Definitely Limericks by Rory Ewins


Hibachi sure sounds Japanese
(Either that, or an uncontrolled sneeze),
But its cookery sense is
American—hence, is
A meaning that’s changed by degrees.

In Japan, a hibachi is a charcoal brazier used for warming hands or heating a room, and the word entered English with this meaning in the 19th century. In 2024 the Oxford English Dictionary added some new meanings that developed in North American English: a portable grill similar to a barbecue; or a hot plate in the centre of a table at a Japanese restaurant, or such a restaurant itself; or, as a mass noun, Japanese-style grilled food.

When a pipistrelle’s done its explorement
And in winter is seeking restorement,
Hibernacula call:
Just like Dracula, all
Of the bats in these shelters fall dormant.

Just as the Count sleeps through the day in a coffin, the common pipistrelle and many other bats sleep through the winter in a hibernaculum, a shelter for animals to hide or hibernate in. (The vampire bat, funnily enough, is one bat species that doesn’t hibernate, in a coffin or otherwise.) Like Dracula, explorement and restorement are archaic.

If it’s Latin you want on your journey, ya
Should designate Ireland Hibernia.
I’d try to explain,
But expect that the strain
Would result in my getting a hernia.

Why would anyone Irish agree
To a Scottish Hibernian F.C.,
Or in shorter form, Hibs?
Because Embra called dibs
On their Latin name. Makes sense to me.

Hibernian Football Club was founded in 1875 by Irishmen living in the Cowgate area of Edinburgh (or Embra, as it’s known in Scots). Nowadays the Hibees (also known as the Cabbage, as in Cabbage and Ribs, rhyming slang for Hibs) are based in the Leith area of the city. Their arch-rivals are Hearts.

It’s the lingo here, like, in this land,
Where a fella’s a yoke, understand?
It’s good crack, you might say,
To be talking this way.
Sure, it won’t take you long, now. You’re grand.

If you aren’t intimately familiar with Hiberno-English (Irish English), as I amn’t, you might not understand that crack (from the Irish craic) means fun, amusement or mischief, that yoke can mean a person or fellow, that you’re grand gets used in the same way that others might say “you’re good” or “you’re fine”, and that words like sure, like and now also get used in distinctive ways in Ireland.

He’s known for his kind generosity,
Despite his (some find) hideosity.
The fact he’s so ugly
Leaves some feeling smugly
Superior—blind animosity!

We have lookouts to look out and shout
If they see someone out and about
Near our secret location.
We seek obfuscation:
Our hideout is where we hide out.

At high school, we danced the Gay Gordon—
Highland dancin’, as always, affordin’
A chance for bad puns
And embarrassment. Tons
Of us woulda found sport more rewardin’.

Why former British colonies on the other side of the world felt it necessary to keep inflicting Scottish country dancing on their kids long past independence, I have no idea, but Tasmania was far from alone in this. We used to have weeks of dance lessons in PE every winter when the weather was at its worst, including not only Highland dances but polkas, square dances and the Mexican hat dance.

If you’re oot in the Highlands, and chancing
On women and men gaily dancing
At a gathering, fine:
You have now crossed a line
From the Lowlands to Scottish romancing.

The Highlands of Scotland have given rise to numerous compound terms, such as Highland dancing and Highland gathering (also known as Highland Games, a meeting for competitions, music and dancing). The Highland line is the notional dividing line between the Lowlands of Scotland and the Highlands.

We’re near the fraught Highlands—they’re nigh land, man;
Now delivered here, standing on thy land, man.
Though a brave heart is handy
When fearful—it’s dandy—
I’m too scared to mention thee, Highlandman.

“Stand and Deliver”, by Adam and the Ants, was a big hit in Scotland and the rest of the UK in 1981 (“I’m the dandy highwayman who you’re too scared to mention”). Highlanders, whether men or women, aren’t known for spending cash on looking flash and grabbing your attention.

As mothers and Highlandmen’s wives,
Highland women lived rough, windswept lives,
Sawin’ ates, cuttin’ peat,
Mackin’ porage tae eat.
Just the thought of it’s giving me hives.

“Beam me down,” Spock says. Scott gets to work.
On the surface, what dangers still lurk?
“The main church here looks placid.
There’s the captain! On... acid?”
(“Spocky, baby!”) “We’ve found a high Kirk.”

In Scotland, the main church in a town or diocese is known as the High Kirk.

