Maddenation

Polythene Pam

You should see Polythene Pam.
She’s so goodlooking but she looks like a man.
You should see her in drag
Dressed in her polythene bag.
Yes you should see Polythene Pam.

Get a dose of her in jackboots and kilt.
She’s killer diller when she’s dressed to the hilt.
She’s the kind of a girl
that makes the News of the World.
Yes, you could say she was attractively built.

Can anybody (before reading the “read more” section) tell me why i would put this up here?

Has anybody realized that this is a LIMERICK??!! Holy cows, man. It just dawned on me today. I’m so happy that I can’t stop crying.

DanConnections08/28/03 9 comments

Comments

Patrick • 08/28/03 11:42 AM:

You’re dating a girl named Pam? You got a job with a polythene manufacturer? You didn’t check your post to see if your apostrophes showed up as apostrophes or question marks? Ok. I’m going to read the read more now.

Patrick • 08/28/03 4:44 PM:

I don’t think it’s technically a limerick, because it doesn’t start with “There once was a man/woman.”

Dad • 08/28/03 10:55 PM:

I didn’t try to guess before reading more. Should it be “polyethylene Pam?” What is polythene, a made-up plastic with only 3 syllables? It should be:

You should see Polyethylene Pam,
So goodlooking, but she looks like a man.
You should see her in drag
polyethylene bag.
You should see Polyethylene Pam.

Get a dose of her jackboots and kilt.
killer diller when she’s dressed to the hilt.
She’s the kind of a girl
makes the News of the World.
you could say she’s attractively built.

Kathleen • 08/29/03 9:26 PM:

I still don’t know why you would put that in there. Where on earth did you find it? It’s very weird. ?? huh?

Dan • 08/29/03 11:22 PM:

“Polythene Pam” is the title of a beatles song. the two limericks (i’m calling them limericks. like it and weep) are the song’s lyrics. that’s all. remember when we had that long email string of limericks? and remember dave not being able to put the right amount of beats per line? that was great. remember me pretending to write “kyrie” by mr. mister and sending it out and mom saying how good it was? anyway, i was just thinking about the beatles one day, and i realized that Polythene Pam is in the form of the limerick. somebody check and see if limericks HAVE to start with “there once was…”

i think this whole limerick thing started off when dad emailed us FURIOUS at some irish candy store’s horrible attempt at a limerick. then dad wrote his own. dad, you were pissed at that store.

Dad • 08/30/03 12:41 PM:

I wasn’t really pissed at the store so much as the person who wrote that limerick. We should try to find remnants of that email exchange because that’s just the sort of thing we created maddenation for.

OK. I just searched my WORD files an found a letter I wrote (but did not send) the the Irish Store in question.

Faith & Begorra
Irish Gift Store

To Whom It May Concern:

My wife visited your store just before St. Patrick’s day and received a small packet containing tea, a cookie, a piece of candy, and the following little greeting, on which I have taken the liberty of highlighting the (supposedly) accented syllables.

St. Pa-trick’s Day is near-ly here,
We know you’ld love to have a beer,
We have tea and a sweet treat,
A gift that can’t be beat.

My son, a PhD student in English, was the first to comment on how poorly this message is written. He focussed initially on the meter, which deteriorates badly after the first two lines of arguably passable iambic quatrameter. (For the moment, let’s ignore the typo and ethnic slur in the second line.) The third line, besides missing the critical last syllable, forces the reader to accent “have”, “and”, and “sweet” instead of the ostensibly correct words, “We”, “tea”, and “treat”. The last line is missing two beats, leaving the reader no alternative but to mutter “ta dum” under his breath to reach some semblance of resolution. Indeed, this little verse is supremely lacking in rhythmic quality, but that’s not the half of it. What about the words behind the form?

When I read it, I was struck not only by the pathetic lack of cadence, but also by the shallowness of the message. Is yours not an Irish store? Is not Ireland, after all, a country noted for its literacy? Land of Keats and Joyce? Faith and Begorra! This poem is a disgrace crying out for expurgation. I feel an obligation as an exiled son of the auld sod to offer some pointed suggestions so that this atrocity will not be repeated next March.

