The case of the ‘favoring curry’ limerick
Last week’s results featured a typically terrific set of limericks in our annual Limerixicon contest, this year focusing on words beginning with “fa-.” One of the honorable mentions was this one by a First Offender, Kirk Miller of Richardson, Tex.:
There once was a cook named McMurry
Who earned a large raise in a hurry
From her Indian boss
For a fabulous sauce.
And she did it by favoring curry.
A day or two later, I got an e-mail from a reader (not a contestant); its subject line read “I’m [Ogden] [g]Nashing my teeth over this one.”
Did anyone besides myself notice the distinct similarity to Ogden Nash’s “Second Limerick”
A cook named McMurray
Got a raise in a hurry
from his Hindu employer
By favoring curry.
Although I’m a huge Ogden Nash fan, obviously I’d never seen that verse, which seems to be from his collection “Versus” and turns out to have been called his “Second Limick” — not limerick, which it’s not.
So I contacted Kirk and asked, rather accusatorially, “Are you going to tell me that it’s a total coincidence?”
Basically that’s what he did. And I buy it:
“The 25 limericks that I sent to you for your contest are not new limericks. To enter your contest, I simply went through my archives looking for limericks that contained words starting with ‘fa.’ I wrote the ‘favoring curry’ limerick many years ago, about 2001 or 2002.
“I honestly don’t remember what my inspiration for the limerick was. I usually get an idea for the punch line of a limerick (the last line), and I work backward from there. I presume that, first, I thought about punning the phrase ‘favoring curry,’ then tried to figure out how to use it in a limerick. At least that is how I would do it today. My wife doesn’t like Indian food because she doesn’t like the taste of curry, which is used in a lot of Indian food. So I would think of Indian food to be mentioned in the limerick. And then I would have to get two words that rhyme with curry; hurry is one of just a few.
“I could say ‘great minds think alike’ but that would be a flippant reply. Like I said, I really don’t remember writing the limerick. All I know is that I did write it (because it’s in my archives) a long time ago. I certainly wouldn’t want to plagiarize Ogden Nash or anyone else.”
What had made me suspicious certainly wasn’t the wordplay of “favoring curry”; I see entries with identical puns all the time. It was that they both used the rather uncommon name McMurr(a)y, and they both had a raise from the boss. I’d never seen two poems that similar.
But on reflection, and after reading Kirk’s response, I can see how it happened: There really aren’t many words to rhyme with “curry,” even if you want to go Philadelphian and rhyme it with “berry,” “very,” etc. And the expression “currying favor” usually has something to do with a person who can help advance your station in life — such as a boss. Also, I looked back at the 24 other limericks Kirk sent me, and none of them sounds like anything by Ogden Nash, or anything from any anthology.
I’m extremely loath to call someone a plagiarist without really strong evidence, especially in the case of a short-form wordplay or a joke that makes some observation that could easily occur to more than one person. In fact, in this same limerick contest, Week 1033, there was this thinking-alike of Great Minds Chris Doyle and Kevin Dopart:
Our diets are vegetable-free,
So this nation’s obese as can be.
All that lard in our food
Is the reason we’re screwed.
It’s America’s fat accompli.
For a nation obesity-free,
The First Lady announces that we
Must help kids to escape
From fast food or the shape
Of their future’s a fat accompli.
I have, however, been legitimately burned by plagiarists. One occasion was this:
In a contest from 2004, my first year as Empress, for practical jokes that would backfire: “Load the kids in the car and tell them you’re taking them to Disneyland. Sing Disney tunes along the way. Then drive them to an abandoned parking lot and tell them it has been shut down and demolished. Blame their Sunday school teacher.”
After a slew of e-mails from readers, I made this announcement the next week: “Last week’s brilliant First Runner-Up entry, for practical jokes that would backfire, was written by a celebrity -- the fabulously dark-witted Jack Handey of ‘Deep Thoughts’ fame (we once ran a contest to imitate his work). Unfortunately, it was not submitted by the fabulous Mr. Handey.”
Then, the next year, in a contest for snappy answers to rude questions: “Man, if your belly was on a woman, I’d swear she was pregnant.” “It was, and she is.”
That next time I wasn’t so gracious to the offender: “It has come to the Empress’s attention, via several tattling readers, that one of the retorts printed in Week 612 was nowhere close to original. Since the offender did fess up and apologize upon being confronted, it is not necessary to name names here. Suffice it to say that the next person caught pulling a Steal Invitational will be presented with a Veggo Award, and banned from the contest thenceforth.”
