Definitely Limericks by Rory Ewins


When a horrible landlord cried “Ho!”
Back in olden times, peasants would know
That his cry of surprise
Was a taunt in disguise.
There’s a chance he approved of them, though.

Depending on how it was delivered, ho could express surprise, admiration, triumph, taunting, or exultation. Doubled or tripled, it took on derisive overtones.

It appears that you’re one of those folks
Who delights in deception and jokes.
Can I interest you, then,
In my training course (when
You have paid) on The Art of the Hoax?

In Hobart, the place of my birth,
The rafters all echo with mirth,
And the salty air sings
Of what each new day brings:
There’s no sunnier city on earth.

I may be overselling it a bit, especially the sunny part—it gets grey and cold in winter, and occasionally it snows. But I love it unreservedly.

Australia’s most southerly city, the capital of its island state of Tasmania, was founded in 1804 as Hobart Town, a penal colony and for some years the main whaling port of the Southern Ocean. Prior to British colonisation, the area was occupied for anywhere up to 40,000 years by Tasmanian Aboriginal people, who called it nipaluna, a palawa kani name which has been revived in the 21st century.

Nasty hobbits! It isn’t much funs
To face short-barrelled bomb-throwing guns.
They won’t hurt us, though, will they?
Tricksy hobitzers kill, they
Does! Sméagol must hide! Yes, we runs!

Howitzer had many variant spellings between the 17th and 19th centuries, including many with a b and several that dropped the final syllable, giving rise to 18th-century forms uncannily familiar to fans of J. R. R. Tolkien.

An awkward and gawky teen boy
One might label a hobbledehoy.
I suppose that was me:
I was clumsy, you see;
Also diffident, bashful and coy.

She hobnobs with stunningly rich
Sons and daughters of plutocrats, which
She thinks makes her familiar
With wealthy folk; still, ya
Can see, when she speaks, their eyes twitch.

Hobson-Jobson? The word, I believe,
Is Italian in origin. We’ve
All decided that’s so.
What do folk—do we—know
Of how words old and new interweave?

Hobson-Jobson is another word for (and an example of) folk etymology—that is, a popular (but incorrect) belief about the origins of a word, as well as the gradual change of a word under the influence of a more familiar one: for example, the drift from the Arabic (not Italian) yā Hasan! yā Husayn!—a lament for the grandsons of the Prophet—to Hobson-Jobson under the influence of the English surnames.

This illusionist’s show is a locus
Of trickery, shams: people’s focus
Is there, on his hand,
So they can’t understand
How that card has appeared. Hocus-pocus!

I’m carrying bricks in my hod,
When my hog escapes. Then he—oh God—
Runs inside, and—oh no—
Takes a dump. With my hoe,
I hop after the swine, whom I prod.

(The hoe is the tool that I dig
In the garden with, tending my big
Patch of vegetables. These
Will assuredly please
Any villager, vegan, or pig.)

The hog’s humble shelter of sticks
Now requires a rebuild from nix
(Like the one from before
That I’d made out of straw),
So it’s handy I have all those bricks.

But I really don’t relish the job.
Might be simpler to slaughter the slob
And begin smoking bacon,
Which then I can take in
And fry in a pan on my hob.

A hot hob on the top of the stove
Is a home for a hog who would rove,
Though perhaps I could broil
Him with pepper and oil
And, of garlic, a single smashed clove.

Either way, the whole episode stops
Once he’s safely been made into chops.
With my hod full of bricks,
I can then start to fix
My brick barbecues’ boar-broken tops.

This hodgepodge or mishmash of stuff
In our house is confusing enough
That my spouse wants it all
Stowed away, but I call
It restorative: storing it’s rough.

When Santa Claus sings, “Let it snow!”
And heartily laughs, “Ho ho ho!”
Is he being derisive?
It may sound divisive,
But that’s what it meant. Does he know?

The mediaeval expression of surprise or exultation, ho, when repeated as ho! ho! or ho! ho! ho!, initially expressed derision or derisive laughter. In some contexts these sarcastic connotations remain, but thanks to a jolly gift-bearing gentleman a three-pronged ho now also represents the sound of Christmas.

Ho-hum adjectives, is it? Ho hum...
How predictable, boring and dumb.
My vision is bleary;
The word’s made me weary.
I can feel my cerebrum go numb.

Or, if you emphasise the first syllable of cerebrum: It’s making my cerebrum numb. (If you’re still paying attention, note that ho hum is an interjection as well as an adjective.)

A common mistake will annoy
Snobby listeners: when hoi polloi
Is employed for “the rich”.
It means “commoners”, which
Means that getting it wrong means you, boy.

