[PW] Famous Relativity Limerick - request 1937 article in The Observer UK

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Thu Dec 19 18:23:47 UTC 2013

Perhaps a list reader would be kind enough to access "The Guardian /
The Observer" digital archive (part of ProQuest) to retrieve a 1937
letter-to-the-editor explaining the origin of the famous limerick on
relativity described below. (Fred has an entry for this limerick in
"The Yale Book of Quotations", and Nigel Rees has an entry in
"Cassell's Humorous Quotations".)

Here is the data for the citation which is supposed to include a
letter from A. H. Reginald Buller in which he claimed authorship of
the limerick.

Newspaper: The Observer; Date: November 14, 1937; Page 12; Article
Title: Letters to the Editor; Author: Wyatt, Isabel; (probably this is
the author of the first letter in the section).

You can locate this cite by searching for this phrase: "author of the
relativity limerick" in database of "The Guardian / The Observer".

Here is some additional background information. The relativity
limerick first appeared in the London humor magazine "Punch" in 1923.
It was published without attribution:

[ref] 1923 December 19, “Punch, or The London Charivaria”, Volume 165,
Relativity (Limerick), Quote Page 591, Column 1, London. (Verified on

{Begin excerpt]


There was a young lady named Bright
Whose speed was far faster than light;
    She set out one day
    In a relative way
And returned on the previous night.

[End excerpt]

In 1938 "The Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada"
reprinted a letter from A. H. Reginald Buller in which he explained
the genesis and publication of the limerick. Below is the beginning of
the letter. This is the text of the letter that I would like to verify
was published in "The Observer" in 1937:

[Begin excerpt]
As the author of the relativity limerick, perhaps I may be allowed to
say that the limerick was made by me about fifteen years ago while
sitting in the garden of my friend and former colleague, Dr. G. A,
Shakespear, Lecturer on Physics at the University of Birmingham.

After conversing together on Einstein's theory, I suggested that we
should each try to make a relativity limerick. At the end of about
five minutes the limericks were ready and were exchanged, but with
nothing more than a trace of mutual admiration.

Some two years later, in 1923, at a meeting of the Scientific Club of
Winnipeg, a paper on relativity was presented by a physicist …
[End excerpt]

Thank you very much for any help you can provide,
Garson O'Toole

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

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