May 12: Limerick Day

Today is the birthday of Edward Lear, born in 1812 in London, England. Before he was a poet, Lear was a painter, illustrating birds for such noteworthy clients as Charles Darwin.

In 1832, while on an assignment to paint animals in the Earl of Darby’s private zoo, Lear began composing humorous verse for the Earl’s grandchildren. He put his poems together in his Book of Nonsense, published in 1846.

Lear is remembered for his famous poem “The Owl and the Pussycat,” but his most noteworthy contribution to the literary world is the limerick.

Here are some limericks from his Book of Nonsense.

1.

There was an Old Man with a beard,

Who said, “It is just as I feared!–

Two Owls and a Hen,

Four Larks and a Wren,

Have all built their nests in my beard!”

10.

There was an Old Man in a tree,

Who was horribly bored by a Bee;

When they said, “Does it buzz?”

He replied, “Yes, it does! “

It’s a regular brute of a Bee!”

12.

There was a Young Lady whose chin,

Resembled the point of a pin:

So she had it made sharp,

And purchased a harp,

And played several tunes with her chin.

 

The limerick is a universally popular verse form, enjoyed by children as well as adults. Besides the fixed form of five lines, rhyming AABBA, the content of the Limerick is characteristically comical and nonsensical. Adult versions frequently feature lewd content. One other common feature is the naming of a character and geographic location in the first line.

Today’s Challenge: Literary Limerick

How might you adapt the limerick form for a modern purpose?  On Limerick Day write lots of limericks. Write one as a love note and put it on the refrigerator or write it on your child’s lunch sack. Write a limerick advertising a product that you think is worth buying. Write a limerick about your best friend, your pet, or your boss. Finally, select a favorite literary character and write a limerick about him or her.  (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  

The English language is a maze

You can get lost in it for days

Exploring the mother tongue

Can be lots of fun

So, read today’s post on Word Days

1-http://www.gutenberg.org/files/982/982-h/982-h.htm#2H_4_0071

May 11:  Tall Tale Day

On this day in 1720, Baron Karl Friedrich Münchhausen was born.  The German nobleman fought for the Russian Empire in two Turkish Wars.  When he retired to his German estate in 1760, he gained a reputation as a raconteur, weaving outrageous tall tales based on his experiences as a soldier, traveler, and sportsman.

Munchausen might have been forgotten by history if not for German writer Rudolf Erich Raspe who listened to the baron’s tales and adapted them in a book Baron Munchausen’s Narrative of his Marvellous Travels and Campaigns in Russia.

In Raspe’s book, the outlandish tales are narrated in first person by Munchausen.  In one story, for example, the baron recounts a near-death experience he had while bathing one day in the Mediterranean.  Startled by a giant fish swimming towards him, Munchausen curled his body into a ball and sailed into the fish’s mouth and into its stomach. Before he could figure out how to extricate himself from the fish’s belly, he felt the fish rising from the waters. A fisherman had caught the fish and was about to cut it up when he heard the baron yelling.  Freed by the fisherman, the baron ends his story by saying that ever since that day, whenever he smells fish, he becomes sick.

Throughout the years the stories that Raspe put in print have been adapted, expanded, and rewritten in numerous languages.  In 1988, Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame made a film adaptation called The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.

In addition to being a name synonymous with tall tales, Munchausen’s name has also become well-known in the psychiatric and medical communities for a condition known as Munchausen Syndrome.

More than just telling entertaining tales, victims of Munchausen Syndrome deliberately deceive their doctors, describing false symptoms of illness and in some cases even inducing real symptoms by injecting themselves with foreign substances.

Today’s Challenge:  Munchausen Your Autobiography

What are some incidents from your life that you might exaggerate in the tradition of the tall tale?  Brainstorm a list of key incidents that you would include in your autobiography.  Select one important incident and write it as a short autobiographical anecdote based on what really happened.  Next, take that story and “munchausen” it by adding some hyperbole, drama, and outrageous embellishments. (Common Core Writing 3 – Narrative)

Quotation of the Day:  The raconteur knows too well that, if he investigates the truth of the matter, he is only too likely to lose his good story. Herbert Butterfield

1-Goldberg, Philip.  The Babinski Reflex. Los Angeles:  Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc., 1990.