The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce - HTML preview
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LEXICOGRAPHER, n. A pestilent fellow who, under the pretense of recording some particular stage in the development of a language, does what he can to arrest its growth, stiffen its flexibility and mechanize its methods. For your lexicographer, having written his dictionary, comes to be considered "as one having authority," whereas his function is only to make a record, not to give a law. The natural servility of the human understanding having invested him with judicial power, surrenders its right of reason and submits itself to a chronicle as if it were a statue. Let the dictionary (for example) mark a good word as "obsolete" or "obsolescent" and few men thereafter venture to use it, whatever their need of it and however desirable its restoration to favor -- whereby the process of impoverishment is accelerated and speech decays. On the contrary, recognizing the truth that language must grow by innovation if it grow at all, makes new words and uses the old in an unfamiliar sense, has no following and is tartly reminded that "it isn't in the dictionary"
-- although down to the time of the first lexicographer (Heaven forgive him!) no author ever had used a word that _was_ in the dictionary. In the golden prime and high noon of English speech; when from the lips of the great Elizabethans fell words that made their own meaning and carried it in their very sound; when a Shakespeare and a Bacon were possible, and the language now rapidly perishing at one end and slowly renewed at the other was in vigorous growth and hardy preservation -- sweeter than honey and stronger than a lion -- the lexicographer was a person unknown, the dictionary a creation which his Creator had not created him to create.
God said: "Let Spirit perish into Form,"
And lexicographers arose, a swarm!
Thought fled and left her clothing, which they took, And catalogued each garment in a book.
Now, from her leafy covert when she cries: "Give me my clothes and I'll return," they rise And scan the list, and say without compassion: "Excuse us -- they are mostly out of fashion."
The rising People, hot and out of breath, Roared around the palace: "Liberty or death!" "If death will do," the King said, "let me reign; You'll have, I'm sure, no reason to complain."Martha Braymance
LICKSPITTLE, n. A useful functionary, not infrequently found editing a newspaper. In his character of editor he is closely allied to the blackmailer by the tie of occasional identity; for in truth the lickspittle is only the blackmailer under another aspect, although the latter is frequently found as an independent species. Lickspittling is more detestable than blackmailing, precisely as the business of a confidence man is more detestable than that of a highway robber; and the parallel maintains itself throughout, for whereas few robbers will cheat, every sneak will plunder if he dare.
LIFE, n. A spiritual pickle preserving the body from decay. We live in daily apprehension of its loss; yet when lost it is not missed. The question, "Is life worth living?" has been much discussed; particularly by those who think it is not, many of whom have written at great length in support of their view and by careful observance of the laws of health enjoyed for long terms of years the honors of successful controversy.
"Life's not worth living, and that's the truth," Carelessly caroled the golden youth. In manhood still he maintained that view And held it more strongly the older he grew. When kicked by a jackass at eighty-three, "Go fetch me a surgeon at once!" cried he.Han Soper LIGHTHOUSE, n. A tall building on the seashore in which the government maintains a lamp and the friend of a politician. LIMB, n. The branch of a tree or the leg of an American woman.
'Twas a pair of boots that the lady bought, And the salesman laced them tight To a very remarkable height --
Higher, indeed, than I think he ought -- Higher than _can_ be right.
For the Bible declares -- but never mind: It is hardly fit
To censure freely and fault to find
With others for sins that I'm not inclined Myself to commit.
Each has his weakness, and though my own Is freedom from every sin,
It still were unfair to pitch in,
Discharging the first censorious stone.
Besides, the truth compels me to say,
The boots in question were _made_ that way.
As he drew the lace she made a grimace, And blushingly said to him:
"This boot, I'm sure, is too high to endure,
It hurts my -- hurts my -- limb."
The salesman smiled in a manner mild,
Like an artless, undesigning child;
Then, checking himself, to his face he gave
A look as sorrowful as the grave, Though he didn't care two figs
For her paints and throes,
As he stroked her toes,
Remarking with speech and manner just
Befitting his calling: "Madam, I trust That it doesn't hurt your twigs."
LIVER, n. A large red organ thoughtfully provided by nature to be bilious with. The sentiments and emotions which every literary anatomist now knows to haunt the heart were anciently believed to infest the liver; and even Gascoygne, speaking of the emotional side of human nature, calls it "our hepaticall parte." It was at one time considered the seat of life; hence its name -- liver, the thing we live with. The liver is heaven's best gift to the goose; without it that bird would be unable to supply us with the Strasbourg _pate_.