This nineteenth-century term for the common people, the masses, has since the mid-twentieth also been used by some to mean the opposite: that is, the elite.

My sister requested with glee,
“Mother, dear, wouldst thou passeth the tea?”
Mama slammed down her mug
Of Typhoo in mid-glug:
“Don’t you get hoity-toity with me!”

Hokey-cokey: a circular dance
In which blokes and their missuses prance,
Move parts in, move parts out,
And then shake ’em about.
Have you been to a knees-up, by chance?

In North America, this dance and the song that goes with it are known as the hokey-pokey. In Britain, you might enjoy them at a knees-up (a lively party), along with the similarly jolly song “Knees Up, Mother Brown”.

The Holarctic is most of the land
Of the north of the globe; in this band
Were once glaciers. There’s
A grey wolf! Hey, brown bears!
Look, a moose! (Do you now understand?)

King Arthur held Merlin accountable
For setting on fire his Rountable.
“You’ve burnt down the castle,
You spell-casting arse! I’ll
Insist you set up a demountable.”

This was the King Arthur from Camelot, New South Wales, where a demountable is a portable classroom of the kind schoolkids get shunted into during construction work. The term sees some use in Britain too nowadays, if not in ye olden days.

I hold down a job with two boys
Underfoot; I’m maintaining my poise
On the company Zoom
Till they tear round the room,
When I yell at them: “Hold down the noise!”

The video-conferencing application Zoom was an essential tool for many employees working from home during the Covid lockdowns of 2020–21.

For more than a century, Holden
Made cars for Australians. Controlled in
The States, over time
It was sidelined—a crime
That its factories ended up foldin’.

Holden began as a saddlery in 1850s South Australia before moving into automobiles fifty years later. By 1931 the company had factories in every mainland state, making it an attractive prospect for a takeover by US competitor General Motors during the Great Depression. GM centralised operations over the years until only General Motors-Holden’s South Australian and Victorian factories remained. Holdens competed with Fords as the most sought-after cars in the country for many years, with models such as the Monaro, the Kingswood, the Torana and the Commodore proving hugely popular. In the 2010s, though, with declining Australian sales and weak exports thanks to a strong Australian dollar, Holden wound down its manufacturing. From 2017 Holdens were rebadged imports, until the marque itself was retired at the end of 2020.

My grandfather’s holdall of leather
Was left in his shed in all weather.
It’s all gone a bit...
Well... its seams have all split...
But, like Grandpa, it’s holding together.

Hold on! Let’s hold off a bit, honey,
Before we both sign. Something’s funny.
Let’s hold open the door...
There’s a chance we’ll get more
If we wait—let’s hold out for more money.

In a hole in a hillside, a hobbit
Is happy. This hollow, the job it
Performs, is to house
Master Baggins, who vows
That he’ll never go—“No, Gandalf, stobbit.”

“There’s a hole in my bucket, dear Liza,”
I said. The news seemed to surprise her:
“Then fix it,” she then re-
joined sweetly, “dear Henry.”
Fix a two-dollar bucket? The miser.

As of now, going forwards, my goal
Is to dig myself out of this hole
That I find myself in:
Find a way I can win
Back a life that feels under control.

“Quit using that thing on me! Ow!
Jesus says it’s immoral! Stop, now!”
She puts down the punch
She’s been clicking a bunch
On his ears: “You’re so holier-than-thou.”

Maybe she was doing some non-consensual DIY ear tunnel insertion—although personally I wouldn’t use a hole punch for it.

“Answer, sirrah: why hast thou been following
Behind me, hallooing and holloing?”
“Good sir, ’pon my word,”
Said the knave, “that’s absurd!
’Twas another man,” nervously swallowing.

The sixteenth-century word hollo has at times been spelled hollow and holla, which indicates its different pronunciations, while the inversely stressed halloo has also been holloo and hallo. They all relate to holler, but in this case mean crying out a specific word: hollo, halloo, and so on. Holloing and hallooing also serve as nouns for the act of crying out these words, as well as adjectives describing someone engaged in the act.

Sunken roads criss-cross Europe: they follow a
Path out of sight of Apollo. A
Tree-covered route
That’s seen many a boot,
From the Romans’ to Uggs: that’s a holloway.

A holloway or hollow-way is a sunken lane hollowed out of the earth by the feet of people and animals over many years. They can be found all over the world, but especially in places with soft rock and rain, which help the erosion that can sink some holloways as deep as ten metres into the ground, leaving them wider at the bottom than they are at the top. Sheltered by trees, they are a haven for rare mosses, ferns and other plants. Some of the holloways of England are suspected to date back to the Iron Age.

