Somewhere in the 1993-2000 time period, I had a hardback book of various linguistic oddities, I think with a red slip cover with white lettering. One of the items included was a limerick along the lines of the following:

A young Scottish girl in labor
Said, "God, but it hurts like a _____
rhyming couplet forgotten
Who _____ her _____ to a neighbor

The clue was given that the missing words were all anagrams of the same set of letters, with the answers being "saber" (or "sabre"), "bares", and "braes". "Bears" might have been another word in the couplet. In retrospect, I might have misremembered details as my brain murmured the poem repeatedly in the back of my head to keep me from "forgetting" since "braes" means "hillsides", not "underwear" (which I think I was thinking of "braies") as I'd translated in my head. Either way, the bits of the poem that I do vaguely remember have been echoing in my head this morning, and my attempts to search have netted me nothing other than a site that tried to sign me up for dating in my area based on using the word "bares" in my search query (although the excerpt on Google suggested that they were claiming to instead be sharing some amusing limericks).

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    Would it be excessively pedantic of me to say that a brae is a hill-slope or the face of a hill, rather than the hill itself?
    – Spagirl
    Oct 20, 2022 at 13:55
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    @Spagirl: Not at all. I'm still a bit amused that the primary etymology is that of eyelids. Very evocative. Oct 20, 2022 at 14:06
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    It does my heart good to see Limericks being treated as literature. Some of my favorite literary compendiums are bathroom walls at dive bars
    – T.E.D.
    Oct 20, 2022 at 14:38
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    @SeanDuggan eyelids? Not eyebrows?
    – Spagirl
    Oct 20, 2022 at 17:20
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    @Spagirl: Both. "Middle English bra, from Old Norse brā eyelid; akin to Old English brǣw eyebrow, and probably to Old English bregdan to move quickly" Oct 20, 2022 at 17:36

1 Answer 1


Sweet Molly MacDougal, in labour,
Warned her sister, "It hurts like a sabre.
Sin bears a high price,
So a girl should think twice
What she bares on the braes for a neighbour."

Found in Literary Humour by Judson K. Cornelius (1998), in Chapter 1, "The Joys of Anagramming", page 12. No source is given, so it might have been written by Cornelius, or it might be (like many limericks) an "old classic" of oral tradition to which no source can be given.

How I found it: given your specifying a Scottish woman, I decided to assume British English spellings and search for the exact phrases "in labour" and "like a sabre". I removed the word "limerick" from my search, thinking that a source might reproduce this ditty without actually using the word limerick for it. In a Google search for "in labour" "like a sabre", there were 1200 results and the above Google Books links was the 7th one.

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    @SeanDuggan And hopefully my search terms won't be getting me recommendations for dating sites :-P (Then again, anyone who's spent much time searching for ID questions on SFF is probably on a watchlist anyway. "Who is this person and why do they keep searching for variants of phrases about nuclear war?")
    – Rand al'Thor
    Oct 19, 2022 at 18:14
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    @Randal'Thor you are still logged in while performing these searches?
    – justhalf
    Oct 20, 2022 at 6:23
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    @justhalf You think that would stop Google from identifying you?
    – Arthur
    Oct 21, 2022 at 13:36

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