"bring her to Limerick" 1862 and Limericks

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Wed Jan 14 11:18:08 UTC 2009

Illinois Artillery Officer's Civil War: The Diary and Letters of John Cheney?,
ed. Gordon Armstrong  (College Station TX, 2005) pp.47-49. May 14th, 1862.
My dear Wife, ....Thursday morning 15th....We go to Pittsburg this
afternoon to
get some extra ammunition. I doubt not that in a very short time, we
will be at
work on Corinth. Although it is going to be a good deal of a job to "bring her
to Limerick."[1] Still she must and will come, and I think with far less loss
of life than at Pittsburg.
[ed. GA note 1: Bring to Limerick is to do what needs doing.]

Corinth ("her") is presumably Corinth, Mississippi. This appears to add extra
evidence that the Limerick reference here is to the siege of Limerick that
ended the Irish Civil War and resulted in the Treaty of Limerick and the
"Flight of the Wild Geese," soldiers loyal to James II who went to France. The
"come to Limerick" uses after the US Civil War are increasingly transferred to
nonsense uses in time to be applied to the pre-existing 5-line nonsense verse
stanzas, often created in contests. (Whether the early Limerick verse contests
were sung or spoken or printed is yet to be determined.)

Stephen Goranson

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list