Some people make vows to exercise daily. Or work on their novel. Or play the violin.
Oregon State University biochemistry and biophysics Professor Kevin Ahern, meanwhile, has been writing a limerick a day for going on three years.
And not just any kind of limerick. They have to include a pun in the final line. Ahern recently self-published his third book of limericks, “Kevin Ahern’s 1001 Punniest Limericks.”
Included are such gems/groaners as:
The pianist battling stage fright
Told his dentist about it one night
Said the tooth guy to him
With a rather large grin
“Your Bach was much worse than your bite.”
“I love limericks,” Ahern said in an interview Monday in his office in the Agricultural and Life Sciences Building. “Limericks makes telling dumb jokes better. To me, it’s much more fun to take a dumb joke and turn it into a limerick.”
Ahern: “What type of shoes does a frog wear? ... Open toed.”
“I thought I could write a limerick a day, and I’m still doing one a day. It’s easier to do than I thought.”
Ahern avoids off-color limericks, and he said that one of the keys for him is matching the right cadence to the language.
He also occasionally has a message to deliver, such as the limerick in the new book that mentions Corvallis or the university:
Every student who comes to attend
OSU at Corvallis or Bend
Whenever they enter
The new Success Center
Will think of their very Beth friend
The limerick is dedicated to OSU first lady Beth Ray, who died March 21. The student support facility was named for Ray in January because of her efforts on behalf of OSU students.
“I was very fond of Beth,” Ahern said. “She was a wonderful lady. And fond of limericks. I have an email list I use to send out my daily one. She was on it. She always commented on my limericks.”
Ahern said year three of his limerick experience will be the final one. He expressed an interesting in writing a long story in verse. He also wants to write a musical.
For years, Ahern has used “metabolic melodies” — songs written about biochemistry or biophysics as teaching tools. Ahern writes the lyrics, using popular songs for the music.
The professor, who has studied or worked at OSU for 31 of the past 33 years, said he has run out of biochemistry subject matter to write lyrics about. So he has moved on to Oregon themes.
As in “Hood River ... surfers in the breeze,” sung to the tune of “Moon River” and a takeoff on the holiday hit “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the year” that begins, “At the coast, Oregon’s fine all the year.”
“I always use other people’s tunes,” Ahern said. “I really envy people who can write music.”