The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce - HTML preview
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THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY by
_The Devil's Dictionary_ was begun in a weekly paper in 1881, and was continued in a desultory way at long intervals until 1906. In that year a large part of it was published in covers with the title _The Cynic's Word Book_, a name which the author had not the power to reject or happiness to approve. To quote the publishers of the present work:
"This more reverent title had previously been forced upon him by the religious scruples of the last newspaper in which a part of the work had appeared, with the natural consequence that when it came out in covers the country already had been flooded by its imitators with a score of 'cynic' books -- _The Cynic's This_, _The Cynic's That_, and _The Cynic's t'Other_. Most of these books were merely stupid, though some of them added the distinction of silliness. Among them, they brought the word 'cynic' into disfavor so deep that any book bearing it was discredited in advance of publication."
Meantime, too, some of the enterprising humorists of the country had helped themselves to such parts of the work as served their needs, and many of its definitions, anecdotes, phrases and so forth, had become more or less current in popular speech. This explanation is made, not with any pride of priority in trifles, but in simple denial of possible charges of plagiarism, which is no trifle. In merely resuming his own the author hopes to be held guiltless by those to whom the work is addressed -- enlightened souls who prefer dry wines to sweet, sense to sentiment, wit to humor and clean English to slang.
A conspicuous, and it is hoped not unpleasant, feature of the book is its abundant illustrative quotations from eminent poets, chief of whom is that learned and ingenius cleric, Father Gassalasca Jape, S.J., whose lines bear his initials. To Father Jape's kindly encouragement and assistance the author of the prose text is greatly indebted.A.B. A
ABASEMENT, n. A decent and customary mental attitude in the presence of wealth of power. Peculiarly appropriate in an employee when addressing an employer.ABATIS, n. Rubbish in front of a fort, to prevent the rubbish outside from molesting the rubbish inside. ABDICATION, n. An act whereby a sovereign attests his sense of the high temperature of the throne.
Poor Isabella's Dead, whose abdication
Set all tongues wagging in the Spanish nation. For that performance 'twere unfair to scold her: She wisely left a throne too hot to hold her. To History she'll be no royal riddle --
Merely a plain parched pea that jumped the griddle.
ABDOMEN, n. The temple of the god Stomach, in whose worship, with sacrificial rights, all true men engage. From women this ancient faith commands but a stammering assent. They sometimes minister at the altar in a half-hearted and ineffective way, but true reverence for the one deity that men really adore they know not. If woman had a free hand in the world's marketing the race would become graminivorous.
ABILITY, n. The natural equipment to accomplish some small part of the meaner ambitions distinguishing able men from dead ones. In the last analysis ability is commonly found to consist mainly in a high degree of solemnity. Perhaps, however, this impressive quality is rightly appraised; it is no easy task to be solemn.
ABNORMAL, adj. Not conforming to standard. In matters of thought and conduct, to be independent is to be abnormal, to be abnormal is to be detested. Wherefore the lexicographer adviseth a striving toward the straiter [sic] resemblance of the Average Man than he hath to himself. Whoso attaineth thereto shall have peace, the prospect of death and the hope of Hell.ABORIGINIES, n. Persons of little worth found cumbering the soil of a newly discovered country. They soon cease to cumber; they fertilize. ABRACADABRA.
By _Abracadabra_ we signify
An infinite number of things.
'Tis the answer to What? and How? and Why?
And Whence? and Whither? -- a word whereby The Truth (with the comfort it brings)
Is open to all who grope in night,
Crying for Wisdom's holy light.
Whether the word is a verb or a noun Is knowledge beyond my reach.
I only know that 'tis handed down. From sage to sage,
From age to age --
An immortal part of speech!
Of an ancient man the tale is told
That he lived to be ten centuries old,
In a cave on a mountain side.
(True, he finally died.)
The fame of his wisdom filled the land,
For his head was bald, and you'll understand His beard was long and white
And his eyes uncommonly bright.
Philosophers gathered from far and near To sit at his feet and hear and hear, Though he never was heard
To utter a word
But "_Abracadabra, abracadab_, _Abracada, abracad_,
_Abraca, abrac, abra, ab!_"
'Twas all he had,
'Twas all they wanted to hear, and each
Made copious notes of the mystical speech, Which they published next -- A trickle of text
In the meadow of commentary. Mighty big books were these, In a number, as leaves of trees;
In learning, remarkably -- very!
As I said,
And the books of the sages have perished, But his wisdom is sacredly cherished. In _Abracadabra_ it solemnly rings, Like an ancient bell that forever swings.
O, I love to hear
That word make clear
Humanity's General Sense of Things.
When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for people to abridge their king, a decent respect for the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.Oliver Cromwell
ABRUPT, adj. Sudden, without ceremony, like the arrival of a cannon- shot and the departure of the soldier whose interests are most affected by it. Dr. Samuel Johnson beautifully said of another author's ideas that they were "concatenated without abruption."ABSCOND, v.i. To "move in a mysterious way," commonly with the property of another. Spring beckons! All things to the call respond; The trees are leaving and cashiers abscond. Phela Orm
ABSENT, adj. Peculiarly exposed to the tooth of detraction; vilifed; hopelessly in the wrong; superseded in the consideration and affection of another.
To men a man is but a mind. Who cares What face he carries or what form he wears? But woman's body is the woman. O,
Stay thou, my sweetheart, and do never go, But heed the warning words the sage hath said: A woman absent is a woman dead.
ABSOLUTE, adj. Independent, irresponsible. An absolute monarchy is one in which the sovereign does as he pleases so long as he pleases the assassins. Not many absolute monarchies are left, most of them having been replaced by limited monarchies, where the sovereign's power for evil (and for good) is greatly curtailed, and by republics, which are governed by chance.
ABSTAINER, n. A weak person who yields to the temptation of denying himself a pleasure. A total abstainer is one who abstains from everything but abstention, and especially from inactivity in the affairs of others.
Said a man to a crapulent youth: "I thought You a total abstainer, my son."
"So I am, so I am," said the scapegrace caught -- "But not, sir, a bigoted one."
ACCOMPLICE, n. One associated with another in a crime, having guilty knowledge and complicity, as an attorney who defends a criminal, knowing him guilty. This view of the attorney's position in the matter has not hitherto commanded the assent of attorneys, no one having offered them a fee for assenting.
ACCORD, n. Harmony. ACCORDION, n. An instrument in harmony with the sentiments of an assassin.ACCOUNTABILITY, n. The mother of caution.
"My accountability, bear in mind," Said the Grand Vizier: "Yes, yes,"
Said the Shah: "I do -- 'tis the only kind Of ability you possess."
ACEPHALOUS, adj. In the surprising condition of the Crusader who absently pulled at his forelock some hours after a Saracen scimitar had, unconsciously to him, passed through his neck, as related by de Joinville.ACHIEVEMENT, n. The death of endeavor and the birth of disgust. ACKNOWLEDGE, v.t. To confess. Acknowledgement of one another's faults is the highest duty imposed by our love of truth.
ACQUAINTANCE, n. A person whom we know well enough to borrow from, but not well enough to lend to. A degree of friendship called slight when its object is poor or obscure, and intimate when he is rich or famous.ACTUALLY, adv. Perhaps; possibly. ADAGE, n. Boned wisdom for weak teeth. ADAMANT, n. A mineral frequently found beneath a corset. Soluble in solicitate of gold. ADDER, n. A species of snake. So called from its habit of adding funeral outlays to the other expenses of living. ADHERENT, n. A follower who has not yet obtained all that he expects to get.
ADMINISTRATION, n. An ingenious abstraction in politics, designed to receive the kicks and cuffs due to the premier or president. A man of straw, proof against bad-egging and dead-catting.ADMIRAL, n. That part of a war-ship which does the talking while the figure-head does the thinking. ADMIRATION, n. Our polite recognition of another's resemblance to ourselves. ADMONITION, n. Gentle reproof, as with a meat-axe. Friendly warning. Consigned by way of admonition, His soul forever to perdition. Judibras ADORE, v.t. To venerate expectantly. ADVICE, n. The smallest current coin.
"The man was in such deep distress," Said Tom, "that I could do no less
Than give him good advice." Said Jim: "If less could have been done for him I know you well enough, my son,
To know that's what you would have done."
AGE, n. That period of life in which we compound for the vices that we still cherish by reviling those that we have no longer the enterprise to commit.AGITATOR, n. A statesman who shakes the fruit trees of his neighbors -- to dislodge the worms. AIM, n. The task we set our wishes to. "Cheer up! Have you no aim in life?"
She tenderly inquired.
"An aim? Well, no, I haven't, wife;
The fact is -- I have fired."
G.J. AIR, n. A nutritious substance supplied by a bountiful Providence for the fattening of the poor.ALDERMAN, n. An ingenious criminal who covers his secret thieving with a pretence of open marauding. ALIEN, n. An American sovereign in his probationary state. ALLAH, n. The Mahometan Supreme Being, as distinguished from the Christian, Jewish, and so forth. Allah's good laws I faithfully have kept, And ever for the sins of man have wept; And sometimes kneeling in the temple I Have reverently crossed my hands and slept. Junker Barlow ALLEGIANCE, n.
This thing Allegiance, as I suppose,
Is a ring fitted in the subject's nose,
Whereby that organ is kept rightly pointed To smell the sweetness of the Lord's anointed.
ALLIANCE, n. In international politics, the union of two thieves who have their hands so deeply inserted in each other's pockets that they cannot separately plunder a third.
ALLIGATOR, n. The crocodile of America, superior in every detail to the crocodile of the effete monarchies of the Old World. Herodotus says the Indus is, with one exception, the only river that produces crocodiles, but they appear to have gone West and grown up with the other rivers. From the notches on his back the alligator is called a sawrian.ALONE, adj. In bad company.
In contact, lo! the flint and steel, By spark and flame, the thought reveal That he the metal, she the stone, Had cherished secretly alone.
Booley Fito ALTAR, n. The place whereupon the priest formerly raveled out the small intestine of the sacrificial victim for purposes of divination and cooked its flesh for the gods. The word is now seldom used, except with reference to the sacrifice of their liberty and peace by a male and a female tool.
They stood before the altar and supplied The fire themselves in which their fat was fried. In vain the sacrifice! -- no god will claim An offering burnt with an unholy flame.M.P. Nopput AMBIDEXTROUS, adj. Able to pick with equal skill a right-hand pocket or a left. AMBITION, n. An overmastering desire to be vilified by enemies while living and made ridiculous by friends when dead. AMNESTY, n. The state's magnanimity to those offenders whom it would be too expensive to punish. ANOINT, v.t. To grease a king or other great functionary already sufficiently slippery. As sovereigns are anointed by the priesthood, So pigs to lead the populace are greased good. Judibras ANTIPATHY, n. The sentiment inspired by one's friend's friend. APHORISM, n. Predigested wisdom.
The flabby wine-skin of his brain Yields to some pathologic strain, And voids from its unstored abysm The driblet of an aphorism."The Mad Philosopher," 1697 APOLOGIZE, v.i. To lay the foundation for a future offence.
APOSTATE, n. A leech who, having penetrated the shell of a turtle only to find that the creature has long been dead, deems it expedient to form a new attachment to a fresh turtle.
APOTHECARY, n. The physician's accomplice, undertaker's benefactor and grave worm's provider.
When Jove sent blessings to all men that are, And Mercury conveyed them in a jar,
That friend of tricksters introduced by stealth Disease for the apothecary's health,
Whose gratitude impelled him to proclaim: "My deadliest drug shall bear my patron's name!"
If I were a jolly archbishop,
On Fridays I'd eat all the fish up -- Salmon and flounders and smelts; On other days everything else.
ARISTOCRACY, n. Government by the best men. (In this sense the word is obsolete; so is that kind of government.) Fellows that wear downy hats and clean shirts -- guilty of education and suspected of bank accounts.ARMOR, n. The kind of clothing worn by a man whose tailor is a blacksmith. ARRAYED, pp. Drawn up and given an orderly disposition, as a rioter hanged to a lamppost. ARREST, v.t. Formally to detain one accused of unusualness. God made the world in six days and was arrested on the seventh. _The Unauthorized Version_ ARSENIC, n. A kind of cosmetic greatly affected by the ladies, whom it greatly affects in turn. "Eat arsenic? Yes, all you get,"
Consenting, he did speak up; "'Tis better you should eat it, pet,
Than put it in my teacup."
One day a wag -- what would the wretch be at? -- Shifted a letter of the cipher RAT,
And said it was a god's name! Straight arose Fantastic priests and postulants (with shows, And mysteries, and mummeries, and hymns, And disputations dire that lamed their limbs) To serve his temple and maintain the fires, Expound the law, manipulate the wires.
Amazed, the populace that rites attend, Believe whate'er they cannot comprehend, And, inly edified to learn that two
Half-hairs joined so and so (as Art can do) Have sweeter values and a grace more fit Than Nature's hairs that never have been split, Bring cates and wines for sacrificial feasts, And sell their garments to support the priests.
ARTLESSNESS, n. A certain engaging quality to which women attain by long study and severe practice upon the admiring male, who is pleased to fancy it resembles the candid simplicity of his young.ASPERSE, v.t. Maliciously to ascribe to another vicious actions which one has not had the temptation and opportunity to commit.
ASS, n. A public singer with a good voice but no ear. In Virginia City, Nevada, he is called the Washoe Canary, in Dakota, the Senator, and everywhere the Donkey. The animal is widely and variously celebrated in the literature, art and religion of every age and country; no other so engages and fires the human imagination as this noble vertebrate. Indeed, it is doubted by some (Ramasilus, _lib. II., De Clem._, and C. Stantatus, _De Temperamente_) if it is not a god; and as such we know it was worshiped by the Etruscans, and, if we may believe Macrobious, by the Cupasians also. Of the only two animals admitted into the Mahometan Paradise along with the souls of men, the ass that carried Balaam is one, the dog of the Seven Sleepers the other. This is no small distinction. From what has been written about this beast might be compiled a library of great splendor and magnitude, rivalling that of the Shakespearean cult, and that which clusters about the Bible. It may be said, generally, that all literature is more or less Asinine.
"Hail, holy Ass!" the quiring angels sing; "Priest of Unreason, and of Discords King!" Great co-Creator, let Thy glory shine:
God made all else, the Mule, the Mule is thine!"
AUSTRALIA, n. A country lying in the South Sea, whose industrial and commercial development has been unspeakably retarded by an unfortunate dispute among geographers as to whether it is a continent or an island.
AVERNUS, n. The lake by which the ancients entered the infernal regions. The fact that access to the infernal regions was obtained by a lake is believed by the learned Marcus Ansello Scrutator to have suggested the Christian rite of baptism by immersion. This, however, has been shown by Lactantius to be an error.
_Facilis descensus Averni,_
The poet remarks; and the sense
Of it is that when down-hill I turn I Will get more of punches than pence.
B BAAL, n. An old deity formerly much worshiped under various names. As Baal he was popular with the Phoenicians; as Belus or Bel he had the honor to be served by the priest Berosus, who wrote the famous account of the Deluge; as Babel he had a tower partly erected to his glory on the Plain of Shinar. From Babel comes our English word "babble." Under whatever name worshiped, Baal is the Sun-god. As Beelzebub he is the god of flies, which are begotten of the sun's rays on the stagnant water. In Physicia Baal is still worshiped as Bolus, and as Belly he is adored and served with abundant sacrifice by the priests of Guttledom.
BABE or BABY, n. A misshapen creature of no particular age, sex, or condition, chiefly remarkable for the violence of the sympathies and antipathies it excites in others, itself without sentiment or emotion. There have been famous babes; for example, little Moses, from whose adventure in the bulrushes the Egyptian hierophants of seven centuries before doubtless derived their idle tale of the child Osiris being preserved on a floating lotus leaf.
Ere babes were invented
The girls were contended.
Now man is tormented
Until to buy babes he has squandered His money. And so I have pondered This thing, and thought may be 'T were better that Baby
The First had been eagled or condored.
Is public worship, then, a sin,
That for devotions paid to Bacchus
The lictors dare to run us in,
And resolutely thump and whack us?
BAIT, n. A preparation that renders the hook more palatable. The best kind is beauty.
BAPTISM, n. A sacred rite of such efficacy that he who finds himself in heaven without having undergone it will be unhappy forever. It is performed with water in two ways -- by immersion, or plunging, and by aspersion, or sprinkling.
But whether the plan of immersion Is better than simple aspersion Let those immersed
And those aspersed
Decide by the Authorized Version,
And by matching their agues tertian.
BASILISK, n. The cockatrice. A sort of serpent hatched form the egg of a cock. The basilisk had a bad eye, and its glance was fatal. Many infidels deny this creature's existence, but Semprello Aurator saw and handled one that had been blinded by lightning as a punishment for having fatally gazed on a lady of rank whom Jupiter loved. Juno afterward restored the reptile's sight and hid it in a cave. Nothing is so well attested by the ancients as the existence of the basilisk, but the cocks have stopped laying.BASTINADO, n. The act of walking on wood without exertion. BATH, n. A kind of mystic ceremony substituted for religious worship, with what spiritual efficacy has not been determined.
The man who taketh a steam bath He loseth all the skin he hath, And, for he's boiled a brilliant red, Thinketh to cleanliness he's wed, Forgetting that his lungs he's soiling With dirty vapors of the boiling.Richard Gwow BATTLE, n. A method of untying with the teeth of a political knot that would not yield to the tongue. BEARD, n. The hair that is commonly cut off by those who justly execrate the absurd Chinese custom of shaving the head. BEAUTY, n. The power by which a woman charms a lover and terrifies a husband. BEFRIEND, v.t. To make an ingrate. BEG, v. To ask for something with an earnestness proportioned to the belief that it will not be given.
