Created By: SonicLover on April 18, 2011 Last Edited By: alnair20aug93 on August 8, 2017

Limerick

Usage of limericks in works for humor or other reasons.

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So by rules as applied
More than two months, none replied,
This page is Upped for Grabs by Alnair.


While TV Tropes loves its haiku,// Don't limericks need their time too?// In works of all kinds// They grace our learned minds// So don't be so quick to pooh-pooh!//

A limerick, so it must seem,// Is a poem that follows a scheme.// The rhyme does not sway// A-A-B-B-A// With line lengths that match. Peachy-cream!//

...Okay, that ends the Self-Demonstrating Article portion of this trope's description. If I go any further I'm quite sure I'll drive both of us insane.

As I said, a limerick is a poem of five lines that follows an A-A-B-B-A rhyme scheme as demonstrated above. The "A" lines usually have eight syllables, and the "B" lines five. It's a very recognizable pattern.

Compare Haiku and Purple Prose.

Examples

Literature
  • The Trope Codifier was A Book of Nonsense by Edward Lear (1845), which popularized the form for light verse. Lear's limericks featured his usually nonsense humor and Perfectly Cromulent Words, and often repeated the first line as the last line. A representative sample:

    There was an Old Man with a beard,//
    Who said, 'It is just as I feared!//
    Two Owls and a Hen,//
    Four Larks and a Wren,//
    Have all built their nests in my beard!'
  • In Isaac Asimov's Black Widowers stories, Roger Halsted is fond of limericks, and often shares or even composes them during the dinner. During the first few stories, he's in the process of writing a limerick for each book of the Iliad ("And Odyssey," he's always quick to add), but he soon seems to drop this project, or at least stops sharing the limericks at the Widowers' meetings.
  • In Cetagenda by Lois McMaster Bujold, Miles composes limericks for himself during the poetry recital part of a funeral.
  • In Honor's Paradox by PC Hodgell, the singer Ashe performs a limerick with herself as the butt of the joke.

Live-Action TV
  • Adam Adamant Lives!: Once per Episode, Simms would improvise a limerick on the situation at hand.
  • How I Met Your Mother: Not in the show proper itself, but Barney wrote on his blog a ranchy limerick following the events of "No Tomorrow.":
    There once was a well-dressed man,
    Who made a young lady a fan,
    She gave him her number,
    He laid pipe like a plumber,
    Then before she awoke he ran.

    All the fair lasses kept starin',
    At a lad in the tavern MacLaren,
    They fought for this stud,
    In their bras and the mud,
    Must be that pinstripe he's wearin'.

  • On Star Trek: The Next Generation, Data was learning about poetry, and had this classic Curse Cut Short:
    Data: There once was a woman from Venus, whose body was shaped like a—
    Picard: That's enough, Mr. Data!
  • The Two Ronnies: The dialogue in the "Limerick Clinic" sketch combines to form a series of limericks.

Radio
  • There's an oblique reference to limericks in the Hancock's Half Hour radio episode "The Poetry Society", where Bill (the stupid character) offers to read a poem of his own, and Hancock claims the only poems Bill knows concern young women from various parts of the country.
  • 'Limerick' was one of the games on I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue. Humph would give the teams a potential packed opening line and they would have to complete it, taking one line apiece.
  • Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! has "Listener Limerick Challenge" as a regular feature, where Carl Kassel reads a limerick dealing with current events and the contestant has to fill in the blank at the end.

Video Games
  • The Limerick Dungeon in Kingdom of Loathing. Every adventure you have in there is described in the form of a limerick. For example:
    All at once you're approached by an Orc
    Who comes after you waving a spork.
    With a thud and a squish,
    Well, you make that Orc wish
    He was never dropped off by the stork.
  • In the Attic/Basement level of Nightmare Ned, there is an enormous dragon who tells gruesome stories in the form of limericks - and all in a very cheerful tone, as if reading bedtime stories.
  • In Sid Meierís Alpha Centauri, the quote for the Cyborg Factory is a limerick:
    A handsome young Cyborg named Ace
    Wooed women at every base
    But once ladies glanced at
    His special enhancement
    They vanished with nary a trace

Web Comics

Web Original
  • Zero Punctuation once did an entire review in limerick.
  • The Other Wiki cites this limerick as an example:
    The lim'rick packs laughs anatomical
    In space that is quite economical,
    But the good ones I've seen
    So seldom are clean,
    And the clean ones so seldom are comical.