The Holocaust: horribly bleak,
It left six million dead. Still we speak
Of its toll on the Jews;
Now I fear from the news
There’s a risk that it won’t be unique.

The Holocaust was the enaction of Adolf Hitler’s final solution: the extermination of European Jews. The Nazis also targeted Roma, homosexuals, people with disabilities and other groups.

A hologram blinked into view
In a blue beam of light from Artoo:
Three-dimensional figure
(“Can you make her look bigger?”);
“Help me, Obi-Wan...” (“Huh? Obi-who?”).

Papa ate the whole plate holus-bolus,
All at once, every hot raviolus
Consumed while he spoke,
Till he started to choke...
“He loved pasta,” friends said to console us.

For Indy, the choices are stark:
Leave his hiding place here in the dark,
Or the Ark of the Covenant
Is Nazis’ to love, ’n’ in’t
Rescued—a lost holy ark.

The Ark of the Covenant, whether in the 1981 movie Raiders of the Lost Ark or otherwise, is just one holy ark (or Torah ark): others can be found in synagogues everywhere. These ornate cabinets hold the sacred Torah scrolls used for public worship.

The Grail some seek in their quest:
The last cup used by Jesus. The rest
Seek his dish, the sangrail.
Lord, I wish them to fail,
As to keep the thing hidden seems best.

After all, you wouldn’t want the Nazis to get their hands on it. Especially when even Indiana Jones doesn’t seem to know that it was the platter used by Jesus at the Last Supper, not his cup or chalice. As for King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, here’s one for fans of Monty Python and the Holy Grail:

“Sir knight, what... is your quest?” “Holy Grail!”
“And what... speed are swallows? Don’t fail!”
“What type do you mean?”
The bridge-keeper comes clean—
“I don’t know...”—and then drops with a wail.

Holy Island trip? Tricky to wangle: see
Northumberland, Arran, or Anglesea;
Massachusetts; the heart of
Lough Derg; or in part of
Lake Charlevoix... hell of a tangle, see.

The most famous Holy Island is Lindisfarne off the coast of Northumberland in England, but others can be found east of the Isle of Arran in Scotland (that one’s also called Holy Isle), west of the Isle of Anglesey in Wales (that one’s also known as Holyhead Island), off the western shore of Lough Derg in Ireland (that one’s also Inishcaltra, an anglicization of its Irish name of Inis Cealtra), off Plum Island Sound on the coast of Massachusetts, and in the South Arm of Lake Charlevoix in Michigan.

If you’re gracing this diocese, you
Are a Catholic, most likely. It’s true:
When you work in the Vatican,
Unfaith’s problematic; in
The Pope’s Holy See, holy do.

The episcopal see (bishop’s jurisdiction) of the Pope, in his capacity as Bishop of Rome, is known as the Holy See or Apostolic See. The Holy See governs the Vatican City State in the middle of Rome, the smallest state in the world by both area and population. The names Holy See and Vatican are sometimes used interchangeably, but aren’t quite synonymous: the former isn’t a state in its own right, although it is a sovereign entity under international law.

Surely Grandma is speaking in error?
“You’re a tearaway, tiger—why, there are
So many ways you
Create trouble. You do!”
Is it true? I’m a—gulp—holy terror?

It’s all right, kid. Maybe you’re just a demon child. (My Grandma once called me that. I was in my mid-twenties; she was being tongue-in-cheek. I think.)

I know that I’ve tended to roam
And have dug into other lands’ loam,
But the place I’m at rest
Is the one I know best:
Where I’m from, and make sense, is my home.

Our manager told us today
That our team will play home and away:
Sixteen matches right here
In Alberta—Red Deer—
And sixteen in Hawaii. O... kayyy...

Sharp pictures and thunderous sound:
Yes, my HDTV and surround-
sound home cinema’s great!
But there’s quite a long wait
Getting popcorn delivered, I’ve found.

Those who know them from work will presume
They’re much bigger, but shouldn’t assume:
My new PET home computer’s
Petite (it’s so cute!), as
It doesn’t take up a whole room.

The Commodore PET, released in 1977, was one of the first home computers, as PCs or desktops were known at the time. Its all-in-one design incorporating keyboard, cassette drive and a 40×25 character CRT display weighed in at 10.5 kg (23 lbs), which like other home computers was positively tiny compared with the mainframe computers of the era.

The food we prepared in home ec
Was stodgy, inedible dreck.
Slightly burnt Irish stew:
In our schoolteacher’s view,
This was tasty and nourishing... blecch.