Who is that, father?
A mendicant, child,
Haggard, morose, and unaffable -- wild!
See how he glares through the bars of his cell!
With Citizen Mendicant all is not well.
Oh, well, he was starving, my boy -- A state in which, doubtless, there's little of joy. No bite had he eaten for days, and his cry Was "Bread!" ever "Bread!"What's the matter with pie? With little to wear, he had nothing to sell; To beg was unlawful -- improper as well. Why didn't he work?
He would even have done that,
But men said: "Get out!" and the State remarked: "Scat!" I mention these incidents merely to show
That the vengeance he took was uncommonly low. Revenge, at the best, is the act of a Siou,
But for trifles --
There's little to tell: They sent him to jail, and they'll send him to -- well, The company's better than here we can boast, And there's --Bread for the needy, dear father? Um -- toast. Atka Mip BEGGAR, n. One who has relied on the assistance of his friends.
BEHAVIOR, n. Conduct, as determined, not by principle, but by breeding. The word seems to be somewhat loosely used in Dr. Jamrach Holobom's translation of the following lines from the _Dies Irae_:
Recordare, Jesu pie,
Quod sum causa tuae viae. Ne me perdas illa die.
Pray remember, sacred Savior,
Whose the thoughtless hand that gave your Death-blow. Pardon such behavior.
BELLADONNA, n. In Italian a beautiful lady; in English a deadly poison. A striking example of the essential identity of the two tongues.BENEDICTINES, n. An order of monks otherwise known as black friars.
She thought it a crow, but it turn out to be A monk of St. Benedict croaking a text.
"Here's one of an order of cooks," said she -- "Black friars in this world, fried black in the next."
BENEFACTOR, n. One who makes heavy purchases of ingratitude, without, however, materially affecting the price, which is still within the means of all.BERENICE'S HAIR, n. A constellation (_Coma Berenices_) named in honor of one who sacrificed her hair to save her husband.
Her locks an ancient lady gave
Her loving husband's life to save; And men -- they honored so the dame -- Upon some stars bestowed her name. But to our modern married fair,
Who'd give their lords to save their hair, No stellar recognition's given.
There are not stars enough in heaven.
BIRTH, n. The first and direst of all disasters. As to the nature of it there appears to be no uniformity. Castor and Pollux were born from the egg. Pallas came out of a skull. Galatea was once a block of stone. Peresilis, who wrote in the tenth century, avers that he grew up out of the ground where a priest had spilled holy water. It is known that Arimaxus was derived from a hole in the earth, made by a stroke of lightning. Leucomedon was the son of a cavern in Mount Aetna, and I have myself seen a man come out of a wine cellar.
BLACKGUARD, n. A man whose qualities, prepared for display like a box of berries in a market -- the fine ones on top -- have been opened on the wrong side. An inverted gentleman.
BLANK-VERSE, n. Unrhymed iambic pentameters -- the most difficult kind of English verse to write acceptably; a kind, therefore, much affected by those who cannot acceptably write any kind.
BODY-SNATCHER, n. A robber of grave-worms. One who supplies the young physicians with that with which the old physicians have supplied the undertaker. The hyena."One night," a doctor said, "last fall, I and my comrades, four in all, When visiting a graveyard stood Within the shadow of a wall. "While waiting for the moon to sink We saw a wild hyena slink About a new-made grave, and then Begin to excavate its brink! "Shocked by the horrid act, we made A sally from our ambuscade, And, falling on the unholy beast, Dispatched him with a pick and spade." Bettel K. Jhones BONDSMAN, n. A fool who, having property of his own, undertakes to become responsible for that entrusted to another to a third.
Philippe of Orleans wishing to appoint one of his favorites, a dissolute nobleman, to a high office, asked him what security he would be able to give. "I need no bondsmen," he replied, "for I can give you my word of honor." "And pray what may be the value of that?" inquired the amused Regent. "Monsieur, it is worth its weight in gold."BORE, n. A person who talks when you wish him to listen.
BOTANY, n. The science of vegetables -- those that are not good to eat, as well as those that are. It deals largely with their flowers, which are commonly badly designed, inartistic in color, and ill- smelling.BOTTLE-NOSED, adj. Having a nose created in the image of its maker.
BOUNDARY, n. In political geography, an imaginary line between two nations, separating the imaginary rights of one from the imaginary rights of the other.BOUNTY, n. The liberality of one who has much, in permitting one who has nothing to get all that he can.
A single swallow, it is said, devours ten millions of insects every year. The supplying of these insects I take to be a signal instance of the Creator's bounty in providing for the lives of His creatures.Henry Ward Beecher
BRAHMA, n. He who created the Hindoos, who are preserved by Vishnu and destroyed by Siva -- a rather neater division of labor than is found among the deities of some other nations. The Abracadabranese, for example, are created by Sin, maintained by Theft and destroyed by Folly. The priests of Brahma, like those of Abracadabranese, are holy and learned men who are never naughty.
O Brahma, thou rare old Divinity, First Person of the Hindoo Trinity, You sit there so calm and securely, With feet folded up so demurely -- You're the First Person Singular, surely.Polydore Smith
BRAIN, n. An apparatus with which we think what we think. That which distinguishes the man who is content to _be_ something from the man who wishes to _do_ something. A man of great wealth, or one who has been pitchforked into high station, has commonly such a headful of brain that his neighbors cannot keep their hats on. In our civilization, and under our republican form of government, brain is so highly honored that it is rewarded by exemption from the cares of office.
BRANDY, n. A cordial composed of one part thunder-and-lightning, one part remorse, two parts bloody murder, one part death-hell-and-the- grave and four parts clarified Satan. Dose, a headful all the time. Brandy is said by Dr. Johnson to be the drink of heroes. Only a hero will venture to drink it.BRIDE, n. A woman with a fine prospect of happiness behind her. BRUTE, n. See HUSBAND. C
CAABA, n. A large stone presented by the archangel Gabriel to the patriarch Abraham, and preserved at Mecca. The patriarch had perhaps asked the archangel for bread.CABBAGE, n. A familiar kitchen-garden vegetable about as large and wise as a man's head.
The cabbage is so called from Cabagius, a prince who on ascending the throne issued a decree appointing a High Council of Empire consisting of the members of his predecessor's Ministry and the cabbages in the royal garden. When any of his Majesty's measures of state policy miscarried conspicuously it was gravely announced that several members of the High Council had been beheaded, and his murmuring subjects were appeased.
CALAMITY, n. A more than commonly plain and unmistakable reminder that the affairs of this life are not of our own ordering. Calamities are of two kinds: misfortune to ourselves, and good fortune to others.CALLOUS, adj. Gifted with great fortitude to bear the evils afflicting another.
When Zeno was told that one of his enemies was no more he was observed to be deeply moved. "What!" said one of his disciples, "you weep at the death of an enemy?" "Ah, 'tis true," replied the great Stoic; "but you should see me smile at the death of a friend."CALUMNUS, n. A graduate of the School for Scandal.
CAMEL, n. A quadruped (the _Splaypes humpidorsus_) of great value to the show business. There are two kinds of camels -- the camel proper and the camel improper. It is the latter that is always exhibited.CANNIBAL, n. A gastronome of the old school who preserves the simple tastes and adheres to the natural diet of the pre-pork period. CANNON, n. An instrument employed in the rectification of national boundaries. CANONICALS, n. The motley worm by Jesters of the Court of Heaven.
CAPITAL, n. The seat of misgovernment. That which provides the fire, the pot, the dinner, the table and the knife and fork for the anarchist; the part of the repast that himself supplies is the disgrace before meat. _Capital Punishment_, a penalty regarding the justice and expediency of which many worthy persons -- including all the assassins -- entertain grave misgivings.CARMELITE, n. A mendicant friar of the order of Mount Carmel.
As Death was a-rising out one day,
Across Mount Camel he took his way, Where he met a mendicant monk, Some three or four quarters drunk,
With a holy leer and a pious grin,
Ragged and fat and as saucy as sin,
Who held out his hands and cried:
"Give, give in Charity's name, I pray.
Give in the name of the Church. O give,
Give that her holy sons may live!"
And Death replied,
Smiling long and wide:
"I'll give, holy father, I'll give thee -- a ride."
From his famous Pale Horse, with his spear; By the neck and the foot
Seized the fellow, and put
Him astride with his face to the rear. The Monarch laughed loud with a sound that fell Like clods on the coffin's sounding shell: "Ho, ho! A beggar on horseback, they say,Will ride to the devil!" -- and _thump_ Fell the flat of his dart on the rump Of the charger, which galloped away.
Faster and faster and faster it flew,
Till the rocks and the flocks and the trees that grew By the road were dim and blended and blue
To the wild, wild eyes
Of the rider -- in size
Resembling a couple of blackberry pies.
Death laughed again, as a tomb might laugh At a burial service spoiled,
And the mourners' intentions foiled
By the body erecting
Its head and objecting
Many a year and many a day
Have passed since these events away. The monk has long been a dusty corse, And Death has never recovered his horse.
For the friar got hold of its tail, And steered it within the pale
Of the monastery gray,
Where the beast was stabled and fed With barley and oil and bread
Till fatter it grew than the fattest friar, And so in due course was appointed Prior.
CARTESIAN, adj. Relating to Descartes, a famous philosopher, author of the celebrated dictum, _Cogito ergo sum_ -- whereby he was pleased to suppose he demonstrated the reality of human existence. The dictum might be improved, however, thus: _Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum_ -- "I think that I think, therefore I think that I am;" as close an approach to certainty as any philosopher has yet made.CAT, n. A soft, indestructible automaton provided by nature to be kicked when things go wrong in the domestic circle. This is a dog, This is a cat.
This is a frog,
This is a rat.
Run, dog, mew, cat.
Jump, frog, gnaw, rat.
CEMETERY, n. An isolated suburban spot where mourners match lies, poets write at a target and stone-cutters spell for a wager. The inscriptions following will serve to illustrate the success attained in these Olympian games:
His virtues were so conspicuous that his enemies, unable to overlook them, denied them, and his friends, to whose loose lives they were a rebuke, represented them as vices. They are here commemorated by his family, who shared them.In the earth we here prepare a Place to lay our little Clara. Thomas M. and Mary Frazer P.S. -- Gabriel will raise her.
CENTAUR, n. One of a race of persons who lived before the division of labor had been carried to such a pitch of differentiation, and who followed the primitive economic maxim, "Every man his own horse." The best of the lot was Chiron, who to the wisdom and virtues of the horse added the fleetness of man. The scripture story of the head of John the Baptist on a charger shows that pagan myths have somewhat sophisticated sacred history.
CERBERUS, n. The watch-dog of Hades, whose duty it was to guard the entrance -- against whom or what does not clearly appear; everybody, sooner or later, had to go there, and nobody wanted to carry off the entrance. Cerberus is known to have had three heads, and some of the poets have credited him with as many as a hundred. Professor Graybill, whose clerky erudition and profound knowledge of Greek give his opinion great weight, has averaged all the estimates, and makes the number twenty-seven -- a judgment that would be entirely conclusive is Professor Graybill had known (a) something about dogs, and (b) something about arithmetic.
CHILDHOOD, n. The period of human life intermediate between the idiocy of infancy and the folly of youth -- two removes from the sin of manhood and three from the remorse of age.
CHRISTIAN, n. One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor. One who follows the teachings of Christ in so far as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin.
I dreamed I stood upon a hill, and, lo!
The godly multitudes walked to and fro Beneath, in Sabbath garments fitly clad, With pious mien, appropriately sad,
While all the church bells made a solemn din -- A fire-alarm to those who lived in sin.
Then saw I gazing thoughtfully below,
With tranquil face, upon that holy show A tall, spare figure in a robe of white,
Whose eyes diffused a melancholy light. "God keep you, strange," I exclaimed. "You are No doubt (your habit shows it) from afar; And yet I entertain the hope that you,
Like these good people, are a Christian too." He raised his eyes and with a look so stern It made me with a thousand blushes burn Replied -- his manner with disdain was spiced: "What! I a Christian? No, indeed! I'm Christ."
CLAIRVOYANT, n. A person, commonly a woman, who has the power of seeing that which is invisible to her patron, namely, that he is a blockhead.
CLARIONET, n. An instrument of torture operated by a person with cotton in his ears. There are two instruments that are worse than a clarionet -- two clarionets.CLERGYMAN, n. A man who undertakes the management of our spiritual affairs as a method of better his temporal ones.
CLIO, n. One of the nine Muses. Clio's function was to preside over history -- which she did with great dignity, many of the prominent citizens of Athens occupying seats on the platform, the meetings being addressed by Messrs. Xenophon, Herodotus and other popular speakers.CLOCK, n. A machine of great moral value to man, allaying his concern for the future by reminding him what a lot of time remains to him.
A busy man complained one day: "I get no time!" "What's that you say?" Cried out his friend, a lazy quiz;
"You have, sir, all the time there is. There's plenty, too, and don't you doubt it -- We're never for an hour without it."
To thrifty J. Macpherson;
"See me -- I'm ready to divide
With any worthy person."
Sad Jamie: "That is very true --
The boast requires no backing; And all are worthy, sir, to you,
Who have what you are lacking."
COENOBITE, n. A man who piously shuts himself up to meditate upon the sin of wickedness; and to keep it fresh in his mind joins a
brotherhood of awful examples.
O Coenobite, O coenobite,
You differ from the anchorite,
With vollied prayers you wound Old Nick;
With dropping shots he makes him sick.
COMMERCE, n. A kind of transaction in which A plunders from B the goods of C, and for compensation B picks the pocket of D of money belonging to E.
COMMONWEALTH, n. An administrative entity operated by an incalculable multitude of political parasites, logically active but fortuitously efficient.
This commonwealth's capitol's corridors view, So thronged with a hungry and indolent crew Of clerks, pages, porters and all attaches
Whom rascals appoint and the populace pays That a cat cannot slip through the thicket of shins Nor hear its own shriek for the noise of their chins. On clerks and on pages, and porters, and all, Misfortune attend and disaster befall!
May life be to them a succession of hurts; May fleas by the bushel inhabit their shirts; May aches and diseases encamp in their bones, Their lungs full of tubercles, bladders of stones; May microbes, bacilli, their tissues infest, And tapeworms securely their bowels digest; May corn-cobs be snared without hope in their hair, And frequent impalement their pleasure impair. Disturbed be their dreams by the awful discourse Of audible sofas sepulchrally hoarse,
By chairs acrobatic and wavering floors -- The mattress that kicks and the pillow that snores! Sons of cupidity, cradled in sin!
Your criminal ranks may the death angel thin, Avenging the friend whom I couldn't work in.
COMPROMISE, n. Such an adjustment of conflicting interests as gives each adversary the satisfaction of thinking he has got what he ought not to have, and is deprived of nothing except what was justly his due.COMPULSION, n. The eloquence of power. CONDOLE, v.i. To show that bereavement is a smaller evil than sympathy. CONFIDANT, CONFIDANTE, n. One entrusted by A with the secrets of B, confided by _him_ to C. CONGRATULATION, n. The civility of envy. CONGRESS, n. A body of men who meet to repeal laws. CONNOISSEUR, n. A specialist who knows everything about something and nothing about anything else.
An old wine-bibber having been smashed in a railway collision, some wine was pouted on his lips to revive him. "Pauillac, 1873," he murmured and died.
CONSERVATIVE, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.
CONSUL, n. In American politics, a person who having failed to secure an office from the people is given one by the Administration on condition that he leave the country.CONSULT, v.i. To seek another's disapproval of a course already decided on. CONTEMPT, n. The feeling of a prudent man for an enemy who is too formidable safely to be opposed. CONTROVERSY, n. A battle in which spittle or ink replaces the injurious cannon-ball and the inconsiderate bayonet.
In controversy with the facile tongue --
That bloodless warfare of the old and young -- So seek your adversary to engage
That on himself he shall exhaust his rage, And, like a snake that's fastened to the ground, With his own fangs inflict the fatal wound. You ask me how this miracle is done?
Adopt his own opinions, one by one,
And taunt him to refute them; in his wrath He'll sweep them pitilessly from his path. Advance then gently all you wish to prove, Each proposition prefaced with, "As you've So well remarked," or, "As you wisely say, And I cannot dispute," or, "By the way,
This view of it which, better far expressed, Runs through your argument." Then leave the rest To him, secure that he'll perform his trust And prove your views intelligent and just.
CONVERSATION, n. A fair to the display of the minor mental commodities, each exhibitor being too intent upon the arrangement of his own wares to observe those of his neighbor.
CORONATION, n. The ceremony of investing a sovereign with the outward and visible signs of his divine right to be blown skyhigh with a dynamite bomb.
Fiercely the battle raged and, sad to tell, Our corporal heroically fell!
Fame from her height looked down upon the brawl And said: "He hadn't very far to fall."
In this small fish I take it that human wisdom is admirably figured and symbolized; for whereas the crayfish doth move only backward, and can have only retrospection, seeing naught but the perils already passed, so the wisdom of man doth not enable him to avoid the follies that beset his course, but only to apprehend their nature afterward.Sir James Merivale CREDITOR, n. One of a tribe of savages dwelling beyond the Financial Straits and dreaded for their desolating incursions. CREMONA, n. A high-priced violin made in Connecticut. CRITIC, n. A person who boasts himself hard to please because nobody tries to please him.
