"bring her to Limerick" 1862 and Limericks

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jan 14 15:08:36 UTC 2009

Whatever the ultimate rationale behind "come/ bring to Limerick," the
expression is rare in print.  If it originally alluded to the Siege (and it
well may have) one would expect to find early Anglo-Irish exx.  Are there

Of course, if the phrase had long been local to some part of Ireland, such
written evidence may not be findable. It may be significant that it appears
in the U.S. not long after the Great Emigrations of 1848-52.  Many (most?)
of these exx. are from the U.S. Army, especially the Union Army, which had
a large number of recent Irish immigrants in its ranks.

The connection between the siege of Corinth and the Siege of Limerick is, to
me, most likely coincidental. Besides the defs. of "come to limerick" in
HDAS (based on the cites then available), and besides "face the
music,"  perhaps we should add the nuance "to end one's resistance."  "Bring
to Limerick" would be "to force surrender or compliance."

If the phrase really refers to the Williamite War, my guess is that the
Treaty of Limerick, which ratified the Jacobite surrender, is the intended
referent. In that case, "make X come to Limerick" = "make X surrender."

On Wed, Jan 14, 2009 at 6:18 AM, Stephen Goranson <goranson at duke.edu> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Stephen Goranson <goranson at DUKE.EDU>
> Subject:      "bring her to Limerick" 1862 and Limericks
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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
> http://www.duke.edu/~goranson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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