The Style Conversational
The Style Conversational
Loser-friendly discussion with The Empress of The Style Invitational

Week 931: Limericks and Burma-Shave rhymes: Fridays could be verse

Hello, everyone, and here’s a special welcome to the new and returning Losers who drop by for the Style Invitational’s limerick contests — especially the Limerixicons, our annual visit to the painstaking construction of the Omnificent (note to previously objecting OED editors: NOT the Oxford) English Dictionary in Limerick Form. Every July I check in with Chris Strolin, the project’s founder and chief, and ask him about which sliver of the alphabet we should be working on now — just as we have for the previous seven years, back to when OEDILF, as well as the Empress’s reign, was just a few months old.

Last year, in Week 882, we asked for limericks showcasing words beginning with dr- (results here; scroll down past the new contest) ; this year, on the other hand, you have just about the whole first half of the E’s. I’m expecting great things — at least more than enough great things than we can use, amid the hundreds of emphatically non-great things.

Many of the non-greats are verses that simply don’t qualify as limericks in their structure, meter or rhyme. I used to refer readers to OEDILF for a link to my own lim-writing guidelines; this year I brought the guide back home to, revising it along the way. If the technical gods have cooperated while I sleep, the link to the guidelines should appear right under that to this week’s Invitational itself at (As of Thursday night, the byline on the guidelines had been automatically translated by the Devil of Methode from “Pat Myers, the Empress of the Style Invitational” to “Pat Myers and the Empress of the Style Invitational.” As if we could ever manage to work together.)


This week, I believe, marks the last week of unlimited entries before I institute a standing limit of 25 entries per person per contest. In reality, the limit will affect only a handful of entrants. I do understand the challenge of trying to figure out which entries to use, and the risk that you’ll withhold the one that would have gotten an Inker. But I’ve just felt truly overwhelmed during many of the contests, and in any case I often find myself denying ink to many worthy entries. I think the limits for the horse names contest have been entirely successful. So just more of that. But for this week’s limericks, fire away — though understand that I probably won’t print more than 30, and your 67th marvelous limerick could well end up in the recycling bin.


The contest for mini-verses in the style of the mid-20th-century Burma-Shave serial signs produced lots of clever, terse rhymes, if perhaps nothing that will go down in the annals of Invite’s Greatest Hits. A few people chose to write the rhymes to “advertise” the brushless shaving cream itself, but most people chose the option to write safe-driving messages or to advertise another product, organization or cause.

It’s the — wow — seventh Inker already for Beverley Sharp, now of Montgomery, Ala., and her 28th “above-the-fold” entry out of 257 inking ones. On the other hand, the second prize of the genuine portable-toilet-rental ball cap goes to an almost-newbie, David Ballard, who gets just his second ink, for a clever setting of the old-Florida-drivers trope. But! David’s first ink — just a couple of months ago, in Week 919 — happened to get him an Inker. (It was for his 13-letter word or phrase: “Doom With a View: Recent listing for a penthouse in Abbotabad.”) So he’ll have to toil yet again to finally win a magnet.

And the Big Ink is rounded out with entries by veteran versifiers Phyllis Reinhard (106 inks including two Inkers) and Brendan Beary (812, with, urp, 27 Inkers). I hope they all immediately turn around and start writing limericks.

On the other end of the road, the week’s entries provided the usual haul of bad rhymes. Notable ones included that/back, enforced/scorched and my favorite, chemistry/shrubbery. (If any of those are yours, check out those limerick guidelines and search on “rhyme.”)


I had gleaned a long list of unprintable rhymes from the field of Week 927 entries (see below). But the list got even bigger yesterday after this one was pulled off the page by wiser minds than mine:
Both cheeks and tweets
Are better cleaner:
Flash a smile,
Not your wiener. (David Smith, Santa Cruz, Calif.)

I was surprised, but when I checked the clips, I couldn’t find an instance in all the Weiner coverage where The Post referred to “his wiener” or “his weiner.” (Sunday Style Lynn Medford did approve Amanda Yanovitch’s sly unspoken “bad word” with her add for Massengill.)

But the Burma-Shave poems weren’t the only elements of this week’s column to need cleanup: We also went through a series of progressively less risque illustrations for this week’s limerick example, for the word “ecdysiast.”

In response to my request for a picture of a stripper seen from behind while the reader saw the various reactions from the audience, official Invite Illustrator Bob Staake first sent me this sketch on Wednesday:
Um, I think we want a more traditional stripper, without a pole, please, I asked. So Bob then sent me this one, to which Lynn asked for “maybe a little more suit with a little less crack.”
So Bob drew up this “final” illustration, which, not surprisingly, did not meet the accepted suit/crack ratio.

And finally we ended up with a final final.

Meanwhile, here are are some of the scruffy beards among the week’s Burma-Shave entries:

When friction’s grind
Is getting’ to ya
Keep this in mind:
A dab’ll do ya.
K-Y Jelly. (Jeff Contompasis)

You’ll hit the long ball;
Records will be amended:
You just get a little prick.
No pun intended.
Balco. (Bird Waring)

Tweeted his package;
now he’s toast.
I guess he should have
Checked his Post. (Ann Martin)

Crave axle grease
That tastes like shite?
The one you want
Is Vegemite. (Brad Alexander, Western Australia)

Dump trucks know
The smoother road
Comes only when
They’ve dumped their load.
Ex-Lax.(Andrew Hoenig)

Eve was one
We didn’t tempt:
She left her garden
So unkempt. (Kevin Dopart)


We had an influx of people — mostly regular Losers, but a few newbies and even some just-readers — joining our Facebook group, clearly helped by a direct link that helped people find the thing.

So that all should hold you for a while — maybe even two weeks, since I’m going to the beach for a few days next week and might not get back in time to do the Conversational, at least by Friday morning. The Invite should go up next Friday as usual, in any case. Remember to save the date for the Flushies, the Losers’ annual awards “banquet” (this year a backyard picnic) in Laurel on Saturday, Oct. 1.

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