LL.D. Letters indicating the degree _Legumptionorum Doctor_, one learned in laws, gifted with legal gumption. Some suspicion is cast upon this derivation by the fact that the title was formerly _LL.d._, and conferred only upon gentlemen distinguished for their wealth. At the date of this writing Columbia University is considering the expediency of making another degree for clergymen, in place of the old D.D. -- _Damnator Diaboli_. The new honor will be known as _Sanctorum Custus_, and written _$$c_. The name of the Rev. John Satan has been suggested as a suitable recipient by a lover of consistency, who points out that Professor Harry Thurston Peck has long enjoyed the advantage of a degree.LOCK-AND-KEY, n. The distinguishing device of civilization and enlightenment. LODGER, n. A less popular name for the Second Person of that delectable newspaper Trinity, the Roomer, the Bedder, and the Mealer.
LOGIC, n. The art of thinking and reasoning in strict accordance with the limitations and incapacities of the human misunderstanding. The basic of logic is the syllogism, consisting of a major and a minor premise and a conclusion -- thus:
_Major Premise_: Sixty men can do a piece of work sixty times as quickly as one man.
_Minor Premise_: One man can dig a posthole in sixty seconds; therefore --
_Conclusion_: Sixty men can dig a posthole in one second.
This may be called the syllogism arithmetical, in which, by combining logic and mathematics, we obtain a double certainty and are twice blessed.
LOGOMACHY, n. A war in which the weapons are words and the wounds punctures in the swim-bladder of self-esteem -- a kind of contest in which, the vanquished being unconscious of defeat, the victor is denied the reward of success.
'Tis said by divers of the scholar-men That poor Salmasius died of Milton's pen. Alas! we cannot know if this is true, For reading Milton's wit we perish too.LONGANIMITY, n. The disposition to endure injury with meek forbearance while maturing a plan of revenge. LONGEVITY, n. Uncommon extension of the fear of death. LOOKING-GLASS, n. A vitreous plane upon which to display a fleeting show for man's disillusion given.
The King of Manchuria had a magic looking-glass, whereon whoso looked saw, not his own image, but only that of the king. A certain courtier who had long enjoyed the king's favor and was thereby enriched beyond any other subject of the realm, said to the king: "Give me, I pray, thy wonderful mirror, so that when absent out of thine august presence I may yet do homage before thy visible shadow, prostrating myself night and morning in the glory of thy benign countenance, as which nothing has so divine splendor, O Noonday Sun of the Universe!"
Please with the speech, the king commanded that the mirror be conveyed to the courtier's palace; but after, having gone thither without apprisal, he found it in an apartment where was naught but idle lumber. And the mirror was dimmed with dust and overlaced with cobwebs. This so angered him that he fisted it hard, shattering the glass, and was sorely hurt. Enraged all the more by this mischance, he commanded that the ungrateful courtier be thrown into prison, and that the glass be repaired and taken back to his own palace; and this was done. But when the king looked again on the mirror he saw not his image as before, but only the figure of a crowned ass, having a bloody bandage on one of its hinder hooves -- as the artificers and all who had looked upon it had before discerned but feared to report. Taught wisdom and charity, the king restored his courtier to liberty, had the mirror set into the back of the throne and reigned many years with justice and humility; and one day when he fell asleep in death while on the throne, the whole court saw in the mirror the luminous figure of an angel, which remains to this day.LOQUACITY, n. A disorder which renders the sufferer unable to curb his tongue when you wish to talk.
LORD, n. In American society, an English tourist above the state of a costermonger, as, lord 'Aberdasher, Lord Hartisan and so forth. The traveling Briton of lesser degree is addressed as "Sir," as, Sir 'Arry Donkiboi, or 'Amstead 'Eath. The word "Lord" is sometimes used, also, as a title of the Supreme Being; but this is thought to be rather flattery than true reverence.
Miss Sallie Ann Splurge, of her own accord, Wedded a wandering English lord --
Wedded and took him to dwell with her "paw," A parent who throve by the practice of Draw. Lord Cadde I don't hesitate to declare
Unworthy the father-in-legal care
Of that elderly sport, notwithstanding the truth That Cadde had renounced all the follies of youth; For, sad to relate, he'd arrived at the stage Of existence that's marked by the vices of age. Among them, cupidity caused him to urge Repeated demands on the pocket of Splurge, Till, wrecked in his fortune, that gentleman saw Inadequate aid in the practice of Draw,
And took, as a means of augmenting his pelf, To the business of being a lord himself.
