The Simpsons - There once was a man from Nantucket


There once was a man from Nantucket.

"There once was a man from Nantucket" is the opening line for many limericks. The popularity of this this literary trope can be attributed to the way the name of the island of Nantucket lends itself easily to humorous rhymes and puns, particularly ribald ones.

History[edit | edit source]

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. Of these, perhaps the two most famous[4][5] appeared, respectively, in the Chicago Tribune and the New York Press:

Pa 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.
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.

Vulgar versions[edit | edit source]

The many ribald versions of the limerick are the basis for its lasting popularity. In the many vulgar versions, the Mythopoeia protagonist is typically portrayed as a well-hung, hypersexualized persona. 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 mouth were a cunt, I could fuck it."

Recognition[edit | edit source]

In popular culture[edit | edit source]

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 provide a surprise contrast to an expected refinement. Some 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".[7]
  • The animated sitcom The Simpsons makes numerous references to the limerick, such as "Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo",[8] where Homer comments that he "once knew a man from Nantucket" but "the stories about him are greatly exaggerated".
  • Garrison Keillor quoted the first line to laughter during his last episode of 42 years of hosting the radio show A Prairie Home Companion.[9]
  • On the Gilmore Girls season 3, episode 8, Lorelai Gilmore jokes about carving something dirty into a bathroom wall on a tour of Yale, saying, "What rhymes with Nantucket?"
  • In the Hey Arnold episode "New Teacher," Herold Berman volunteers to recite a poem for his schoolmates. He begins to say, "There once was a man from Nantucket" before being shushed by Mr. Simmons. Nickelodeon repeated this joke 14 years later in the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Squidward's School for Grown-Ups", SpongeBob, impersonating an opera singer, begins his act by producing a sheet of paper and reading the same line. The audience is aghast as he realizes he has the wrong sheet.
  • In That 70's Show season 2 episode 24, Hyde begins a joke with "There once was a girl from Nantucket..."
  • In The Bad News Bears season 2 episode 12 "The Good Life" Tanner enters a poetry contest with "There once was a man from Nantucket..." before the principal cuts him off.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

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