That man from Nantucket is seriously profane.

For twenty years or more, I have listened to people in movies and on television begin reciting the limerick “There Once Was a Man from Nantucket” and then stop after the first line and laugh, acknowledging that the next lines contained profanity of some kind.

Oddly enough, I had never bothered to look for the rest of the limerick, at first because the Internet did not exist so finding it would have been difficult, but after that for reasons I can’t imagine.

I've always adored poetry, even in the limerick form, and I’ve also been interested in the ways in which society deems a word to be profane. I believe that declaring a word profane only serves to give it power, and though I rarely use profanity in my own life (and almost never in the written form unless it’s coming from the mouth of a character), I yearn for the day when the idea that any word is profane ends.

Despite this perfect combination of poetry and profanity, I had never taken the time to find the limerick about the woman from Nantucket and read the final four lines.

After hearing the limerick referenced yet again on a podcast yesterday, I finally decided to find and read the entire limerick. The original version of the limerick goes like this:

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.

I actually like it. It’s fairly clever as limericks go.

Then there is the dirty version of this limerick, which is honestly too dirty for me to post here. I thought it might contain a four letter word or two, but the entire limerick is profane and suggestive in a way that I could not have imagined.

You can read it for yourself on Wikipedia, but if you are easily offended, you might be better off remaining as blissfully unaware as I was until about five minutes ago.

I may be opposed to profanity, but there was good reason why I had never heard or read the limerick until today.