And Now For Something Different — Double Dactyls

One of my limerick-writing pals has challenged me to hold a Double-Dactyl-Off. My initial response was “What the hell’s a double dactyl?”

So I Googled it, read the rules, and attempted to write a couple of them myself. I’ll try to summarize the rules here and will provide links to some good resources and samples. (Don’t worry if you find the rules confusing. Once you read a couple of examples, they make more sense.)

1) A double dactyl is a two stanza (eight line) humorous poem consisting mostly of dactyls. What’s a dactyl? A dactyl has three syllables, one stressed followed by two unstressed (/ _ _ ).

2) Line 1 is a nonsense phrase consisting of two dactyls (like Higgeldy Piggeldy or Dickery Dockery or Flippity Flappity.)

3) Line 2 is the name of a famous person (usually historic) but must be a double dactyl (like Emily Dickinson or Joseph DiMaggio or Hans Christian Andersen.)

4) Lines 4 and 8 must rhyme.

5) Somewhere in the second stanza there’s is a double dactyl formed by a single word (like megalomaniac or gubernatorial or idiosyncrasy.)

Here’s the form which I borrowed from Miss Rumphius.

1 – double dactyl nonsense phrase (like Higgeldy Piggeldy)
2 – double dactyl of a person’s name
3 – double dactyl
4 – one dactyl plus a stressed syllable (/ _ _ / )

5 – double dactyl
6 – double dactyl
7 – double dactyl
8 – one dactyl plus a stressed syllable (/ _ _ / )

(Wikipedia provides the rules and examples.)

Here are my first two attempts. (I invite you to post your own in my comments.)

Higgledy Piggledy
Ludwig van Beethoven
Wrote the Eroica,
Sadly went deaf.

Gifted and masterful.
Some say he’s better than
Brahms. Need a ref.


Rickety Rackety
David A. Paterson
Got to be gov cuz boss
Spitzer resigned.

Patterson governed us
Sure’s been a while since a
Governor’s shined.

I’m looking forward to your double dactyls. Have fun! And if you’re on Facebook, please post your double dactyls here on Facebook too.

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9 Responses to “And Now For Something Different — Double Dactyls”

  1. Johanna Richmond says:

    Tipity Topity
    Tea party talent is
    Jerkily, smirkily
    Slinking away;

    Palin’s “blood libel” and
    Bachman’s faux founders
    Have lifted the lid on their
    Stinking decay.

  2. madkane says:

    Johanna, though you cheated some on the rules, it’s still a fun poem. :)

  3. Johanna Richmond says:

    Double Dactyl
    It was my first time but I got my rules here. They consider the name part optional but I see now the 6 syllable word, which I thought was optional is not. I may also be stretching the “all one sentence rule by using a semicolon between stanzas. Oh well,I shall try again one day!

  4. madkane says:

    Thanks for that additional reference, Johanna. Hmmm, the sites I consulted didn’t mention an “all one sentence rule.” If that’s really the rule, I fell afoul of that one. :)

  5. Steve Nance says:

    Wow, double dactyl is a tough room. Gonna be a bit rusty at first…

    Squirrelly Murrowly,
    “Edward R.” Olbermann
    Snark got the best of this
    Groudbreaking goad;

    Handed his walking-slip —
    Rachel and Ed more than
    Carry the load.

    Okay, change “nonsense phrase” to “dateline” and I’ll agree to just call it a troubled fractal:

    Tunis, Tunisia:
    President Ben-Ali
    Driven from Office by
    Vox Populi

    Governed, a people rose
    Up, and took back their fate;
    Why couldn’t we?

  6. Kudos to all of you who wrote these! I’m scared to even try. :) I vaguely remember dactyls from all my university English poetry classes – seems like something Tennyson was very good at, but not me. :)

  7. madkane says:

    Koala Bear, I agree that these are tough. It will be some time before I can brace myself to try them again.

    Steve, I really enjoyed yours!

  8. Patrice of the ManyCats says:

    Mad, I just had to rise to the challenge, even at this “late” date! :)

    Hippity Hoppity
    Thomas A. Edison
    Cannily, brainily
    Worked day and night.

    Labored at Menlo Park
    Must have been dawn when he
    First saw the light…

    Umm, this was much tougher than a mere “pesky” limerick! :)

  9. madkane says:

    Good job, Patrice. Very clever! And I agree. I find them harder to write than limericks. :) Thanks for joining in. Better late than never!