Brilliant Limericks capture the essence of an idea or experience, tying it into a memorable, pithy, poetic bow. This classic was written in 1923 by Arthur Henry Reginald Buller. Jonathan Prager Design.
The limerick tradition incorporates ribaldry and passion. This anonymous ditty has many renditions. I would end it with the following last line, ‘Said the plumber, “That someone is me!” ‘ Jonathan Prager Design.

To All Who Love Limericks…

10 min readMar 27, 2022


My mother loved limericks.

Her favorite, which she recited with a sparkle in her eye and a bounce in her step, was…

Mom was a skier before there were ski lifts, and a figure skater — who came out of a giant shoe in an ice show at Manhattan’s Madison Square Garden when she was a teenager.

She had great success in the cold.

Bird’s Eye Frozen Peas serve many purposes. You can keep them in your freezer. You can eat them. You can use them as surprisingly effective ice packs.

And, they will forever serve as the punch line of my mother’s most beloved limerick.

For which I am grateful.

When I heard my town — Westport, CT — was having a limerick contest, I pricked up my ears.

My friend, Jason, said,

“You can win this!”

As a songwriter, poet, and comedian, I thought I had a shot.

The Rules of limerick writing condensed into a limerick! This ditty was awarded a 1998 Irish Listowel Writer’s Week prize. To make the scansion and meaning even more ideal, I would commence the 4th line with “Though”; thus making it “Though they rhyme with the 2nd.” Jonathan Prager Design.

A limerick is a silly five line rhyming poem. The 1st, 2nd, and 5th lines are trimeter or tetrameter (Shakespeare wrote in iambic pentameter), ending with the same rhyme. Each has either three, or four, stressed syllables. Since the form can be, and often is, somewhat inexact, these lines can be anapestic trimeter, meaning da-da-duh, da-da-duh, da-da-duh, or iambic tetrameter, meaning da-duh, da-duh, da-duh, da-duh. Two shorter middle rhyming dimeter or trimeter lines, with two stressed syllables, serve to create contrast in lines 3 and 4.

Limericks have an AABBA rhyme scheme.

A perfect limerick might sound like this.

Or, like this.

They fairly dance off the page.

And, can inspire paroxysms of delight.

This makes sense since their origin may be traced to song.

Drinking songs to the melody of Cielito Lindo are thought to be one of the origins for limericks. Cray, Ed. The Erotic Muse: American Bawdy Songs. pg. 217.

Limerick is an Irish city in County Limerick, part of the province of Munster.

Even so, some believe the archaic English tune, “Won’t You Come to Limerick?” serves as the foundation for the form. Its rhythm and rhyme scheme are reminiscent of current limericks.

Others attribute the origin of the limerick to drinking songs based on the melody of Cielito Lindo, an 1882 composition by Quirino Mendoza y Cortés which has become known as the traditional song of Mexico.

In America, Cielito Lindo’s melody became ubiquitous through the Foote, Cone & Belding 1967 ad campaign for Frito Lay corn chips.

Advertising company Foote, Cone & Belding created the Frito Bandito in 1967. He seems to be saying, “Let me introduce you to the world of Limericks!” Wikipedia.

My mother taught me to do whatever I undertake to the best of my abilities. As a spiritual teacher, I know that I benefit from everything I do.

By that, I don’t mean recognition and prizes. I mean I grow and expand through contribution.

My first singing teacher drilled into me,

“The result is the effort put in.”

I know, as well, someone almost always puts in more effort. And quite possibly, possesses more ability, skill or talent.

I didn’t know if I would win the competition.

I knew, though, I would have fun entering.

And, that I would give it my best.

Among the most famous limericks of all time. Many ribald versions have been coined. It was first printed in the Princeton Tiger in 1902, written by Professor Dayton Voorhees. Jonathan Prager Design.
But one of many, many sequels to “There once was a man from Nantucket”. Limericks form a common language which is handed down among limerick lovers. Jonathan Prager Design.

As a limerick lover himself, Westport’s Transit District Director, Peter Gold, came up with the idea of a limerick contest as a way to publicize the local Wheels 2 U Shuttle Service. He is far from alone. Building on Edward Lear’s mid-19th century popularity in England, limerick competitions sprang up in legions, at times generating more mail than post offices could handle.

Wheels 2 U works like Uber and Lyft. You request a pickup through an app on your phone. Except, ride sharing takes the form of a subsidized shuttle with a cost of $2. The service reduces congestion and pollution.

And, hassle.

Wheels 2 U users neither have to find, nor pay for, daily parking.

Edward Lear wrote many iconic limericks. Among the most famous of these is the opening poem from his 1846 seminal volume, A Book of Nonsense. Jonathan Prager Design.

Westport is a family community about an hour Northeast of the Big Apple. It’s a commuting town. Tom Rath (Gregory Peck), the protagonist of ‘The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit’ — perhaps, the most iconic commuting movie ever filmed — lived in Wesport.

By train on Metro North’s coastal route, the ride from Westport to 42nd Street’s Grand Central Station takes a bit more than an hour — less if you grab an express.

My father commuted on the train every working day of every summer. He would settle into one of the solid, red and white, high backed seats and peruse his elegantly folded copy of the day’s New York Times. By the time he arrived to his 53rd street law office, he was refreshed and informed.

This unattributed ditty underscores the import of bawdiness in limerick tradition. Jonathan Prager Design.

The train also delivered him home at day’s end. We had good family friends who lived near the end of East Ferry Lane. He convinced The Alexanders to keep our rusting, old car — a grey Chevrolet station wagon — in the spur of their driveway outside their little used free standing garage.

That enabled him to putter back and forth from the house in our 1961 Bel Air Parkwood (with 178,000 miles on it) for the first and last portion of his commute.

