How to Make a Limerick Poem

Back to main page
Back to the forum

The shaken limerick
by Jürgen Rehm

1. The normal limerick

Limericks are very popular short poems and books and other publications of this variety of poetry are abundant in literature. Limericks in rhymes are in short supply, however. Why is that?
First, let's consider the characteristics of a limerick. A limerick is a five-line poem with the rhyme scheme aabba, i.e. the first, second and fifth lines rhyme, as well as the third and fourth one below the other. The lines with the rhyme a have three accentuations or accents, the lines with the rhyme b have only two.
Furthermore, the foot of the heel is to be observed. Limerick calls for the anapaest, but the iambus is also tolerated. The rhythm of the rhyming lines must be strictly adhered to for the limerick to achieve its full effect.
A further complicating factor is that the first line should end in a place name (or proper name) if possible and the last line should contain a punchline or surprising phrase.
These conditions make the average poet sweat, but a skilled linguist will master them. Here are two examples of normal limericks, one with simple and one with double rhyme:
 

There was a Buddhist in Kiel
he liked to travel very much and a lot.
It occurred to me:
Where does he want to go?
He said: "The way is the goal."
 

There were two boxers in Oxford
crazy about boxing,
polished the face
even during the fair.
You found that quite paradoxical there.
 

Now shakers are also language artists, and yet there are very few shaken limericks from them.
There are two reasons:
Since a real Limerick has to end in a place name in the first line, some creativity is required, because place names are not in the Schüttelreimlexikon.
The next and more serious reason is the fact that three lines must rhyme, namely lines one, two and five. In an ordinary shaking rhyme, shaking only gets two rhyming lines. Rows three and four should therefore hardly cause any problems.
In the literature, there are two categories of limericks that are shaken:

a) the not shaken Limerick
b) the completely shaken Limerick

These two categories will now be considered in more detail.
 
 

2. The unshaken limerick

In the case of limerick that has not been shaken through, the last line usually does not contain any shaking rhyme. But what options are there to get out of the affair?
The examples for this are shown in the city of Rosenheim.

Limerick with repetition

The simplest way, which is also sometimes used in normal limericks, is to repeat the rhyming word in the first line.
 

A younger poet in Rosenheim,
he doesn't just find a pant rhyme.
When kissing rhymes
and rose germs
he still discovers in Rosenheim.

Limerick with Echoreim

The next variant is the touching rhymes, which are now also known as echo rhymes or twin rhymes. The rhyming words are also the same, but they have a different meaning due to the context.
 

A poet in Rosenheim asks
the ladies, what probably rhymes with pants ’,
watch the ladies
regrets the lame
and then returns home with a bouquet of roses.
 

Limerick with simple rhyme

The third possibility is to use a simple rhyme in the fifth line, which can, however, also be a double rhyme.
 

A poet from Rosenheim asked
Sailors, what rhymes with pants ’.
In a tepid tailcoat
and Frauenlack
he then went home with a sailor.
 

In this example, the last rhyme is a double rhyme, but only part of the double rhyme has been varied.
 
 

3. The shaken limerick

How can you create completely shaken limericks? There are again three options here.

Limerick with rambling consonants

Probably the most commonly used method is that of the wandering consonant. To understand what a wandering consonant is, let's consider the following shaking rhymes:

kiffe schlouch
Schliffe buy
Kliffe look
Ships klouch

The first two lines form an ordinary shaky rhyme as we already know it. The consonants and consonant groups, k ’and, schl’ are exchanged. The third line emerged from the first in such a way that the consonant after the consonant group of the second rhyming syllable, i.e. the 'l', slipped behind the initial vowel of the first rhyming syllable. So here the principle was violated that only the beginning consonants can be exchanged. However, since the wandering consonant belongs to the group of initial consonants, this procedure for forming new rhymes has been tolerated for several years.
A renewed shaking of the initial consonants or initial consonant groups leads to the rhyme of the fourth line. Here is a very common shaking rhyme in which the consonants 'kl' and 'sch' have been exchanged. In this example, four rhymes were created using the wandering consonant. In most cases, a maximum of three meaningful syllables can be formed in this way. But that's enough for a limerick.
So in the following examples we only look at lines 1, 2 and 5.

Schematically represented with a wandering consonant results in the following picture:

x yk
yk x
xk y
y xk

Here x and y are the initial consonants of the rhyming syllables, where k is the wandering consonant.
 

Now here is the application to the Limerick.
 

There is a twist in Kamen
Theater with Kalle in dramas.
The buxom loves Kai,
Kalle loves three
but he strikes the claw in women.
 

