Doggerel is poetry that is irregular in rhythm and in rhyme, often deliberately for burlesque or comic effect. Alternatively, it can mean verse which has a monotonous rhythm, easy rhyme, and cheap or trivial meaning. The word is derived from the Middle English dogerel, probably a derivative of dog.[1] In English it has been used as an adjective since the 14th century and a noun since at least 1630.[2]

Appearing since ancient times in the literatures of many cultures, it is characteristic of nursery rhymes and children's song.[3]


The Scottish poet William McGonagall (1825-1902) has become famous for his doggerel,[4] which many remember with affection despite its seeming technical flaws, as in his poem "The Tay Bridge Disaster":

Oh! Ill-fated bridge of the silv'ry Tay,
I now must conclude my lay
By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay,
That your central girders would not have given way,
At least many sensible men do say,
Had they been supported on each side with buttresses,
At least many sensible men confesses,
For the stronger we our houses do build,
The less chance we have of being killed.

Ogden Nash (1902-1971) made a virtue of writing what appears to be doggerel but is actually clever and entertaining despite its apparent technical faults.

Hip hop lyrics have also explored the artful possibilities of doggerel.[5]

See also


  1. "Doggerel". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
  2. Harper, Douglas. "Doggerel". Online Etymological Dictionary.
  3. "Doggerel". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
  4. "Doggerel". The Poetry Foundation. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
  5. David, Caplan (Winter 2009), "Reduced to Rhyme: On Contemporary Doggerel", The Antioch Review, 67 (1): 164–80, An extremely minor form in contemporary poetry, doggerel abounds in hip hop. Doggerel serves it so well because prosodic satire and parody rely on an established sense of metrical and rhyming decorum, which the contemporary print-based poetry notably lacks..

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