These limericks take advantage of especially odd mismatches between spelling and pronunciation, usually involving family names like St. John “SIN-jǝn” and Menzies “MING-eez” (not the only pronunciation, but the one used here). A sample:

There was a young fellow named Cholmondeley,
Whose bride was so mellow and colmondeley
That the best man, Colquhoun,
An inane young bolqufoun,
Could only stand still and stare dolmondeley.

I should note that the one beginning “At the art of love…” cannot be deciphered until you reach the last line. Thanks, Trevor!


  1. I was delighted to find the famous camel (not the Perl one, I trust) on the same page, complete with a second verse hitherto unknown to science (or at least to me). It’s nice to note that all the other variants in that section (except the limerick, of course) can be sung to the same tune.
    I am printing two copies of the limericks: one to read aloud to my wife (as documented at Vunex, I am yet another uxoralector) and one for her to read silently, simultaneously.

  2. There was a young lady from Del.
    Who was most undoubtedly wel.
    That to dress for a masque
    Wasn’t much of a tasque,
    But she cried, “What on earth will my fel.?”
    A handsome young gent down in Fla.
    Collapsed in a hospital ca.
    A young nurse from Me.
    Sought to banish his pe.
    And shot him! Now what could be ha.?
    I need help with “The art of love” (and others …)
    Here’s a hint for others:
    There was a young curate of Salisbury
    Whose manners were quite Halisbury-Scalisbury
    He wandered round Hampshire
    Without any pampshire
    Till the Vicar compelled him to Warisbury.

  3. A man from the port of Dún Laoghaire
    Put forth this implausible thaoghaire:
    “If I sail in my yacht
    At a speed of one knacht,
    I shall never grow tired or waoghaire.”

  4. michael farris says

    Okay, I feel like a complete illiterate, I don’t understand any of them (Except the first one posted by Sili, and kind of the second, though it makes less sense for rhotic speakers)

  5. Crown, A. J.P. says

    Granville George Leveson-Gower was the grandson of the 5th Duke of Devonshire and was Gladstone’s Foreign Secretary. He is remembered for having reassured the House of Lords with a remark of a senior F.O. official who had said “he had never known so great a lull in foreign affairs”. A few days later, the Franco-Prussian war broke out. According to Wiki, G.G.L-G spoke French like a Parisian.

  6. These ring a distant bell. I found them in 2003 when I was doing some searching in connection with a languagehat post – languagehat himself gave the direct link in the comments there.

  7. Sigh. Well, think of it as summer reruns.

  8. There was a young lady from Bude,
    Who went for a swim in the lake.
    A man in a punt,
    Stuck a pole in her ear,
    And said “you can’t swim here, it’s private”

  9. Crown, A. J.P. says

    Anyone inspired by the limericks can, according to one of the Google ads, “Master an British accent in 15 min day. Start Your Lessons Right Now!” That’s at http://www.speakmoreclearly.

  10. @michaelfarris: the secret is that “Cholmondeley” rhymes with Plumbleigh.

  11. “An British”? How posh!
    Whom are they, anyways?

  12. fimus scarabaeus says

    A famous Bunion has his name spelt 20 ‘ood’ ways, now well known for Pilgrims Progress.
    Why differing ways, Isolation from the educated way, by furlongs or ether. friends shortening it till it becomes normal and recognised by the authorities, legal like, many of the same basic name need to get some space, so find a way to emphasize that one be of differing feather. Names that have more than one syllable require shortening to one in the Angle society, in Saxon society join as many syllables together and forget the pause or space, so then the Angles can have mnemonics, so do away with syllables
    To-day due to this device [ keyboard playing 1’s and zero’s] that must be totally literal and can only decipher perfect hand writing and perfect accents well, has created the need to standardise spellings, but we will lose the remantick ways of people’s creativity .

  13. Huh? I don’t get it. You are trying to find different mismatches for names?

  14. mollymooly says

    Pet Peeve: Dún Laoghaire is not pronounced “Dunleary”, except in the same sense that Ráth Luirc is pronounced “Charleville”.

  15. They’re brilliant, but I had to googlecheat on a couple of pronunciations (Menzies to rhyme with whatsits? Who knew?)…