There is a land of pure delight, Beyond the Jordan's flood,
Where saints, apparelled all in white, Fling back the critic's mud.
And as he legs it through the skies, His pelt a sable hue,
He sorrows sore to recognize The missiles that he threw.
CROSS, n. An ancient religious symbol erroneously supposed to owe its significance to the most solemn event in the history of Christianity, but really antedating it by thousands of years. By many it has been believed to be identical with the _crux ansata_ of the ancient phallic worship, but it has been traced even beyond all that we know of that, to the rites of primitive peoples. We have to-day the White Cross as a symbol of chastity, and the Red Cross as a badge of benevolent neutrality in war. Having in mind the former, the reverend Father Gassalasca Jape smites the lyre to the effect following:
"Be good, be good!" the sisterhood Cry out in holy chorus,
And, to dissuade from sin, parade Their various charms before us.
But why, O why, has ne'er an eye Seen her of winsome manner
And youthful grace and pretty face Flaunting the White Cross banner?
Now where's the need of speech and screed To better our behaving?
A simpler plan for saving man
(But, first, is he worth saving?)
Is, dears, when he declines to flee From bad thoughts that beset him,
Ignores the Law as 't were a straw, And wants to sin -- don't let him.
CUNNING, n. The faculty that distinguishes a weak animal or person from a strong one. It brings its possessor much mental satisfaction and great material adversity. An Italian proverb says: "The furrier gets the skins of more foxes than asses."
CUPID, n. The so-called god of love. This bastard creation of a barbarous fancy was no doubt inflicted upon mythology for the sins of its deities. Of all unbeautiful and inappropriate conceptions this is the most reasonless and offensive. The notion of symbolizing sexual love by a semisexless babe, and comparing the pains of passion to the wounds of an arrow -- of introducing this pudgy homunculus into art grossly to materialize the subtle spirit and suggestion of the work -- this is eminently worthy of the age that, giving it birth, laid it on the doorstep of prosperity.
CURIOSITY, n. An objectionable quality of the female mind. The desire to know whether or not a woman is cursed with curiosity is one of the most active and insatiable passions of the masculine soul.
CURSE, v.t. Energetically to belabor with a verbal slap-stick. This is an operation which in literature, particularly in the drama, is commonly fatal to the victim. Nevertheless, the liability to a cursing is a risk that cuts but a small figure in fixing the rates of life insurance.
CYNIC, n. A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be. Hence the custom among the Scythians of plucking out a cynic's eyes to improve his vision.D
DAMN, v. A word formerly much used by the Paphlagonians, the meaning of which is lost. By the learned Dr. Dolabelly Gak it is believed to have been a term of satisfaction, implying the highest possible degree of mental tranquillity. Professor Groke, on the contrary, thinks it expressed an emotion of tumultuous delight, because it so frequently occurs in combination with the word _jod_ or _god_, meaning "joy." It would be with great diffidence that I should advance an opinion conflicting with that of either of these formidable authorities.
DANCE, v.i. To leap about to the sound of tittering music, preferably with arms about your neighbor's wife or daughter. There are many kinds of dances, but all those requiring the participation of the two sexes have two characteristics in common: they are conspicuously innocent, and warmly loved by the vicious.DANGER, n.
A savage beast which, when it sleeps, Man girds at and despises,
But takes himself away by leaps And bounds when it arises.
Ambat Delaso DARING, n. One of the most conspicuous qualities of a man in security.
DATARY, n. A high ecclesiastic official of the Roman Catholic Church, whose important function is to brand the Pope's bulls with the words _Datum Romae_. He enjoys a princely revenue and the friendship of God.
DAWN, n. The time when men of reason go to bed. Certain old men prefer to rise at about that time, taking a cold bath and a long walk with an empty stomach, and otherwise mortifying the flesh. They then point with pride to these practices as the cause of their sturdy health and ripe years; the truth being that they are hearty and old, not because of their habits, but in spite of them. The reason we find only robust persons doing this thing is that it has killed all the others who have tried it.
DAY, n. A period of twenty-four hours, mostly misspent. This period is divided into two parts, the day proper and the night, or day improper -- the former devoted to sins of business, the latter consecrated to the other sort. These two kinds of social activity overlap.DEAD, adj.
Done with the work of breathing; done With all the world; the mad race run Though to the end; the golden goal Attained and found to be a hole!Squatol Johnes DEBAUCHEE, n. One who has so earnestly pursued pleasure that he has had the misfortune to overtake it. DEBT, n. An ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slave- driver.
As, pent in an aquarium, the troutlet
Swims round and round his tank to find an outlet, Pressing his nose against the glass that holds him, Nor ever sees the prison that enfolds him; So the poor debtor, seeing naught around him, Yet feels the narrow limits that impound him, Grieves at his debt and studies to evade it, And finds at last he might as well have paid it.
Barlow S. Vode DECALOGUE, n. A series of commandments, ten in number -- just enough to permit an intelligent selection for observance, but not enough to embarrass the choice. Following is the revised edition of the Decalogue, calculated for this meridian.Thou shalt no God but me adore: 'Twere too expensive to have more. No images nor idols make For Robert Ingersoll to break. Take not God's name in vain; select A time when it will have effect. Work not on Sabbath days at all, But go to see the teams play ball. Honor thy parents. That creates For life insurance lower rates. Kill not, abet not those who kill; Thou shalt not pay thy butcher's bill. Kiss not thy neighbor's wife, unless Thine own thy neighbor doth caress Don't steal; thou'lt never thus compete Successfully in business. Cheat. Bear not false witness -- that is low -- But "hear 'tis rumored so and so." Cover thou naught that thou hast not By hook or crook, or somehow, got. G.J. DECIDE, v.i. To succumb to the preponderance of one set of influences over another set. A leaf was riven from a tree, "I mean to fall to earth," said he. The west wind, rising, made him veer. "Eastward," said he, "I now shall steer."
The east wind rose with greater force. Said he: "'Twere wise to change my course." With equal power they contend. He said: "My judgment I suspend."Down died the winds; the leaf, elate, Cried: "I've decided to fall straight." "First thoughts are best?" That's not the moral; Just choose your own and we'll not quarrel. Howe'er your choice may chance to fall, You'll have no hand in it at all. G.J. DEFAME, v.t. To lie about another. To tell the truth about another. DEFENCELESS, adj. Unable to attack.
DEGENERATE, adj. Less conspicuously admirable than one's ancestors. The contemporaries of Homer were striking examples of degeneracy; it required ten of them to raise a rock or a riot that one of the heroes of the Trojan war could have raised with ease. Homer never tires of sneering at "men who live in these degenerate days," which is perhaps why they suffered him to beg his bread -- a marked instance of returning good for evil, by the way, for if they had forbidden him he would certainly have starved.DEGRADATION, n. One of the stages of moral and social progress from private station to political preferment.
DEINOTHERIUM, n. An extinct pachyderm that flourished when the Pterodactyl was in fashion. The latter was a native of Ireland, its name being pronounced Terry Dactyl or Peter O'Dactyl, as the man pronouncing it may chance to have heard it spoken or seen it printed.DEJEUNER, n. The breakfast of an American who has been in Paris. Variously pronounced. DELEGATION, n. In American politics, an article of merchandise that comes in sets. DELIBERATION, n. The act of examining one's bread to determine which side it is buttered on. DELUGE, n. A notable first experiment in baptism which washed away the sins (and sinners) of the world.
DELUSION, n. The father of a most respectable family, comprising Enthusiasm, Affection, Self-denial, Faith, Hope, Charity and many other goodly sons and daughters.
All hail, Delusion! Were it not for thee The world turned topsy-turvy we should see; For Vice, respectable with cleanly fancies, Would fly abandoned Virtue's gross advances.Mumfrey Mappel DENTIST, n. A prestidigitator who, putting metal into your mouth, pulls coins out of your pocket. DEPENDENT, adj. Reliant upon another's generosity for the support which you are not in a position to exact from his fears.
DEPUTY, n. A male relative of an office-holder, or of his bondsman. The deputy is commonly a beautiful young man, with a red necktie and an intricate system of cobwebs extending from his nose to his desk. When accidentally struck by the janitor's broom, he gives off a cloud of dust.
"Chief Deputy," the Master cried,
"To-day the books are to be tried
By experts and accountants who
Have been commissioned to go through Our office here, to see if we
Have stolen injudiciously.
Please have the proper entries made, The proper balances displayed,
Conforming to the whole amount
Of cash on hand -- which they will count. I've long admired your punctual way -- Here at the break and close of day, Confronting in your chair the crowd Of business men, whose voices loud And gestures violent you quell
By some mysterious, calm spell -- Some magic lurking in your look
That brings the noisiest to book
And spreads a holy and profound Tranquillity o'er all around.
So orderly all's done that they
Who came to draw remain to pay. But now the time demands, at last, That you employ your genius vast In energies more active. Rise
And shake the lightnings from your eyes; Inspire your underlings, and fling Your spirit into everything!"
The Master's hand here dealt a whack Upon the Deputy's bent back,
When straightway to the floor there fell A shrunken globe, a rattling shell A blackened, withered, eyeless head! The man had been a twelvemonth dead.
Hearst kept a diary wherein were writ
All that he had of wisdom and of wit.
So the Recording Angel, when Hearst died, Erased all entries of his own and cried:
"I'll judge you by your diary." Said Hearst: "Thank you; 'twill show you I am Saint the First" -- Straightway producing, jubilant and proud, That record from a pocket in his shroud.
The Angel slowly turned the pages o'er,
Each stupid line of which he knew before, Glooming and gleaming as by turns he hit On Shallow sentiment and stolen wit;
Then gravely closed the book and gave it back. "My friend, you've wandered from your proper track: You'd never be content this side the tomb -- For big ideas Heaven has little room,
And Hell's no latitude for making mirth,"
He said, and kicked the fellow back to earth.
DIE, n. The singular of "dice." We seldom hear the word, because there is a prohibitory proverb, "Never say die." At long intervals, however, some one says: "The die is cast," which is not true, for it is cut. The word is found in an immortal couplet by that eminent poet and domestic economist, Senator Depew:A cube of cheese no larger than a die May bait the trap to catch a nibbling mie.
DIGESTION, n. The conversion of victuals into virtues. When the process is imperfect, vices are evolved instead -- a circumstance from which that wicked writer, Dr. Jeremiah Blenn, infers that the ladies are the greater sufferers from dyspepsia.DIPLOMACY, n. The patriotic art of lying for one's country. DISABUSE, v.t. The present your neighbor with another and better error than the one which he has deemed it advantageous to embrace. DISCRIMINATE, v.i. To note the particulars in which one person or thing is, if possible, more objectionable than another. DISCUSSION, n. A method of confirming others in their errors. DISOBEDIENCE, n. The silver lining to the cloud of servitude. DISOBEY, v.t. To celebrate with an appropriate ceremony the maturity of a command.
His right to govern me is clear as day, My duty manifest to disobey;
And if that fit observance e'er I shut May I and duty be alike undone.
DISTRESS, n. A disease incurred by exposure to the prosperity of a friend.
DIVINATION, n. The art of nosing out the occult. Divination is of as many kinds as there are fruit-bearing varieties of the flowering dunce and the early fool.
DOG, n. A kind of additional or subsidiary Deity designed to catch the overflow and surplus of the world's worship. This Divine Being in some of his smaller and silkier incarnations takes, in the affection of Woman, the place to which there is no human male aspirant. The Dog is a survival -- an anachronism. He toils not, neither does he spin, yet Solomon in all his glory never lay upon a door-mat all day long, sun-soaked and fly-fed and fat, while his master worked for the means wherewith to purchase the idle wag of the Solomonic tail, seasoned with a look of tolerant recognition.
DRAGOON, n. A soldier who combines dash and steadiness in so equal measure that he makes his advances on foot and his retreats on horseback.DRAMATIST, n. One who adapts plays from the French.
DRUIDS, n. Priests and ministers of an ancient Celtic religion which did not disdain to employ the humble allurement of human sacrifice. Very little is now known about the Druids and their faith. Pliny says their religion, originating in Britain, spread eastward as far as Persia. Caesar says those who desired to study its mysteries went to Britain. Caesar himself went to Britain, but does not appear to have obtained any high preferment in the Druidical Church, although his talent for human sacrifice was considerable.
Druids performed their religious rites in groves, and knew nothing of church mortgages and the season-ticket system of pew rents. They were, in short, heathens and -- as they were once complacently catalogued by a distinguished prelate of the Church of England -- Dissenters.DUCK-BILL, n. Your account at your restaurant during the canvas-back season.
DUEL, n. A formal ceremony preliminary to the reconciliation of two enemies. Great skill is necessary to its satisfactory observance; if awkwardly performed the most unexpected and deplorable consequences sometimes ensue. A long time ago a man lost his life in a duel.
That dueling's a gentlemanly vice
I hold; and wish that it had been my lot To live my life out in some favored spot --
Some country where it is considered nice To split a rival like a fish, or slice
A husband like a spud, or with a shot Bring down a debtor doubled in a knot And ready to be put upon the ice.
Some miscreants there are, whom I do long To shoot, to stab, or some such way reclaim
The scurvy rogues to better lives and manners,
I seem to see them now -- a mighty throng. It looks as if to challenge _me_ they came,
Jauntily marching with brass bands and banners!
DULLARD, n. A member of the reigning dynasty in letters and life. The Dullards came in with Adam, and being both numerous and sturdy have overrun the habitable world. The secret of their power is their insensibility to blows; tickle them with a bludgeon and they laugh with a platitude. The Dullards came originally from Boeotia, whence they were driven by stress of starvation, their dullness having blighted the crops. For some centuries they infested Philistia, and many of them are called Philistines to this day. In the turbulent times of the Crusades they withdrew thence and gradually overspread all Europe, occupying most of the high places in politics, art, literature, science and theology. Since a detachment of Dullards came over with the Pilgrims in the _Mayflower_ and made a favorable report of the country, their increase by birth, immigration, and conversion has been rapid and steady. According to the most trustworthy statistics the number of adult Dullards in the United States is but little short of thirty millions, including the statisticians. The intellectual centre of the race is somewhere about Peoria, Illinois, but the New England Dullard is the most shockingly moral.DUTY, n. That which sternly impels us in the direction of profit, along the line of desire.
Sir Lavender Portwine, in favor at court, Was wroth at his master, who'd kissed Lady Port. His anger provoked him to take the king's head, But duty prevailed, and he took the king's bread,Instead. G.J. E EAT, v.i. To perform successively (and successfully) the functions of mastication, humectation, and deglutition.
"I was in the drawing-room, enjoying my dinner," said Brillat- Savarin, beginning an anecdote. "What!" interrupted Rochebriant; "eating dinner in a drawing-room?" "I must beg you to observe, monsieur," explained the great gastronome, "that I did not say I was eating my dinner, but enjoying it. I had dined an hour before."EAVESDROP, v.i. Secretly to overhear a catalogue of the crimes and vices of another or yourself.
A lady with one of her ears applied
To an open keyhole heard, inside,
Two female gossips in converse free -- The subject engaging them was she. "I think," said one, "and my husband thinks That she's a prying, inquisitive minx!" As soon as no more of it she could hear The lady, indignant, removed her ear. "I will not stay," she said, with a pout, "To hear my character lied about!"
EDIBLE, adj. Good to eat, and wholesome to digest, as a worm to a toad, a toad to a snake, a snake to a pig, a pig to a man, and a man to a worm.
EDITOR, n. A person who combines the judicial functions of Minos, Rhadamanthus and Aeacus, but is placable with an obolus; a severely virtuous censor, but so charitable withal that he tolerates the virtues of others and the vices of himself; who flings about him the splintering lightning and sturdy thunders of admonition till he resembles a bunch of firecrackers petulantly uttering his mind at the tail of a dog; then straightway murmurs a mild, melodious lay, soft as the cooing of a donkey intoning its prayer to the evening star. Master of mysteries and lord of law, high-pinnacled upon the throne of thought, his face suffused with the dim splendors of the
Transfiguration, his legs intertwisted and his tongue a-cheek, the editor spills his will along the paper and cuts it off in lengths to suit. And at intervals from behind the veil of the temple is heard the voice of the foreman demanding three inches of wit and six lines of religious meditation, or bidding him turn off the wisdom and whack up some pathos.
O, the Lord of Law on the Throne of Thought,
A gilded impostor is he.
Of shreds and patches his robes are wrought, His crown is brass,
Himself an ass,
And his power is fiddle-dee-dee.
Prankily, crankily prating of naught,
Silly old quilly old Monarch of Thought.
EFFECT, n. The second of two phenomena which always occur together in the same order. The first, called a Cause, is said to generate the other -- which is no more sensible than it would be for one who has never seen a dog except in the pursuit of a rabbit to declare the rabbit the cause of a dog.EGOTIST, n. A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me.
Megaceph, chosen to serve the State
In the halls of legislative debate,
One day with all his credentials came
To the capitol's door and announced his name. The doorkeeper looked, with a comical twist Of the face, at the eminent egotist,
And said: "Go away, for we settle here
All manner of questions, knotty and queer, And we cannot have, when the speaker demands To be told how every member stands,
A man who to all things under the sky
Assents by eternally voting 'I'."
