Folk speech
Humor

Irish Limerick

My informant, an Irish-American male, grew up immersed in Irish culture. He was excited to share his Limericks with me — especially because sharing stories and poems is an important part of Irish social culture. I collected this Limerick (which he learned from his father) from him while we sat on his couch:

 

Killian: “There once was a man Paul,

Who went to a fancy dress ball;

He thought he would risk it,

and went as a biscuit .

And was eaten by a dog in the hall.”

 

Me: “Why did you share this particular Limerick?”

 

Killian: “I like this one because it’s funny — it’s just so stupid! [He chuckles] It’s my comedy!”

 

Me: “Any other reasons or significance?”

 

Killian: “I say it a lot sometimes. Oh! My dad’s name is Paul, so whenever we shared this, it would be, like, a little funnier.”

 

I asked my informant for more context of the piece, and he told me that sharing Limericks and stories is a component of Irish parties. The parties are called ‘singsongs.’ People get together and share stories, limericks, songs, and play traditional Irish instruments. Usually, everyone knows how to play every instrument and knows every song, so they usually happen spur of the moment — “and drunk. But that goes without saying.”

Analysis:

My informant has told me on many occasions that he is good at coming up with Limericks. He often jokes that it’s ‘in his blood’ because of his Irish heritage. He especially likes to share them when he is having fun with this friends, which replicates the tradition of Irish singsongs. My favorite part of collecting this piece, though, was seeing his passion as he performed the poem.

 

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