  16. Crown, A. J.P. says

    Menzies…Who knew?
    This is peculiar for Australians, because their famous PM Sir Robert Menzies pronounced his name men-zees. In Britain, however, Sir Menzies Campbell the leader of the Lib-Dem party pronounces his name to rhyme with thingies.
    From the BBC website:
    Why is Sir Menzies Campbell’s first name pronounced Mingis?
    Blame the “yogh”, a letter in old English and Scots which has no exact equivalent today. Pronounced “yog”, it used to be written a bit like the old copperplate-style “z” with a tail, which helps explain the discrepancy between the spelling of Menzies and the pronunciation. The rise of printing in the 16th Century coincided with the decline of the yogh, and so it tended to be rendered in print as a “z”, and pronounced as such. But there’s more to saying Menzies than simply transposing the “z” for a “g” when speaking the name. “You’ve got the upper ‘y’ sound from the back of the mouth and the ‘n’ sound going to meet it,” says Chris Robinson, director of the Scottish Language Dictionaries. “There’s a sort of assimilation of the two sounds.” According to the BBC Pronunciation Unit, the name can be phonetically transcribed as “MING-iss”. “It rhymes with ‘sing’ but without the hard ‘g’,” says BBC pronunciation linguist Catherine Sangster. “Think of the difference between ‘finger’ and ‘singer’. In Menzies, you want the ‘n’ to immediately form into the soft ‘ng’ from singer.” The yogh takes a softer “y” sound in the word capercaillie, the name of a large grouse, which the Oxford English Dictionary spells “capercailye” or “capercailzie”. The same goes for the Scottish surname Dalziel, pronounced Dee-ELL. The yogh owes its origin to the Irish scribes who arrived in Saxon Britain in the 8th Century and began teaching the Anglo Saxons to write – before this, old English was written in runes, says Ms Robinson. It fell out of favour with the Normans, whose scribes disliked non-Latin characters and replaced it with a “y” or “g” sound, and in the middle of words with “gh”. But the Scottish retained the yogh in personal and place names, albeit mutating into a “z” to please the typesetters of the day. The surname “MacKenzie” now almost universally takes the “zee” sound although it would have originally been pronounced “MacKenyie”. Often pronunciation can be an indicator of class and status, or geography. But in the case of Menzies it’s purely arbitrary, says Ms Robinson, who advises to always check.
    A lively young damsel named Menzies
    Inquired: “Do you know what this thenzies?”
    Her aunt, with a gasp,
    Replied: “It’s a wasp,
    And you’re holding the end where the stenzies.”

  17. From Dorothy Sayers:
    A medical student at Caius
    Just passed his exams with a squaius
    Then dissected at St Bartholemew’s
    Inward St Partholemew’s, such as St Hartholemews,
    To discover the cause of disaius.

  18. Crown, A. J.P. says

    Don’t you think that one is sooo provincial, it needs explaining?
    Caius is a Cambridge college, pronounced like keys, and St Bartholemew’s is a well-known London teaching hospital that’s always just called Barts.

  19. “Caius” is one of the easier ones, since “knaius” and “plaius” are so obvious.
    The “art of love” one seems to rely on pronouncing “etc.” as “et ceterer”.

  20. Damn, that bit from the BBC website is a mess. The worst is probably “the Normans, whose scribes disliked non-Latin characters and replaced it with a ‘y’ or ‘g’ sound”, but the incomprehensible usage of “hard” and “soft” is a contender as well.

  21. Don’t you think that one is sooo provincial, it needs explaining?
    A limerick that depends for comprehension on knowledge of London and Cambridge cannot be provincial. Obscure, yes. But we’ve already had several that depended on knowing that the antique postal abbreviations for Delaware and Maine were Del. and Me. …

  22. Crown, A. J.P. says

    A limerick that depends for comprehension on knowledge of London and Cambridge cannot be provincial.
    That’s a provincial statement in itself. If you grew up in Hong Kong, you could hardly be blamed for thinking that Cambridge and London are not the center of the universe. A man who is tired of London is tired of London, life goes on. (I know what I’m talking about, I spent the first twenty-three years of my life in London.)

  23. Antique? Antique??
    *sinks, querulously sobbing, into antique chair*
    *forgets what had bothered him, brightens up*

  24. Thanks! Got it now! I assumed that all the abbrevations were genuine. Didn’t realise it was of the same ilk as the rest.

  25. If you grew up in Hong Kong, you could hardly be blamed for thinking that Cambridge and London are not the center of the universe
    They still aren’t the provinces.

  26. Belatedly, being out of town for a few days, on reading this I wondered whether anyone had done a limerick with Pepys/slepys/shepys, and sure enough: (http://www.emule.com/2poetry/phorum/read.php?4,172226)
    A diarist, Samuel Pepys,
    Wrote, “My wife is a woman who slepys
    Whenever I’m randy
    So I pour me a brandy,
    And visit the pen of our shepys.”
    At least while living in London, Pepys certainly kept no shepys (and the plural is sheep, anyway) so perhaps there’s an opportunity to improve on this with wepys, kepys, or something similar.

  27. Crown, A. J.P. says

    @ ben:
    Provincial: a person of local or restricted interests or outlook
    Provinces: all of a country except the metropolises
    (i.e. Cambridge)

  28. Crown, A. J.P. says

    Sheeps is like moneys, several herds.

  29. Crown, A. J. P. says

    Anyway, MY original point was that Dorothy Sayers was provincial, not that London or Cambridge are.

