"bring her to Limerick" 1862 and Limericks

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Mon Jan 19 16:46:34 UTC 2009

A couple more early exx. of "come/ bring to Limerick," from

1861 (Aug. 15), in *Kenosha* [Wis.] *Times* (Aug. 22) 2: All those "Nice
Young Men" that formerly patronized the "Park City Lunch" are requested to…PAY
UP for their "jolly little drinks"…IMMEDIATELY…."Nice Young Men" come to
Limerick or you will be brought there.

1864 *Burlington* [Vt.] *Weekly Hawk-Eye *(Mar. 26) 4: Deserters have a poor
show in Capt. Brownell's district…for he will bring them to "limerick" in a
twinkling if they don't come down!

The story so far:
With the mysterious exception of "The Limerick Rhymes," found by Fred in
N.Y. in 1880, all the evidence points to 1895-96 as the period when the name
"limerick" was first widely noticed as the name of the familiar verse genre,
popularized by Edward Lear, and formerly known simply as "nonsense rhymes,"
"nursery rhymes" or the like. The name was known to J.A.H. Murray by 1898,
who chiefly associated it with bawdy limericks, which could not then be
openly printed.

"Come up to Limerick" was an (?Irish-)American expression, dated to 1861,
meaning "pay up," "give up," "face the music," "do what is demanded,"
"surrender," or the like.  It may have a bearing on the chorus of the
limerick-meter song known in England by 1898 whose chorus was "Will you come
up, come up,/ Will you come up to Limerick?" (bis).

The chorus seems well suited to the 9/8 meter of an  Irish slip-jig, one of
which is titled, "Will You Come Down to Limerick?"


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

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> 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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