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clerihew

Printable Version Pronunciation: kle-rê-hju Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A humorous quatrain (poem of four lines) about a famous person that rhymes AABB. Meter doesn't matter, so the lines are often of odd lengths for humorous effect. Here is an example by the inventor himself, E. C. Bentley:

    George the Third
    Ought never to have occurred.
    One can only wonder
    At so grotesque a blunder.

Notes: Clerihews are so much fun that they have become a genre in English poetry pretty much in the same style, form, and content first employed by Bentley, who published three tomes of them. There is not much to say about the grammatical variation of this lexical orphan, so let's just enjoy some more.

In Play: Most clerihews usually make fun of famous people:

    Al Gore,
    Oh, what a bore.
    Two snails fighting
    Would be more exciting.

    Our president George W. Bush
    Likes to sit on his tush
    And send men to fight
    For things he thinks right.

Famous organizations are not immune, however:
    N'Sync
    Stink.
    Their music hurts my ears.
    I much prefer Britney Spears.

Word History: Today's Good Word is an eponym of Edward Clerihew Bentley (1875-1956). While the use of a middle name as an eponym is unusual, so then are clerihews and this bit of oddity only enhances their inherent humor. Bentley invented the clerihew at the age of sixteen and originally called it a "baseless biography". In 1905, he published his first collection, Biography for Beginners, under the name E. Clerihew. This was followed in 1929 by More Biography, and that by Baseless Biography in 1939. All of Bentley's clerihews were published in 1951 under the title of Clerihews Complete.

    (Now let us all thank
    Larry Brady, a Yank
    and Agora lord
    for suggesting today's word.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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