antedating "limerick" (1888) ? OED

Shapiro, Fred fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Sun Dec 21 12:24:19 UTC 2008

This is a really important and really strange antedating.  It seems unlikely to be legitimate on a number of counts: such a big antedating of OED for a word that they would have put some work into tracing (James Murray inquired in Notes and Queries as to its origin); it's published by a major American publisher but I can't find any mention of it in the four big U.S. newspaper databases; I have never found any other mention of the word "limerick" in conjunction with Edward Lear anywhere near that early.  Yet WorldCat and the Library of Congress catalog and the Yale catalog and the Stanford catalog all date it 1888.  I'll try to take a look at the Yale copy.  I'm guessing it could be a later printing of Lear's "Book of Nonsense" with a new title but still retaining the 1888 copyright notice.

Fred Shapiro

From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of John-Patrick [email1 at FOLKLORE.MS]
Sent: Saturday, December 20, 2008 11:03 PM
Subject: antedating  "limerick" (1888) ?  OED


I have found an edition of Edward Lear's book issued in 1888 after the death of Lear in January of that year that is titled "A Book of Limericks":,M1

This antedates "limerick" in the OED by 8 years.  I can find no copy of this edition in WorldCat and that is rather strange.  Can anyone find other copies of this book?   Am I missing something?

Any help is appreciated.


John Patrick


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