Home economics, a (usually secondary) school subject about such homemaking skills as cooking, sewing, and managing finances, was in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries seen as preparing girls for life as a housewife, and so has fallen out of fashion as gender roles have shifted. Rebranded as family and consumer sciences (FCS) in the US in the 1990s, it is today sometimes taught at tertiary level. Other names for the subject at different times and in different countries include human sciences, home science, domestic economy, domestic arts, domestic science(s), and domestic arts and sciences.

In my co-educational home ec lessons in 1980s Australia I made an Irish stew (though mine was a bit more palatable), and I still have a pull-string bag I sewed in them.

My homepage—the front of my site—
Is a place where, all day and all night,
I work hard to display
Stuff on Home and Away
To convince other fans I’m all right.

I’ve never actually seen a full episode of the long-running Australian soap opera, but there must be some personal websites out there devoted to it.

You’ve come to Chicago to study,
But the room-rental outlook is muddy?
For a visiting student,
A homestay is prudent.
The family looks out for you, buddy.

“Sir, we tried using cannons. No dice.”
Try using the homing device
On a missile, to target
The ship from afar—get
It sunk.” “That sounds not very nice.”

Some pigeons, while known for their roaming,
Have shown a keen instinct for homing.
They’ll race you home! Why,
In a day they can fly
From Wisconsin across to Wyoming.

Your slovenly spelling of hommock
Is making me sick to my stommock—
And how I feel ill
To see hummocks (or hill-
ocks) called hammocks! Write proper, you slummock.

They aren’t misspellings of hummock, just old ones.

The strictly self-interested plan
Of this rationalist: do what he can
To build capital. Homo
Economicus: no mo’
State welfare for him! Farewell, man.

This 19th-century term for a hypothetical rational economic man has come into question in the 21st as behavioural research shows how irrational investors’ actions often really are.

What are words we pronounce the same? They’re
Known as homophones. Spell the same? Their
Label’s homograph. Two
Kinds called homonyms, too;
Both, it’s true, have homonymy. There!

Homonym is an ambiguous word because it can mean homophones (like their and there), homographs (like the verb lead and the metal lead), or words that are both but have different meanings (like the verb quail and the bird quail). Homonymous is also a synonym for ambiguous, while the quality or state of being homonymous is known as homonymy. Omnificent limerick rhymes that display homonymy are often viewed as ominous.

The first ape who came down from a tree
Ended up walking upright. Did she
Have a bad case of FOMO
That led her to Homo,
Then sapiens? (Look, ma, it’s me!)

You and me, Charlie Chaplin, Liz Truss,
William Shakespeare, Queen Anne, Uncle Gus,
1+ billion Chinese,
Your best friend—all of these:
Homo sapiens sapiens—us.

“Let’s go back to your bedchamber, hon,
And together we’ll have us some fun.”
“It’s my chambers, but sure,
Though remember that you’re
Meant to call me ‘Your Honour’ here, son.”

There’s honeybunch, baby and bunny,
And bun, cakes, pie, doll and... that’s funny.
My names for you, darling:
All honey. You’re snarling...
You can be a bear sometimes, honey.

Maybe best not to call your sweetie honeysops (’tis obsolete, from “bread soaked in honey”) or honeypot (which has several other meanings, one of which—from the US military—is “makeshift toilet”).

“Oh, honeyballs!” calls out my honey,
“Hold on, let me pull out my money.”
Not paying for balling—
My honey is calling
For buttonbush purchasing, sonny.

Honeyballs is another name for Cephalanthus occidentalis, the buttonbush. The flowers of this North American shrub look unnervingly like the Covid virus.

His first days in office were splendid,
But that honeymoon period’s ended.
Nothing’s changed; it’s the same.
Folk are cursing his name,
As life hasn’t improved as intended.

She’s Chinese, but in fact a Hongkonger
(Hong Konger would likely look wronger).
Kowloon to Lantau
Is her territory now:
She’s a city-of-Hong-Kong-belonger.

It may be her territory, but it’s no longer Britain’s: since 1997 Hong Kong has been a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.

“That honky-tonk nightclub you visit
Looks sleazy and dangerous—is it?”
“Well, the owner’s a lunk
Who gets mean when he’s drunk,
But the country and ragtime’s exquisite.”

“Good evening. Tonight’s honoured guest
Is a man that the country knows best
As Sir Rupert McGee,
CMG, OM—” “Give it a rest!”

An honours list’s made by the Queen
(Or the King now—you know what I mean)
To bestow on the good
An award—or it should
Be. Some knighthoods are, frankly, obscene.