The end of East Ferry Land also happens to be the Eastern end of the pedestrian walkway of the rail bridge over the Saugatuck River. The Western end opens onto the platform of Westport’s train station.

Everybody calls it, ‘The Railroad Bridge’.

W. S. Gilbert, the lyricist of the composing team Gilbert & Sullivan, was famous for his non-rhyming limericks. They created great effect by foiling expectations. Jonathan Prager Design.

Eight and a half years ago, my fiancée was hit by the train on that bridge. She was killed instantly; knocked out of her sneakers and into the river below.

The police found her left earring, and her cracked cell phone, on one of the bridge’s concrete stanchions.

But I digress.


Limericks accentuate joy. They emphasize humor. And, they radiate and support wit — and keep it flowing.

George Bernard Shaw, no less, championed the importance of the sexual nature of limericks. In dismay that the form had become less ribald as it gained more wide acceptance, he penned…

Langford Reed was a British author and collector of Limericks. Shaw objected to his ’taming’ the form. Jonathan Prager Design.

Shaw notwithstanding, Edward Lear and Ogden Nash stand perhaps, as the most famous Limerick writers of all time.

In Victorian England, Edward (it seems out of keeping with the genre to refer to a limerick writer by his last name) championed the form. Known primarily for his children’s poem/song The Owl and the Pussycat, he published two volumes of what become popularly known as ‘Nonsense Verse’.

Lines 27 -33 from The Owl and The Pussycat, by Edward Lear. Edward often invented words, including here, the word, “runcible”. Runcible has made it into English dictionaries. Jonathan Prager Design.

He first called his limericks, “Lear-ics”, a play on his name and the term, “lyrics”. The Book of Nonsense, his 1846 first compendium, contains 109 limericks, not one of them bawdy. (see end of article for limerick sources)

Edward Lear’s “A Book of Nonsense”, first published in 1846. He is considered the father of the limerick. (c. 1875 James Miller edition). Wikipedia.

Edward ended the first and last lines of his limericks with the same word, usually the place of origin of the described character. He eschewed ribaldry. Over his career, he crafted 212 limericks in all, and almost assuredly created a good deal more.

Limerick 97 from Edward Lear’s Book of Nonsense, a link to which appears at the end of this article. Edward was a gifted artist — he was the first ornithological draughtsman to draw birds from real life — and often accompanied his writing with his own illustrations. Jonathan Prager Design.
William Cosmo Monkhouse may have helped Edward Lear with this one. Jonathan Prager Design.

Ogden Nash had an advantage. He claimed since the age of six he had always thought in rhyme. On his way to developing into the quipster he would later become, he wrote streetcar ads for Barron Collier, the same company F. Scott Fitzgerald worked for.

Ogden created huge numbers of pithy and memorable short poems, not all of them limericks.

A couplet by Ogden Nash beloved by limerick readers and writers the world over. Jonathan Prager Design.

Through his live appearances, university lectures, and spots on radio and comedy shows, he popularized nonsense doggerel. Yet, his poems were marked by the distillation of wisdom.

Ogden expressed truth in his pithy witticisms. Jonathan Prager Design.
Many a husband has had to learn the hard way, quoting Ogden from the doghouse, after the damage has already been done. Jonathan Prager Design.

As Dorothy Parker said of Oscar Wilde, Ogden enjoys such an illustrious reputation, many attribute witticisms and limericks to him that he didn’t write.

One of Ogden Nash’s most loved limericks.

Limericks possess the unique power to introduce or approach almost any subject matter, making it instantly accessible and enjoyable.

Amateur English wordsmith and mathematician Leigh Mercer devised this arithmetic limerick. He is known for inventing the palindrome: “A man, a plan, a canal: Panama”. Yes, it works! A dozen is 12; a gross is 144; a score is 20. Added together = 176. Added to three times the square root of four, which is six = 182. Divided by seven = 26. Plus five times 11, which is 55 = 81. Even math can be ‘limerick’ fun!!! Jonathan Prager Design.

My mother was a huge Ogden Nash fan. She was also a fan of brevity.

And, of feeling I didn’t measure up.

When I read my poems to her, she would vigorously twist her head back and forth, and declare they were “too long”, often adding that no one would read them.

Wise to this phenomenon, one day I offered to share with her a new Ogden Nash poem I’d found. I then proceeded to read my own creation, “I Don’t Know Where the Scissors Go!

When I finished, she said,

“Ogden Nash is really very good!”

I responded,

“Especially, when Ogden Nash is me!!!”

Fortified with all of the above, I set about creating my own limericks for the Wheels 2 U competition.

I came up with 22 — an alliterative number to publicize a service called, “Wheels 2 U!”

Here they are.

There you have it.

22 purposeful Limericks.

For a good cause.

And, here’s a bonus limerick I created as I worked on this piece.

If you’ve gotten this far, in the comments below please let me know which one you’d choose.

Or, create your own. And, send it to me.

Of course, my limericks might not win the competition. Still, I’ve engaged myself in a constructive way, and expanded as a result.

Hopefully, in reading this celebration of the art of the limerick, you have as well.

Book of Nonsense = 109 Limericks by Edward Lear

Shakespearian Limericks

The Best Limericks of All Time = Great Article!!!

10 of the Best Ogden Nash Poems Everyone Should Read

The Best Poems of Ogden Nash

A Blog of Bosh / A compendium of limericks from 1903 = Wells, Carolyn. “Limericks.” Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly, vol. 55, no. 5, March 1903, pp. 532–5.

My Limerick Book = Langston Reed

The Lure of the Limerick = William Baring Gould

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Songwriter, Poet, Comedian, One-man show performer, Imagin-Artist, Spiritual Guide, Leader in Love: Jonathan has sung, performed, & coached all over the world.