Western Animation
  • The Fairly OddParents! has two from the episode "The Big Bash":
    Leprechaun: They say that poor Cosmo was dense / For betting his wife for five cents / If she knows, she'll be mad /If she goes, he'll be sad / I'm betting the pain is intense. [poofs out]
    Wanda: [enraged] YOU BET ME FOR A NICKEL?!!
    Cosmo: But, it was a shiny nickel.
    [Wanda strangles him]

    Wanda Two fairies had a thought in their head, / That a bet could decide who'd I wed, / But when during their bout, / Their big secret got out... [summons angered guys from the trip]
    Juandissimo: ...And now both of those morons are dead?
  • In The Simpsons episode "Eeny Teeny Maya Moe", Homer is mocked because he can't remember limericks:
    Homer: I can too! There once was this guy from an island off the coast of Massachusetts, uh... Nantucket, I think it was. Anyway, he had the most unusual personal characteristic, which was, uh... um...
  • SpongeBob SquarePants has this gem from the episode "Sleepy Time":
    There once was a man from Peru
    Who dreamt he was eating his shoe
    He woke with a fright
    In the middle of the night
    To see that his dream had come true.

Real Life
Community Feedback Replies: 40
  • April 18, 2011
    foxley
    • 'Limerick' was one of the games on Im Sorry I Havent A Clue. Humph would give the teams a potential packed opening line and they would have to complete it, taking one line apiece.
  • April 18, 2011
    peccantis
    I suppose you mean "pooh-pooh" instead of "poo-poo".
  • April 18, 2011
    jaytee
    Limericks have a particular rhythm (related to the number and order of stressed and unstressed syllables per line) as well... I'm too lazy to look it up and describe it (unless you ask nicely), but it'd be worthwhile to include in the description (most other peotry trope pages do the same).
  • April 18, 2011
    thegrenekni3t
    A proper limerick has an anapestic rhythm: each metrical foot has two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable. The A lines have three feet and the B lines have two (so the A lines have nine syllables and the B lines have six).

    • In Isaac Asimov's Black Widowers stories, Roger Halsted is fond of limericks, and often shares or even composes them during the dinner. During the first few stories, he's in the process of writing a limerick for each book of the Iliad ("And Odyssey," he's always quick to add), but he soon seems to drop this project, or at least stops sharing the limericks at the Widowers' meetings.
  • April 18, 2011
    RainyDayNinja
    The Listener Limerick Challenge is one of the call-in games on Wait Wait Dont Tell Me, where the caller has to fill in the last word of a limerick based on some current event. The rhyming makes it by far the easiest of the games.
  • April 20, 2011
    robybang
  • April 20, 2011
    Stratadrake
    Wikipedia cites this limerick as an example:

    The lim'rick packs laughs anatomical
    In space that is quite economical,
    But the good ones I've seen
    So seldom are clean,
    And the clean ones so seldom are comical.

    I'm trying to come up with something myself, but I'm having trouble finding rhymes for the word 'limerick'.
  • April 20, 2011
    Scooter007
    Of course, the ever-popular "There once was a girl from Nantucket..."
  • April 20, 2011
    Stratadrake
    ^ You mean Man From Nantucket.
  • April 20, 2011
    DragonQuestZ
  • April 20, 2011
    LeeM
    There's an oblique reference to limericks in the Hancocks Half Hour radio episode "The Poetry Society", where Bill (the stupid character) offers to read a poem of his own, and Hancock claims the only poems Bill knows concern young women from various parts of the country.
  • April 20, 2011
    Stratadrake
    There once was a trope with a gimmick,
    Whose meter and sound were quite rhythmic;
    The question was 'why'?
    The answer was sly:
    Because Everything's Better With Limericks!
  • April 20, 2011
    DragonQuestZ
    It just makes it yet another "everything's better with" snowclone.
  • April 22, 2011
    SonicLover
    Maybe we need a better title.
  • October 31, 2011
    Insignificant
    It definitely Needs A Better Title.
  • November 1, 2011
    peccantis
    The RL section needs to go... "Limerick" is not a limerick.
  • February 24, 2012
    tvtroper98
    How about "Limerick Antics"?
  • February 24, 2012
    KevinKlawitter
    A Limerick composed with wit
    Tollows strict, concise logic in it
    To give you a sense
    And then send you hence,
    The last word of this one is "shit".
  • February 24, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Wait Wait Dont Tell Me has "Listener Limerick Challenge" as a regular feature, where Carl Kassel reads a limerick dealing with current events and the contestant has to fill in the blank at the end.
  • June 5, 2012
    StevieC
    Well, it's partly the shape of the thing, That gives the old Limerick wing. These accordion pleats, Full of airy conceits, Take it up like a kite on a string!