ELECTRICITY, n. The power that causes all natural phenomena not known to be caused by something else. It is the same thing as lightning, and its famous attempt to strike Dr. Franklin is one of the most picturesque incidents in that great and good man's career. The memory of Dr. Franklin is justly held in great reverence, particularly in France, where a waxen effigy of him was recently on exhibition, bearing the following touching account of his life and services to science:
"Monsieur Franqulin, inventor of electricity. This
illustrious savant, after having made several voyages around the world, died on the Sandwich Islands and was devoured by savages, of whom not a single fragment was ever recovered."
Electricity seems destined to play a most important part in the arts and industries. The question of its economical application to some purposes is still unsettled, but experiment has already proved that it will propel a street car better than a gas jet and give more light than a horse.
ELEGY, n. A composition in verse, in which, without employing any of the methods of humor, the writer aims to produce in the reader's mind the dampest kind of dejection. The most famous English example begins somewhat like this:
The cur foretells the knell of parting day; The loafing herd winds slowly o'er the lea;
The wise man homeward plods; I only stay To fiddle-faddle in a minor key.
ELOQUENCE, n. The art of orally persuading fools that white is the color that it appears to be. It includes the gift of making any color appear white.
ELYSIUM, n. An imaginary delightful country which the ancients foolishly believed to be inhabited by the spirits of the good. This ridiculous and mischievous fable was swept off the face of the earth by the early Christians -- may their souls be happy in Heaven!EMANCIPATION, n. A bondman's change from the tyranny of another to the despotism of himself.
He was a slave: at word he went and came; His iron collar cut him to the bone.
Then Liberty erased his owner's name, Tightened the rivets and inscribed his own.
EMBALM, v.i. To cheat vegetation by locking up the gases upon which it feeds. By embalming their dead and thereby deranging the natural balance between animal and vegetable life, the Egyptians made their once fertile and populous country barren and incapable of supporting more than a meagre crew. The modern metallic burial casket is a step in the same direction, and many a dead man who ought now to be ornamenting his neighbor's lawn as a tree, or enriching his table as a bunch of radishes, is doomed to a long inutility. We shall get him after awhile if we are spared, but in the meantime the violet and rose are languishing for a nibble at his _glutoeus maximus_.
EMOTION, n. A prostrating disease caused by a determination of the heart to the head. It is sometimes accompanied by a copious discharge of hydrated chloride of sodium from the eyes.ENCOMIAST, n. A special (but not particular) kind of liar. END, n. The position farthest removed on either hand from the Interlocutor.
The man was perishing apace Who played the tambourine;
The seal of death was on his face -- 'Twas pallid, for 'twas clean.
"This is the end," the sick man said In faint and failing tones.
A moment later he was dead, And Tambourine was Bones.
ENTHUSIASM, n. A distemper of youth, curable by small doses of repentance in connection with outward applications of experience. Byron, who recovered long enough to call it "entuzy-muzy," had a relapse, which carried him off -- to Missolonghi.ENVELOPE, n. The coffin of a document; the scabbard of a bill; the husk of a remittance; the bed-gown of a love-letter.
ENVY, n. Emulation adapted to the meanest capacity. EPAULET, n. An ornamented badge, serving to distinguish a military officer from the enemy -- that is to say, from the officer of lower rank to whom his death would give promotion.
EPICURE, n. An opponent of Epicurus, an abstemious philosopher who, holding that pleasure should be the chief aim of man, wasted no time in gratification from the senses.
EPIGRAM, n. A short, sharp saying in prose or verse, frequently characterize by acidity or acerbity and sometimes by wisdom. Following are some of the more notable epigrams of the learned and ingenious Dr. Jamrach Holobom:We know better the needs of ourselves than of others. To serve oneself is economy of administration.
In each human heart are a tiger, a pig, an ass and a nightingale. Diversity of character is due to their unequal activity.There are three sexes; males, females and girls.
Beauty in women and distinction in men are alike in this: they seem to be the unthinking a kind of credibility.
Women in love are less ashamed than men. They have less to be ashamed of.
Here lie the bones of Parson Platt, Wise, pious, humble and all that, Who showed us life as all should live it; Let that be said -- and God forgive it!ERUDITION, n. Dust shaken out of a book into an empty skull.
So wide his erudition's mighty span,
He knew Creation's origin and plan
And only came by accident to grief --
He thought, poor man, 'twas right to be a thief.
ESOTERIC, adj. Very particularly abstruse and consummately occult. The ancient philosophies were of two kinds, -- _exoteric_, those that the philosophers themselves could partly understand, and _esoteric_, those that nobody could understand. It is the latter that have most profoundly affected modern thought and found greatest acceptance in our time.
ETHNOLOGY, n. The science that treats of the various tribes of Man, as robbers, thieves, swindlers, dunces, lunatics, idiots and ethnologists.
EUCHARIST, n. A sacred feast of the religious sect of Theophagi. A dispute once unhappily arose among the members of this sect as
to what it was that they ate. In this controversy some five hundred
thousand have already been slain, and the question is still unsettled.
EVANGELIST, n. A bearer of good tidings, particularly (in a religious sense) such as assure us of our own salvation and the damnation of our neighbors.
EVERLASTING, adj. Lasting forever. It is with no small diffidence that I venture to offer this brief and elementary definition, for I am not unaware of the existence of a bulky volume by a sometime Bishop of Worcester, entitled, _A Partial Definition of the Word "Everlasting," as Used in the Authorized Version of the Holy Scriptures_. His book was once esteemed of great authority in the Anglican Church, and is still, I understand, studied with pleasure to the mind and profit of the soul.
EXCEPTION, n. A thing which takes the liberty to differ from other things of its class, as an honest man, a truthful woman, etc. "The exception proves the rule" is an expression constantly upon the lips of the ignorant, who parrot it from one another with never a thought of its absurdity. In the Latin, "_Exceptio probat regulam_" means that the exception _tests_ the rule, puts it to the proof, not _confirms_ it. The malefactor who drew the meaning from this excellent dictum and substituted a contrary one of his own exerted an evil power which appears to be immortal.EXCESS, n. In morals, an indulgence that enforces by appropriate penalties the law of moderation.
Hail, high Excess -- especially in wine, To thee in worship do I bend the knee Who preach abstemiousness unto me --My skull thy pulpit, as my paunch thy shrine. Precept on precept, aye, and line on line,
Could ne'er persuade so sweetly to agree With reason as thy touch, exact and free, Upon my forehead and along my spine. At thy command eschewing pleasure's cup,
With the hot grape I warm no more my wit; When on thy stool of penitence I sit I'm quite converted, for I can't get up. Ungrateful he who afterward would falter To make new sacrifices at thine altar!EXCOMMUNICATION, n.
This "excommunication" is a word
In speech ecclesiastical oft heard,
And means the damning, with bell, book and candle, Some sinner whose opinions are a scandal -- A rite permitting Satan to enslave him
Forever, and forbidding Christ to save him.
EXECUTIVE, n. An officer of the Government, whose duty it is to enforce the wishes of the legislative power until such time as the judicial department shall be pleased to pronounce them invalid and of no effect. Following is an extract from an old book entitled, _The Lunarian Astonished_ -- Pfeiffer & Co., Boston, 1803:
LUNARIAN: Then when your Congress has passed a law it goes directly to the Supreme Court in order that it may at once be known whether it is constitutional?
TERRESTRIAN: O no; it does not require the approval of the Supreme Court until having perhaps been enforced for many years somebody objects to its operation against himself -- I mean his client. The President, if he approves it, begins to execute it at once.
LUNARIAN: Ah, the executive power is a part of the legislative. Do your policemen also have to approve the local ordinances that they enforce?
TERRESTRIAN: Not yet -- at least not in their character of constables. Generally speaking, though, all laws require the approval of those whom they are intended to restrain.
LUNARIAN: I see. The death warrant is not valid until signed by the murderer.
TERRESTRIAN: My friend, you put it too strongly; we are not so consistent.
LUNARIAN: But this system of maintaining an expensive judicial machinery to pass upon the validity of laws only after they have long been executed, and then only when brought before the court by some private person -- does it not cause great confusion?
TERRESTRIAN: It does.
LUNARIAN: Why then should not your laws, previously to being executed, be validated, not by the signature of your
President, but by that of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court?
TERRESTRIAN: There is no precedent for any such course.
LUNARIAN: Precedent. What is that?
TERRESTRIAN: It has been defined by five hundred lawyers in three volumes each. So how can any one know?
An English sea-captain being asked if he had read "The Exile of Erin," replied: "No, sir, but I should like to anchor on it." Years afterwards, when he had been hanged as a pirate after a career of unparalleled atrocities, the following memorandum was found in the ship's log that he had kept at the time of his reply:Aug. 3d, 1842. Made a joke on the ex-Isle of Erin. Coldly received. War with the whole world! EXISTENCE, n.
A transient, horrible, fantastic dream, Wherein is nothing yet all things do seem: From which we're wakened by a friendly nudge Of our bedfellow Death, and cry: "O fudge!"EXPERIENCE, n. The wisdom that enables us to recognize as an undesirable old acquaintance the folly that we have already embraced.
To one who, journeying through night and fog, Is mired neck-deep in an unwholesome bog, Experience, like the rising of the dawn, Reveals the path that he should not have gone.Joel Frad Bink EXPOSTULATION, n. One of the many methods by which fools prefer to lose their friends. EXTINCTION, n. The raw material out of which theology created the future state. F
FAIRY, n. A creature, variously fashioned and endowed, that formerly inhabited the meadows and forests. It was nocturnal in its habits, and somewhat addicted to dancing and the theft of children. The fairies are now believed by naturalist to be extinct, though a clergyman of the Church of England saw three near Colchester as lately as 1855, while passing through a park after dining with the lord of the manor. The sight greatly staggered him, and he was so affected that his account of it was incoherent. In the year 1807 a troop of fairies visited a wood near Aix and carried off the daughter of a peasant, who had been seen to enter it with a bundle of clothing. The son of a wealthy _bourgeois_ disappeared about the same time, but afterward returned. He had seen the abduction been in pursuit of the fairies. Justinian Gaux, a writer of the fourteenth century, avers that so great is the fairies' power of transformation that he saw one change itself into two opposing armies and fight a battle with great slaughter, and that the next day, after it had resumed its original shape and gone away, there were seven hundred bodies of the slain which the villagers had to bury. He does not say if any of the wounded recovered. In the time of Henry III, of England, a law was made which prescribed the death penalty for "Kyllynge, wowndynge, or mamynge" a fairy, and it was universally respected.FAITH, n. Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel. FAMOUS, adj. Conspicuously miserable.
Done to a turn on the iron, behold
Him who to be famous aspired.
Content? Well, his grill has a plating of gold, And his twistings are greatly admired.
A king there was who lost an eye In some excess of passion;
And straight his courtiers all did try To follow the new fashion.
Each dropped one eyelid when before The throne he ventured, thinking
'Twould please the king. That monarch swore He'd slay them all for winking.
What should they do? They were not hot To hazard such disaster;
They dared not close an eye -- dared not See better than their master.
Seeing them lacrymose and glum, A leech consoled the weepers:
He spread small rags with liquid gum And covered half their peepers.
The court all wore the stuff, the flame Of royal anger dying.
That's how court-plaster got its name Unless I'm greatly lying.
FEAST, n. A festival. A religious celebration usually signalized by gluttony and drunkenness, frequently in honor of some holy person distinguished for abstemiousness. In the Roman Catholic Church feasts are "movable" and "immovable," but the celebrants are uniformly immovable until they are full. In their earliest development these entertainments took the form of feasts for the dead; such were held by the Greeks, under the name _Nemeseia_, by the Aztecs and Peruvians, as in modern times they are popular with the Chinese; though it is believed that the ancient dead, like the modern, were light eaters. Among the many feasts of the Romans was the _Novemdiale_, which was held, according to Livy, whenever stones fell from heaven.FELON, n. A person of greater enterprise than discretion, who in embracing an opportunity has formed an unfortunate attachment. FEMALE, n. One of the opposing, or unfair, sex.
The Maker, at Creation's birth,
With living things had stocked the earth. From elephants to bats and snails, They all were good, for all were males. But when the Devil came and saw He said: "By Thine eternal law
Of growth, maturity, decay,
These all must quickly pass away And leave untenanted the earth
Unless Thou dost establish birth" -- Then tucked his head beneath his wing To laugh -- he had no sleeve -- the thing With deviltry did so accord,
That he'd suggested to the Lord.
The Master pondered this advice,
Then shook and threw the fateful dice Wherewith all matters here below
Are ordered, and observed the throw; Then bent His head in awful state,
Confirming the decree of Fate.
From every part of earth anew
The conscious dust consenting flew,
While rivers from their courses rolled To make it plastic for the mould.
Enough collected (but no more,
For niggard Nature hoards her store) He kneaded it to flexible clay,
While Nick unseen threw some away. And then the various forms He cast,
Gross organs first and finer last;
No one at once evolved, but all
By even touches grew and small
Degrees advanced, till, shade by shade, To match all living things He'd made
Females, complete in all their parts
Except (His clay gave out) the hearts. "No matter," Satan cried; "with speed
I'll fetch the very hearts they need" -- So flew away and soon brought back
The number needed, in a sack.
That night earth range with sounds of strife -- Ten million males each had a wife;
That night sweet Peace her pinions spread O'er Hell -- ten million devils dead!
When David said: "All men are liars," Dave, Himself a liar, fibbed like any thief.
Perhaps he thought to weaken disbelief
By proof that even himself was not a slave To Truth; though I suspect the aged knave Had been of all her servitors the chief
Had he but known a fig's reluctant leaf Is more than e'er she wore on land or wave. No, David served not Naked Truth when heStruck that sledge-hammer blow at all his race; Nor did he hit the nail upon the head: For reason shows that it could never be, And the facts contradict him to his face. Men are not liars all, for some are dead. Bartle Quinker FICKLENESS, n. The iterated satiety of an enterprising affection. FIDDLE, n. An instrument to tickle human ears by friction of a horse's tail on the entrails of a cat.
To Rome said Nero: "If to smoke you turn I shall not cease to fiddle while you burn." To Nero Rome replied: "Pray do your worst, 'Tis my excuse that you were fiddling first."Orm Pludge FIDELITY, n. A virtue peculiar to those who are about to be betrayed.
FINANCE, n. The art or science of managing revenues and resources for the best advantage of the manager. The pronunciation of this word with the i long and the accent on the first syllable is one of America's most precious discoveries and possessions.
FLAG, n. A colored rag borne above troops and hoisted on forts and ships. It appears to serve the same purpose as certain signs that one sees and vacant lots in London -- "Rubbish may be shot here."FLESH, n. The Second Person of the secular Trinity.
FLOP, v. Suddenly to change one's opinions and go over to another party. The most notable flop on record was that of Saul of Tarsus, who has been severely criticised as a turn-coat by some of our partisan journals.
FLY-SPECK, n. The prototype of punctuation. It is observed by Garvinus that the systems of punctuation in use by the various literary nations depended originally upon the social habits and general diet of the flies infesting the several countries. These creatures, which have always been distinguished for a neighborly and companionable familiarity with authors, liberally or niggardly embellish the manuscripts in process of growth under the pen, according to their bodily habit, bringing out the sense of the work by a species of interpretation superior to, and independent of, the writer's powers. The "old masters" of literature -- that is to say, the early writers whose work is so esteemed by later scribes and critics in the same language -- never punctuated at all, but worked right along free-handed, without that abruption of the thought which comes from the use of points. (We observe the same thing in children to-day, whose usage in this particular is a striking and beautiful instance of the law that the infancy of individuals reproduces the methods and stages of development characterizing the infancy of races.) In the work of these primitive scribes all the punctuation is found, by the modern investigator with his optical instruments and chemical tests, to have been inserted by the writers' ingenious and serviceable collaborator, the common house-fly -- _Musca maledicta_. In transcribing these ancient MSS, for the purpose of either making the work their own or preserving what they naturally regard as divine revelations, later writers reverently and accurately copy whatever marks they find upon the papyrus or parchment, to the unspeakable enhancement of the lucidity of the thought and value of the work. Writers contemporary with the copyists naturally avail themselves of the obvious advantages of these marks in their own work, and with such assistance as the flies of their own household may be willing to grant, frequently rival and sometimes surpass the older compositions, in respect at least of punctuation, which is no small glory. Fully to understand the important services that flies perform to literature it is only necessary to lay a page of some popular novelist alongside a saucer of cream-and-molasses in a sunny room and observe "how the wit brightens and the style refines" in accurate proportion to the duration of exposure.
FOLLY, n. That "gift and faculty divine" whose creative and controlling energy inspires Man's mind, guides his actions and adorns his life.
Folly! although Erasmus praised thee once In a thick volume, and all authors known, If not thy glory yet thy power have shown,
Deign to take homage from thy son who hunts Through all thy maze his brothers, fool and dunce, To mend their lives and to sustain his own, However feebly be his arrows thrown,
Howe'er each hide the flying weapons blunts. All-Father Folly! be it mine to raise,
With lusty lung, here on his western strand With all thine offspring thronged from every land,
Thyself inspiring me, the song of praise.
And if too weak, I'll hire, to help me bawl,
Dick Watson Gilder, gravest of us all.
