Get your rhyming caps on and find a muse because Wacky Word Wednesday, a weekly celebration of the wackiest and most interesting words from around the world, is back with this week’s wacky word.
The definition from TermWiki.com:
The word clerihew is an eponym, derived from the middle name of Edmund Clerihew Bentley. Aside from creating the clerihew, Bentley (1875 to 1956) was also a journalist and novelist. His most famous mystery novel, Trent’s Last Case, received high praise from both Dorothy L. Sayer and Agatha Christie; it is also considered to be one of the first modern mystery novels.
Before journalism and mapping out mysteries, he would make history simply by jotting down four short lines: the first clerihew ever written was conceived while the 16-year-old Bentley was enrolled at St. Paul’s School in London, 1890. Found below, the original version had “was not fond of” in place of “abominated”:
- Sir Humphry Davy
- Abominated gravy.
- He lived in the odium
- Of having discovered sodium.
Clerihews do not follow any fixed meter, but abide by an aabb rhyming scheme, meaning the first two and the last two lines rhyme with one another. The first line also usually features the name of who the clerihew will be about.
Bentley’s first collection of clerihews was published in 1905, Biography for Beginners. Two other collections followed in 1929 and 1939. Below are some other examples of clerihews by Bentley. See if you can figure out which one today’s wacky word comic is about!
- Sir Christopher Wren
- Went to dine with some men
- He said, “If anyone calls,
- Say I’m designing Saint Paul’s.”
John Stuart Mill,
By a mighty effort of will,
Overcame his natural bonhomie
And wrote Principles of Political Economy.
If you are feeling inspired, don’t forget to write your own biographical clerihew about any individual of your choosing. Just be sure to share it with us in the comments sections below!
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