The Clubhouse: Widowers, fandom’s answer to the limerick

Eric Needham, 1955.
Eric Needham, 1955.

Fans are nothing if not creative and, over the decades, fandom has come up with not only our own jargon and customs, but also our own art forms. We even have a unique verse form, Widowers.

Judas hanged himself from a bough
A curious use for trees….
What use to perish, no more to cherish

Elderly maids who blush deep red
At the mention of phallic symbols
Display no shame when they acclaim

These are by British fan Eric Needham, who created the form.

Widowers is a fictional Manchester, England, department store (no doubt inspired by Batchelors) for which ersatz rhyming advertisements became a fannish fad after Needham instituted them in Now & Then, Harry Turner’s apazine for the Off-trail Magazine Publishers’ Association, in the mid-1950s.

The best examples of these four-line verses have a completely absurd counterpoint between the first couplet and the product advertised in the last, a rhyme scheme of abccb, with an internal rhyme in the third line, and do not rely on a preposition to begin the final line. (Many examples, even by Needham, do use a preposition, because it’s very difficult to achieve both of the final rules, but a perfect Widowers is a thing of beauty.)

Here are a few of mine:

Nostradamus prophesied
A future filled with awe
Would that he knew of how it came true of

Arthur and fickle Guinivere
Might have turned their tragic fate
To happy pairing had they been sharing

Sherlock Holmes gave up detecting
And took up keeping bees
That raised quite a buzz, but no more than does

Socrates, so wise, drank hemlock
And that was the end of him
So much for high thinking, you’re better off drinking

Can you write some? I dare you!

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1 Comment

  1. Reminds me of a twisted take on the old Burma-Shave signs that used to line roadways : Pity all the mighty Caesars, they pulled each whisker out with tweezers / Burma-Shave.

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