"bring her to Limerick" 1862 and Limericks

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Thu Jan 22 14:30:13 UTC 2009

Quoting Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>:

> A couple more early exx. of "come/ bring to Limerick," from
> NewspaperArchive.com:
> 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.
> [......]
> 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,
> [......]

Sam Clements contributed the Kenosha quote 11 Jan.

Actually, the 1898 Notes & Queries contribution is signed J. H. Murray rather
than J. A. H. Murray. Thanks to a helpful note from Anatoly Liberman, it
appears that these two are probably not the same person. If so, the Oxford
dictionary editor is not involved. J. H. Murray posted other times in N & Q,
sometimes giving an Edinburgh address. If that's a real address, it
undercuts a
proposal that this Murray was a pseudonym--Papers of the
Bibliographical Society
of America v75 1981, George N. Belknap, "History of the Limerick," pp. 1-32.

John MacGregor, of the Feb. 1896 Calcutta Limerick, should not be
confused with
the "Rob Roy" John MacGregor. The Limerick MacGregor was born Feb. 24, 1848 in
the Outer Hebrides and earned his M.D. at Glasgow.

Though there is more to be learned, it is now apparent that "come to Limerick"
in the US Civil War meant "surrender" and the like, with original reference to
the 1691 Irish Civil War ending Treaty of Limerick, and that in post-US Civil
War uses it was used in nonsense settings, and that these factors quite likely
played a role in the naming of 5-line nonsense verses "Limericks."

Stephen Goranson

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

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