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It is about the well-known "Black Widowers" series of Asimov's stories. I'm currently having difficulties in understanding some passages in the "Out of Sight" story (the last one) from the 1-st book.

The first question is why James Drake asks Roger Halsted:

Why do you call a dirty limerick dirty?

There is no a single place in the story (neither before nor after the question), where Roger names a limerick dirty. Is this a typo, a missed word somewhere, or a pun (if it's the last, I don't get it).

The second question is about the limerick for the Queen, specfically in the last line:

TO HAVE HERSELF MENTIONED AS LS.

what does LS stand for? There is a lot of meanings for this abbreviation.

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  • Drake's line may make more sense rephrased: Why does one call dirty limericks “dirty”? Jul 6, 2013 at 23:15

1 Answer 1

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You really should split this into two questions.

Drake's question is in response to Halsted's comment,

My point is this-I'll repeat it, Manny-that the worth of a limerick is not dictated by its subject matter.

Halsted is alluding to the fact that limericks are very often dirty, or as he later asks,

Sexual-excretory-blasphemous-and-miscellaneous-generally-irreverent?

I don't know whether you should always assume that limericks will be dirty. But they often are. In fact, Asimov wrote a whole book of dirty limericks, Lecherous Limericks. In conversation at an all-male club, dirtiness is a pretty safe assumption.

Your second question is answered in the context of the whole limerick.

You can't call the British Queen Ms.
Tain't as nice as Elizabeth is.
But I think that the Queen
Would be even less keen
To have herself mentioned as Ls.

The first line ends with Ms., which sounds like "Miz". So, using parallelism, the Ls. at the end of the last line would be pronounced "Liz", a nickname for Elizabeth. And Liz would be an exceedingly informal way to address a head of state.

Notice that it isn't a dirty limerick. I think its cleanliness, after setting up the reader's dirty expectations, makes it funnier. (And there's an easy way to make it very dirty ... but I'll keep the conversation clean.)

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    +1 But please post the dirty version, at least in a comment. Pretty please?
    – Andres F.
    Jul 5, 2013 at 1:20
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    @AndresF. The dirty version's last line can be (after rot13-ing) nalguvat raqvat jvgu "Wf."
    – sjl
    Jul 6, 2013 at 23:39
  • Heh. Thanks, got it!
    – Andres F.
    Jul 7, 2013 at 14:28
  • I'm actually not sure that rot13 version is correct, i don't think that slang was around in Asimovs day.
    – Paul
    Apr 23, 2017 at 19:04
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    @Paul: The story was first published in 1973. The slang dates to 1941 or earlier.
    – sjl
    Apr 24, 2017 at 5:05

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