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

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Thu Dec 19 19:04:25 UTC 2013

Great thanks to Dan J. Bye who helped verify this citation with
extraordinary alacrity. Information on this topic will be shared on
the Quote Investigator blog in the near future, I hope.

With appreciation,
Garson O'Toole

On Thu, Dec 19, 2013 at 1:23 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole
<adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      [PW] Famous Relativity Limerick - request 1937 article in The
>               Observer UK
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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
> paper)[/ref]
> {Begin excerpt]
>              Relativity.
> 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
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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