His neat-fitting garments he wilfully shed And sacked himself strangely in checks instead; Denuded his chin, but retained at each ear A whisker that looked like a blasted career. He painted his neck an incarnadine hue
Each morning and varnished it all that he knew. The moony monocular set in his eye
Appeared to be scanning the Sweet Bye-and-Bye. His head was enroofed with a billycock hat, And his low-necked shoes were aduncous and flat. In speech he eschewed his American ways, Denying his nose to the use of his A's
And dulling their edge till the delicate sense Of a babe at their temper could take no offence. His H's -- 'twas most inexpressibly sweet, The patter they made as they fell at his feet! Re-outfitted thus, Mr. Splurge without fear Began as Lord Splurge his recouping career. Alas, the Divinity shaping his end
Entertained other views and decided to send His lordship in horror, despair and dismay From the land of the nobleman's natural prey. For, smit with his Old World ways, Lady Cadde Fell -- suffering Caesar! -- in love with her dad!
LORE, n. Learning -- particularly that sort which is not derived from a regular course of instruction but comes of the reading of occult books, or by nature. This latter is commonly designated as folk-lore and embraces popularly myths and superstitions. In Baring-Gould's _Curious Myths of the Middle Ages_ the reader will find many of these traced backward, through various people son converging lines, toward a common origin in remote antiquity. Among these are the fables of "Teddy the Giant Killer," "The Sleeping John Sharp Williams," "Little Red Riding Hood and the Sugar Trust," "Beauty and the Brisbane," "The Seven Aldermen of Ephesus," "Rip Van Fairbanks," and so forth. The fable with Goethe so affectingly relates under the title of "The Erl- King" was known two thousand years ago in Greece as "The Demos and the Infant Industry." One of the most general and ancient of these myths is that Arabian tale of "Ali Baba and the Forty Rockefellers."
LOSS, n. Privation of that which we had, or had not. Thus, in the latter sense, it is said of a defeated candidate that he "lost his election"; and of that eminent man, the poet Gilder, that he has "lost his mind." It is in the former and more legitimate sense, that the word is used in the famous epitaph:
Here Huntington's ashes long have lain Whose loss is our eternal gain,
For while he exercised all his powers Whatever he gained, the loss was ours.
LOVE, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage or by removal of the patient from the influences under which he incurred the disorder. This disease, like _caries_ and many other ailments, is prevalent only among civilized races living under artificial conditions; barbarous nations breathing pure air and eating simple food enjoy immunity from its ravages. It is sometimes fatal, but more frequently to the physician than to the patient.LOW-BRED, adj. "Raised" instead of brought up. LUMINARY, n. One who throws light upon a subject; as an editor by not writing about it.
LUNARIAN, n. An inhabitant of the moon, as distinguished from Lunatic, one whom the moon inhabits. The Lunarians have been described by Lucian, Locke and other observers, but without much agreement. For example, Bragellos avers their anatomical identity with Man, but Professor Newcomb says they are more like the hill tribes of Vermont.
LYRE, n. An ancient instrument of torture. The word is now used in a figurative sense to denote the poetic faculty, as in the following fiery lines of our great poet, Ella Wheeler Wilcox:
I sit astride Parnassus with my lyre, And pick with care the disobedient wire. That stupid shepherd lolling on his crook With deaf attention scarcely deigns to look. I bide my time, and it shall come at length, When, with a Titan's energy and strength, I'll grab a fistful of the strings, and O, The word shall suffer when I let them go!Farquharson Harris M
MACE, n. A staff of office signifying authority. Its form, that of a heavy club, indicates its original purpose and use in dissuading from dissent.MACHINATION, n. The method employed by one's opponents in baffling one's open and honorable efforts to do the right thing.
So plain the advantages of machination
It constitutes a moral obligation,
And honest wolves who think upon't with loathing Feel bound to don the sheep's deceptive clothing. So prospers still the diplomatic art,
And Satan bows, with hand upon his heart.
MACROBIAN, n. One forgotten of the gods and living to a great age. History is abundantly supplied with examples, from Methuselah to Old Parr, but some notable instances of longevity are less well known. A Calabrian peasant named Coloni, born in 1753, lived so long that he had what he considered a glimpse of the dawn of universal peace. Scanavius relates that he knew an archbishop who was so old that he could remember a time when he did not deserve hanging. In 1566 a linen draper of Bristol, England, declared that he had lived five hundred years, and that in all that time he had never told a lie. There are instances of longevity (_macrobiosis_) in our own country. Senator Chauncey Depew is old enough to know better. The editor of _The American_, a newspaper in New York City, has a memory that goes back to the time when he was a rascal, but not to the fact. The President of the United States was born so long ago that many of the friends of his youth have risen to high political and military preferment without the assistance of personal merit. The verses following were written by a macrobian:
When I was young the world was fair And amiable and sunny.
A brightness was in all the air,
In all the waters, honey.
The jokes were fine and funny,
The statesmen honest in their views, And in their lives, as well,
And when you heard a bit of news 'Twas true enough to tell.
