’s trademark generic.

If I link to a site with a term
Of abuse, I can make someone squirm.
My Google bomb shows
That my enemy blows:
They’re returned when you google for “worm”.

Google bombing refers to attempts to manipulate a website’s ranking in search results through targeted linking, but it’s more than search-engine optimization or SEO: rather, it relates to attempts to associate a site with irrelevant or off-topic terms, so that searches for them are more likely to return that site. Although he wasn’t the first Google bomber, blogger Adam Mathes coined the term in 2001 while encouraging others to link to a friend’s site using the phrase “talentless hack”. Changes to Google’s algorithm six years later rendered the practice less effective than it had been.

Grab that goon bag of red, ’cos we’re soon
Gettin’ pissed on the stuff, to the tune
Of five litres of wine.
Nah, the cheap goon is fine—
Put the exy one back now, ya goon.

In Australia, like elsewhere, a goon is a stupid person, but it can also mean cask wine—hence the term goon bag for a wine cask or specifically the bag holding the wine itself. Exy means expensive.

I like yoghurt, but think, as a rule,
That it’s better with cream in it. You’ll
Find a small glass of sherry
Enhances this berry-
based dish (that’s the gooseberry, fool).

Gooseberry fools from British supermarkets are usually made with yoghurt and cream, but traditionally were made with cream or a cream-based custard; some older recipes were similar to a trifle. Fools are a bit old-fashioned nowadays—like gooseberries—but are easy to make at home. Other flavour possibilities include rhubarb, strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, elderflower, damson, and lemon, while ingredients such as honey, vanilla, ginger, rosewater, mint, rosemary and sherry can add complexity. Or you can drink the sherry and forget about the rest.

These goosegrass seeds make, I believe, a
Good coffee alternative; we’ve a
Nice grinderHONK—wait,
What was that? Come on, mate—
I was talkingHONK—oh, very cleaver.

Goosegrass is the popular name of various plants once used as food for geese. One is Galium aparine, known since Anglo-Saxon times as cleavers, whose other names include sticky willies and (in common with Hackelia species) beggars’-lice. Cleaver flowers are small and white with four petals, and their round, hook-laden seeds readily stick to fur or clothing. Their young leaves are edible and their seeds, when hardened and roasted, make what is considered by some to be the best wild substitute for coffee; they even contain some caffeine. As the species is native to Eurasia and North Africa and has spread pretty much everywhere else, there’s no reason not to tryHONK oh for Pete’s sake.

Thanks to all of the blood on the floor,
Tex’s boots were more wet than before.
“Why the hell’d I get suede?
I wanted ones made
Out of Gore-Tex, not soaking in gore.”

Gore-Tex is a waterproof fabric invented in 1969 by a former Teflon employee and his son, made from expanded polytetrafluoroethylene, a variant of Teflon. Although Gore’s patent expired in the 1990s, thanks to strong branding Gore-Tex remains a market leader. The company intends to move away from using ePTFE, which like Teflon is hazardous to the environment.

Our go-to-sleep ritual’s failing.
Our baby’s emotionally ailing,
And calming his fears
Falls on deaf little ears:
He’s responding with tears and with wailing.

Have a look at this word that I’ve gotten.
The British now reckon it’s rotten,
But Aussies and Yanks
Are still fond of it, thanks.
We’ve still got gotten’s back, not forgotten.

Since he moved up to Queensland, my bro
Has gone troppo (bananas—y’know,
Off his nut). Reckons life
There is perfect. His wife
Wasn’t keen, but, to see her man go.

Queenslanders, like Sydneysiders, use but as an adverb in the way others use though, either parenthetically or at the end of a sentence.

He suffers arthritis with doughtiness,
But sometimes the pain causes shoutiness.
“The agony! Oh,
How it burns! My big toe!”
At the foot of his woe is his goutiness.

Gout, a type of arthritis that develops from high levels of uric acid in the blood, has long been considered one of the most painful of afflictions; well-known sufferers include Alexander the Great, Henry VIII and Benjamin Franklin. It usually affects one joint at a time, often in the big toe.

A government minister heads
A department, and constantly dreads
Messing up, losing face
And some voters, in case
The prime minister tears him to shreds.

Or her—ministerial woes are equal-opportunity.

A government of national unity:
The Commons’ last-ditch opportunity
To end Brexit deadlock
And put in a headlock
A leader who acts with impunity.

In the final weeks of the UK’s notification period under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is maintaining that he will not ask for any further extension of that period, despite being compelled to do so by the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019 (or “Benn Act”) if no withdrawal agreement is concluded by 19 October 2019. Johnson’s suggestion that he might ignore or circumvent this law in order to take the UK out of the EU without a deal on 31 October 2019 has prompted discussions among opposition parties of the House of Commons of replacing his minority government with a government of national unity, which would then request the EU to extend Article 50 for a third time.

“Will you go with me? Can we go steady?
Will you please go around with me, Teddy?
Can we go on a date?
Go on, Teddy—why wait?”
“Jeez, Louise—going out? I’m not ready.”

To go the full (something): pursue it
Completely; so, as you’d intuit,
Do all of it, eat it all,
See or complete it all,
Mimic a role model—do it.

The phrases go the (full) distance (or mile or nine yards) and go the whole hog seem to have merged with the full monty to set go the full free to attach to anything or anyone: hence, one can go the full Vegas, Monte Carlo, Will Smith, Cleveland, Donald Trump, and other examples seen in the media in recent years (the earliest example I’ve found is from 2012, and examples can be found from American, British and Australian sources). It even seems to be going for hogs, as go the full hog comprises two or three percent of go the ... hog search results online as of August 2023.

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