Limerick[s] (reply to Joel)

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Fri Nov 13 12:56:47 UTC 2009

Quoting "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>:

> More disappointment from the "19th Century UK Periodicals"
> database.  All searches except (4) are from all journals in the database.
> 1)  "Limerick" alone, 1870-1895, came up with nothing helpful.
> 2)  "come up to" and "bring to" (without "Limerick"), prior to 1895,
> came up with nothing helpful.
> 3)  "Limerick" + "Oxford", prior to 1895, came up with nothing useful.
> 4)  "Limerick" in the Sporting Times, prior to 1895, did produce one
> hit (about an MP from there), so searching that journal is not vacuous.
> On the other hand:
> 5)  The following seems very tenuous, but:
> Punch, 1862 Nov 22, page 209:
> Limerick Literature
>      It may not seem to most persons very important what an
> _Irishman_ says about anything. But when an Irishman supposes to be
> his thoughts get into print the warning brogue is lost ... and a
> hasty reader may feel annoyed at what he supposes to be an English or
> Scotch utterance.
>      [The article goes on to discuss an Irish newspaper writer who
> has displayed poor spelling, bad grammar, and a deficient knowledge
> of a character from 18th-century Spanish history.]
> [Is it possible that "limerick" for the rhyme arose from an
> association of the Irish with poor writing?  (As I said, very
> tenuous.)  I can, however, provide a couple more scurrilous
> commentaries upon the Irish that I happened across while looking for
> "Limerick" --a learned Irish judge who has married his aged cook; or
> an illustrated tale from Limerick of a rustic Pat who meets on the
> lane and is bested by a performing pig that had escaped from a circus.]
> 6)  A limerick from Limerick:
> The Sporting Times [London], 1895 October 25, p. 6.
> An Irish contractor, Pat Googahan,
> Supplies us with Limerick beogahan,
>    It's true that the pork
>    Come chiefly from Cork;
> But thousands, they tell me, he's meogahan.
> [So here we have Limerick, a limerick, and the Sporting Times all
> together -- but it's a bit late, and naturally doesn't tell us that
> such rhymes are called "limericks".]
> [I could also use a translation.]
> 7)  A puzzle, essentially a rebus.  For example, between the text
> "The Soil is equally sui-" and "for grazing and for" is a picture of
> a table.  The puzzle is titled "Limerick" -- but it is about the
> county of Limerick.
> Joel

Thanks very much Joel. Your #6--I'd call it a Limerick *mentioning* Limerick
rather than *from* Limerick--is interesting, even if not as early as Legman
guessed. (We have explicit use of the Limerick poem name earlier in 1895.) It
adds to the accumulation of texts that suggest knowledge that the verse
form is
called Limerick, even if not explicitly saying so.

About #7 (undated?) did you mean *not* titled Limerick but about Limerick?


The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list