Do us all a favor, people: Don’t send in the best joke you ever heard. Just the best joke you made up. And that Google doohickey can be really helpful — if you thought of something incredibly clever but someone famous did too, Mr./Ms. Famous got first dibs.
You like? You like? The results of Week 1034
Okay, I’ll be taking the Czar to lunch. I was totally expecting to be filling the print page with limericks because I wouldn’t have enough funny, printable entries in the form “I like my X the way I like my Y.” And this was during the judging, because so many of the entries were either snoozers or just didn’t get the concept. But in the end, even though each entry took up only a couple of lines, I still had no problem producing a lengthy list — 39 entries — to fill the space. And the Czar especially liked these entries — on the longer list I bounced off him, he liked every one of the first 20 or so. And I know the Czar — even with the promise of a lunch, he’d never tell me he liked an entry that he didn’t like.
I did allow for a little variation from the template. If this rankles you, please derankle yourself. Nobody else cares except you and that other huffy person who bothers even you.
Today’s Inkin’ Memorial winner isn’t a First Offender, but he’s close: Robert Falk got his first and only previous Invite ink eight weeks ago in Week 1026: “You might need to do some shopping. . . if the 7-Eleven won’t serve you unless you remove your shirt and shoes.” Today his multiple-parallel comparisons get him both the first and the last entries on the list. And talk about currying favor: comparing the Empress to a prostitute is such a brownnosing move.
The runners-up are all thorough Invite recidivists: Edmund Conti gets Ink No. 78, his eighth “above the fold,” for a joke about his in-laws, who must, by the way, be biblically ancient, seeing as how Edmund was born in 1929.. Mark Richardson gets his seventh piece of Top 4 detritus, and Gary Crockett his 17th out of 156 inks with his totally, delightfully ludicrous line about carnal knowledge, lack of stamina, and clowns.
(A host of unprintable entries appears in the last section of this column. If you don’t want to see offensive humor, please don’t look at it.)
Two upcoming Loser sightings
I won’t be at this Sunday’s Loser Brunch at the Front Page, in Arlington’s Ballston section, but a Loser contingent will gather at noon this Sunday; there’s a very nice buffet plus a Bloody Mary bar, along with a regular menu. RSVP to Elden Carnahan here so he can get a head count.
And Loser Bill Spencer rounded up a group to join him last night at the Bare Bones pub in Ellicott City, Md., southwest of Baltimore, and team up for a trivia competition. They’re hoping that other people join them next time; reply to this post on the Style Invitational Devotees page on Facebook.
I like my unprintable entries the way I like risking my job ...
It’s a crude genre, and the Loser Community didn’t spare me the crudity. Here are some unprintables of varying degrees of unprintability:
I like my BMWs the way I like my condoms: as a part of sheer driving pleasure. (Jeff Contompasis)
I like juries like I like my partners: hung and in groups of 12 -- Jenna Jameson (Mike Gips)
I like my sex partners the way I like my Congressmen: with greasy palms. (Neal Starkman)
I like the Kardashians how I like my liver and onions : curbside in a plastic bag getting gnawed on by raccoons. (Bird Waring)
I like my college football teams like I like my maxipads -- whatever can stop the Crimson Tide. (Mark Raffman)
I like my socks like I like my lovers: casual and woolly. (Tom Witte)
I like my women like I like my Thanksgiving turkey: warm and juicy, with succulent breasts and thighs, and easily carved. (Tom Witte)
I like my mornings like I like my dining room floors: with impressive, quality hardwood. (Tom Witte)
I like women the way I like golf: there’s nothing more exciting than a hole in one. (Brian Allgar)
I like my men like I like my weekend refreshment: Liquid and stiff. (Nan Reiner)
I like my men like I like my crossword puzzles: Doable and deliciously hard. (Nan Reiner)
I like my women the way I like Rap songs: they suck. (Brian Allgar)
I like my Linda Lovelace biographies the way I like my boxing match analyses: blow-by-blow accounts. (Chris Doyle)
I like my sex the way I like my poker hands: inside straight. (Brendan Beary)
I like my children like I like my cake mix: easy to raise, with only minimal beating. (Mike Fransella)
I like my women like I like my ear -- slightly hairy and wiggly when I stick in my pinky. (Kevin Cuddihy)