  30. @mollymooly: Point taken. But if it was good enough for Myles, it’s (more than) good enough for me.
    An ingenious inventor named Praistcoat
    Devised a mechanical waistcoat,
    But declared that this vest
    Was “rather a pest–
    For you see, it won’t do what I aistcoat.”

  31. R.C. Barber says

    My father passed along this version.

    There was a young Cholmondeley Colquhoun
    Who kept as a pet a balquboun
    His mother said, “Cholmondeley,
    Do you think it quite colmondeley
    To feed that balquboun with a spolquoun?”

  32. And a very good version it is!

  33. David Marjanović says


    Spoo-uou-uou-uou-oon… my head is spinning.

  34. ktschwarz says

    A nervous young lady of Bicester
    Went out with a fellow, who kicester.
    She squirmed in his clutch
    And wriggled so mutch
    It took several weeks to untwicester.

    A bookseller down in Porthcawl
    Whose shop was exceedingly smawl
    Said ‘I cannot find homes
    For enormous great tomes,
    So it’s Puffins or nothing at awl.’

    Found in Puffin Annual #1 (1974), handwritten and illustrated by Jill McDonald, whose wry cartoons were the heart and soul of Puffin Post (the legendary magazine for readers of Puffin Books, in case you weren’t in just the right generation for its golden age).

  35. A charming young lady named Geoghegan
    Whose Christian names are less peophegan
    Will be Mrs. Knollys
    Very soon at All Ksollys;
    But the date is at present a veogheh’un.

  36. This is the worst one I’ve yet seen:

    There was a young curate of Salisbury
    Whose manners were halisbury-scalisbury.
    He wandered around Hampshire
    Without any pampshire
    Till the vicar compelled him to walisbury.

  37. (I will provide a hint for those who need it: Salisbury = Sarum.)

  38. (And Hampshire = Hants.)

    ‘Thill’ is my misspelling. Would you correct it to ‘Till’?

  39. Done!

  40. From the Wikipedia article on Old Sarum: “The longer name [Sarisburie] was first abbreviated as Sar̅, but, as such a mark was used to contract the Latin suffix -um (common in placenames), the name was confused and became Sarum sometime around the 13th century.”

  41. Huh, I never knew that — thanks!

  42. Johnny Jones says

    One of my favourites by Stephen Fry in The Hippopotamus:

    There was a young girl from Costessey
    whose pubes were curly and glostessey
    Her thighs and her arse
    were smooth as mown grass,
    and her cunt was dark, dank and mostessey

  43. A couple from Welsh Aberystwyth,
    United the bits that they kystwyth,
    As they got oulder,
    They also got Boulder
    and united the bits that they pystwyth.

    The rhymes are just lovely because “Nothing rhymes with Aberystwyth does it?” Hopefully you’ll forgive the smut for the wit.

  44. David Eddyshaw says

    The verse accords admirably with the Eternal Spirit of the Limerick, and gains greatly from its topographic interest.

    The form has never featured (as far as I know) at the National Eisteddfod. It may be time for us to reclaim the ancient bardic art of the Llumerig.

  45. Yes, the Eisteddfod may still resist, but Welsh radio programmes like Talwrn y Beirdd (a poetry game show) and Bore Cothi seem keen on limrigau… Though it seems to be acceptable to rhyme just the last syllable of the line when it is part of a multi-syllable word and therefore the stress is on the penultimate, e.g.
    Un rhyfedd yw Joni Brynhafod,
    Mae’n cadw moch bach a llwynogod.
    Eu bwydo y mae
    Bob bore dydd Iau –
    Pam bore dydd Iau dwi’m yn gwybod (from https://wici.porth.ac.uk/index.php/Limrig, but quite representative of what people seem to produce)
    This always seems a bit odd to me and reduces the effect of the verse form when Welsh versifiers resort to it – especially given the complexity of the native verse forms.

  46. David Eddyshaw says

    It lacks a certain something …
    Perhaps it needs (apart from cynghanedd, obviously) something of the touch of Gwerful Mechain. Llwynogod just don’t do it for me. It’s not like defaid.

  47. This always seems a bit odd to me and reduces the effect of the verse form when Welsh versifiers resort to it – especially given the complexity of the native verse forms.

    I agree. Gwlad! Gwlad! Odli well, wlad!

  48. When I woke up this morning my laptop was playing episodes of the Graham Norton show. My first thought was, during waking up: “why are Graham Norton and his guests speaking Bulgarian”. When I did wake up properly, I realized they were speaking English, my brain was making me hear it as Bulgarian during the phase of sleep between REM and actually being awake.

  49. David Eddyshaw says

    Robert de Niro talking Italian, Graham Norton talking Bulgarian … all of these things have their season.

    My own preference would be for Lauren Bacall talking Lingala, but it was not to be.

  50. william wells says

    I found this sophisticated commentary when searching the question,

    “Do Limericks exist in German , French , or other”.

    And except perhaps for Welsh or Gaelic I still dont know.

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