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High fives: The Invitational’s limericks

Style Invitational from Week 674, two kinds of "caboose" in an example for a limerick contest. Originally published Aug. 6, 2006. (Bob Staake for The Washington Post) (Bob Staake)

It’s not that hard, really, to write a limerick, even to adhere to the strict rhyme and meter that mark the five-line comic form. But the Loser Limericists turn the genre into art: After reading the more than 10,000 verses submitted to our 14 limerick contests so far (not counting one for bad limericks), we’re convinced that the Invite bards are the best limericists in the English-speaking world.

Two of our best Losers ever, Brendan Beary and Chris Doyle — Brendan, 50, is a software engineer for the Department of the Navy, and Chris, 68, is the retired chief actuary of the Department of Defense — are so overwhelmingly good at this genre that in 2006 we invited them to a Limerick Smackdown (Beary squeaked out a 5-4 victory). Here are two of their greatest:

From Limerixicon 1, Week 572 (2004), limericks featuring a word beginning with ai- to ar-:

It’s in vain that the teenagers try
All their algebra skills to apply.
Though they can, on occasions,
Solve x in equations,
They still haven’t figured out y.
(Brendan Beary, Great Mills, Md.)

From Limerixicon 8, Week 931 (2011), featuring words beginning ea- through el-:

Jocasta rolled over in bed,
Out of breath, and contentedly said,
“I have not been that had
Since I slept with your dad”
To the suddenly edified Oed.
(Chris Doyle, Ponder, Tex.)

Be sure to check out the many other segments of this 20th-anniversary Style Invitational retrospective: song parodies; neologisms (new words); horse “breeding” and “joint legislation”; and dozens of other winning entries from the past decade. Plus how to enter this week’s new contest, and a look at the Losers and their remarkable subculture. And more! See the index of articles here.

Next: Two classic and still timely song parodies.


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