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There Once Was a Boy Named Nick Who Wanted to Write a Limerick

written by: Patricia Gable • edited by: Sarah Malburg • updated: 7/16/2015

Once you learn the rhythm and rhyme pattern of a limerick you will be creating limericks all day long. It's addicting! Learn the form and fun of a limerick in this article.

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    There once was a very bright kid.Imagination! 

    Was awesome in all that he did

    He learned every trick

    To write a limerick

    And the teacher sure did flip her lid.

    Learning to write a limerick is fairly easy because it follows a specific rhyming pattern, it is a short five-line verse and, best of all, it is usually humorous. So for the young writer creating a poem of this type is not a daunting task. The writer can even personalize it by using familiar people as the subject of the work. Here are some easy tips for kids on writing limericks.

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    There Was a Young Man Named Lear

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    In case you are the curious type, you will want to know that the limerick was “invented" by Edward Lear, an English humorist and painter. He published A Book of Nonsense in 1846, which is still available today. It is filled with silly limericks. It would be good to read the book to get a sense of the rhyme and rhythm of a limerick.

    Here is an example of one of Lear’s limericks:

    There was an old man with a beard

    Who said, “It is just as I feared.

    Two owls and a hen

    Four larks and a wren

    Have all built their nests in my beard!"

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    The Form

    Rhyming Pattern:

    A limerick is a five-line poem. The first, second and fifth lines rhyme with each other. The third and fourth lines rhyme with each other. We designate this pattern as: AABBA

    Rhythm Pattern:

    Like in music, a limerick has a specific beat. The words are emphasized in a certain way to form a predictable rhythm.

    The pattern for the first, second, and fifth lines is:

    pa PUM pa pa PUM pa pa PUM ( three strong beats)

    The pattern for the third and fourth lines is:

    pa PUM pa pa PUM (two strong beats)

    So let’s look at Lear’s limerick and see if it follows the pattern. The last word in the first, second and fifth line is underlined. Do they rhyme? The last words in the third and fourth lines are in bold type. Do they rhyme?

    Then look at the rhythm. Does it follow the pattern?

    There was an old man with a beard

    pa PUM pa pa PUM pa pa PUM

    Who said, “It is just as I feared.

    pa PUM pa pa PUM pa pa PUM

    Two owls and a hen

    pa PUM pa pa PUM

    Four larks and a wren

    pa PUM pa pa PUM

    Have all built their nests in my beard!"

    pa PUM pa pa PUM pa pa PUM

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    Now Use What You've Learned

    A. Now it’s time to try writing a limerick. Make it fun and personal!

    1. Think of someone you know who has a name that can be rhymed with other words. Mike, Nick, Jan, Sue, Mary, Jim, Dad, Kate and others.
    2. List all the words that rhyme with the name you have chosen. For some great help use the website The Rhyme Zone.
    3. Think of an idea that could go with the words you have chosen.
    4. For lines three and four, write the sentences to go with the idea you have chosen.

    So let’s say you have chosen the name Steve. Some words that rhyme are: leave, heave, grieve, weave and eve. When I see the word eve I think of Christmas Eve so I have decided to use that for my idea. Maybe Steve hopes that Santa doesn’t leave before he sees him. Now we have to start with the first two sentences. An example might be:

    There once was a young boy called Steve

    Who waited up on Christmas Eve.

    (Line three)

    (Line four)

    And he called out, “Santa don’t leave!"

    For the short lines three and four I thought of Santa on the roof and the sound of a reindeer’s hoof. So following the correct rhythm the lines might be:

    Steve heard on the roof

    The sound of a hoof

    B. Let’s suppose you have a name you want to use but it is hard to find words to rhyme with it. Turn your sentence around so that you have a word at the end that is easier to rhyme.

    Here’s an example:

    There once was a boy named Nicholas

    can be written

    Nicholas is the name of a boy

    The word boy rhymes with words like: toy, enjoy, annoy, joy and so on.

    C. Just like Edward Lear did, write limericks that don’t mention a person’s name. He used terms like: young man, old man, young lady and so on. You might want to write about your dog, cat or other pet.

    D. Finally, add some humor! The history of the limerick shows that it was meant to be an amusing and light-hearted type of poetry. So try to add some humor no matter if it seems silly. It could be a comical feature of the subject of your limerick or something silly that happens to the main character. Remember, in Lear’s limerick the old man had a long beard where animals built nests!

    Use these tips to write fun limericks for all to enjoy! If you have any to share, please feel free below so other readers can see how it's done.


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