Limericks with a twist

There was an old man dressed in gray,
Who stood on his head every day.
When someone asked why,
He was quick to reply,
“¡ʎɐʍ sıɥʇ ɹǝʇʇǝq ɥɔnɯ ʇı ǝʞıl ı”

(not an original work, but don’t remember where I first saw this)



A friend of mine wrote this in senior high during a very brief phase of limerick writing we had. It’s a rough translation from Norwegian, but I think you get the gist:

There once was a man from Nantucket…
…bah, that’s way too cliche, so fuck it.

I think it was Isaac Asimov who relayed three of them:

  1. There once was a man from Peru
    Whose limericks would end at line two.

  2. There once was a man from Verdun

Reminds me of John Cooper Clarke’s “Haiku 1”:

There once was a man from Japan
Whose limericks would never scan.
When asked why it was,
He answered, Because
I always try to get everything into the last line that I possibly can.

When limerick writing I strive
To write verse that’s vibrant and alive
But it all starts to bore
Around lines 3 and 4
And I something something by line 5.

I wrote this on my girlfriend’s valentine card. Married 15 years now.

There once was a girl named Linoski
Da da da da da da doski
Da da da da da
Da da da da da
There’s not a goddam thing that rhymes with Linoski!

The way I learned it was this:

  1. A poet from west Tennessee
    wrote limericks stopped at line three
    that never did finish

  2. There once was a man from Peru
    Whose limericks stopped at line two.

  3. There once was a man from Verdun

  4. I forget this one, but it was about Emperor Nero.

From Physics Limericks

Relativistic length contraction is a strange thing, indeed…

Relativistic limericks have the attraction
Of being shrunk by a Lorentz contraction.
But for readers, unwary,
The results may be scary,
When a fraction . . .

As is time dilation…

The effects of dilation of time
Are magical, strange, and sublime.
In your frame, this verse,
Which you’ll see is not terse,
Can be read in the same amount of time it takes someone else in another frame to read a similar sort of rhyme.

For this subject I’ve always liked this one:

A decrepit old gas man named Peter,
While hunting around for the meter,
Touched a leak with his light.
He arose out of sight,
And, as anyone can see by reading this, he also destroyed the meter

Speaking of Asimov, I remember this one from his joke book:

A man comes home chuckling. His wife asks him why. He says, “I just heard the dirtiest limerick ever!” So she says, " Let me hear it." He says, “No, I can’t. It’s just too dirty.” She says, “O.K., tell you what. You substitute a dash for anything you think I’m too delicate to hear, and I’ll figure it out on my own.” So the guy says,


My version of this:

There once was a poet named Klein
And most of his poems were fine
The problem he had
Was his limericks were bad
Because he was always trying to fit way, WAY too many syllables- far more than should ever be included in any line of any kind of poetry whatsoever, let alone the limerick, with its rigid structure and rhyme scheme- into the closing line.

A modest young man from Nantucket
Tried writing an ode to a bucket:
He discovered, in time,
That the obvious rhyme
Was too rude, so he just had to duck it.

There was a young man from Dundee
Who one day was stung by a wasp.
When asked if hurt,
He said “Not very much -
I’m so glad it wasn’t a hornet”.

You know, I’d heard and read all the parodies of the original*, but it took practically until the advent of the internet that I heard the original. I guess everyone assumed we all we supposed to know the original. You could just say the first line, and everyone knew what you were talking about.
*I’m especially fond of the version where the man kept his cash in a bucket. It even has two “sequels”.

A wonderful beast is the flea;
You can’t tell a he from a she:
But he can
And she can –
Whoopee !

There once was a poet named Todd
Whose meter was seriously flawed.
His limericks would tend
To come to an end

Version I heard was a shaggy dog story about a filthy limerick contest, and someone who reads about it (“THe winning entry way too filthy to print in this magazine”) tracks the author down, to a tiny village in Ireland, where he finds a sweet old grandmother who wrote it. She’s unwilling to say the limerick because of its filth, but the reader eventually gets her to relent, and she says she’ll recite it, humming over the really filthy parts.

It’s a fun joke to spin out for an audience.

My favorite Asimov limerick was from one of his “Black Widowers” stories:

You can’t call the British Queen Ms.
Tain’t as nice as Elizabeth is.
But I think that the Queen
Would be even less keen
To have herself mentioned as Ls.