Men were not ranting, shouting, reeking,
Nor women "generally speaking."
The Summer then was long indeed: It lasted one whole season!
The sparkling Winter gave no heed When ordered by Unreason
To bring the early peas on.
Now, where the dickens is the sense In calling that a year
Which does no more than just commence Before the end is near?
When I was young the year extended
From month to month until it ended.
I know not why the world has changed To something dark and dreary,
And everything is now arranged
To make a fellow weary.
The Weather Man -- I fear he
Has much to do with it, for, sure, The air is not the same:
It chokes you when it is impure,
When pure it makes you lame.
With windows closed you are asthmatic;
Open, neuralgic or sciatic.
Well, I suppose this new regime Of dun degeneration
Seems eviler than it would seem To a better observation, And has for compensation
Some blessings in a deep disguise Which mortal sight has failed
To pierce, although to angels' eyes They're visible unveiled.
If Age is such a boon, good land!
He's costumed by a master hand!
MAD, adj. Affected with a high degree of intellectual independence; not conforming to standards of thought, speech and action derived by the conformants from study of themselves; at odds with the majority; in short, unusual. It is noteworthy that persons are pronounced mad by officials destitute of evidence that themselves are sane. For illustration, this present (and illustrious) lexicographer is no firmer in the faith of his own sanity than is any inmate of any madhouse in the land; yet for aught he knows to the contrary, instead of the lofty occupation that seems to him to be engaging his powers he may really be beating his hands against the window bars of an asylum and declaring himself Noah Webster, to the innocent delight of many thoughtless spectators.
MAGDALENE, n. An inhabitant of Magdala. Popularly, a woman found out. This definition of the word has the authority of ignorance, Mary of Magdala being another person than the penitent woman mentioned by St. Luke. It has also the official sanction of the governments of Great Britain and the United States. In England the word is pronounced Maudlin, whence maudlin, adjective, unpleasantly sentimental. With their Maudlin for Magdalene, and their Bedlam for Bethlehem, the English may justly boast themselves the greatest of revisers.
MAGIC, n. An art of converting superstition into coin. There are other arts serving the same high purpose, but the discreet lexicographer does not name them.MAGNET, n. Something acted upon by magnetism.
MAGNETISM, n. Something acting upon a magnet.
The two definitions immediately foregoing are condensed from the
works of one thousand eminent scientists, who have illuminated the
subject with a great white light, to the inexpressible advancement of
MAGNIFICENT, adj. Having a grandeur or splendor superior to that to which the spectator is accustomed, as the ears of an ass, to a rabbit, or the glory of a glowworm, to a maggot.
MAGNITUDE, n. Size. Magnitude being purely relative, nothing is large and nothing small. If everything in the universe were increased in bulk one thousand diameters nothing would be any larger than it was before, but if one thing remain unchanged all the others would be larger than they had been. To an understanding familiar with the relativity of magnitude and distance the spaces and masses of the astronomer would be no more impressive than those of the microscopist. For anything we know to the contrary, the visible universe may be a small part of an atom, with its component ions, floating in the life- fluid (luminiferous ether) of some animal. Possibly the wee creatures peopling the corpuscles of our own blood are overcome with the proper emotion when contemplating the unthinkable distance from one of these to another.
MAIDEN, n. A young person of the unfair sex addicted to clewless conduct and views that madden to crime. The genus has a wide geographical distribution, being found wherever sought and deplored wherever found. The maiden is not altogether unpleasing to the eye, nor (without her piano and her views) insupportable to the ear, though in respect to comeliness distinctly inferior to the rainbow, and, with regard to the part of her that is audible, bleating out of the field by the canary -- which, also, is more portable.
A lovelorn maiden she sat and sang -- This quaint, sweet song sang she;
"It's O for a youth with a football bang And a muscle fair to see!
The Captain he
Of a team to be!
On the gridiron he shall shine,
A monarch by right divine,
And never to roast on it -- me!"
MAJESTY, n. The state and title of a king. Regarded with a just contempt by the Most Eminent Grand Masters, Grand Chancellors, Great Incohonees and Imperial Potentates of the ancient and honorable orders of republican America.
MALE, n. A member of the unconsidered, or negligible sex. The male of the human race is commonly known (to the female) as Mere Man. The genus has two varieties: good providers and bad providers.
MALEFACTOR, n. The chief factor in the progress of the human race. MALTHUSIAN, adj. Pertaining to Malthus and his doctrines. Malthus believed in artificially limiting population, but found that it could not be done by talking. One of the most practical exponents of the Malthusian idea was Herod of Judea, though all the famous soldiers have been of the same way of thinking.