Let’s go line by line. The opening line, while lacking in originality or passion, is at least acceptable, so long as it is used only during the first 16 days of March. (I suppose I could be convinced to allow its use as early as February, provided the writing is tuned up substantially.) The second line, however, has got to go. As notorious as the drinking habits of Irishmen have become, it is decidedly non-PC to refer to them as blatantly and callously as you have done here. Further, to suggest that some fine lad would enter your store with beer on his mind and be placated with tea and sweets is downright insulting. Unless you’re prepared to quench that thirst, you’d best not bring it up at all and give the benefit of the doubt to the customer. Finally, what in God’s name is “you’ld”, a contraction of “you all would”? No, don’t tell me. I’ll just give you the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s an unfortunate typo.

The third line is where it really gets bad. Where’s the transition from the previous thought? You can’t introduce the concept of having a beer and then immediately move to the subject of tea without some kind of transitional phrase like, “…but we don’t have a liquor license, so the best we can do is offer you some tea and a treat.” Admittedly, that doesn’t meet the rhythmic requirements either, but at least it provides the reader with a reason to suddenly be talking about other beverages. Even “But we have tea and candy sweet” would be an improvement.

Now to the last line; six words so insipid, so hackneyed, so vapid, so inane, so trite, so lacking in redeeming value, that even to consider them seriously enough to offer replacements taints my sense of common decorum. This notwithstanding, I find it impossible to leave them uncommented upon. Where to begin? First off, the aforementioned plastic packet of tea, candy, and cookie is most assuredly not an unbeatable gift. I would guess its monetary value to be about a dime, give or take a few cents. A nice touch I suppose, especially if it was hand packaged by the store’s owner, but hardly significant to those affluent shoppers passing in and out of your doors. But that’s not really my point, is it? I mean, listen to the words! How many thousand times have you heard them? Aren’t you tired of things that “can’t be beat”? Yes, yes, cheerleaders like the phase, and “beat” rhymes with sweet, and treat, and neat, but com’on, how about giving all of these words a rest? Couldn’t you have said “so stay a while and rest your feet”? Or, “our wares are sought by the elete.” You could even have closed with a decidedly Catholic phrase like, “Father, Son, and Paraclete.” The possibilities, for those who would pause and reflect, are very nearly unlimited.

By now you’re probably wondering why a complete stranger would go to this length to comment so negatively on what was probably an innocent and genuine attempt to generate a friendly atmosphere in your store for St. Paddy’s day. I’m at a loss to explain it myself, except for vague feelings that some good might come of it. Maybe next year, as St. Patrick’s day approaches, you could commission me to write a new quatrain for your gift packet. I wouldn’t charge much, a simple gift might suffice. I might even write a limerick.

St. Patrick, a herdsman from Slemish,
Was a priest without pretense or blemish.
The Celts He converted
The snakes he diverted
And now he’s the patron of Ireland.

OK, you try to rhyme “blemish”.

Very truly yours,

Patrick C. Madden

Patrick • 08/30/03 2:54 PM:

Com’on, Dad! Don’t be so cruel! You think you’re so elete?

Seriously, though, I laughed again when I read this. I’m sad you didn’t send it. I especially love your limerick, which sets up such high hopes and drops them. It’s a beautiful ending to your rant. But 1) Wasn’t he from England originally? 2) Was he a herdsman? 3) Even if he was, the poem is confusing: herdsman? priest? both?

Which brings us back to the worst writing contest you wrote in about not long ago. Where’s the line between really bad (unbeknownst to the author) and funny bad?

Dad • 08/31/03 12:51 AM:

Butler’s lives of the saints says Patrick was born in Scotland. After he was kidnapped by barbarians, he was forced to herd cattle in Ireland. When I was composing the limerick, I did some research on St. Patrick and found a source that gave the name of the place where he was held captive as “near Slemish.” I don’t know what the source was (I didn’t notice any mention of Slemish in a quick skimming of Butler’s) but I thought at the time that this obscure fact was worth preserving. It would have been nice if Patrick had spent some time in Belgium so I could have worked in the word “Flemish.”

St. Patrick, of course, became a priest after escaping from his captivity and returning to Britain and Gaul.

I too laughed when I reread the letter, and kind of wish I had sent it. However, I thought the letter was funny bad and not really bad.

Dan • 09/03/03 12:42 PM:

AH! the first line of dad’s last comment confused me at first because he doesn’t capitalize “Butler’s lives of the saints” and i read it wrong at first. go capitalization!

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