FOOL, n. A person who pervades the domain of intellectual speculation and diffuses himself through the channels of moral activity. He is omnific, omniform, omnipercipient, omniscience, omnipotent. He it was who invented letters, printing, the railroad, the steamboat, the telegraph, the platitude and the circle of the sciences. He created patriotism and taught the nations war -- founded theology, philosophy, law, medicine and Chicago. He established monarchical and republican government. He is from everlasting to everlasting -- such as creation's dawn beheld he fooleth now. In the morning of time he sang upon primitive hills, and in the noonday of existence headed the procession of being. His grandmotherly hand was warmly tucked-in the set sun of civilization, and in the twilight he prepares Man's evening meal of milk-and-morality and turns down the covers of the universal grave. And after the rest of us shall have retired for the night of eternal oblivion he will sit up to write a history of human
"Force is but might," the teacher said -- "That definition's just."
The boy said naught but through instead,
Remembering his pounded head:
"Force is not might but must!"
FOREORDINATION, n. This looks like an easy word to define, but when I consider that pious and learned theologians have spent long lives in explaining it, and written libraries to explain their explanations; when I remember the nations have been divided and bloody battles caused by the difference between foreordination and predestination, and that millions of treasure have been expended in the effort to prove and disprove its compatibility with freedom of the will and the efficacy of prayer, praise, and a religious life, -- recalling these awful facts in the history of the word, I stand appalled before the mighty problem of its signification, abase my spiritual eyes, fearing to contemplate its portentous magnitude, reverently uncover and humbly refer it to His Eminence Cardinal Gibbons and His Grace Bishop Potter.FORGETFULNESS, n. A gift of God bestowed upon doctors in compensation for their destitution of conscience.
FORK, n. An instrument used chiefly for the purpose of putting dead animals into the mouth. Formerly the knife was employed for this purpose, and by many worthy persons is still thought to have many advantages over the other tool, which, however, they do not altogether reject, but use to assist in charging the knife. The immunity of these persons from swift and awful death is one of the most striking proofs of God's mercy to those that hate Him.FORMA PAUPERIS. [Latin] In the character of a poor person -- a method by which a litigant without money for lawyers is considerately permitted to lose his case.
When Adam long ago in Cupid's awful court (For Cupid ruled ere Adam was invented)
Sued for Eve's favor, says an ancient law report, He stood and pleaded unhabilimented.
"You sue _in forma pauperis_, I see," Eve cried; "Actions can't here be that way prosecuted."
So all poor Adam's motions coldly were denied: He went away -- as he had come -- nonsuited.
FRANKALMOIGNE, n. The tenure by which a religious corporation holds lands on condition of praying for the soul of the donor. In mediaeval times many of the wealthiest fraternities obtained their estates in this simple and cheap manner, and once when Henry VIII of England sent an officer to confiscate certain vast possessions which a fraternity of monks held by frankalmoigne, "What!" said the Prior, "would you master stay our benefactor's soul in Purgatory?" "Ay," said the officer, coldly, "an ye will not pray him thence for naught he must e'en roast." "But look you, my son," persisted the good man, "this act hath rank as robbery of God!" "Nay, nay, good father, my master the king doth but deliver him from the manifold temptations of too great wealth."FREEBOOTER, n. A conqueror in a small way of business, whose annexations lack of the sanctifying merit of magnitude.
FREEDOM, n. Exemption from the stress of authority in a beggarly half dozen of restraint's infinite multitude of methods. A political condition that every nation supposes itself to enjoy in virtual monopoly. Liberty. The distinction between freedom and liberty is not accurately known; naturalists have never been able to find a living specimen of either.
Freedom, as every schoolboy knows, Once shrieked as Kosciusko fell;
On every wind, indeed, that blows I hear her yell.
She screams whenever monarchs meet, And parliaments as well,
To bind the chains about her feet And toll her knell.
For all to whom the power's given To sway or to compel,
Among themselves apportion Heaven And give her Hell.
FREEMASONS, n. An order with secret rites, grotesque ceremonies and fantastic costumes, which, originating in the reign of Charles II, among working artisans of London, has been joined successively by the dead of past centuries in unbroken retrogression until now it embraces all the generations of man on the hither side of Adam and is drumming up distinguished recruits among the pre-Creational inhabitants of Chaos and Formless Void. The order was founded at different times by Charlemagne, Julius Caesar, Cyrus, Solomon, Zoroaster, Confucious, Thothmes, and Buddha. Its emblems and symbols have been found in the Catacombs of Paris and Rome, on the stones of the Parthenon and the Chinese Great Wall, among the temples of Karnak and Palmyra and in the Egyptian Pyramids -- always by a Freemason.FRIENDLESS, adj. Having no favors to bestow. Destitute of fortune. Addicted to utterance of truth and common sense. FRIENDSHIP, n. A ship big enough to carry two in fair weather, but only one in foul. The sea was calm and the sky was blue; Merrily, merrily sailed we two.
(High barometer maketh glad.) On the tipsy ship, with a dreadful shout, The tempest descended and we fell out.(O the walking is nasty bad!) Armit Huff Bettle
FROG, n. A reptile with edible legs. The first mention of frogs in profane literature is in Homer's narrative of the war between them and the mice. Skeptical persons have doubted Homer's authorship of the work, but the learned, ingenious and industrious Dr. Schliemann has set the question forever at rest by uncovering the bones of the slain frogs. One of the forms of moral suasion by which Pharaoh was besought to favor the Israelities was a plague of frogs, but Pharaoh, who liked them _fricasees_, remarked, with truly oriental stoicism, that he could stand it as long as the frogs and the Jews could; so the programme was changed. The frog is a diligent songster, having a good voice but no ear. The libretto of his favorite opera, as written by Aristophanes, is brief, simple and effective -- "brekekex-koax"; the music is apparently by that eminent composer, Richard Wagner. Horses have a frog in each hoof -- a thoughtful provision of nature, enabling them to shine in a hurdle race.
FRYING-PAN, n. One part of the penal apparatus employed in that punitive institution, a woman's kitchen. The frying-pan was invented by Calvin, and by him used in cooking span-long infants that had died without baptism; and observing one day the horrible torment of a tramp who had incautiously pulled a fried babe from the waste-dump and devoured it, it occurred to the great divine to rob death of its terrors by introducing the frying-pan into every household in Geneva. Thence it spread to all corners of the world, and has been of invaluable assistance in the propagation of his sombre faith. The following lines (said to be from the pen of his Grace Bishop Potter) seem to imply that the usefulness of this utensil is not limited to this world; but as the consequences of its employment in this life reach over into the life to come, so also itself may be found on the other side, rewarding its devotees:
Old Nick was summoned to the skies. Said Peter: "Your intentions
Are good, but you lack enterprise Concerning new inventions.
"Now, broiling in an ancient plan Of torment, but I hear it
Reported that the frying-pan Sears best the wicked spirit.
Fry sinners brown and good in't." "I know a trick worth two o' that,"
Said Nick -- "I'll cook their food in't."
FUNERAL, n. A pageant whereby we attest our respect for the dead by enriching the undertaker, and strengthen our grief by an expenditure that deepens our groans and doubles our tears.
The savage dies -- they sacrifice a horse To bear to happy hunting-grounds the corse. Our friends expire -- we make the money fly In hope their souls will chase it to the sky.Jex Wopley FUTURE, n. That period of time in which our affairs prosper, our friends are true and our happiness is assured. G
GALLOWS, n. A stage for the performance of miracle plays, in which the leading actor is translated to heaven. In this country the gallows is chiefly remarkable for the number of persons who escape it.
Whether on the gallows high
Or where blood flows the reddest,
The noblest place for man to die -- Is where he died the deadest.
GARGOYLE, n. A rain-spout projecting from the eaves of mediaeval buildings, commonly fashioned into a grotesque caricature of some personal enemy of the architect or owner of the building. This was especially the case in churches and ecclesiastical structures generally, in which the gargoyles presented a perfect rogues' gallery of local heretics and controversialists. Sometimes when a new dean and chapter were installed the old gargoyles were removed and others substituted having a closer relation to the private animosities of the new incumbents.GARTHER, n. An elastic band intended to keep a woman from coming out of her stockings and desolating the country.
GENEROUS, adj. Originally this word meant noble by birth and was rightly applied to a great multitude of persons. It now means noble by nature and is taking a bit of a rest.GENEALOGY, n. An account of one's descent from an ancestor who did not particularly care to trace his own. GENTEEL, adj. Refined, after the fashion of a gent.
Observe with care, my son, the distinction I reveal: A gentleman is gentle and a gent genteel.
Heed not the definitions your "Unabridged" presents, For dictionary makers are generally gents.
Habeam, geographer of wide reknown, Native of Abu-Keber's ancient town, In passing thence along the river Zam To the adjacent village of Xelam,
Bewildered by the multitude of roads, Got lost, lived long on migratory toads, Then from exposure miserably died, And grateful travelers bewailed their guide.
GEOLOGY, n. The science of the earth's crust -- to which, doubtless, will be added that of its interior whenever a man shall come up garrulous out of a well. The geological formations of the globe already noted are catalogued thus: The Primary, or lower one, consists of rocks, bones or mired mules, gas-pipes, miners' tools, antique statues minus the nose, Spanish doubloons and ancestors. The Secondary is largely made up of red worms and moles. The Tertiary comprises railway tracks, patent pavements, grass, snakes, mouldy boots, beer bottles, tomato cans, intoxicated citizens, garbage, anarchists, snap-dogs and fools.GHOST, n. The outward and visible sign of an inward fear.
He saw a ghost.
It occupied -- that dismal thing! -- The path that he was following. Before he'd time to stop and fly, An earthquake trifled with the eye
That saw a ghost.
He fell as fall the early good;
Unmoved that awful vision stood. The stars that danced before his ken He wildly brushed away, and then
Accounting for the uncommon behavior of ghosts, Heine mentions somebody's ingenious theory to the effect that they are as much afraid of us as we of them. Not quite, if I may judge from such tables of comparative speed as I am able to compile from memories of my own experience.
There is one insuperable obstacle to a belief in ghosts. A ghost never comes naked: he appears either in a winding-sheet or "in his habit as he lived." To believe in him, then, is to believe that not only have the dead the power to make themselves visible after there is nothing left of them, but that the same power inheres in textile fabrics. Supposing the products of the loom to have this ability, what object would they have in exercising it? And why does not the apparition of a suit of clothes sometimes walk abroad without a ghost in it? These be riddles of significance. They reach away down and get a convulsive grip on the very tap-root of this flourishing faith.
GHOUL, n. A demon addicted to the reprehensible habit of devouring the dead. The existence of ghouls has been disputed by that class of controversialists who are more concerned to deprive the world of comforting beliefs than to give it anything good in their place. In 1640 Father Secchi saw one in a cemetery near Florence and frightened it away with the sign of the cross. He describes it as gifted with many heads an an uncommon allowance of limbs, and he saw it in more than one place at a time. The good man was coming away from dinner at the time and explains that if he had not been "heavy with eating" he would have seized the demon at all hazards. Atholston relates that a ghoul was caught by some sturdy peasants in a churchyard at Sudbury and ducked in a horsepond. (He appears to think that so distinguished a criminal should have been ducked in a tank of rosewater.) The water turned at once to blood "and so contynues unto ys daye." The pond has since been bled with a ditch. As late as the beginning of the fourteenth century a ghoul was cornered in the crypt of the cathedral at Amiens and the whole population surrounded the place. Twenty armed men with a priest at their head, bearing a crucifix, entered and captured the ghoul, which, thinking to escape by the stratagem, had transformed itself to the semblance of a well known citizen, but was nevertheless hanged, drawn and quartered in the midst of hideous popular orgies. The citizen whose shape the demon had assumed was so affected by the sinister occurrence that he never again showed himself in Amiens and his fate remains a mystery.GLUTTON, n. A person who escapes the evils of moderation by committing dyspepsia.
GNOME, n. In North-European mythology, a dwarfish imp inhabiting the interior parts of the earth and having special custody of mineral treasures. Bjorsen, who died in 1765, says gnomes were common enough in the southern parts of Sweden in his boyhood, and he frequently saw them scampering on the hills in the evening twilight. Ludwig Binkerhoof saw three as recently as 1792, in the Black Forest, and Sneddeker avers that in 1803 they drove a party of miners out of a Silesian mine. Basing our computations upon data supplied by these statements, we find that the gnomes were probably extinct as early as 1764.
GNOSTICS, n. A sect of philosophers who tried to engineer a fusion between the early Christians and the Platonists. The former would not go into the caucus and the combination failed, greatly to the chagrin of the fusion managers.
GNU, n. An animal of South Africa, which in its domesticated state resembles a horse, a buffalo and a stag. In its wild condition it is something like a thunderbolt, an earthquake and a cyclone.
A hunter from Kew caught a distant view Of a peacefully meditative gnu,
And he said: "I'll pursue, and my hands imbrue In its blood at a closer interview."
But that beast did ensue and the hunter it threw O'er the top of a palm that adjacent grew;
And he said as he flew: "It is well I withdrew Ere, losing my temper, I wickedly slew That really meritorious gnu."
GOOSE, n. A bird that supplies quills for writing. These, by some occult process of nature, are penetrated and suffused with various degrees of the bird's intellectual energies and emotional character, so that when inked and drawn mechanically across paper by a person called an "author," there results a very fair and accurate transcript of the fowl's thought and feeling. The difference in geese, as discovered by this ingenious method, is considerable: many are found to have only trivial and insignificant powers, but some are seen to be very great geese indeed.GORGON, n.
The Gorgon was a maiden bold Who turned to stone the Greeks of old That looked upon her awful brow. We dig them out of ruins now, And swear that workmanship so bad Proves all the ancient sculptors mad.GOUT, n. A physician's name for the rheumatism of a rich patient.
GRACES, n. Three beautiful goddesses, Aglaia, Thalia and Euphrosyne, who attended upon Venus, serving without salary. They were at no expense for board and clothing, for they ate nothing to speak of and dressed according to the weather, wearing whatever breeze happened to be blowing.
GRAMMAR, n. A system of pitfalls thoughtfully prepared for the feet for the self-made man, along the path by which he advances to distinction.GRAPE, n.
Hail noble fruit! -- by Homer sung, Anacreon and Khayyam;
Thy praise is ever on the tongue Of better men than I am.
The lyre in my hand has never swept, The song I cannot offer:
My humbler service pray accept -- I'll help to kill the scoffer.
The water-drinkers and the cranks Who load their skins with liquor --
I'll gladly bear their belly-tanks And tap them with my sticker.
Fill up, fill up, for wisdom cools When e'er we let the wine rest.
Here's death to Prohibition's fools, And every kind of vine-pest!
Beside a lonely grave I stood -- With brambles 'twas encumbered;
The winds were moaning in the wood, Unheard by him who slumbered,
A rustic standing near, I said:
"He cannot hear it blowing!"
"'Course not," said he: "the feller's dead -- He can't hear nowt [sic] that's going."
No sound his sense can quicken!" "Well, mister, wot is that to you? --
The deadster ain't a-kickin'."
GRAVITATION, n. The tendency of all bodies to approach one another with a strength proportion to the quantity of matter they contain -- the quantity of matter they contain being ascertained by the strength of their tendency to approach one another. This is a lovely and edifying illustration of how science, having made A the proof of B, makes B the proof of A.GREAT, adj. "I'm great," the Lion said -- "I reign The monarch of the wood and plain!" The Elephant replied: "I'm great -- No quadruped can match my weight!" "I'm great -- no animal has half So long a neck!" said the Giraffe. "I'm great," the Kangaroo said -- "see My femoral muscularity!" The 'Possum said: "I'm great -- behold, My tail is lithe and bald and cold!" An Oyster fried was understood To say: "I'm great because I'm good!" Each reckons greatness to consist In that in which he heads the list, And Vierick thinks he tops his class Because he is the greatest ass. Arion Spurl Doke GUILLOTINE, n. A machine which makes a Frenchman shrug his shoulders with good reason.
In his great work on _Divergent Lines of Racial Evolution_, the learned Professor Brayfugle argues from the prevalence of this gesture
-- the shrug -- among Frenchmen, that they are descended from turtles and it is simply a survival of the habit of retracing the head inside the shell. It is with reluctance that I differ with so eminent an authority, but in my judgment (as more elaborately set forth and enforced in my work entitled _Hereditary Emotions_ -- lib. II, c. XI) the shrug is a poor foundation upon which to build so important a theory, for previously to the Revolution the gesture was unknown. I have not a doubt that it is directly referable to the terror inspired by the guillotine during the period of that instrument's activity.
GUNPOWDER, n. An agency employed by civilized nations for the settlement of disputes which might become troublesome if left unadjusted. By most writers the invention of gunpowder is ascribed to the Chinese, but not upon very convincing evidence. Milton says it was invented by the devil to dispel angels with, and this opinion seems to derive some support from the scarcity of angels. Moreover, it has the hearty concurrence of the Hon. James Wilson, Secretary of Agriculture.
Secretary Wilson became interested in gunpowder through an event that occurred on the Government experimental farm in the District of Columbia. One day, several years ago, a rogue imperfectly reverent of the Secretary's profound attainments and personal character presented him with a sack of gunpowder, representing it as the sed of the _Flashawful flabbergastor_, a Patagonian cereal of great commercial value, admirably adapted to this climate. The good Secretary was instructed to spill it along in a furrow and afterward inhume it with soil. This he at once proceeded to do, and had made a continuous line of it all the way across a ten-acre field, when he was made to look backward by a shout from the generous donor, who at once dropped a lighted match into the furrow at the starting-point. Contact with the earth had somewhat dampened the powder, but the startled functionary saw himself pursued by a tall moving pillar of fire and smoke and fierce evolution. He stood for a moment paralyzed and speechless, then he recollected an engagement and, dropping all, absented himself thence with such surprising celerity that to the eyes of spectators along the route selected he appeared like a long, dim streak prolonging itself with inconceivable rapidity through seven villages, and audibly refusing to be comforted. "Great Scott! what is that?" cried a surveyor's chainman, shading his eyes and gazing at the fading line of agriculturist which bisected his visible horizon. "That," said the surveyor, carelessly glancing at the phenomenon and again centering his attention upon his instrument, "is the Meridian of Washington."H HABEAS CORPUS. A writ by which a man may be taken out of jail when confined for the wrong crime.