MAMMALIA, n.pl. A family of vertebrate animals whose females in a state of nature suckle their young, but when civilized and enlightened put them out to nurse, or use the bottle.MAMMON, n. The god of the world's leading religion. The chief temple is in the holy city of New York. He swore that all other religions were gammon, And wore out his knees in the worship of Mammon. Jared Oopf
MAN, n. An animal so lost in rapturous contemplation of what he thinks he is as to overlook what he indubitably ought to be. His chief occupation is extermination of other animals and his own species, which, however, multiplies with such insistent rapidity as to infest the whole habitable earth and Canada.
When the world was young and Man was new, And everything was pleasant,
Distinctions Nature never drew
'Mongst kings and priest and peasant. We're not that way at present,
Save here in this Republic, where
We have that old regime,
For all are kings, however bare
Their backs, howe'er extreme
Their hunger. And, indeed, each has a voice
To accept the tyrant of his party's choice.
A citizen who would not vote,
And, therefore, was detested,
Was one day with a tarry coat
(With feathers backed and breasted) By patriots invested.
"It is your duty," cried the crowd,
"Your ballot true to cast
For the man o' your choice." He humbly bowed, And explained his wicked past:
"That's what I very gladly would have done,
Dear patriots, but he has never run."
Apperton Duke MANES, n. The immortal parts of dead Greeks and Romans. They were in a state of dull discomfort until the bodies from which they had exhaled were buried and burned; and they seem not to have been particularly happy afterward.
MANICHEISM, n. The ancient Persian doctrine of an incessant warfare between Good and Evil. When Good gave up the fight the Persians joined the victorious Opposition.
MANNA, n. A food miraculously given to the Israelites in the wilderness. When it was no longer supplied to them they settled down and tilled the soil, fertilizing it, as a rule, with the bodies of the original occupants.MARRIAGE, n. The state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress and two slaves, making in all, two. MARTYR, n. One who moves along the line of least reluctance to a desired death. MATERIAL, adj. Having an actual existence, as distinguished from an imaginary one. Important. Material things I know, or fell, or see; All else is immaterial to me. Jamrach Holobom MAUSOLEUM, n. The final and funniest folly of the rich. MAYONNAISE, n. One of the sauces which serve the French in place of a state religion.
ME, pro. The objectionable case of I. The personal pronoun in English has three cases, the dominative, the objectionable and the oppressive. Each is all three.
MEANDER, n. To proceed sinuously and aimlessly. The word is the ancient name of a river about one hundred and fifty miles south of Troy, which turned and twisted in the effort to get out of hearing when the Greeks and Trojans boasted of their prowess.MEDAL, n. A small metal disk given as a reward for virtues, attainments or services more or less authentic.
It is related of Bismark, who had been awarded a medal for gallantly rescuing a drowning person, that, being asked the meaning of the medal, he replied: "I save lives sometimes." And sometimes he didn't.MEDICINE, n. A stone flung down the Bowery to kill a dog in Broadway. MEEKNESS, n. Uncommon patience in planning a revenge that is worth while.
M is for Moses,
Who slew the Egyptian.
As sweet as a rose is
The meekness of Moses.
No monument shows his Post-mortem inscription,
But M is for Moses
Who slew the Egyptian.
MEERSCHAUM, n. (Literally, seafoam, and by many erroneously supposed to be made of it.) A fine white clay, which for convenience in coloring it brown is made into tobacco pipes and smoked by the workmen engaged in that industry. The purpose of coloring it has not been disclosed by the manufacturers.
There was a youth (you've heard before, This woeful tale, may be),
Who bought a meerschaum pipe and swore That color it would he!
He shut himself from the world away, Nor any soul he saw.
He smoke by night, he smoked by day, As hard as he could draw.
His dog died moaning in the wrath Of winds that blew aloof;
The weeds were in the gravel path, The owl was on the roof.
"He's gone afar, he'll come no more," The neighbors sadly say.
And so they batter in the door To take his goods away.
Dead, pipe in mouth, the youngster lay, Nut-brown in face and limb.
"That pipe's a lovely white," they say, "But it has colored him!"
MIND, n. A mysterious form of matter secreted by the brain. Its chief activity consists in the endeavor to ascertain its own nature, the futility of the attempt being due to the fact that it has nothing but itself to know itself with. From the Latin _mens_, a fact unknown to that honest shoe-seller, who, observing that his learned competitor over the way had displayed the motto "_Mens conscia recti_," emblazoned his own front with the words "Men's, women's and children's conscia recti."MINE, adj. Belonging to me if I can hold or seize it.
