## Posts tagged ‘limerick’

### Mo’ Math Limericks

I’ve posted limericks to this blog before. Quite a few, in fact.

But a friend recently sent me *The Mathematical Magpie*, a collection of math essays, stories and poems assembled by Clifton Fadiman and published by Simon and Schuster in 1962. Coincidentally, one section of the book is titled *Comic Sections*, the name of a mathematical joke book written by Des MacHale in 1993. (I contacted Professor MacHale several years ago, and he suggested that we swap books. Best. Trade. Ever.) Des MacHale is Emeritus Professor at the University of Cork, a mere 102 km from Limerick, Ireland… which brings us full circle to today’s topic.

*The Mathematical Magpie* contains quite a few limericks, one of which you have likely heard before:

There was a young lady named Bright,

Who traveled much faster than light.

She started one day

In the relative way,

And returned on the previous night.

Despite a variety of other claims, that limerick was written by Professor A. H. Reginald Buller, F.R.S., a biologist who received £2 when the poem was published in *Punch*, and he “was more excited at the check than he was later when his book on fungi was published.”

You may not, however, be familiar with Professor Buller’s follow-up limerick about Miss Bright:

To her friends said the Bright one in chatter,

“I have learned something new about matter:

As my speed was so great

Much increased was my weight,

Yet I failed to become any fatter!”

Here are a few other limericks that appear in *The Mathematical Magpie*:

There was an old man who said, “Do

Tell me how I’m to add two and two?

I’m not very sure

That it doesn’t make four —

But I fear that is almost too few.

Anon.The topologist’s mind came unguided

When his theories, some colleagues derided.

Out of Möbius strips

Paper dolls he now snips,

Non-Euclidean, closed, and one-sided.

Hilbert Schenck, Jr.A mathematician named Ray

Says extraction of cubes is child’s play.

You don’t need equations

Or long calculations

Just hot water to run on the tray.

L. A. GrahamFlappity, floppity, flip!

The mouse on the Möbius strip.

The strip revolved,

The mouse dissolved

In a chronodimensional skip.

Frederick Winsor

And though it’s not a limerick, this one is just too good not to include for your enjoyment:

A diller, a dollar,

A witless trig scholar

On a ladder against a wall.

If length over height

Gives an angle too slight,

The cosecant may prove his downfall.

L. A. Graham

Finally, I leave you with a MJ4MF original:

With my head in an oven

And my feet on some ice,

I’d say that, on average,

I feel rather nice!

**Got any math poems or limericks you’d like to share? We’d love to hear them!**

### Math Limerick Problems

Albert Einstein said that “pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas.” That may or may not be true, but all I know is that math poems are pretty awesome.

There are lots of math limericks on the web. One of my favorites:

A topologist’s child was quite hyper,

Till it wore a Möbius diaper.

The mess on the inside

Was thus on the outside,

And it was easy for someone to wipe her.

Fred Tofts, who claims to not be a mathematician but loves mathematics, recently shared a different kind of math limerick with MJ4MF. His five-line creation was not meant to deliver a punch line; rather, it presented a problem. As a comment to my blog interview with Colin Adams, he wrote, “I have not written any math jokes but have written many math limericks,” and then shared the following:

A dog’s at one end of a log;

At the opposite end is a frog.

Six feet from the frog

And eight feet from the dog

Is a right angle. How long’s the log?

I do hope that the good Mr. Tofts will share a few more of his creations with us!

The following is more of a truth than a puzzle, but fun nonetheless.

Pick a number 1 to 9, I plea,

Then multiply by 15,873.

And again times seven,

The product to leaven;

Your number will repeat six times — you’ll see.

**Do you have any math limerick problems worth sharing?**

### Math Haiku and Limericks

Haiku have 17 syllables, right? Nope. They actually have 17 *morae*. Don’t know what a mora is? Don’t worry; neither do most linguists.

I find the 5-7-5 structure of haiku too restrictive, and apparently Roger McGough does, too.

The only problem

with haiku is you just get

started and then

~ Roger McGough

And Daniel Mathews thinks the structure is problematic for writing math haiku.

Maths haikus are hard

All the words are much too big

Likehomeomorphic.

~ Daniel Mathews

Limericks are a little more forgiving. With five lines in an AABBA pattern, you have a little more time to develop a story. Or not.

There was a young man from Peru

Whose limericks stopped at line two.

If you’re at a cocktail party, and you want to deliver the following one-liner, you better set it up with the two-liner above.

There was a young man from Verdun.

“Then there’s the one about the Emperor Nero,” quipped poets Elliott Moreton and Carl Muckenhoupt.

Personally, I think it’s pretty fun to turn traditional poetry rules on their ear. Here is a tradition-busting limerick for you.

A poet through efforts concerted

Ignored all the rules

He learned in the schools

Tradition he oft times skirted

And wrote all his limericks inverted.

And lest haiku feel neglected as a poetic form, here’s an abomination of that type, too.

The last line goes here.

It’s still 5-7-5, but…

Haiku inverted.