HABIT, n. A shackle for the free. HADES, n. The lower world; the residence of departed spirits; the place where the dead live.
Among the ancients the idea of Hades was not synonymous with our Hell, many of the most respectable men of antiquity residing there in a very comfortable kind of way. Indeed, the Elysian Fields themselves were a part of Hades, though they have since been removed to Paris. When the Jacobean version of the New Testament was in process of evolution the pious and learned men engaged in the work insisted by a majority vote on translating the Greek word "Aides" as "Hell"; but a conscientious minority member secretly possessed himself of the record and struck out the objectional word wherever he could find it. At the next meeting, the Bishop of Salisbury, looking over the work, suddenly sprang to his feet and said with considerable excitement: "Gentlemen, somebody has been razing 'Hell' here!" Years afterward the good prelate's death was made sweet by the reflection that he had been the means (under Providence) of making an important, serviceable and immortal addition to the phraseology of the English tongue.
HAG, n. An elderly lady whom you do not happen to like; sometimes called, also, a hen, or cat. Old witches, sorceresses, etc., were called hags from the belief that their heads were surrounded by a kind of baleful lumination or nimbus -- hag being the popular name of that peculiar electrical light sometimes observed in the hair. At one time hag was not a word of reproach: Drayton speaks of a "beautiful hag, all smiles," much as Shakespeare said, "sweet wench." It would not now be proper to call your sweetheart a hag -- that compliment is reserved for the use of her grandchildren.
HALF, n. One of two equal parts into which a thing may be divided, or considered as divided. In the fourteenth century a heated discussion arose among theologists and philosophers as to whether Omniscience could part an object into three halves; and the pious Father Aldrovinus publicly prayed in the cathedral at Rouen that God would demonstrate the affirmative of the proposition in some signal and unmistakable way, and particularly (if it should please Him) upon the body of that hardy blasphemer, Manutius Procinus, who maintained the negative. Procinus, however, was spared to die of the bite of a viper.
HALO, n. Properly, a luminous ring encircling an astronomical body, but not infrequently confounded with "aureola," or "nimbus," a somewhat similar phenomenon worn as a head-dress by divinities and saints. The halo is a purely optical illusion, produced by moisture in the air, in the manner of a rainbow; but the aureola is conferred as a sign of superior sanctity, in the same way as a bishop's mitre, or the Pope's tiara. In the painting of the Nativity, by Szedgkin, a pious artist of Pesth, not only do the Virgin and the Child wear the nimbus, but an ass nibbling hay from the sacred manger is similarly decorated and, to his lasting honor be it said, appears to bear his unaccustomed dignity with a truly saintly grace.HAND, n. A singular instrument worn at the end of the human arm and commonly thrust into somebody's pocket.
HANDKERCHIEF, n. A small square of silk or linen, used in various ignoble offices about the face and especially serviceable at funerals to conceal the lack of tears. The handkerchief is of recent invention; our ancestors knew nothing of it and intrusted its duties to the sleeve. Shakespeare's introducing it into the play of "Othello" is an anachronism: Desdemona dried her nose with her skirt, as Dr. Mary Walker and other reformers have done with their coattails in our own day -- an evidence that revolutions sometimes go backward.
HANGMAN, n. An officer of the law charged with duties of the highest dignity and utmost gravity, and held in hereditary disesteem by a populace having a criminal ancestry. In some of the American States his functions are now performed by an electrician, as in New Jersey, where executions by electricity have recently been ordered -- the first instance known to this lexicographer of anybody questioning the expediency of hanging Jerseymen.HAPPINESS, n. An agreeable sensation arising from contemplating the misery of another. HARANGUE, n. A speech by an opponent, who is known as an harrangue- outang. HARBOR, n. A place where ships taking shelter from stores are exposed to the fury of the customs.
HARMONISTS, n. A sect of Protestants, now extinct, who came from Europe in the beginning of the last century and were distinguished for the bitterness of their internal controversies and dissensions.HASH, x. There is no definition for this word -- nobody knows what hash is. HATCHET, n. A young axe, known among Indians as a Thomashawk. "O bury the hatchet, irascible Red, For peace is a blessing," the White Man said. The Savage concurred, and that weapon interred, With imposing rites, in the White Man's head. John Lukkus HATRED, n. A sentiment appropriate to the occasion of another's superiority. HEAD-MONEY, n. A capitation tax, or poll-tax.
In ancient times there lived a king Whose tax-collectors could not wring From all his subjects gold enough To make the royal way less rough. For pleasure's highway, like the dames Whose premises adjoin it, claims Perpetual repairing. So
The tax-collectors in a row
Appeared before the throne to pray Their master to devise some way
To swell the revenue. "So great," Said they, "are the demands of state A tithe of all that we collect
Will scarcely meet them. Pray reflect: How, if one-tenth we must resign, Can we exist on t'other nine?"
The monarch asked them in reply: "Has it occurred to you to try
The advantage of economy?"
"It has," the spokesman said: "we sold All of our gray garrotes of gold;
With plated-ware we now compress The necks of those whom we assess. Plain iron forceps we employ
To mitigate the miser's joy
Who hoards, with greed that never tires, That which your Majesty requires." Deep lines of thought were seen to plow Their way across the royal brow.
"Your state is desperate, no question; Pray favor me with a suggestion." "O King of Men," the spokesman said, "If you'll impose upon each head
A tax, the augmented revenue
We'll cheerfully divide with you."
As flashes of the sun illume
The parted storm-cloud's sullen gloom, The king smiled grimly. "I decree That it be so -- and, not to be
In generosity outdone,
Declare you, each and every one, Exempted from the operation
Of this new law of capitation.
But lest the people censure me
Because they're bound and you are free, 'Twere well some clever scheme were laid By you this poll-tax to evade.
I'll leave you now while you confer
With my most trusted minister."
The monarch from the throne-room walked And straightway in among them stalked A silent man, with brow concealed, Bare-armed -- his gleaming axe revealed!
HEART, n. An automatic, muscular blood-pump. Figuratively, this useful organ is said to be the seat of emotions and sentiments -- a very pretty fancy which, however, is nothing but a survival of a once universal belief. It is now known that the sentiments and emotions reside in the stomach, being evolved from food by chemical action of the gastric fluid. The exact process by which a beefsteak becomes a feeling -- tender or not, according to the age of the animal from which it was cut; the successive stages of elaboration through which a caviar sandwich is transmuted to a quaint fancy and reappears as a pungent epigram; the marvelous functional methods of converting a hard-boiled egg into religious contrition, or a cream-puff into a sigh of sensibility -- these things have been patiently ascertained by M. Pasteur, and by him expounded with convincing lucidity. (See, also, my monograph, _The Essential Identity of the Spiritual Affections and Certain Intestinal Gases Freed in Digestion_ -- 4to, 687 pp.) In a scientific work entitled, I believe, _Delectatio Demonorum_ (John Camden Hotton, London, 1873) this view of the sentiments receives a striking illustration; and for further light consult Professor Dam's famous treatise on _Love as a Product of Alimentary Maceration_.HEAT, n.
Heat, says Professor Tyndall, is a mode Of motion, but I know now how he's proving
His point; but this I know -- hot words bestowed With skill will set the human fist a-moving,
And where it stops the stars burn free and wild.
_Crede expertum_ -- I have seen them, child.
HEATHEN, n. A benighted creature who has the folly to worship something that he can see and feel. According to Professor Howison, of the California State University, Hebrews are heathens."The Hebrews are heathens!" says Howison. He's A Christian philosopher. I'm
A scurril agnostical chap, if you please, Addicted too much to the crime Of religious discussion in my rhyme.
Though Hebrew and Howison cannot agree On a _modus vivendi_ -- not they! --
Yet Heaven has had the designing of me, And I haven't been reared in a way To joy in the thick of the fray.
For this of my creed is the soul and the gist, And the truth of it I aver:
Who differs from me in his faith is an 'ist, And 'ite, an 'ie, or an 'er --
And I'm down upon him or her!
Let Howison urge with perfunctory chin Toleration -- that's all very well,
But a roast is "nuts" to his nostril thin, And he's running -- I know by the smell -- A secret and personal Hell!
HEAVEN, n. A place where the wicked cease from troubling you with talk of their personal affairs, and the good listen with attention while you expound your own.HEBREW, n. A male Jew, as distinguished from the Shebrew, an altogether superior creation. HELPMATE, n. A wife, or bitter half.
"Now, why is yer wife called a helpmate, Pat?" Says the priest. "Since the time 'o yer wooin'
She's niver [sic] assisted in what ye were at -- For it's naught ye are ever doin'."
And no sign of contrition envices;
"But, bedad, it's a fact which the word implies,
For she helps to mate the expinses [sic]!"
HEMP, n. A plant from whose fibrous bark is made an article of neckwear which is frequently put on after public speaking in the open air and prevents the wearer from taking cold.
HERMIT, n. A person whose vices and follies are not sociable.
HIBERNATE, v.i. To pass the winter season in domestic seclusion. There have been many singular popular notions about the hibernation of various animals. Many believe that the bear hibernates during the whole winter and subsists by mechanically sucking its paws. It is admitted that it comes out of its retirement in the spring so lean that it had to try twice before it can cast a shadow. Three or four centuries ago, in England, no fact was better attested than that swallows passed the winter months in the mud at the bottom of their brooks, clinging together in globular masses. They have apparently been compelled to give up the custom and account of the foulness of the brooks. Sotus Ecobius discovered in Central Asia a whole nation of people who hibernate. By some investigators, the fasting of Lent is supposed to have been originally a modified form of hibernation, to which the Church gave a religious significance; but this view was strenuously opposed by that eminent authority, Bishop Kip, who did not wish any honors denied to the memory of the Founder of his family.
HIPPOGRIFF, n. An animal (now extinct) which was half horse and half griffin. The griffin was itself a compound creature, half lion and half eagle. The hippogriff was actually, therefore, a one-quarter eagle, which is two dollars and fifty cents in gold. The study of zoology is full of surprises.HISTORIAN, n. A broad-gauge gossip.
HISTORY, n. An account mostly false, of events mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers mostly knaves, and soldiers mostly fools.
Of Roman history, great Niebuhr's shown 'Tis nine-tenths lying. Faith, I wish 'twere known, Ere we accept great Niebuhr as a guide,
Wherein he blundered and how much he lied.
HOG, n. A bird remarkable for the catholicity of its appetite and serving to illustrate that of ours. Among the Mahometans and Jews, the hog is not in favor as an article of diet, but is respected for the delicacy and the melody of its voice. It is chiefly as a songster that the fowl is esteemed; the cage of him in full chorus has been known to draw tears from two persons at once. The scientific name of this dicky-bird is _Porcus Rockefelleri_. Mr. Rockefeller did not discover the hog, but it is considered his by right of resemblance. HOMOEOPATHIST, n. The humorist of the medical profession.
HOMOEOPATHY, n. A school of medicine midway between Allopathy and Christian Science. To the last both the others are distinctly inferior, for Christian Science will cure imaginary diseases, and they can not.
HOMICIDE, n. The slaying of one human being by another. There are four kinds of homocide: felonious, excusable, justifiable, and praiseworthy, but it makes no great difference to the person slain whether he fell by one kind or another -- the classification is for advantage of the lawyers.HOMILETICS, n. The science of adapting sermons to the spiritual needs, capacities and conditions of the congregation.
So skilled the parson was in homiletics That all his normal purges and emetics To medicine the spirit were compounded With a most just discrimination founded Upon a rigorous examination
Of tongue and pulse and heart and respiration. Then, having diagnosed each one's condition, His scriptural specifics this physician
Administered -- his pills so efficacious
And pukes of disposition so vivacious
That souls afflicted with ten kinds of Adam Were convalescent ere they knew they had 'em. But Slander's tongue -- itself all coated -- uttered Her bilious mind and scandalously muttered That in the case of patients having money The pills were sugar and the pukes were honey.
HONORABLE, adj. Afflicted with an impediment in one's reach. In legislative bodies it is customary to mention all members as honorable; as, "the honorable gentleman is a scurvy cur."HOPE, n. Desire and expectation rolled into one.
Delicious Hope! when naught to man it left -- Of fortune destitute, of friends bereft; When even his dog deserts him, and his goat With tranquil disaffection chews his coat While yet it hangs upon his back; then thou, The star far-flaming on thine angel brow, Descendest, radiant, from the skies to hint The promise of a clerkship in the Mint.Fogarty Weffing HOSPITALITY, n. The virtue which induces us to feed and lodge certain persons who are not in need of food and lodging.
HOSTILITY, n. A peculiarly sharp and specially applied sense of the earth's overpopulation. Hostility is classified as active and passive; as (respectively) the feeling of a woman for her female friends, and that which she entertains for all the rest of her sex.
HOURI, n. A comely female inhabiting the Mohammedan Paradise to make things cheery for the good Mussulman, whose belief in her existence marks a noble discontent with his earthly spouse, whom he denies a soul. By that good lady the Houris are said to be held in deficient esteem.
HOUSE, n. A hollow edifice erected for the habitation of man, rat, mouse, beetle, cockroach, fly, mosquito, flea, bacillus and microbe. _House of Correction_, a place of reward for political and personal service, and for the detention of offenders and appropriations. _House of God_, a building with a steeple and a mortgage on it. _House-dog_, a pestilent beast kept on domestic premises to insult persons passing by and appal the hardy visitor. _House-maid_, a youngerly person of the opposing sex employed to be variously disagreeable and ingeniously unclean in the station in which it has pleased God to place her.HOUSELESS, adj. Having paid all taxes on household goods. HOVEL, n. The fruit of a flower called the Palace. Twaddle had a hovel,
Twiddle had a palace;
Twaddle said: "I'll grovel
Or he'll think I bear him malice" -- A sentiment as novel
As a castor on a chalice.
Down upon the middle
Of his legs fell Twaddle
And astonished Mr. Twiddle,
Who began to lift his noddle.
Feed upon the fiddle-
Faddle flummery, unswaddle
A new-born self-sufficiency and think himself a [mockery.]
G.J. HUMANITY, n. The human race, collectively, exclusive of the anthropoid poets.
HUMORIST, n. A plague that would have softened down the hoar austerity of Pharaoh's heart and persuaded him to dismiss Israel with his best wishes, cat-quick.
Lo! the poor humorist, whose tortured mind See jokes in crowds, though still to gloom inclined -- Whose simple appetite, untaught to stray, His brains, renewed by night, consumes by day. He thinks, admitted to an equal sty,
A graceful hog would bear his company.
HURRICANE, n. An atmospheric demonstration once very common but now generally abandoned for the tornado and cyclone. The hurricane is still in popular use in the West Indies and is preferred by certain old-fashioned sea-captains. It is also used in the construction of the upper decks of steamboats, but generally speaking, the hurricane's usefulness has outlasted it.HURRY, n. The dispatch of bunglers. HUSBAND, n. One who, having dined, is charged with the care of the plate. HYBRID, n. A pooled issue. HYDRA, n. A kind of animal that the ancients catalogued under many heads.
HYENA, n. A beast held in reverence by some oriental nations from its habit of frequenting at night the burial-places of the dead. But the medical student does that.HYPOCHONDRIASIS, n. Depression of one's own spirits.
Some heaps of trash upon a vacant lot Where long the village rubbish had been shot Displayed a sign among the stuff and stumps -- "Hypochondriasis." It meant The Dumps.
Bogul S. Purvy HYPOCRITE, n. One who, profession virtues that he does not respect secures the advantage of seeming to be what he despises.I
I is the first letter of the alphabet, the first word of the language, the first thought of the mind, the first object of affection. In grammar it is a pronoun of the first person and singular number. Its plural is said to be _We_, but how there can be more than one myself is doubtless clearer the grammarians than it is to the author of this incomparable dictionary. Conception of two myselfs is difficult, but fine. The frank yet graceful use of "I" distinguishes a good writer from a bad; the latter carries it with the manner of a thief trying to cloak his loot.ICHOR, n. A fluid that serves the gods and goddesses in place of blood.
Fair Venus, speared by Diomed,
Restrained the raging chief and said: "Behold, rash mortal, whom you've bled -- Your soul's stained white with ichorshed!"
ICONOCLAST, n. A breaker of idols, the worshipers whereof are imperfectly gratified by the performance, and most strenuously protest that he unbuildeth but doth not reedify, that he pulleth down but pileth not up. For the poor things would have other idols in place of those he thwacketh upon the mazzard and dispelleth. But the iconoclast saith: "Ye shall have none at all, for ye need them not; and if the rebuilder fooleth round hereabout, behold I will depress the head of him and sit thereon till he squawk it."
IDIOT, n. A member of a large and powerful tribe whose influence in human affairs has always been dominant and controlling. The Idiot's activity is not confined to any special field of thought or action, but "pervades and regulates the whole." He has the last word in everything; his decision is unappealable. He sets the fashions and opinion of taste, dictates the limitations of speech and circumscribes conduct with a dead-line.