MINISTER, n. An agent of a higher power with a lower responsibility. In diplomacy and officer sent into a foreign country as the visible embodiment of his sovereign's hostility. His principal qualification is a degree of plausible inveracity next below that of an ambassador.MINOR, adj. Less objectionable.
MINSTREL, adj. Formerly a poet, singer or musician; now a nigger with a color less than skin deep and a humor more than flesh and blood can bear.
MIRACLE, n. An act or event out of the order of nature and unaccountable, as beating a normal hand of four kings and an ace with four aces and a king.
MISCREANT, n. A person of the highest degree of unworth. Etymologically, the word means unbeliever, and its present signification may be regarded as theology's noblest contribution to the development of our language.
MISDEMEANOR, n. An infraction of the law having less dignity than a felony and constituting no claim to admittance into the best criminal society.
By misdemeanors he essays to climb
Into the aristocracy of crime.
O, woe was him! -- with manner chill and grand "Captains of industry" refused his hand, "Kings of finance" denied him recognition And "railway magnates" jeered his low condition. He robbed a bank to make himself respected. They still rebuffed him, for he was detected.
MISS, n. The title with which we brand unmarried women to indicate that they are in the market. Miss, Missis (Mrs.) and Mister (Mr.) are the three most distinctly disagreeable words in the language, in sound and sense. Two are corruptions of Mistress, the other of Master. In the general abolition of social titles in this our country they miraculously escaped to plague us. If we must have them let us be consistent and give one to the unmarried man. I venture to suggest Mush, abbreviated to Mh.
MOLECULE, n. The ultimate, indivisible unit of matter. It is distinguished from the corpuscle, also the ultimate, indivisible unit of matter, by a closer resemblance to the atom, also the ultimate, indivisible unit of matter. Three great scientific theories of the structure of the universe are the molecular, the corpuscular and the atomic. A fourth affirms, with Haeckel, the condensation of precipitation of matter from ether -- whose existence is proved by the condensation of precipitation. The present trend of scientific thought is toward the theory of ions. The ion differs from the molecule, the corpuscle and the atom in that it is an ion. A fifth theory is held by idiots, but it is doubtful if they know any more about the matter than the others.
MONAD, n. The ultimate, indivisible unit of matter. (See _Molecule_.) According to Leibnitz, as nearly as he seems willing to be understood, the monad has body without bulk, and mind without manifestation -- Leibnitz knows him by the innate power of considering. He has founded upon him a theory of the universe, which the creature bears without resentment, for the monad is a gentleman. Small as he is, the monad contains all the powers and possibilities needful to his evolution into a German philosopher of the first class
-- altogether a very capable little fellow. He is not to be
confounded with the microbe, or bacillus; by its inability to discern him, a good microscope shows him to be of an entirely distinct species.
MONARCH, n. A person engaged in reigning. Formerly the monarch ruled, as the derivation of the word attests, and as many subjects have had occasion to learn. In Russia and the Orient the monarch has still a considerable influence in public affairs and in the
disposition of the human head, but in western Europe political administration is mostly entrusted to his ministers, he being somewhat preoccupied with reflections relating to the status of his own head.
MONEY, n. A blessing that is of no advantage to us excepting when we part with it. An evidence of culture and a passport to polite society. Supportable property.MONKEY, n. An arboreal animal which makes itself at home in genealogical trees.
MONOSYLLABIC, adj. Composed of words of one syllable, for literary babes who never tire of testifying their delight in the vapid compound by appropriate googoogling. The words are commonly Saxon -- that is to say, words of a barbarous people destitute of ideas and incapable of any but the most elementary sentiments and emotions.The man who writes in Saxon Is the man to use an ax on Judibras MONSIGNOR, n. A high ecclesiastical title, of which the Founder of our religion overlooked the advantages. MONUMENT, n. A structure intended to commemorate something which either needs no commemoration or cannot be commemorated.
The bones of Agammemnon are a show, And ruined is his royal monument, but Agammemnon's fame suffers no diminution in consequence. The monument custom has its _reductiones ad absurdum_ in monuments "to the unknown dead" -- that is to say, monuments to perpetuate the memory of those who have left no memory.MORAL, adj. Conforming to a local and mutable standard of right. Having the quality of general expediency.
It is sayd there be a raunge of mountaynes in the Easte, on one syde of the which certayn conducts are immorall, yet on the other syde they are holden in good esteeme; wherebye the mountayneer is much conveenyenced, for it is given to him to goe downe eyther way and act as it shall suite his moode, withouten offence._Gooke's Meditations_ MORE, adj. The comparative degree of too much.