    When a limerick line starts out first, That which follows is fated, accursed. If the third line takes tea, The fourth must agree, While five, two, and one pool their thirst.
  • June 6, 2012
    Aquila89
    • In The Simpsons episode "Eeny Teeny Maya Moe", Homer is mocked because he can't remember limericks:
      Homer: I can too! There once was this guy from an island off the coast of Massachusetts, uh... Nantucket, I think it was. Anyway, he had the most unusual personal characteristic, which was, uh... um...
  • June 6, 2012
    kjnoren
    Literature:

    • In Cetagenda by Lois Mc Master Bujold, Miles composes limericks for himself during the poetry recital part of a funeral.
    • In Honors Paradox by PC Hodgell, the singer Ashe performs a limerick with herself as the butt of the joke.
  • June 6, 2012
    sgamer82
  • June 6, 2012
    Duncan
    On Star Trek The Next Generation, Data was learning about poetry, and had this classic Curse Cut Short:
    DATA: There once was a woman from Venus, whose body was shaped like a--
    PICARD: That's enough, Mr. Data!

  • June 6, 2012
    Koveras
    Isn't the first opening quote on the Starsiege page a limerick?
  • June 6, 2012
    Duncan
    ^ No.
  • June 6, 2012
    Koveras
    OK.
  • June 8, 2012
    Jeduthun
    If we want to be absolutely technical, the "very recognizable pattern" is an anapestic trimeter (in the A lines, dimeter in the B lines). The A lines also often feature a double or triple rhyme, meaning multiple syllables rhyme rather than just the last one.

    To show how necessary the anapest is to the limerick's effect, one poetry textbook offered this example of an AABBA poem in iambic trimeter:

    The anapest left out Is wrong beyond a doubt. In rules of form, You must conform To things you know about.
  • June 8, 2012
    Jeduthun
    The Trope Codifier was A Book of Nonsense by Edward Lear (1845), which popularized the form for light verse. Lear's limericks featured his usually nonsense humor and Perfectly Cromulent Words, and often repeated the first line as the last line. A representative sample:

    There was an Old Man with a beard,//
    Who said, 'It is just as I feared!// Two Owls and a Hen,// Four Larks and a Wren,// Have all built their nests in my beard!'
  • February 13, 2017
    john_e
  • February 13, 2017
    alnair20aug93
    • Sponge Bob Square Pants has this gem from the episode "Sleepy Time":
      There once was a man from Peru
      Who dreamt he was eating his shoe
      He woke with a fright
      In the middle of the night
      To see that his dream had come true.

    • The Fairly Odd Parents has two from the episode "The Big Bash":
      Leprechaun: They say that poor Cosmo was dense / For betting his wife for five cents / If she knows, she'll be mad /If she goes, he'll be sad / I'm betting the pain is intense.
      Wanda: [enraged] YOU BET ME FOR A NICKEL?!!
      Cosmo: But, it was a shiny nickel.
      [Wanda strangles him]

      Wanda Two fairies had a thought in their head, / That a bet could decide who'd I wed, / But when during their bout, / Their big secret got out... [summons angered guys from the trip]
      Juandissimo: ...And now both of those morons are dead?
  • February 13, 2017
    naturalironist
    If we're going to revive this one I second the much earlier suggestion to rename There Once Was A Trope Called A Limerick.

    Considering Limericks are their own form /genre of poetry, we perhaps should consider treating them that way.

    Also the description should definitely mention dirty Limericks as a form of Bawdy Song and the frequent use of Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion.
  • February 23, 2017
    alnair20aug93
    Bump
  • February 23, 2017
    KTera
    • In Sid Meiers Alpha Centauri, the quote for the Cyborg Factory is a limerick:
      A handsome young Cyborg named Ace
      Wooed women at every base
      But once ladies glanced at
      His special enhancement
      They vanished with nary a trace
  • February 23, 2017
    DrNoPuma
    I think the title should be changed to singular form, Limerick.

    Also, here's another Video Game example, which coincidentally also features a dragon!
  • June 13, 2017
    BKelly95
    Western Animation
    • One episode of the Alf cartoon had him wake up to find a tuft of hair missing. He goes to a fortune teller named Madam Poughkeepsie who curses him when he offends her. In retaliation, he steals her crystal ball and she sends creatures after him. He sums up the situation as such:
      I used to have hair on my head
      Just until I got out of bed.
      I went to Poughkeepsie.
      She slipped me a mickey.
      Right now, I'd be better off
      ...{cut off by Rick)
  • June 13, 2017
    NightShade96
    • Subverted in the Gravity Falls episode "Headhunters", when Mabel asks Wax Shakespeare's head if he knows any limericks:
      Mabel: You know any limericks?
      Shakespeare: Um... There once was a dude from Kentucky...
      Mabel: Nope! [throws him in the fire]
  • June 14, 2017
    NightShade96
    Bump
  • June 14, 2017
    AzureChevalier
    In The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 2, one of your quest givers, Prince Olivert, gives a limerick for a quest in the Finale.

    There once was a woman in Roer I decided I wanted to woo her She gave me a slap When I sat in her lap And now I have one lover fewer.
  • June 14, 2017
    Basara-kun
    Compare Haiku and Purple Prose
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