In this limerick, the rhyming words on lines 1, 2, and 5 are:

D.rall in came
Kalle in DrAmen
Krall in ladies

The first two lines again form a normal shaking rhyme, while the third line was created by the fact that from the second line the 'r' in the second rhyming word, which is in the second position here, is now looped over to the first rhyming syllable and now in the second position stands. Alternatively, you can also imagine that only the initial consonants were exchanged in the first line, whereby the association of "Dr" was ignored.
The fourth possibility to shake here would be, Dalle in Kramen ’, but it doesn't make any sense here.

In this Limerick the following combination has been used:

xk y
y xk
yk x
 

Another example:
 

A hard-drinking farmer in Schleiden
raised the glass, spoke smarter to both of them
the sausage servant:
"You thirsty Viennese,
wouldn't it be nicer to part with bluer? "
 

Here are the rhyming words

Farmer to Schloath
schlexcept for both
blexcept to part
 

Here I find the wandering consonant not in the first, but in the second rhyming syllable. Otherwise, the above applies, as only the order has been reversed.
The fourth possibility to keep a shower ’is canceled because of the lack of meaning here.

In this Limerick the following combination has been used:

x yk
yk x
xk y

Let us note: Three options are selected from the above scheme and arranged in the desired order.
 

Limerick with another rhyme syllable

The next way to create limericks is to shake one of the rhyming syllables involved in the shaking rhyme with another syllable. We are now dealing with three initial consonants or groups of consonants. In principle, there are now a total of six ways to arrange the rhymes.

xyz
xzy
yxz
yzx
zxy
zyx

This is what it looks like in practice:
 

An aging shark is free to Emden,
and he swears a shark oath to strangers,
to watch over the flounder,
which, oh wonder, too flat.
And so ends the freedom in Emden.
 

The rhyming syllables are here

Hai free to Emden
Shark oath to strangers
Freedom to Emden

From the above scheme, the following lines have been used:

xyz
xzy
yxz
 

The other possibilities

yzx
zxy
zyx

result in the rhyme syllables

Free oath to shirts
Unity to strangers
Egg free to shirts

and were not used here.
 

Another example:
 

A clever farmer in Schleiden
said "Käm" smarter to both of them
pigs sitting here,
his sweaty,
“A blue shower to Schleiden!”.
 

Here are the rhyme syllables

Clever farmer in Schleiden
smarter to both
blue shower to Schleiden

Applying the scheme one obtains

xyz
zy
yxz
 

As you can see from this example, it is not even necessary to write down all rhyming syllables in every line in order to generate correct shaking rhymes. It should be noted here that both Limericks end on the place name again.
 

Limerick with triple rhyme

The third way to create completely shaken limericks is to use the triple rhyme. This variant is probably the most demanding and difficult. At the Schüttelreimertreffen in 2000, Master Werner Terpitz demonstrated how to proceed by forming 18 out of 36 possibilities from three syllables alone. His lecture can be found in the conference proceedings 2000, in the first edition of Schüttelbohnen or at www.schuettelreis.de.

Werner Terpitz had not formed his Limericks with place names, however. But that should be our goal here.

As the name suggests, triple rhyme always requires three rhyme syllables. The initial consonants are shifted to the right or left in the ring swap.

xyz
zxy
yzx
or

xyz
yzx
zxy
 

What makes limerick with triple rhyme so difficult? Well, a rhyme syllable needs two more rhymes with which it can swap the initial consonants. This of course also applies to the other two rhyming syllables. To make matters worse, the same initial consonants have to be used for all three rhyming syllables. If one is still dependent on place names, this limits the possibilities even further. If the rhymes are found despite these difficulties, it is important to form grammatically correct sentences and also to make sense of them so that no pure nonsense product arises. Is that even possible?

Let's take a look at the following example:
 

Hein drinks wine in Itzehoe,
the heat will come soon.
He makes a joke sly,
then he laughs badly.
So leave the jokes, oh Hein!
 

The rhyming words are here

_Itzehoe wine
Heat where _ein
Jokes _o Hein

The left shift of the initial consonants has been applied here.

xyz
yzx
zxy

As you can see, it is possible to design limericks with place names and triple rhymes. However, the Limerick has a few minor blemishes. The place name is present and occurs in the rhyme, but is not at the end of the line. Is there any better way?
 

A very cheeky baker in Witten
I think it would be better to fix the alarm clock,
when the ladies approached
than about name data
to ask boldly at the water.
 

As above, this limerick also corresponds to the scheme of the shift to the left.

Here are the rhyme syllables

cheeky baker in Witten
better to putty alarm clock
(Ge) water bold to ask
 

As you can see, it is also possible to use triple rhymes to create correctly shaken limericks with place names. In the next days, weeks or months I expect a glut of shaken limericks.
 

Addendum

The possibilities shown here for Limerick to create three rhymes are of course also applicable to all other rhyme forms that require three rhyming lines, e.g. with some sonnets or with haikus and senryus.
 
 

Back to top
Back to forum
Back to main page