We shy from our leader’s fierce gaze.
“The next interrupter here pays!
Our plane-seizing plot
Is most certainly not
Being helped by your hijacking ways.”

Hijiki’s a seaweed, delicious
With miso in broths; it’s nutritious,
Dark green, somewhat sweet—
Looks like tentacles. (Neat!
Vegan octopus! ...Why so suspicious?)

Unfortunately, unlike other seaweeds eaten in Japan and Korea, hijiki contains potentially toxic levels of inorganic arsenic, so several countries’ food safety agencies advise against eating it.

A recluse, known as hikkikomori,
Is withdrawn, or unsociable, or he
Stays home, in Japan—
An abnormal young man.
It was recently everyone’s story.

This Japanese phenomenon, reported for decades in the West as an unusual social development typically involving adolescent males, turns out to have been a precursor of the pandemic lockdown experience of 2020–21.

The Lake District’s known for its hilliness
(And in winter for frosti- and chilliness):
Rounded mounds of brown earth
Invoke wonder and mirth
If you’re prone to amazement and silliness.

Our home had a handsome hills hoist;
One chore that our mother would foist
On us kids was to hang
Up the washing—we’d whang
A few clothes up and hope they’d de-moist.

The hills hoist, a rotary washing line developed in early twentieth-century Australia, became an icon of Australian post-war suburban life, to the extent that the brandname became the generic term for any rotary clothesline. Its lines are strung between four arms, and winding a handle on the central pole feeds it upwards to hoist the clothes aloft.

Hanging up the washing was one of my chores as a kid. In rural Tasmania, which gets overcast and wet more than on the mainland, it often took a few days to dry.

A Russian, while looting a fridge,
Sees a missile fly over the ridge—
A HIMARS-launched rocket—
And grasps, to his shock, it
Is headed towards the Kerch Bridge.

The M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System developed in the late 1990s for the United States Army has proven invaluable to Ukraine in the summer of 2022, destroying multiple enemy ammunition depots in the east and south of the country. At the time of writing, the Armed Forces of Ukraine are almost within HIMARS range of the recently-built Kerch Bridge connecting Russia to occupied Crimea.

It’s a tragedy: Thespis looks natty in
Greek mantles, but his he looks tatty in.
His couturier jokes,
“Euripides’ cloaks?”
“Yeah. Eumenides? Fix my himation.”

Who does the tailor think he is, Aristophanes? That joke’s ancient.

The himation (him-MAT-ee-un) was a rectangular mantle or wrap usually made of wool and worn over a chiton (a kind of tunic worn by either men or women) or a peplos (a body-length dress worn by women) in Ancient Greece. When worn by men, the himation was draped over the left shoulder and wrapped around the rest of the body, leaving the right arm free. For women, it could be worn over either shoulder.

My three-legged dog, reminiscing
Of hindlimbs, has taken to pissing
On furniture via
The gap in which, prior
To now, was the back leg he’s missing.

At the circus, old Tommy the carny
Conversed with their elephant, Rani.
Friends asked, the next day,
“Tommy, what’d she say?”
“I dunno. Only spoke Hindustani.”

Well, she was an Indian elephant.

On Mongo, the Emperor Ming
Enjoys vegetable dishes with hing
Types came on a mission, a
Flash-in-the-pan kinda thing.

Asafoetida is a dried resin used as medicine in Europe in the past and as a ground spice in central Asia, where it’s known as hing. In Hare Krishna cookery it’s substituted for onions and garlic, whose flavours it vaguely resembles. Flash Gordon’s nemesis Ming the Merciless may or may not be a fan.

Those hipsters and hepcats are hip
To this vessel for spirits: they quip
It makes any cat frisky
If fingers of whiskey
Should slip between hipflask and lip.

He’s a tight-arsed right-winger, my dad.
Every time taxes rise, he gets mad:
“Bloody government, stealin’
Our wages! I’m feelin’
Me hip-pocket nerve twitchin’ bad.”

This Australian phrase, referring to an imaginary nerve that twinges every time you’re hit up for dough, is heard most often around the time of the Federal Budget.

His intention’s to purchase on wax
Every note Coltrane played on the sax;
To get horn-rims, a beard,
And some shirts that look weird:
It’s hipsterism, dude, to the max.

Wanting to buy or own a song or album on wax is 21st-century music-aficionado lingo for wanting it on vinyl, rather than on a wax cylinder. Even the most dedicated hipster has to accept that Blue Train ain’t gettin’ no cylindrical audiophile remaster for graphophone.

