A LIMERICK is a form of poetry, especially one in five-line meter, with a strict RHYME SCHEME (AABBA), which is sometimes obscene with humorous intent.  The 1st, 2nd and 5th lines are usually longer than the 3rd and 4th.  The form can be found in England in the early years of the 18th Century.  It was popularized by Edward Lear in the 19th Century, although he did not use the term.
The following limerick is of unknown origin :
The limerick packs laughs anatomical
Into space that is quite economical
But the good ones I seen
So seldom are clean
And the clean ones so seldom are comical 
The origin of the word LIMERICK for this type of poem is debated.  As of several years ago, its usage was documented in England in 1898 (New English Dictionary) and in the US in 1902.  The name is generally taken to be a reference to the CITY or COUNTY of LIME, in Ireland.  The earliest known use of the term, LIMERICK for this type of poem is an 1880 reference, in a St. John, New Brunswick newspaper, to an apparently well-known tune.
There was a young rustic named Mallory
Who drew but a small salary
When he went to the show
His purse made him go
To a seat in the uppermost gallery. 
Edward Lear popularized the limerick form in his 1st Book Of Nonsense (1845) and a later work (1872) on the same theme.  He wrote 212 limericks, mostly NONSENSE VERSE.  The following is an example of one of his limericks :
There was a young person of Smyrna
Whose grandmother threatened to burn her
But she seized on the cat
And said, “granny, burn that
You incongruous old woman of Smyrna.
6a00d83513e5a153ef01053657c9aa970c-800wiGershon Legman, who compiled the largest and most scholarly anthology, held that the true limerick, as a folk form, is always obscene, and cites similar opinions by Arnold Bennett and George Bernard Shaw, describing the CLEAN LIMERICK as a ‘periodic fad and object of magazine contests, rarely rising above mediocrity’.  From a folklore point of view, the form is essentially ‘transgressive’ ; violation of taboo is part of its function.
A notable Limerick which won an Irish ‘LISTOWEL WRITERS’ WEEK’ prize, in 1998 —— exemplifies the structure of a Limerick  ;
Writing a Limerick’s absurd
Line 1 and line 5 rhyme in word
And just as you’ve reckoned
They rhyme with the 2nd 
The 4th line must rhyme with the 3rd.
Here are a few more :
An eager young fisher named Fisher
Once fished from the edge of a fissure
A fish with a grin
Pulled the fisher in
Now, they’re fishing the fissure for Fisher .
There was a young lady from Pratt
Who had triplets Tim, Tom and Tat
it was OK in the breeding
But when it came to feeding
There was no tit for Tat. 
A dentist named Archibald Moss
Fell in love with dainty Miss Ross
But he held in abhorrence
Her Christian name Florence
So he re-named her — DENTAL FLOSS.

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