IDLENESS, n. A model farm where the devil experiments with seeds of new sins and promotes the growth of staple vices.
IGNORAMUS, n. A person unacquainted with certain kinds of knowledge familiar to yourself, and having certain other kinds that you know nothing about.
Dumble was an ignoramus,
Mumble was for learning famous. Mumble said one day to Dumble: "Ignorance should be more humble. Not a spark have you of knowledge That was got in any college." Dumble said to Mumble: "Truly You're self-satisfied unduly.
Of things in college I'm denied A knowledge -- you of all beside."
ILLUMINATI, n. A sect of Spanish heretics of the latter part of the sixteenth century; so called because they were light weights -- _cunctationes illuminati_.ILLUSTRIOUS, adj. Suitably placed for the shafts of malice, envy and detraction. IMAGINATION, n. A warehouse of facts, with poet and liar in joint ownership. IMBECILITY, n. A kind of divine inspiration, or sacred fire affecting censorious critics of this dictionary. IMMIGRANT, n. An unenlightened person who thinks one country better than another. IMMODEST, adj. Having a strong sense of one's own merit, coupled with a feeble conception of worth in others.
There was once a man in Ispahan
Ever and ever so long ago,
And he had a head, the phrenologists said, That fitted him for a show.
For his modesty's bump was so large a lump (Nature, they said, had taken a freak)
That its summit stood far above the wood Of his hair, like a mountain peak.
So modest a man in all Ispahan,
Over and over again they swore --
So humble and meek, you would vainly seek; None ever was found before.
Meantime the hump of that awful bump Into the heavens contrived to get
To so great a height that they called the wight The man with the minaret.
There wasn't a man in all Ispahan
Prouder, or louder in praise of his chump:
With a tireless tongue and a brazen lung He bragged of that beautiful bump
Till the Shah in a rage sent a trusty page Bearing a sack and a bow-string too,
And that gentle child explained as he smiled: "A little present for you."
The saddest man in all Ispahan,
Sniffed at the gift, yet accepted the same.
"If I'd lived," said he, "my humility
Had given me deathless fame!"
IMMORAL, adj. Inexpedient. Whatever in the long run and with regard to the greater number of instances men find to be generally inexpedient comes to be considered wrong, wicked, immoral. If man's notions of right and wrong have any other basis than this of expediency; if they originated, or could have originated, in any other way; if actions have in themselves a moral character apart from, and nowise dependent on, their consequences -- then all philosophy is a lie and reason a disorder of the mind.IMMORTALITY, n.
A toy which people cry for, And on their knees apply for, Dispute, contend and lie for,And if allowed Would be right proud Eternally to die for. G.J.
IMPALE, v.t. In popular usage to pierce with any weapon which remains fixed in the wound. This, however, is inaccurate; to impale is, properly, to put to death by thrusting an upright sharp stake into the body, the victim being left in a sitting position. This was a common mode of punishment among many of the nations of antiquity, and is still in high favor in China and other parts of Asia. Down to the beginning of the fifteenth century it was widely employed in "churching" heretics and schismatics. Wolecraft calls it the "stoole of repentynge," and among the common people it was jocularly known as "riding the one legged horse." Ludwig Salzmann informs us that in Thibet impalement is considered the most appropriate punishment for crimes against religion; and although in China it is sometimes awarded for secular offences, it is most frequently adjudged in cases of sacrilege. To the person in actual experience of impalement it must be a matter of minor importance by what kind of civil or religious dissent he was made acquainted with its discomforts; but doubtless he would feel a certain satisfaction if able to contemplate himself in the character of a weather-cock on the spire of the True Church.
IMPARTIAL, adj. Unable to perceive any promise of personal advantage from espousing either side of a controversy or adopting either of two conflicting opinions.IMPENITENCE, n. A state of mind intermediate in point of time between sin and punishment. IMPIETY, n. Your irreverence toward my deity.
IMPOSITION, n. The act of blessing or consecrating by the laying on of hands -- a ceremony common to many ecclesiastical systems, but performed with the frankest sincerity by the sect known as Thieves."Lo! by the laying on of hands,"
Say parson, priest and dervise, "We consecrate your cash and lands
To ecclesiastical service.
No doubt you'll swear till all is blue At such an imposition. Do."
His tale he told with a solemn face
And a tender, melancholy grace.
Improbable 'twas, no doubt,
When you came to think it out,
But the fascinated crowd
Their deep surprise avowed
And all with a single voice averred
'Twas the most amazing thing they'd heard --
All save one who spake never a word, But sat as mum
As if deaf and dumb,
Serene, indifferent and unstirred.
Then all the others turned to him And scrutinized him limb from limb -- Scanned him alive;
But he seemed to thrive
And tranquiler grow each minute, As if there were nothing in it.
"What! what!" cried one, "are you not amazed
At what our friend has told?" He raised
Soberly then his eyes and gazed
In a natural way
And proceeded to say,
As he crossed his feet on the mantel-shelf:
"O no -- not at all; I'm a liar myself."
INADMISSIBLE, adj. Not competent to be considered. Said of certain kinds of testimony which juries are supposed to be unfit to be entrusted with, and which judges, therefore, rule out, even of proceedings before themselves alone. Hearsay evidence is inadmissible because the person quoted was unsworn and is not before the court for examination; yet most momentous actions, military, political, commercial and of every other kind, are daily undertaken on hearsay evidence. There is no religion in the world that has any other basis than hearsay evidence. Revelation is hearsay evidence; that the Scriptures are the word of God we have only the testimony of men long dead whose identity is not clearly established and who are not known to have been sworn in any sense. Under the rules of evidence as they now exist in this country, no single assertion in the Bible has in its support any evidence admissible in a court of law. It cannot be proved that the battle of Blenheim ever was fought, that there was such as person as Julius Caesar, such an empire as Assyria.
But as records of courts of justice are admissible, it can easily be proved that powerful and malevolent magicians once existed and were a scourge to mankind. The evidence (including confession) upon which certain women were convicted of witchcraft and executed was without a flaw; it is still unimpeachable. The judges' decisions based on it were sound in logic and in law. Nothing in any existing court was ever more thoroughly proved than the charges of witchcraft and sorcery for which so many suffered death. If there were no witches, human testimony and human reason are alike destitute of value.
INAUSPICIOUSLY, adv. In an unpromising manner, the auspices being unfavorable. Among the Romans it was customary before undertaking any important action or enterprise to obtain from the augurs, or state prophets, some hint of its probable outcome; and one of their favorite and most trustworthy modes of divination consisted in observing the flight of birds -- the omens thence derived being called _auspices_. Newspaper reporters and certain miscreant lexicographers have decided that the word -- always in the plural -- shall mean "patronage" or "management"; as, "The festivities were under the auspices of the Ancient and Honorable Order of Body-Snatchers"; or, "The hilarities were auspicated by the Knights of Hunger."
A Roman slave appeared one day
Before the Augur. "Tell me, pray, If --" here the Augur, smiling, made A checking gesture and displayed His open palm, which plainly itched, For visibly its surface twitched.
A _denarius_ (the Latin nickel)
Successfully allayed the tickle,
And then the slave proceeded: "Please Inform me whether Fate decrees
Success or failure in what I
To-night (if it be dark) shall try.
Its nature? Never mind -- I think 'Tis writ on this" -- and with a wink Which darkened half the earth, he drew Another denarius to view,
Its shining face attentive scanned, Then slipped it into the good man's hand, Who with great gravity said: "Wait While I retire to question Fate."
That holy person then withdrew
His scared clay and, passing through The temple's rearward gate, cried "Shoo!" Waving his robe of office. Straight Each sacred peacock and its mate (Maintained for Juno's favor) fled
With clamor from the trees o'erhead, Where they were perching for the night. The temple's roof received their flight, For thither they would always go, When danger threatened them below. Back to the slave the Augur went: "My son, forecasting the event
By flight of birds, I must confess
The auspices deny success."
That slave retired, a sadder man, Abandoning his secret plan --
Which was (as well the craft seer
Had from the first divined) to clear The wall and fraudulently seize On Juno's poultry in the trees.
INCOME, n. The natural and rational gauge and measure of respectability, the commonly accepted standards being artificial, arbitrary and fallacious; for, as "Sir Sycophas Chrysolater" in the play has justly remarked, "the true use and function of property (in whatsoever it consisteth -- coins, or land, or houses, or merchant- stuff, or anything which may be named as holden of right to one's own subservience) as also of honors, titles, preferments and place, and all favor and acquaintance of persons of quality or ableness, are but to get money. Hence it followeth that all things are truly to be rated as of worth in measure of their serviceableness to that end; and their possessors should take rank in agreement thereto, neither the lord of an unproducing manor, howsoever broad and ancient, nor he who bears an unremunerate dignity, nor yet the pauper favorite of a king, being esteemed of level excellency with him whose riches are of daily accretion; and hardly should they whose wealth is barren claim and rightly take more honor than the poor and unworthy."
INCOMPATIBILITY, n. In matrimony a similarity of tastes, particularly the taste for domination. Incompatibility may, however, consist of a meek-eyed matron living just around the corner. It has even been known to wear a moustache.
INCOMPOSSIBLE, adj. Unable to exist if something else exists. Two things are incompossible when the world of being has scope enough for one of them, but not enough for both -- as Walt Whitman's poetry and God's mercy to man. Incompossibility, it will be seen, is only incompatibility let loose. Instead of such low language as "Go heel yourself -- I mean to kill you on sight," the words, "Sir, we are incompossible," would convey and equally significant intimation and in stately courtesy are altogether superior.
INCUBUS, n. One of a race of highly improper demons who, though probably not wholly extinct, may be said to have seen their best nights. For a complete account of _incubi_ and _succubi_, including _incubae_ and _succubae_, see the _Liber Demonorum_ of Protassus (Paris, 1328), which contains much curious information that would be out of place in a dictionary intended as a text-book for the public schools.
Victor Hugo relates that in the Channel Islands Satan himself -- tempted more than elsewhere by the beauty of the women, doubtless -- sometimes plays at _incubus_, greatly to the inconvenience and alarm of the good dames who wish to be loyal to their marriage vows, generally speaking. A certain lady applied to the parish priest to learn how they might, in the dark, distinguish the hardy intruder from their husbands. The holy man said they must feel his brown for horns; but Hugo is ungallant enough to hint a doubt of the efficacy of the test.INCUMBENT, n. A person of the liveliest interest to the outcumbents.
INDECISION, n. The chief element of success; "for whereas," saith Sir Thomas Brewbold, "there is but one way to do nothing and divers way to do something, whereof, to a surety, only one is the right way, it followeth that he who from indecision standeth still hath not so many chances of going astray as he who pusheth forwards" -- a most clear and satisfactory exposition on the matter.
"Your prompt decision to attack," said Genera Grant on a certain occasion to General Gordon Granger, "was admirable; you had but five minutes to make up your mind in."
"Yes, sir," answered the victorious subordinate, "it is a great thing to be know exactly what to do in an emergency. When in doubt whether to attack or retreat I never hesitate a moment -- I toss us a copper.""Do you mean to say that's what you did this time?" "Yes, General; but for Heaven's sake don't reprimand me: I disobeyed the coin." INDIFFERENT, adj. Imperfectly sensible to distinctions among things.
"You tiresome man!" cried Indolentio's wife, "You've grown indifferent to all in life." "Indifferent?" he drawled with a slow smile; "I would be, dear, but it is not worth while."Apuleius M. Gokul
INDIGESTION, n. A disease which the patient and his friends frequently mistake for deep religious conviction and concern for the salvation of mankind. As the simple Red Man of the western wild put it, with, it must be confessed, a certain force: "Plenty well, no pray; big bellyache, heap God."INDISCRETION, n. The guilt of woman. INEXPEDIENT, adj. Not calculated to advance one's interests.
INFANCY, n. The period of our lives when, according to Wordsworth, "Heaven lies about us." The world begins lying about us pretty soon afterward.
INFERIAE,n. [Latin] Among the Greeks and Romans, sacrifices for propitiation of the _Dii Manes_, or souls of the dead heroes; for the pious ancients could not invent enough gods to satisfy their spiritual needs, and had to have a number of makeshift deities, or, as a sailor might say, jury-gods, which they made out of the most unpromising materials. It was while sacrificing a bullock to the spirit of Agamemnon that Laiaides, a priest of Aulis, was favored with an audience of that illustrious warrior's shade, who prophetically recounted to him the birth of Christ and the triumph of Christianity, giving him also a rapid but tolerably complete review of events down to the reign of Saint Louis. The narrative ended abruptly at the point, owing to the inconsiderate crowing of a cock, which compelled the ghosted King of Men to scamper back to Hades. There is a fine mediaeval flavor to this story, and as it has not been traced back further than Pere Brateille, a pious but obscure writer at the court of Saint Louis, we shall probably not err on the side of presumption in considering it apocryphal, though Monsignor Capel's judgment of the matter might be different; and to that I bow -- wow.
INFIDEL, n. In New York, one who does not believe in the Christian religion; in Constantinople, one who does. (See GIAOUR.) A kind of scoundrel imperfectly reverent of, and niggardly contributory to, divines, ecclesiastics, popes, parsons, canons, monks, mollahs, voodoos, presbyters, hierophants, prelates, obeah-men, abbes, nuns, missionaries, exhorters, deacons, friars, hadjis, high-priests, muezzins, brahmins, medicine-men, confessors, eminences, elders, primates, prebendaries, pilgrims, prophets, imaums, beneficiaries, clerks, vicars-choral, archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, preachers, padres, abbotesses, caloyers, palmers, curates, patriarchs, bonezs, santons, beadsmen, canonesses, residentiaries, diocesans, deans, subdeans, rural deans, abdals, charm-sellers, archdeacons, hierarchs, class-leaders, incumbents, capitulars, sheiks, talapoins, postulants, scribes, gooroos, precentors, beadles, fakeers, sextons, reverences, revivalists, cenobites, perpetual curates, chaplains, mudjoes, readers, novices, vicars, pastors, rabbis, ulemas, lamas, sacristans, vergers, dervises, lectors, church wardens, cardinals, prioresses, suffragans, acolytes, rectors, cures, sophis, mutifs and pumpums.INFLUENCE, n. In politics, a visionary _quo_ given in exchange for a substantial _quid_.
INFALAPSARIAN, n. One who ventures to believe that Adam need not have sinned unless he had a mind to -- in opposition to the
Supralapsarians, who hold that that luckless person's fall was decreed from the beginning. Infralapsarians are sometimes called
Sublapsarians without material effect upon the importance and lucidity of their views about Adam.
Two theologues once, as they wended their way To chapel, engaged in colloquial fray -- An earnest logomachy, bitter as gall,
Concerning poor Adam and what made him fall. "'Twas Predestination," cried one -- "for the Lord Decreed he should fall of his own accord."
"Not so -- 'twas Free will," the other maintained, "Which led him to choose what the Lord had ordained." So fierce and so fiery grew the debate
That nothing but bloodshed their dudgeon could sate; So off flew their cassocks and caps to the ground And, moved by the spirit, their hands went round. Ere either had proved his theology right
By winning, or even beginning, the fight,
A gray old professor of Latin came by,
A staff in his hand and a scowl in his eye,
And learning the cause of their quarrel (for still As they clumsily sparred they disputed with skill Of foreordination freedom of will)
Cried: "Sirrahs! this reasonless warfare compose: Atwixt ye's no difference worthy of blows.
The sects ye belong to -- I'm ready to swear
Ye wrongly interpret the names that they bear. _You_ -- Infralapsarian son of a clown! --
Should only contend that Adam slipped down; While _you_ -- you Supralapsarian pup! --
Should nothing aver but that Adam slipped up. It's all the same whether up or down
You slip on a peel of banana brown.
Even Adam analyzed not his blunder,
But thought he had slipped on a peal of thunder!
The good philanthropist replied;
"I did great service to a man one day
Who never since has cursed me to repay,
"Ho!" cried the cynic, "lead me to him straight -- With veneration I am overcome,
And fain would have his blessing." "Sad your fate --
He cannot bless you, for AI grieve to state This man is dumb."
INJUSTICE, n. A burden which of all those that we load upon others and carry ourselves is lightest in the hands and heaviest upon the back.
INK, n. A villainous compound of tannogallate of iron, gum-arabic and water, chiefly used to facilitate the infection of idiocy and promote intellectual crime. The properties of ink are peculiar and
contradictory: it may be used to make reputations and unmake them; to blacken them and to make them white; but it is most generally and acceptably employed as a mortar to bind together the stones of an edifice of fame, and as a whitewash to conceal afterward the rascal quality of the material. There are men called journalists who have established ink baths which some persons pay money to get into, others to get out of. Not infrequently it occurs that a person who has paid to get in pays twice as much to get out.
INNATE, adj. Natural, inherent -- as innate ideas, that is to say, ideas that we are born with, having had them previously imparted to us. The doctrine of innate ideas is one of the most admirable faiths of philosophy, being itself an innate idea and therefore inaccessible to disproof, though Locke foolishly supposed himself to have given it "a black eye." Among innate ideas may be mentioned the belief in one's ability to conduct a newspaper, in the greatness of one's country, in the superiority of one's civilization, in the importance of one's personal affairs and in the interesting nature of one's diseases.