MOUSE, n. An animal which strews its path with fainting women. As in Rome Christians were thrown to the lions, so centuries earlier in Otumwee, the most ancient and famous city of the world, female heretics were thrown to the mice. Jakak-Zotp, the historian, the only Otumwump whose writings have descended to us, says that these martyrs met their death with little dignity and much exertion. He even attempts to exculpate the mice (such is the malice of bigotry) by declaring that the unfortunate women perished, some from exhaustion, some of broken necks from falling over their own feet, and some from lack of restoratives. The mice, he avers, enjoyed the pleasures of the chase with composure. But if "Roman history is nine-tenths lying," we can hardly expect a smaller proportion of that rhetorical figure in the annals of a people capable of so incredible cruelty to a lovely women; for a hard heart has a false tongue.
MOUSQUETAIRE, n. A long glove covering a part of the arm. Worn in New Jersey. But "mousquetaire" is a might poor way to spell muskeeter.MOUTH, n. In man, the gateway to the soul; in woman, the outlet of the heart. MUGWUMP, n. In politics one afflicted with self-respect and addicted to the vice of independence. A term of contempt. MULATTO, n. A child of two races, ashamed of both.
MULTITUDE, n. A crowd; the source of political wisdom and virtue. In a republic, the object of the statesman's adoration. "In a multitude of counsellors there is wisdom," saith the proverb. If many men of equal individual wisdom are wiser than any one of them, it must be that they acquire the excess of wisdom by the mere act of getting together. Whence comes it? Obviously from nowhere -- as well say that a range of mountains is higher than the single mountains composing it. A multitude is as wise as its wisest member if it obey him; if not, it is no wiser than its most foolish.
MUMMY, n. An ancient Egyptian, formerly in universal use among modern civilized nations as medicine, and now engaged in supplying art with an excellent pigment. He is handy, too, in museums in gratifying the vulgar curiosity that serves to distinguish man from the lower animals.
By means of the Mummy, mankind, it is said, Attests to the gods its respect for the dead. We plunder his tomb, be he sinner or saint, Distil him for physic and grind him for paint, Exhibit for money his poor, shrunken frame, And with levity flock to the scene of the shame. O, tell me, ye gods, for the use of my rhyme: For respecting the dead what's the limit of time?Scopas Brune MUSTANG, n. An indocile horse of the western plains. In English society, the American wife of an English nobleman. MYRMIDON, n. A follower of Achilles -- particularly when he didn't lead.
MYTHOLOGY, n. The body of a primitive people's beliefs concerning its origin, early history, heroes, deities and so forth, as distinguished from the true accounts which it invents later.N
NECTAR, n. A drink served at banquets of the Olympian deities. The secret of its preparation is lost, but the modern Kentuckians believe that they come pretty near to a knowledge of its chief ingredient.
Juno drank a cup of nectar,
But the draught did not affect her. Juno drank a cup of rye --
Then she bad herself good-bye.
J.G. NEGRO, n. The _piece de resistance_ in the American political problem. Representing him by the letter n, the Republicans begin to build their equation thus: "Let n = the white man." This, however, appears to give an unsatisfactory solution.NEIGHBOR, n. One whom we are commanded to love as ourselves, and who does all he knows how to make us disobedient. NEPOTISM, n. Appointing your grandmother to office for the good of the party.
NEWTONIAN, adj. Pertaining to a philosophy of the universe invented by Newton, who discovered that an apple will fall to the ground, but was unable to say why. His successors and disciples have advanced so far as to be able to say when.NIHILIST, n. A Russian who denies the existence of anything but Tolstoi. The leader of the school is Tolstoi.
NIRVANA, n. In the Buddhist religion, a state of pleasurable annihilation awarded to the wise, particularly to those wise enough to understand it.NOBLEMAN, n. Nature's provision for wealthy American minds ambitious to incur social distinction and suffer high life. NOISE, n. A stench in the ear. Undomesticated music. The chief product and authenticating sign of civilization.
NOMINATE, v. To designate for the heaviest political assessment. To put forward a suitable person to incur the mudgobbling and deadcatting of the opposition.
NOMINEE, n. A modest gentleman shrinking from the distinction of private life and diligently seeking the honorable obscurity of public office.NON-COMBATANT, n. A dead Quaker. NONSENSE, n. The objections that are urged against this excellent dictionary.
NOSE, n. The extreme outpost of the face. From the circumstance that great conquerors have great noses, Getius, whose writings antedate the age of humor, calls the nose the organ of quell. It has been observed that one's nose is never so happy as when thrust into the affairs of others, from which some physiologists have drawn the inference that the nose is devoid of the sense of smell.