A hip tile ain’t hip—that’s a goof—
But it covers ’em. Yep, it’s the troof:
Though a common belief’s
Either panties or briefs
Cover hips, those ain’t hips on a roof.

The ridge of a roof is the line along the top of two sloping planes where they meet, while a hip is the join between two sloping planes that runs from the ridge down to the eaves. Ridge tiles, therefore, are used in both gable roofs (which have gables at the ends of their sloping planes) and hip roofs (where the roof slopes down to the walls on all sides), while hip tiles are used only in the latter.

My cuz in the music biz says
That the shiz in a vid is hi-res—
Viz., as sharp and as clear
As this Madness clip here.
Take a squiz at the fuzz on that fez!

Viz. (videlicet, that is to say), a hi-res (high-resolution) vid (video clip) is the shiz (the best, the coolest), sez my cuz (cousin), a fan of the ska band Madness, known for their Egyptian headwear (fezzes), the felted finish of which (fuzzy) he would often admonish me to take a look (squiz, Aust./NZ slang) at.

Putting people in context—their nation,
Their class, when they lived, their location—
What a historist sees
As essential (“Guys, please!”)—
Is the act of historicization.

Historists, or historicists, adhere to historicism, or historism, which places great importance on historicity, the quality of being situated in historical context. To place historical people, events or objects in this context is to historicize—a historicizing act—and when historicists do this they are historicizers engaged in the act of historicization. As a wise man once almost sang, “Historicity, -ism, -ist, -ize, -izing, -ization, never repeats, I tell myself when I go to sleep.”

In the ’80s, some scholars took fright
At suggestions that Stalin was quite
Like the Nazis: this great
Controversial debate
Became known as Historikerstreit.

In 1986 an essay by Ernst Nolte in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung sparked a scholarly debate in West Germany about the Holocaust, historiography and German identity, including whether Nazi atrocities could be compared to those of Stalin. International reports on the debate saw its German label briefly enter the English language.

This historiometric world-beater
Likes words, but thinks numbers are neater,
Finding characteristics
By using statistics,
Not stories once told of the metre.

Historiometry is the quantitative study of history: that is, finding numbers or measurable quantities in historical records and subjecting them to statistical analysis. Come to think of it, historiometricians could research the history of the metric system, which would make their history o’ metric historiometric.

Historiosophical thought
Says in history, actually, naught
Can make sense without knowledge
Of knowledge: in college,
This story of history’s taught.

Historiosophy is the philosophy of history: that is, the philosophical study of history and the discipline of history. It’s concerned with ideas about how history unfolds, how historians make sense of it, and how those ideas and their interpretations have changed over time.

A mafia heavy is messin’
Joe up as the chump is confessin’...
“We’re fiery and kill-y, an’
You doubt we’re Sicilian?
I’ll give you a history lesson!”

Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide
to the Galaxy
trilogy I’d
Call a mandatory read
For all humans—indeed,
Once Earth’s gone, what you’ll need on your ride.

DNA’s classic comedy radio series (1978), books (across five instalments of “the increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhiker’s Trilogy”, 1979–92), TV series (1981), text adventure game (1984) and eventually movie (2005), follow its hero Arthur Dent and his alien companion Ford Prefect after their escape from Earth immediately before its untimely destruction. Ford introduces Arthur to the electronic guidebook The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, published by Megadodo Publications of Ursa Minor Beta, which dispenses sage advice throughout his travels. Eventually, Arthur learns the truth behind the destruction of his home world...

Deep Thought was invented to tell
Them the answer to everything—dwell
On the Universe—life!
It created some strife
When he said it would take him a spell.

“How long?” his inventors inquired.
His response wasn’t what they desired:
He said, “Seven-point-five
Million years. You see, I’ve
Got to think about it.” They expired.

Their descendents returned to Deep Thought,
Who had pondered on all he’d been taught.
“The answer’s,” he boomed,
“42!” “We presumed
There’d be more to it.” All that for naught.

But wait! “What’s the question?” he asked,
Then with building another was tasked:
A computer called Earth,
Which, for all they were worth,
Its true owners, the mice, shrewdly masked.

Ten million more years slowly passed.
The question? Now ready at last!
Then Vogons appeared;
Said the Earth would be cleared
To make way for a bypass, and... blast.

When Stalin asked how many ends
He had caused, Hitler said, “That depends
Which atrocities count.
I forget the amount—
What’s a million or six among friends?”

