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Learn to Write Limericks!

October 23rd, 2009

I was listening to a programme on radio recently about the demise of nursery rhymes. They interviewed a number of people who said they never sang them to their children, because they felt they were old-fashioned and irrelevant.

Usually, I’m all for keeping our literary heritage intact but when you actually start thinking about nursery rhymes they are a bit odd – if not downright scary or salacious.

You’ve got ‘Georgie Porgie’, referring to the notorious libertine George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham and lover of James I. It’s no wonder the girls cried when he kissed them! ‘Humpty Dumpty’ – a huge Royalist cannon destroyed by Parliamentarian forces in the Civil War. ‘The Grand Old Duke of York’ commemorating the War of the Roses – probably one of the most bloody episodes in English history. Even ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’ apparently describes pawning the coat off your back to survive in 18th century London (pop = to pawn; weasel and stoat = coat in Cockney rhyming slang).

And that’s without the arachnophobia (Little Miss Muffet) and beheading with a cleaver (Oranges and Lemons). I could go on…

The whole subject is fascinating and there’s more information at www.rhymes.org.uk if you’re interested. It seems to me that nursery rhymes are more suitable as the basis for a series of history lessons (or articles?) to than as light entertainment for toddlers.

So if you do want to entertain your children why not write your own verses? You might not be another T S Eliot (and I’m talking about Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats here, not The Waste Land) or an Edward Lear. But I can promise you’ll be able to turn out a first class limerick before you’ve finished. And what more could anyone ask?

So for now…

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