Every new year the reigning monarch of the U.K. issues an honours list of recipients of CBEs, OBEs, knighthoods and so forth. Members of the public are able to nominate people for awards, and decisions are made by a committee of civil servants and people independent of government before going to the prime minister for approval and then on to the palace.

So far, so uncontroversial. Another kind of honours list, however, isn’t. When a prime minister resigns, he or she is able to draw up a “resignation” honours list of personal recommendations for awards. In recent years, prime ministers who have been removed by their (cough, Conservative) party have used their resignation lists to reward scores of political allies, bringing the whole system into disrepute.

“Grandma, Grandma—a wolf’s in your bed!”
“Very funny, dear... wait, Little Red:
Why the hood? Is your cloak
Meant as some sort of joke?
What’s this axe about?” “Bad wolf. You’re dead.”

In Britain, a kid in a hoodie
Is seen as a hoodlum who, should he
Then cover his head
With his hood, instills dread:
A hoodie’s a teenage no-goody.

The hooded sweaters that became popular in the 1990s became known in Britain as hoodies, and the word soon attached to the young people who took to wearing them around its run-down streets. Hoodie gangs became a target of tabloid outrage in the 2000s, associated with knife crime and hooliganism, and the sight of a young man walking past with his hood up still strikes fear into the easily fear-struck. Which is a pain, because in a cold, damp climate hoodies are convenient and practical.

A rumpus on campus! But how
To describe this here hoo-ha: a row?
Agitation? Commotion?
Expand on which notion
Best captures it. (Who’s laughing now?)

Five hundred words by next Friday, please.

It’s surprising: the last time I looked,
A fish was just something I cooked,
But entranced by Gone Fishin’
I find myself wishin’
I knew how to cast... now I’m hooked.

Joe Pesci’s and Danny Glover’s 1997 buddy movie is an odd way into the age-old pastime, but hey.

A ripper cartoonist, Jeff knew
What kids liked, and did politics, too.
All his readers would look
For the signature hook
In his work: Hook would always come through.

Geoffrey Raynor Hook (1928–2018) was born in Hobart and published his first cartoons as Jeff in local newspaper The Mercury before moving to Melbourne in 1964 to join the Sun News-Pictorial, which was later merged into the Herald Sun. He worked as an editorial cartoonist until his retirement in 1993, with some of his cartoons gaining international recognition and awards; he liked to hide a small fishhook in each. Hook also illustrated dozens of childrens’ books, including a personal favourite of mine, Osmar White’s 1973 The Super-Roo of Mungalongaloo.

My mate Wayne was a hell of a hoon:
He would put on a terrible tune
And then, fangin’ his car (oh,
He had a Monaro),
He’d menace the streets of Yeppoon.

Hoon isn’t only an Aussie term for a reckless driver; it can also mean the act of driving recklessly or be used as a verb. Fanging means driving fast, a Monaro was a circa-1970 model of Holden coupé, and Yeppoon is a coastal town near Rockhampton in Queensland.

I told you how Aussies say “hi”,
So it’s time now to tell you “goodbye”:
We say “hooroo!”, which tells
You it’s time for farewells.
It’s a fond “see ya later”—don’t cry.

Hooroo is the kind of thing your grandma would say when she’s popping out to the shops. The classic Aussie farewell—apart from bye or goodbye—is see you later, see ya or later(s), regardless of whether or not you expect to see this person ever again.

When I gave her a handbag by Gucci,
The dancer I’m dating got smoochy:
Gyrating her hips,
She said, “Gimme those lips,”
And the next thing I knew: hootchy-kootchy.

No construction is bolder—no, ma’am.
The biggest-yet concrete arch dam!
Why did Congress maneuver
To name it for Hoover?
That sucks! What a damnable scam.

No, not that kind of hoover, UK readers: Herbert Hoover, who was US president during its construction. The famous dam on the Colorado River was called the Hoover Dam by the Republican-controlled Congress at the start of the Great Depression, even though it had been authorised by his predecessor Calvin Coolidge. During the Roosevelt administration it was known as the Boulder Dam (and was completed in 1936), but in 1947 it was renamed by a once-again Republican Congress for a president considered by many to be one of America’s worst. The Democrats regained control of Congress two years later but didn’t bother changing the name a third time.

Let’s all stand on one leg, kids, and hop!
Leap along on our limbs to the shop!
Yes, that’s right, guys: the goal’s
To hop, hop, hop to Coles!
Hop hop hop hop hop... now you can stop.

Am I backing my sister here? Nope.
When she’s fighting my wife, I’m no dope.
Though they have the same name,
I can’t treat them the same.
Hope will hold out, I hope, against Hope.

