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Psychology professors keep limericks alive

May 31, 2011 at 4:50 PM

AUSTIN, Texas, May 31 (UPI) -- Psychologists at the University of Texas said they are keeping the art of the limerick alive by integrating the whimsical poems with department functions.

Art Markman, a psychology department professor and a founding limerick committee member with the official title of Not the Chair, said professors use limericks to introduce featured speakers at their annual conference, and regularly pen the humorous poems for colleagues and sometimes students, the Austin American-Statesman reported Tuesday.

"It's just funny," Markman said. "I use the word 'funny' loosely. For some of them, 'lame' wouldn't be too strong of a word."

"It was probably never a living art, so it's hard to think of it as a dying art," Markman said. "It's sort of always been limping along. We're in our own small way just trying to keep it alive."

Limericks have been around since at least the early 18th century. They are comprised of five lines in anapestic or amphibrachic meter with a strict rhyme scheme (aabba).

Markman said limericks became a department tradition in 2000 when he and Professor Caryn Carlson penned a limerick in an attempt to lure a job candidate. He said the psychology world was shocked when the Observer, the publication for the Association for Psychological Science, printed a collection of the committee's limericks in December.

"What was the reaction? Largely disbelief," Markman said.

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