AskDefine | Define doggerel

Dictionary Definition

doggerel n : a comic verse of irregular measure; "he had heard some silly doggerel that kept running through his mind" [syn: doggerel verse, jingle]

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative spellings


  • UK: /ˈdɒgərəl/


  1. In the context of "poetry": Of a crude or irregular construction. (Originally applied to humorous verse, but now to verse lacking artistry or meaning.)
    • 1678, John Dryden, "Prologue to Limberham," lines 1-4,
      True wit has seen its best days long ago;
      It ne'er look'd up, since we were dipp'd in show:
      When sense in doggerel rhymes and clouds was lost,
      And dulness flourish'd at the actors' cost.


  1. A doggerel poem or verse.
    • 1895, Stephen Crane,The Red Badge of Courage, ch. 8,
      As he marched he sang a bit of doggerel in a high and quavering voice:
      "Sing a song 'a vic'try,
      A pocketful 'a bullets,
      Five an' twenty dead men
      Baked in a—pie."


  • Webster 1828}}

Extensive Definition

Doggerel describes verse considered of little literary value. The word is derogatory, from Middle English.
Doggerel might have any or all of the following failings:
  • trite, cliche, or overly sentimental content
  • forced or imprecise rhymes
  • faulty metre
  • misordering of words to force correct metre
Almost by definition examples of doggerel are not preserved, since if they have any redeeming value they are not considered doggerel. One example of doggerel might be:
Said the big red rooster
to the little brown hen,
"You haven't laid an egg
Since goodness knows when."
Said the little brown hen
to the big red rooster,
"You don't come along
As often as you used to."
Some poets, however, make a virtue of writing what appears to be doggerel but is actually clever and entertaining despite its apparent technical faults. Such authors include:
The American comedian Steve Allen took a similar approach: dressed in a tuxedo, he would solemnly recite inane popular song lyrics like:
:Who put the bomp in the bomp-shu-bomp-shu bomp?
Who put the ram in the rama-lama ding dong?
as if they were soliloquies from Keats or Shakespeare.
A well-traveled story has a writer (Dorothy Parker, William James, Ogden Nash or Gertrude Stein in various retellings) fall asleep, and in a dream he or she receives a profound insight, which the writer makes sure to get down on paper before falling back to sleep. Come the morning, the literary celebrity discovers that the deep thought that came in a dream was:
Hogamus, higamus
Men are polygamous;
Higamus, hogamus
Women, monogamous.
(H. Allen Smith, in How To Write Without Knowing Nothing'', attributes the verses to a Mrs. Amos Pinchot.)
The poetry of William Topaz McGonagall is also remembered with affection by many despite its seeming technical flaws.
Macaronic poetry may often be doggerel.
In his novel Ulysses (1922), James Joyce used a sly spelling pun for "fuck" and "cunt" with the doggerel verse:
If you see Kay,
Tell him he may.
See you in tea,
Tell him from me.

See also

doggerel in Chinese: 打油詩

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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