Where’s the one that I want? Nothing new
In this lumber store: pine, through and through.
Though I know pine is handy
For some nightstands, Sandy,
I’m hopelessly devoted to yew.

Still, if I do buy some pine, they’ll cut it to length like greased lightnin’.

“It’s Spring!” Hope’s declared in her journal;
“The blossoms! The rhythms diurnal!
I wish it would never
End—go on forever!”
I leave a note: “Hope, Spring’s eternal.”

So what if I’ve been reading her diary? Hope hopes Spring’s eternal—well, hope springs eternal—and I’m giving Hope hope.

How I’d love to ride hither and yon—
If I get me a rabbit, I’m gone.
But no ordinary coney:
One big as a pony!
You’ve got one right here? Let’s hop on!

It was horrible: causing me dread,
Intense fear, and aversion. I said
To my mum and my dad,
“It’s too grim.” They looked sad.
“Never mind. Try the meat loaf instead.”

Helga’s sister-in-law came to call.
“I heard Hägar had quite a bad fall.”
“It was awful! He fell
On his helmet, as well...
Oh, the horribleness of it all!”

Those horns have gotta hurt. The viking-themed comic strip Hägar the Horrible ran for fifty years from 1973–2023, written and drawn in its first fifteen years by Dik Browne and then by his son Chris.

When she bashed out his brains with a rock,
It was dreadful, offensive, a shock—
Or to be more specific,
I found it horrific.
Thank God Teddy’s made from a sock.

I reckon tonight or tomorrer,
I’ll go to me brother’s to borrer
His tape of The Shining,
Because I’ve been pining
For creepiness, jump scares and horror.

My party? A horror show. First
There was Frankenstein’s monster, who burst
Through the wall, then the Mummy
Threw up (gyppy tummy),
And Dracula—that guy’s the worst!

Have you heard about Dracula’s gory
Demise? Then prepare yourself, for he
Went down simply screaming,
As sunlight came streaming
Inside. Yep, he fried. Horror story.

A horse blanket: large equine coat,
Or an oversized old U.S. note.
A blanket, of course,
Isn’t cheap for a horse:
A whole horse blanket, saw one store quote.

Large-sized U.S. paper notes issued from 1861 through 1928 were nicknamed horse blankets or saddle blankets, as the former could once be used as a synonym for the latter—that is, a blanket that goes under a horse’s saddle. Nowadays a horse blanket (or horse rug) is a fitted covering for the animal’s whole body. These can run to US$200 or more, roughly the equivalent of a dollar a century ago.

When Sir Lancelot’s steed strayed off course
And refused to show any remorse,
He wished it the worst:
A disease. Sir knight cursed,
“A pox on thee, odious horse!”


“It’s a whip which is meant for a horse?
To control them by force? You endorse
An equestrian whip?
Show remorse!” “Get a grip,
Or I’ll horsewhip you too in due course.”

That he has a high temperature’s not
What I mean... I suppose that I’ve got
To be clearer. Alexei
Is awfully sexy:
My swimming instructor is hot.

When discussions get heated, then there
Is a risk that we won’t display care
In our statements and claims.
Surely, people, the aim’s
To inform, not be full of hot air.

“As I rise in my hot air balloon,
I shall float above all of you soon!”
What, he means he’ll be flying?
Such hot air! The man’s lying.
That Montgolfier—what a buffoon.

A hot-brained young man from Skegness
On a whim one day chose to undress
In full view on the beach:
A rash choice they now teach
In psychology classes, no less.

At our cop-shop, our desks are part-time,
As in hot desks: she’s hot-desked, and I’m
On hers next. We’re engaging
In hot-desking, waging
A war against waste (also, crime).

If they’re hot-desking, Britons are swapping
Locations in offices, shopping
For desks that are not
Being used, for some hot
Desk-based action (till six comes, then stopping).

Hotelkeeper Mr Ramada
Entreated his staff to try hada:
“Dress smartly! No floozies!
More bathroom Jacuzzis!
And stock more small chocs in our lada!”

The Ramada hotel chain wasn’t founded by our fictional hotelier here, but by Marion W. Isbell in 1953 (its name is a southwestern US term for a temporary shelter with a roof but no walls). I stayed in one at the impressionable age of twelve and thought its Jacuzzi hot tub and chocolates on the pillows were the height of luxury.

A hot Jupiter orbits its star
In a zone that gets hot as Qatar.
Ours is chillier, an’ it’s
(Compared with such planets)
Much further from our star by far.

Hot Jupiters are low-density Jupiter-sized exoplanets that orbit very close to their stars.