IN'ARDS, n. The stomach, heart, soul and other bowels. Many eminent investigators do not class the soul as an in'ard, but that acute observer and renowned authority, Dr. Gunsaulus, is persuaded that the mysterious organ known as the spleen is nothing less than our important part. To the contrary, Professor Garrett P. Servis holds that man's soul is that prolongation of his spinal marrow which forms the pith of his no tail; and for demonstration of his faith points confidently to the fact that no tailed animals have no souls. Concerning these two theories, it is best to suspend judgment by believing both.
INSCRIPTION, n. Something written on another thing. Inscriptions are of many kinds, but mostly memorial, intended to commemorate the fame of some illustrious person and hand down to distant ages the record of his services and virtues. To this class of inscriptions belongs the name of John Smith, penciled on the Washington monument. Following are examples of memorial inscriptions on tombstones: (See EPITAPH.)
"In the sky my soul is found, And my body in the ground. By and by my body'll rise To my spirit in the skies, Soaring up to Heaven's gate.1878." "Sacred to the memory of Jeremiah Tree. Cut down May 9th, 1862, aged 27 yrs. 4 mos. and 12 ds. Indigenous."
"Affliction sore long time she boar, Phisicians was in vain,
Till Deth released the dear deceased And left her a remain.
Gone to join Ananias in the regions of bliss."
"The clay that rests beneath this stone As Silas Wood was widely known. Now, lying here, I ask what good It was to let me be S. Wood.
O Man, let not ambition trouble you, Is the advice of Silas W."
"See," cries the chorus of admiring preachers, "How Providence provides for all His creatures!" "His care," the gnat said, "even the insects follows: For us He has provided wrens and swallows."Sempen Railey
INSURANCE, n. An ingenious modern game of chance in which the player is permitted to enjoy the comfortable conviction that he is beating the man who keeps the table.
INSURANCE AGENT: My dear sir, that is a fine house -- pray let me insure it.
HOUSE OWNER: With pleasure. Please make the annual premium so low that by the time when, according to the tables of your actuary, it will probably be destroyed by fire I will have paid you considerably less than the face of the policy.
INSURANCE AGENT: O dear, no -- we could not afford to do that. We must fix the premium so that you will have paid more.
HOUSE OWNER: How, then, can _I_ afford _that_?
INSURANCE AGENT: Why, your house may burn down at any time. There was Smith's house, for example, which --
HOUSE OWNER: Spare me -- there were Brown's house, on the contrary, and Jones's house, and Robinson's house, which -- INSURANCE AGENT: Spare _me_!
HOUSE OWNER: Let us understand each other. You want me to pay you money on the supposition that something will occur
previously to the time set by yourself for its occurrence. In other words, you expect me to bet that my house will not last so long as you say that it will probably last.
INSURANCE AGENT: But if your house burns without insurance it will be a total loss.
HOUSE OWNER: Beg your pardon -- by your own actuary's tables I shall probably have saved, when it burns, all the premiums I would otherwise have paid to you -- amounting to more than the face of the policy they would have bought. But suppose it to burn, uninsured, before the time upon which your figures are based. If I could not afford that, how could you if it were insured?
INSURANCE AGENT: O, we should make ourselves whole from our luckier ventures with other clients. Virtually, they pay your loss.
HOUSE OWNER: And virtually, then, don't I help to pay their losses? Are not their houses as likely as mine to burn before they have paid you as much as you must pay them? The case stands this way: you expect to take more money from your clients than you pay to them, do you not?
INSURANCE AGENT: Certainly; if we did not --
HOUSE OWNER: I would not trust you with my money. Very well then. If it is _certain_, with reference to the whole body of your clients, that they lose money on you it is _probable_, with reference to any one of them, that _he_ will. It is
these individual probabilities that make the aggregate
INSURANCE AGENT: I will not deny it -- but look at the figures in this pamph --
HOUSE OWNER: Heaven forbid!
INSURANCE AGENT: You spoke of saving the premiums which you would otherwise pay to me. Will you not be more likely to squander them? We offer you an incentive to thrift.
HOUSE OWNER: The willingness of A to take care of B's money is not peculiar to insurance, but as a charitable institution you command esteem. Deign to accept its expression from a
INTENTION, n. The mind's sense of the prevalence of one set of influences over another set; an effect whose cause is the imminence, immediate or remote, of the performance of an involuntary act.INTERPRETER, n. One who enables two persons of different languages to understand each other by repeating to each what it would have been to the interpreter's advantage for the other to have said.
INTERREGNUM, n. The period during which a monarchical country is governed by a warm spot on the cushion of the throne. The experiment of letting the spot grow cold has commonly been attended by most unhappy results from the zeal of many worthy persons to make it warm again.INTIMACY, n. A relation into which fools are providentially drawn for their mutual destruction.
Two Seidlitz powders, one in blue And one in white, together drew And having each a pleasant sense Of t'other powder's excellence,
Forsook their jackets for the snug Enjoyment of a common mug.
So close their intimacy grew
One paper would have held the two. To confidences straight they fell, Less anxious each to hear than tell; Then each remorsefully confessed To all the virtues he possessed, Acknowledging he had them in So high degree it was a sin.
The more they said, the more they felt Their spirits with emotion melt, Till tears of sentiment expressed Their feelings. Then they effervesced! So Nature executes her feats
Of wrath on friends and sympathetes The good old rule who don't apply, That you are you and I am I.
INTRODUCTION, n. A social ceremony invented by the devil for the gratification of his servants and the plaguing of his enemies. The introduction attains its most malevolent development in this century, being, indeed, closely related to our political system. Every American being the equal of every other American, it follows that everybody has the right to know everybody else, which implies the right to introduce without request or permission. The Declaration of Independence should have read thus:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, and the right to make that of another miserable by thrusting upon him an incalculable quantity of acquaintances; liberty, particularly the liberty to introduce persons to one another without first ascertaining if they are not already acquainted as enemies; and the pursuit of another's happiness with a running pack of strangers."INVENTOR, n. A person who makes an ingenious arrangement of wheels, levers and springs, and believes it civilization. IRRELIGION, n. The principal one of the great faiths of the world. ITCH, n. The patriotism of a Scotchman. J
J is a consonant in English, but some nations use it as a vowel -- than which nothing could be more absurd. Its original form, which has been but slightly modified, was that of the tail of a subdued dog, and it was not a letter but a character, standing for a Latin verb, _jacere_, "to throw," because when a stone is thrown at a dog the dog's tail assumes that shape. This is the origin of the letter, as expounded by the renowned Dr. Jocolpus Bumer, of the University of Belgrade, who established his conclusions on the subject in a work of three quarto volumes and committed suicide on being reminded that the j in the Roman alphabet had originally no curl.JEALOUS, adj. Unduly concerned about the preservation of that which can be lost only if not worth keeping.
JESTER, n. An officer formerly attached to a king's household, whose business it was to amuse the court by ludicrous actions and utterances, the absurdity being attested by his motley costume. The king himself being attired with dignity, it took the world some centuries to discover that his own conduct and decrees were sufficiently ridiculous for the amusement not only of his court but of all mankind. The jester was commonly called a fool, but the poets and romancers have ever delighted to represent him as a singularly wise and witty person. In the circus of to-day the melancholy ghost of the court fool effects the dejection of humbler audiences with the same jests wherewith in life he gloomed the marble hall, panged the patrician sense of humor and tapped the tank of royal tears.
The widow-queen of Portugal
Had an audacious jester
Who entered the confessional
Disguised, and there confessed her.
"Daughter," the mimic priest replied, "That sin, indeed, is awful:
The church's pardon is denied To love that is unlawful.
"But since thy stubborn heart will be For him forever pleading,
Thou'dst better make him, by decree, A man of birth and breeding."
She made the fool a duke, in hope With Heaven's taboo to palter;
Then told a priest, who told the Pope, Who damned her from the altar!
JUSTICE, n. A commodity which is a more or less adulterated condition the State sells to the citizen as a reward for his allegiance, taxes and personal service.K
K is a consonant that we get from the Greeks, but it can be traced away back beyond them to the Cerathians, a small commercial nation inhabiting the peninsula of Smero. In their tongue it was called _Klatch_, which means "destroyed." The form of the letter was originally precisely that of our H, but the erudite Dr. Snedeker explains that it was altered to its present shape to commemorate the destruction of the great temple of Jarute by an earthquake, _circa_ 730 B.C. This building was famous for the two lofty columns of its portico, one of which was broken in half by the catastrophe, the other remaining intact. As the earlier form of the letter is supposed to have been suggested by these pillars, so, it is thought by the great antiquary, its later was adopted as a simple and natural -- not to say touching -- means of keeping the calamity ever in the national memory. It is not known if the name of the letter was altered as an additional mnemonic, or if the name was always _Klatch_ and the destruction one of nature's puns. As each theory seems probable enough, I see no objection to believing both -- and Dr. Snedeker arrayed himself on that side of the question.KEEP, v.t.
He willed away his whole estate,
And then in death he fell asleep,
Murmuring: "Well, at any rate,
My name unblemished I shall keep."
But when upon the tomb 'twas wrought
Whose was it? -- for the dead keep naught.
A king, in times long, long gone by, Said to his lazy jester:
"If I were you and you were I
My moments merrily would fly -- Nor care nor grief to pester."
"The reason, Sire, that you would thrive," The fool said -- "if you'll hear it --
Is that of all the fools alive
Who own you for their sovereign, I've The most forgiving spirit."
KING'S EVIL, n. A malady that was formerly cured by the touch of the sovereign, but has now to be treated by the physicians. Thus 'the most pious Edward" of England used to lay his royal hand upon the ailing subjects and make them whole --a crowd of wretched souls
That stay his cure: their malady convinces The great essay of art; but at his touch, Such sanctity hath Heaven given his hand, They presently amend,
as the "Doctor" in _Macbeth_ hath it. This useful property of the royal hand could, it appears, be transmitted along with other crown properties; for according to "Malcolm,"
To the succeeding royalty he leaves The healing benediction.
But the gift somewhere dropped out of the line of succession: the later sovereigns of England have not been tactual healers, and the disease once honored with the name "king's evil" now bears the humbler one of "scrofula," from _scrofa_, a sow. The date and author of the following epigram are known only to the author of this dictionary, but it is old enough to show that the jest about Scotland's national disorder is not a thing of yesterday.
Ye Kynge his evill in me laye,
Wh. he of Scottlande charmed awaye. He layde his hand on mine and sayd: "Be gone!" Ye ill no longer stayd. But O ye wofull plyght in wh.
I'm now y-pight: I have ye itche!
The superstition that maladies can be cured by royal taction is dead, but like many a departed conviction it has left a monument of custom to keep its memory green. The practice of forming a line and shaking the President's hand had no other origin, and when that great dignitary bestows his healing salutation on
strangely visited people, All swoln and ulcerous, pitiful to the eye, The mere despair of surgery,
he and his patients are handing along an extinguished torch which once was kindled at the altar-fire of a faith long held by all classes of men. It is a beautiful and edifying "survival" -- one which brings the sainted past close home in our "business and bosoms."
KISS, n. A word invented by the poets as a rhyme for "bliss." It is supposed to signify, in a general way, some kind of rite or ceremony appertaining to a good understanding; but the manner of its performance is unknown to this lexicographer.KLEPTOMANIAC, n. A rich thief.
KNIGHT, n. Once a warrior gentle of birth,
Then a person of civic worth,
Now a fellow to move our mirth.
Warrior, person, and fellow -- no more: We must knight our dogs to get any lower. Brave Knights Kennelers then shall be, Noble Knights of the Golden Flea,
Knights of the Order of St. Steboy, Knights of St. Gorge and Sir Knights Jawy. God speed the day when this knighting fad Shall go to the dogs and the dogs go mad.
KORAN, n. A book which the Mohammedans foolishly believe to have been written by divine inspiration, but which Christians know to be a wicked imposture, contradictory to the Holy Scriptures.L LABOR, n. One of the processes by which A acquires property for B.
LAND, n. A part of the earth's surface, considered as property. The theory that land is property subject to private ownership and control is the foundation of modern society, and is eminently worthy of the superstructure. Carried to its logical conclusion, it means that some have the right to prevent others from living; for the right to own implies the right exclusively to occupy; and in fact laws of trespass are enacted wherever property in land is recognized. It follows that if the whole area of _terra firma_ is owned by A, B and C, there will be no place for D, E, F and G to be born, or, born as trespassers, to exist.A life on the ocean wave,
A home on the rolling deep, For the spark the nature gave
I have there the right to keep.
They give me the cat-o'-nine Whenever I go ashore.
Then ho! for the flashing brine -- I'm a natural commodore!
LAOCOON, n. A famous piece of antique scripture representing a priest of that name and his two sons in the folds of two enormous serpents. The skill and diligence with which the old man and lads support the serpents and keep them up to their work have been justly regarded as one of the noblest artistic illustrations of the mastery of human intelligence over brute inertia.
LAP, n. One of the most important organs of the female system -- an admirable provision of nature for the repose of infancy, but chiefly useful in rural festivities to support plates of cold chicken and heads of adult males. The male of our species has a rudimentary lap, imperfectly developed and in no way contributing to the animal's substantial welfare.LAST, n. A shoemaker's implement, named by a frowning Providence as opportunity to the maker of puns.
Ah, punster, would my lot were cast, Where the cobbler is unknown,
So that I might forget his last And hear your own.
LAUGHTER, n. An interior convulsion, producing a distortion of the features and accompanied by inarticulate noises. It is infectious and, though intermittent, incurable. Liability to attacks of laughter is one of the characteristics distinguishing man from the animals -- these being not only inaccessible to the provocation of his example, but impregnable to the microbes having original jurisdiction in bestowal of the disease. Whether laughter could be imparted to animals by inoculation from the human patient is a question that has not been answered by experimentation. Dr. Meir Witchell holds that the infection character of laughter is due to the instantaneous fermentation of _sputa_ diffused in a spray. From this peculiarity he names the disorder _Convulsio spargens_.
LAUREATE, adj. Crowned with leaves of the laurel. In England the Poet Laureate is an officer of the sovereign's court, acting as dancing skeleton at every royal feast and singing-mute at every royal funeral. Of all incumbents of that high office, Robert Southey had the most notable knack at drugging the Samson of public joy and cutting his hair to the quick; and he had an artistic color-sense which enabled him so to blacken a public grief as to give it the aspect of a national crime.
LAUREL, n. The _laurus_, a vegetable dedicated to Apollo, and formerly defoliated to wreathe the brows of victors and such poets as had influence at court. (_Vide supra._)LAW, n.
Once Law was sitting on the bench, And Mercy knelt a-weeping.
"Clear out!" he cried, "disordered wench! Nor come before me creeping.
Upon your knees if you appear,
'Tis plain your have no standing here."
Then Justice came. His Honor cried: "_Your_ status? -- devil seize you!"
"_Amica curiae,_" she replied --
"Friend of the court, so please you."
"Begone!" he shouted -- "there's the door --
I never saw your face before!"
LEAD, n. A heavy blue-gray metal much used in giving stability to light lovers -- particularly to those who love not wisely but other men's wives. Lead is also of great service as a counterpoise to an argument of such weight that it turns the scale of debate the wrong way. An interesting fact in the chemistry of international controversy is that at the point of contact of two patriotisms lead is precipitated in great quantities.
Hail, holy Lead! -- of human feuds the great And universal arbiter; endowed
With penetration to pierce any cloud
Fogging the field of controversial hate,
And with a sift, inevitable, straight,
Searching precision find the unavowed But vital point. Thy judgment, when allowed
By the chirurgeon, settles the debate.
O useful metal! -- were it not for thee
We'd grapple one another's ears alway:
But when we hear thee buzzing like a bee We, like old Muhlenberg, "care not to stay."
And when the quick have run away like pellets
Jack Satan smelts the dead to make new bullets. LEARNING, n. The kind of ignorance distinguishing the studious.
LEONINE, adj. Unlike a menagerie lion. Leonine verses are those in which a word in the middle of a line rhymes with a word at the end, as in this famous passage from Bella Peeler Silcox:The electric light invades the dunnest deep of Hades. Cries Pluto, 'twixt his snores: "O tempora! O mores!"
It should be explained that Mrs. Silcox does not undertake to teach pronunciation of the Greek and Latin tongues. Leonine verses are so called in honor of a poet named Leo, whom prosodists appear to find a pleasure in believing to have been the first to discover that a rhyming couplet could be run into a single line.
LETTUCE, n. An herb of the genus _Lactuca_, "Wherewith," says that pious gastronome, Hengist Pelly, "God has been pleased to reward the good and punish the wicked. For by his inner light the righteous man has discerned a manner of compounding for it a dressing to the appetency whereof a multitude of gustible condiments conspire, being reconciled and ameliorated with profusion of oil, the entire comestible making glad the heart of the godly and causing his face to shine. But the person of spiritual unworth is successfully tempted to the Adversary to eat of lettuce with destitution of oil, mustard, egg, salt and garlic, and with a rascal bath of vinegar polluted with sugar. Wherefore the person of spiritual unworth suffers an intestinal pang of strange complexity and raises the song."
LEVIATHAN, n. An enormous aquatic animal mentioned by Job. Some suppose it to have been the whale, but that distinguished ichthyologer, Dr. Jordan, of Stanford University, maintains with considerable heat that it was a species of gigantic Tadpole (_Thaddeus Polandensis_) or Polliwig -- _Maria pseudo-hirsuta_. For an exhaustive description and history of the Tadpole consult the famous monograph of Jane Potter, _Thaddeus of Warsaw_.