Guy Re-Writing the Dictionary—in Limericks

Gargantuan project started as a joke
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 31, 2017 7:08 AM CST
Guy Re-Writing the Dictionary—in Limericks
In this photo Monday, Dec. 11, 2017, Chris Strolin, who created the online Omnificent English Dictionary in Limerick Form, or OEDILF for short, and with the help of contributors has published more than 97,000 definitions of words in limerick form since it began in 2004.   (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

One man's joke has become his mission: to give each word in the dictionary a rhyming definition. Chris Strolin was teasing English buffs in an Oxford English Dictionary forum years ago when he said the dictionary should be rewritten in limericks, reports the AP. He ended up embracing the absurd bravado of his own wisecrack. He started with the word "a''—"It's used with a noun to convey/ A singular notion/ Like 'a duck' or 'a potion'"—and kept going. More than 1,000 contributors have joined him, off and on, over the years. The Omnificent English Dictionary in Limerick Form (OEDILF) has published more than 97,000 rhyming definitions since Strolin started it in 2004. The retired Air Force radio operator from Belleville, Ill., says his project is on track to publish its 100,000th limerick in the coming year. He hopes his grandchildren—or perhaps their kids—will finish the job around 2076.

"The limerick is probably the most reader friendly of all types of poetry," Storlin says. "It's also one of the easiest forms of poetry to write." Perhaps not so easy: Writing a limerick that weaves a joke into an accurate explanation of word's meaning. Take contributor Bill Middleton's definition of "adult": "As a kid, I was wild and a clown/As a teen, I would dash about town/Now adult, I shall go/Very cautious and slow/Goes to prove: what grows up must calm down." When President Trump created a new word this year with a head-scratching Twitter typo, four OEDILF writers churned out limericks. "Inscrutably tweeted/A word? Uncompleted?/The absurd so-called word was covfefe." To break a huge job into chunks, Strolin has writers tackle the language in alphabetical order. The online dictionary currently stops at "gizzard." "People have said, 'I've got a great limerick for vacuum cleaner,'" Strolin said. "And I tell them: Great! Give it to your grandkids."

(More Limerick stories.)

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