“The souls in that ironclad box,”
Ordered Satan, “with oven-hot rocks—
Let a few of them out.
Use the laptop.” “About
That... which hot key will open the locks?”

Hot keys are not keys for locks, except sometimes indirectly: they’re keyboard shortcuts that trigger computer functions, such as temporarily releasing souls from eternal damnation for their two-minute break every ten thousand years.

On a hot streak, I’m churning these out:
Writing oodles of limericks—about
Three or four every day.
Readers mutter, “No way!
Just how many more lines can he spout?”

Who knows? I didn’t write any for a couple of years, so I’m making the most of it now.

Our father is startin’ to holler—
He’s gettin’ hot under the collar.
“Had trouble believin’
You’d stoop to such thievin’...
Which one of you’s stolen me dollar?”

“Dad, I’m cold from my head to my toes!
Look, an icicle growed on my nose!”
I’m concerned for my daughter, but I’ll
Fill her hot-water bottle
Up, and we’ll see how it goes.

Providing that rubbery bladder
Regrettably’s made my girl madder.
“My bed is too hot
Now! I’m boiling! It’s not
Any better now, Daddy, it’s badder!”

Hoummos: a mashed chickpea spread,
With tahini, that’s eaten with bread
Such as pita; a meze
That some pretty creze
Folk treat as a dip, though, instead.

Hoummos is served as a dip at parties by many outside the Middle East, but in its home region it’s an essential part, or even the star, of a main meal; its other key ingredients are garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. American readers might prefer to substitute “Hummus: garbanzo-based spread” for the first line of this verse.

“Sixty minutes? It can’t be—you’re wrong!
This is taking forever!” “Be strong.
It’s an hour-long sermon.
Quit fussin’ and squirmin’.”
“Why’d God make the Bible so long?”

This subject, I know, can arouse
Strong emotions, but looking to house
Detainees on moored boats
As a way to win votes—
Well, it isn’t a plan I’d espouse.

He tipped a carafe of house red
All over my spouse’s poor head.
As she groused, the douse dripped
Down her blouse. The louse quipped,
“The house wine’s on the house, the chef said.”

House has been used for an establishment serving food or drink (such as a pub or restaurant) since the days of Old English, but it wasn’t until the 19th century that it came to designate wines bought in bulk by the management and served at a special price. The American phrase on the house, meaning paid for by the management rather than the customer, dates only to the 1930s.

To the Danish king’s soldier, I turn:
“You’re a housewife? Well, well—live and learn.”
He replied with a snarl,
“It’s not housewife, it’s carl.”
“Oh, it’s Carl, now? I thought you were Bjørn.”

A housecarl was a member of the household troops of a Danish or early English king or noble—a bodyguard. The term originally referred to the Scandinavian retainers of Cnut, King of England from 1016–35. At least they weren’t called housecnuts.

A cat is a cat, and that’s that,
But a housecat, who slowly grows fat
In a mansion or house...
Well, if I were a mouse,
I would move to a neighbouring flat.

There it was, in my glass of house red:
An insect, decidedly dead.
I uttered a cry:
“Waiter, look—there’s a fly!”
“Ah, I see, sir. The housefly,” he said.

“Waiter, bring me a glass of house white
And get this one out of my sight!
This housefly is trousered
From drinking the housered.
I don’t like my flies getting tight.”

Housered isn’t a recognised spelling of house red, probably because it’s too easy to mispronounce it this way.

What fellow behind the fridge squeaks?
The house mouse, Mus musculus, speaks!
“Squeak! Squeak! Squeak! Squeak!” Snap.
Oh, my goodness. Oh, crap.
Hoped to learn his house hunting techniques.

Mus musculus isn’t that muscly:
He’s teensy and hustly and bustly.
This greyish-brown mouse
Darts at night round the house,
Finding crumbs to devour unfussily.

Lab biologists working in Brussels
Gave Mus musculus extra-big muscles.
Now these scientists bet
On which one of the set
Will do best in their mouse-on-mouse tussles.

The house mouse, Mus musculus, is the mouse species most commonly bred for scientific research.

A house-sitter sat in our house
(So, not on it) for weeks, as my spouse
And I holidayed. We’ve
Found the bastard won’t leave,
Though: he’s still on our sofa, the louse.

The spirits of humans at play
In the world live in houses of clay,
Said a buddy of Job.
Non-believers might probe
That assumption: “Looks fleshy, I’d say.”

In Job 4:19, Job’s friend Eliphaz the Temanite used this metaphor while relating a vision he’d experienced (“them that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust”, King James Version). It eventually became a theological term for the human body. Eliphaz the Temanite, as far as I know, was not an elephantine termite (which do live in actual houses of clay).

