Welcome to the website woven for wordaholics, logolepts, and verbivores. Carnivores eat meat; herbivores eat plants and vegetables; verbivores devour words. If you are heels over head (as well as head over heels) in love with words, tarry here a while to graze or, perhaps, feast on the English language. Ours is the only language in which you drive in a parkway and park in a driveway and your nose can run and your feet can smell.

Let us celebrate the limerick, a highly disciplined exercise in verse that is the only popular fixed poetic form indigenous to the English language. While other basic forms of poetry, such as the sonnet and ode, are borrowed from other countries, the limerick is an original English creation and the most quoted of all verse forms in our language.

The limerick packs laughs anatomical

Into space that is quite economical.

But the good ones I’ve seen

So seldom are clean,

And the clean ones so seldom are comical.

— Vivian Holland

Despite the opinion expressed in Holland’s limerick about limericks, even the clean ones can be comical. In only five lines, the ditty can tell an engaging story or make a humorous statement compactly and cleverly.

By definition, a limerick is a nonsense poem of five anapestic lines, of which lines one, two, and five are of three feet and rhyme and lines three and four are of two feet and rhyme. Here is the classic limerick stanza:

da DA da da DA da da DA

da DA da da DA da da DA

da DA da da DA

da DA da da DA

da DA da da DA da da DA

Unaccented syllables can be added to the beginning and/or end of any line, resulting in an extremely flexible metrical form.

Although the limerick is named for a county in Ireland, it was not created there. One theory says that Irish mercenaries used to compose verses in limerick form about each other and then join in the chorus of “When we get back to Limerick town, ‘twill be a glorious morning.”

It has been estimated that at least a million limericks — good, mediocre and indelicate — are in existence today. Among the aristocracy of the genre, the most often quoted limericks of all time, is this creation by Dixon Lanier Merritt, who was known as the dean of Tennessee newspapermen:

A wonderful bird is the pelican

His bill will hold more than his belican.

He can take in his beak

Enough food for a week,

But I’m damned if I see how the helican.

Equally pyrotechnic is this avian limerick, by George S. Vaill, about the inglorious bustard:

The bustard’s an exquisite fowl

With minimal reason to howl:

He escapes what would be


By the grace of a fortunate vowel.

I invite you to wing me your best original limericks at richard.lederer@utsandiego.com. Limit of three, please. Limericks will be judged on humor, accuracy of meter and suitability for a family newspaper. Deadline for submissions: Aug. 30. Include your full address.

I’ll share your limericks in my Sept. 7 column. The creators of the best three will each receive a signed and inscribed copy of my new children’s book, “Monsters Unchained!,” which includes 30 original limericks.

Please send your questions and comments about language to richard.lederer@utsandiego.com