Tag Archives: Limerick

Limerick: “Monkey and a Baboon Sitting in the Grass”

Main Piece: 

“Uh… Here’s one. Monkey and a baboon sitting in the grass. Monkey stuck his finger up the baboon’s ass. The baboon said ‘Monkey, damn your soul! Get your finger out of my asshole!’”


My informant learned this from his step-grandfather when they were bonding as part of the joining of two families. My informant presented it as a situation where the performer of this limerick recites it to a single person in a setting where it would normally be inappropriate- for example, over the dinner table. This would provoke groans or laughs from other listeners. The reciter apparently could be called on again to tell new people the same limerick. 

When asked the meaning of this limerick, my informant responded:

“There is absolutely no meaning to this. And I would say this if it occurred to me and I was hanging around my friends and thought ‘Hey, y’all want to hear something funny?’”

Thoughts:While my informant took a nihilistic view of this limerick, this seemed mostly based on the lyrics. While the lyrics seems predominantly intended to shock and amuse, the context and audience response to this limerick points towards another purpose. The first thing that stuck out to me was that this limerick was part of an early bonding between two separate family units. This means it may serve as a benevolent version of wedding or funeral pranks. This could serve to break the tension of liminality as two families undergo a transition. I doubt that this is always the purpose of the limerick, but the interesting bisecting of the audience does make me think this is something of a welcome. According to my informant, one person- a new person -is receiving the recitation while others moan and grandpa doing his normal thing. This singles a person out as someone who now knows the limerick and welcomes them into the same group as the rest of the audience. In the situations that my informant put forward, this seems like a piece of humor that functions as a bridge over liminality. Further evidence of this interpretation is the tendency to call on the reciter to serve their role again when another new person is present. 

Children’s Song: Hitler is a Jerk

Main Piece: 

“Whistle while you work!

Hitler is a jerk!

Mussolini bit his weenie

Now it doesn’t work”


My informant said that this was a popular limerick when he was a little kid in New England. It was something that kids would sing at recess. Some teachers didn’t care, but it wasn’t a limerick encouraged by any authority. My informant interpreted the limerick as simple playground fun, with people having more fun with the biting of the weenie than the anti-Nazism.


This is an example of two popular phenomena in children’s folklore. First, it’s an example of nonsensical material in children’s songs. This nonsense, Jay Mechlings argues, is meant to confuse adult observers, affording the normally powerless children some measure of power by being “in the know.” Second, this is an example of body experimentation/gross-out humor. This kind of “biting weenies” humor is popular in children’s rhymes. It’s a way to safely explore adult topics on children’s periphery. For another version of this, see Sherman, Josepha. “Gopher guts and army trucks: the modern evolution of children’s folk rhymes.” ELO: Estudos de Literatura Oral 6, 2000. 212.

Monkey and Baboon Limerick


Informant SG was a current undergraduate student at the Univerity of Southern California at the time of this collection. I met with SG on a Zoom call to exchange family folklore.

“My grandfather has like a gross limerick that he likes to say to shock and amuse. The context you’d say it in would be like as a non-sequitur specifically meant to disrupt the conversation.”


“Monkey and baboon sitting in the grass. The Monkey stuck a finger up the baboon’s ass. Said the baboon, Damn your soul! Get your finger out of my asshole!”


When speaking with SG, that their “grandfather is fun at parties.” The performance of this particular folk speech would likely result in immediate shock or laughter. As absurd as it might sound in context, I am inclined to think that this piece of folk speech speaks to the values of SG’s grandfather and anyone else who repeats it. In using a non-sequitur folk saying such as this, it can be assumed that the speaker sees value and maybe even finds joy in spontaneity and laughter more than in formal conversations. If the performance were to be delivered properly, it is possible that the speaker might actually be utilizing this folk speech to promote and accelerate their relationship with listeners. By establishing themselves as a light-hearted, spontaneous individual, this work to convince listeners to rely on them for a laugh or to keep conversations going/interesting.

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.”


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.


Irish Poem


Terry is a second generation Irish american who grew up in los Angeles in the ‘60s and 70’s. He is now a dentist working and living in the Bay area.


Informant: “There is this poem that my uncle told me back in 1970 when I was 10 years old. My parents sent me to Ireland to live with my cousins for the whole summer. I had never met any of these people before, but knew them through the stories my dad told me about all of them. But one night my uncle Paddy drove me to the Bridge at King John’s Castle in limerick… you know the one we’ve been to before. And he told me that this bridge was where the Banshee would come out late at night if you were walking alone. And then out of nowhere he started rattling off this old irish poem about the banshee called “Drunken Thady and the Bishop’s Lady” and it was a long long poem that took about twenty minutes to say. I was amazed that he had remembered all of it and then we got back in the care and drove back to the house in Janesboro. Then the rest of the summer I tried to memorize the poem just by hearing it over and over so I could tell my dad when I got back home to Los Angeles, but I was never able to remember the entire thing.

Collector: Do you remember any of the poem?

Informant: ughhh oh boy lets see

Before the famed year Ninety-eight,

In blood stamped Ireland’s wayward fate;

When laws of death and transportation

Were served, like banquets, throughout the nation

But let it pass the tale I dwell on

Has not to do with red rebellion.


Uhhhhh and then there is another part at some point that goes


There lived and died in Limerick City,

a dame of fame oh what a pity

that dames of fame should live and die

and never learn for what, or why!

That’s all I can remember.



Collector’s thoughts:

I find it amazing that the informant could remember even the slightest bit of this poem despite having half learned it more than 40 years ago. Being sent at such a young age to stay with Irish relatives reveals how, despite living in the US, his parents and family still valued their Irish heritage and culture. For a full version of the poem see: