There once was a man from Nantucket

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"There once was a man from Nantucket" is the opening line for many limericks, in which the name of the island of Nantucket creates obscene rhymes and puns. The protagonist is typically portrayed as a well-endowed, hypersexualized persona.

The line is so well-known that it has been used as a stand-alone joke, implying upcoming obscenities or taboo language.

History[edit]

The earliest published version appeared in 1902 in the Princeton Tiger:[1][2][3]

There once was a man from Nantucket
Who kept all his cash in a bucket.
    But his daughter, named Nan,
    Ran away with a man
And as for the bucket, Nantucket.

Other publications seized upon the "Nantucket" motif, spawning many sequels[4][5]

Among the most well known are:

But he followed the pair to Pawtucket,
The man and the girl with the bucket;
    And he said to the man,
    He was welcome to Nan,
But as for the bucket, Pawtucket.

Followed later by:

Then the pair followed Pa to Manhasset,
Where he still held the cash as an asset,
    But Nan and the man
    Stole the money and ran,
And as for the bucket, Manhasset.

Ribald versions[edit]

The many ribald versions of the limerick are the basis for its lasting popularity. Many variations on the theme are possible because of the ease of rhyming Nantucket with certain vulgar phrases. The following example comes from Immortalia: An Anthology of American Ballads, Sailors' Songs, Cowboy Songs, College Songs, Parodies, Limericks, and other humorous verses and doggerel, published in 1927.[6]

There once was a man from Nantucket
Whose dick was so long he could suck it.
    And he said with a grin
    As he wiped off his chin,
"If my ear were a cunt, I would fuck it."

In popular culture[edit]

The poem has become a staple of American humor, both as an iconic example of dirty poetry and as a joking example of fine art, whose vulgarity and simple form provides an unexpected contrast to an expected refinement.

A few examples: In Woody Allen's 1966 film What's Up, Tiger Lily?, the protagonist Phil Moskowitz reads the opening line of "ancient erotic poetry": "There once was a man from Nantucket". In Steven Soderbergh's 2002 film Solaris, the male protagonist tries to impress his girlfriend with his knowledge of poet Dylan Thomas, but when she asks him for his favorite poem he comes up with "the one he is most famous for, which starts, um, 'There once was a young man from Nantucket'". The animated sitcom The Simpsons makes numerous references to the limerick, including in "Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo",[7] where Homer comments that he "once knew a man from Nantucket" but "the stories about him are greatly exaggerated", in Deep Space Homer, Homer tries to impress NASA officials that he can recite poetry while doing cartwheels. He begins with "There once was a man from Nantucket" andthat is all he is able to get out before he falls over. In "Diatribe of a Mad Housewife", Marge begins her book with the verse "There once was a girl from Nantucket".[8] In the children's animated television program Hey Arnold!, Harold, as an example of his knowledge of poetry, recites "There once was a man from Nantucket", and is promptly cut off by Mr. Simmons.[9][unreliable source?] A similar incident occurs in the SpongeBob Squarepants episode "Squidward's School for Grown-Ups."[10][unreliable source?]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Life, Volume 41, page 274. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2012-03-06. 
  2. ^ In transit, Volume 11, Issue 2, page 18
  3. ^ Princeton Tiger, November 1902, page 59
  4. ^ Baring-Gould, William S. The Lure of the Limerick. p. 246. ISBN 0-517-53856-3. 
  5. ^ Cecil Adams (1985-03-08). "How does the limerick "There was an old man of Nantucket ..." conclude?". The Straight Dope. Retrieved 2012-03-06. 
  6. ^ "Big Dicks and Wonderous Twats". Poetry-nut.com. Retrieved 2012-03-06. 
  7. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0701273/quotes
  8. ^ http://www.tv.com/shows/the-simpsons/diatribe-of-a-mad-housewife-280492/
  9. ^ http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Radar/HeyArnold
  10. ^ http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Radar/SpongebobSquarepants

References[edit]

External links[edit]