Adolf Hitler was responsible for the deaths of six million Jews in the Holocaust, two million Poles, up to 1.5 million Roma, several million German soldiers and civilians, and many millions of Allied military and civilians. From August 1939 until June 1941, he observed a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union, making Stalin if not an ally then at least a neutral counterpart at the start of the war. Stalin, for his part, was responsible for millions of deaths in the Gulag, during the Holodomor, and in the Soviet Union more generally.

While her husband is hitting the turps,
Hostess Jan far too cheerfully chirps,
“Who would like some more wine?”
“Oh, no thank you—I’m fine,”
Says a guest, as Jan’s man loudly burps.

There’s a colony here in my hive
Where my bees and their offspring all thrive.
Full of honeycomb—see?
When I smoke ’em, they flee
And then swarm around me. Man alive!

Do you have it or not? Oh, I see.
You’re negative. Positive, me.
I’m glad that you’re clear;
I’m infected, I fear,
With the virus for AIDS: HIV.

In Australia, back in the olden
Days—Seventies—car-makers Holden
Designed the HJ,
A series some say
Was their best: in its day, it was golden.

The Holden HJ series was produced for less than two years in the mid-1970s, but included cars that were iconic of their time: Sandman Panel Vans, Monaro GTS coupés, and Kingswood station wagons.

HK, better known as Hong Kong,
Island city that once for a long
Time was ruled by the British,
Became rather skittish
As neighbouring China grew strong.

The British colony of Hong Kong (before the 1920s often spelled Hongkong) grew from its origins in 1841 to become one of the most significant financial centres in the world. From the island of Hong Kong it expanded into the Chinese mainland, especially once Britain leased the New Territories from China for 99 years in 1898. As the end of the lease approached, reverting to the former limits of the territory was clearly impractical, and Britain was in no position to keep Hong Kong in the face of an ascendant China. In 1997 it was duly handed over to the PRC, to become the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.

The Highland Light Infantry: why,
They were Scotland’s best men. HLI
Soldiers fought in World Wars,
Killed Egyptians and Boers:
Och, a Highlander knew how to die.

The HLI was a British light infantry regiment formed in 1881. It took part in the Anglo-Egyptian War, the Second Boer War, and the First and Second World Wars, until its amalgamation with the Royal Scots Fusiliers in 1959 as the Royal Highland Fusiliers.

His Majesty’s Government goes
By an acronym everyone knows:
HMG. Oh my God
(OMG), that looks odd:
“Help me God”? They know not what they chose.

When you’re sharing a place, Britons know
That a rental’s a fine way to go.
The joint occupation
Of homes in this nation
Is commonly called HMO.

Many HMOs (houses of multiple occupation or occupancy) are flats or apartments rather than houses. They are often subdivided homes once occupied by large Victorian-era families, which are now rented out to students and other young people.

The Revenue—HMRC—
Is relentlessly following me
To establish the facts
On exactly what tax
I’ve been paying. It’s time, dear, to flee.

The British tax office was formerly known as the Inland Revenue, until it merged with HM Customs and Excise in 2005 to become Her (now His) Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.

HNWI Doctor Evil
Is focused upon the retrieval
Of one MILLION dollars.
His Number Two hollers,
“That’s not going to cause much upheaval.”

In US financial circles, a high-net-worth individual (HNWI) is someone with liquid assets of at least $1 million. In the UK, the tax office considers an HNWI to be anyone with assets in excess of £10 million.

Latest · Africa · Americas · Artists · Oz Rock · Oz Politics · Pacific · Mature · Misc · A-Ab · Ac-Ad · Ae-Af · Ag-Ah · Ai-Aj · Ak-Al · Am-An · Ao-Ap · Aq-Ar · As-At · Au-Av · Aw-Az · Ba-Bd · Be-Bh · Bi-Bn · Bo-Bq · Br-Bt · Bu-Bz · Ca-Cd · Ce-Cg · Ch · Ci-Ck · Cl-Co · Cp-Cr · Cs-Cz · Da-Dd · De-Dh · Di-Dn · Do · Dp-Dr · Ds-Dz · Ea-Ed · Ee-El · Em-En · Eo-Es · Et-Ez · Fa-Fd · Fe-Fh · Fi-Fo · Fp-Ft · Fu-Fz · Ga-Gd · Ge-Gh · Gi-Gk · Gl-Go · Gp-Gr · Gs-Gz · Ha-Hd · He-Hh · Hi-Hn · Ho-Ht