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Limericks

  • By: Kenneth R. Dutton
  • In: Encyclopedia of Humor Studies
  • Edited by: Salvatore Attardo
  • Subject:General Media, Communication & Cultural Studies, Sociology of Culture

The origin of the term limerick, as applied to a particular form of humorous verse, cannot be established with any certainty. The theory most commonly proposed reputes it to be derived from a custom at convivial parties whereby each member sang an improvised nonsense verse, followed by a chorus containing the words “Will you come up to Limerick?” (Oxford English Dictionary). Both the Encyclopaedia Britannica and Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable mention the same supposed derivation, as well as the theory that the chorus in question was originally that of an 18th-century Irish soldiers' song. Brewer's correctly adds that there is no evidence that this is the case, and in fact there is nothing in the chorus supposedly sung in Limerick that fits ...

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