While Members of Parliament grumble,
The Houses surrounding them crumble.
“We’ve mended Big Ben!”
But you’ll do the rest—when?
After watching their burning walls tumble?

The Palace of Westminster, home to Britain’s Houses of Parliament, is badly in need of repair and at increasing risk of a major fire, but MPs have dithered for years over whether to relocate while repairs are made. A 2022 report estimated that without relocation such repairs could drag on for 76 years and cost as much as £22 billion.

All too often you seem too content
To pay for the shopping and rent
And leave cooking and cleaning
To me—it’s demeaning!
You think I’m a housewife? Get bent!

Politicians don’t find it arousing,
Delivering adequate housing,
But those who are dealt a
Cruel hand—lack of shelter—
Find beds for the night worth espousing.

A hoverboard—made without wheels—
In the movies elicited squeals.
Today, the kids love
Those that, push comes to shove,
Don’t quite float. Wish they hovered for reals!

Science-fictional hoverboards, seen in movies such as Back to the Future II (1989), look like skateboards without wheels and float above the ground through some advanced anti-gravity technology. Since the early 21st century the term has been applied to what are more like sideways skateboards with large single wheels on their left and right, for which gyroscope sensors help the hoverboarder maintain their balance.

“I’ll return,” I heard Bonaparte vow,
“To rule France again.” Tell me, though, how?
In what way will he do it?
Is he able? We’d rue it
If Elba he’d ere escape now.

“Jenny, how about you and me go
To a movie? They’ve started to show
The new Jaws in 3-D
At the theater near me,
And it’s rated PG.” “How ’bout no.”

Jaws 3-D (1983) really was rated PG in the US, just like the original.

“How do.” “Hello, how do you do?”
“I do handily—how about you?”
“Oh, I hold up okay.”
“Hold on, what did you say?”
“I hold up.” “You’re a bank robber?” “True.”

“Owyergoin, mate, orright?” “I’m good,
Thanks—and you?” “Yeah, not bad. Mate, I should
Let you know: the High Court
Is in session now, sport.”
“S’pose I should take me seat, then.” “I would.”

Her elephant’s howdah allowed her
An elegant ride, and to powder
Her nose out of view
Of the crowd they went through:
In the box seat, she’d never felt prouder.

When he greeted the vicar, who knew
What an awkward exchange would ensue?
“Hello, knickers—oh God—
Vicar, don’t think me odd...”
Well, there’s a fine how-do-you-do.

“How’s it goin’, mate, orright?” I said
To me uncle in passin’—instead
Of replyin’, though, he
Stared unblinkin’ at me,
As me uncle had gone and dropped dead.

If one wonders if someone’s okay,
One might ask, “How’s it hanging today?”
“To the left,” he might say,
Or, “I’m good, thanks.” One way
Or the other, the meaning is grey.

If you want a more serious or detailed answer, you’ll have to go beyond this informal equivalent (popularized in the 1980s) of how’s it going?

An illusionist out in the sticks
Met his mate, a magician. “How’s tricks?”
One man greeted the other.
“Bit tricky.” “Oh, brother.”
“These hicks don’t like magic shows.” “Pricks.”

Here’s a how-to for limerick writing:
Choose words and write something inviting
About them, submit them,
Then watch people twit them
In workshops, until you’re all fighting.

“How you doin’?” “Well, first I take phrases,
Like greetings, and then sing their praises
In limericks, like this.”
“Buddy, somethin’s amiss.
I mean you, not whatever yer ways is.”

“Howzat!” all our cricketers shout
When they reckon the batter is out
(“How is that, my good sir?”).
Will the umpire concur?
Will the batter demur with a pout?

A Jo’burg oke says, as you do,
“Howzit hey?” (How are things? How are you?),
While a local Hawaiian
Might rather be tryin’
“Howzit braddah? How you?” on his crew.

oke (also ou): guy (South Africa)
braddah (also bra, bruddah): brother or bro (Hawaii)

A girl I once knew got annoyed in
Her class: teacher called her a hoyden
Because she’d made noise.
“Hey, it’s all right for boys!
Why are boisterous girls such a boyden?”

Shouted Sister Cecilia, “Release
Me from hoydenish outbursts! Girls, cease!
Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
You’re far too exploseph.
That’s twenty Hail Marys apiece.”

In search of some hedonism, brimmin’
With spunk and gay pride, his eyes skimmin’
The bar, Guy asks, “Where
Are the men?” “Over there.
Here it’s hoydenism: boisterous women.”

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