There's a man with a Nose, And wherever he goes
The people run from him and shout: "No cotton have we
For our ears if so be
Said the Judge: "the defendant prefixion, Whate'er it portend,
Appears to transcend
NOTORIETY, n. The fame of one's competitor for public honors. The kind of renown most accessible and acceptable to mediocrity. A Jacob's-ladder leading to the vaudeville stage, with angels ascending and descending.
NOUMENON, n. That which exists, as distinguished from that which merely seems to exist, the latter being a phenomenon. The noumenon is a bit difficult to locate; it can be apprehended only be a process of reasoning -- which is a phenomenon. Nevertheless, the discovery and exposition of noumena offer a rich field for what Lewes calls "the endless variety and excitement of philosophic thought." Hurrah (therefore) for the noumenon!
NOVEL, n. A short story padded. A species of composition bearing the same relation to literature that the panorama bears to art. As it is too long to be read at a sitting the impressions made by its successive parts are successively effaced, as in the panorama. Unity, totality of effect, is impossible; for besides the few pages last read all that is carried in mind is the mere plot of what has gone before. To the romance the novel is what photography is to painting. Its distinguishing principle, probability, corresponds to the literal actuality of the photograph and puts it distinctly into the category of reporting; whereas the free wing of the romancer enables him to mount to such altitudes of imagination as he may be fitted to attain; and the first three essentials of the literary art are imagination, imagination and imagination. The art of writing novels, such as it was, is long dead everywhere except in Russia, where it is new. Peace to its ashes -- some of which have a large sale.NOVEMBER, n. The eleventh twelfth of a weariness. O OATH, n. In law, a solemn appeal to the Deity, made binding upon the conscience by a penalty for perjury.
OBLIVION, n. The state or condition in which the wicked cease from struggling and the dreary are at rest. Fame's eternal dumping ground. Cold storage for high hopes. A place where ambitious authors meet their works without pride and their betters without envy. A dormitory without an alarm clock.OBSERVATORY, n. A place where astronomers conjecture away the guesses of their predecessors.
OBSESSED, p.p. Vexed by an evil spirit, like the Gadarene swine and other critics. Obsession was once more common than it is now. Arasthus tells of a peasant who was occupied by a different devil for every day in the week, and on Sundays by two. They were frequently seen, always walking in his shadow, when he had one, but were finally driven away by the village notary, a holy man; but they took the peasant with them, for he vanished utterly. A devil thrown out of a woman by the Archbishop of Rheims ran through the trees, pursued by a hundred persons, until the open country was reached, where by a leap higher than a church spire he escaped into a bird. A chaplain in Cromwell's army exorcised a soldier's obsessing devil by throwing the soldier into the water, when the devil came to the surface. The soldier, unfortunately, did not.
OBSOLETE, adj. No longer used by the timid. Said chiefly of words. A word which some lexicographer has marked obsolete is ever thereafter an object of dread and loathing to the fool writer, but if it is a good word and has no exact modern equivalent equally good, it is good enough for the good writer. Indeed, a writer's attitude toward "obsolete" words is as true a measure of his literary ability as anything except the character of his work. A dictionary of obsolete and obsolescent words would not only be singularly rich in strong and sweet parts of speech; it would add large possessions to the vocabulary of every competent writer who might not happen to be a competent reader.OBSTINATE, adj. Inaccessible to the truth as it is manifest in the splendor and stress of our advocacy. The popular type and exponent of obstinacy is the mule, a most intelligent animal.
OCCASIONAL, adj. Afflicting us with greater or less frequency. That, however, is not the sense in which the word is used in the phrase "occasional verses," which are verses written for an "occasion," such as an anniversary, a celebration or other event. True, they afflict us a little worse than other sorts of verse, but their name has no reference to irregular recurrence.
OCCIDENT, n. The part of the world lying west (or east) of the Orient. It is largely inhabited by Christians, a powerful subtribe of the Hypocrites, whose principal industries are murder and cheating, which they are pleased to call "war" and "commerce." These, also, are the principal industries of the Orient.OCEAN, n. A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made for man -- who has no gills. OFFENSIVE, adj. Generating disagreeable emotions or sensations, as the advance of an army against its enemy.
"Were the enemy's tactics offensive?" the king asked. "I should say so!" replied the unsuccessful general. "The blackguard wouldn't come out of his works!"
OLD, adj. In that stage of usefulness which is not inconsistent with general inefficiency, as an _old man_. Discredited by lapse of time and offensive to the popular taste, as an _old_ book.
"Old books? The devil take them!" Goby said. "Fresh every day must be my books and bread." Nature herself approves the Goby rule And gives us every moment a fresh fool.Harley Shum
OLEAGINOUS, adj. Oily, smooth, sleek.
Disraeli once described the manner of Bishop Wilberforce as
"unctuous, oleaginous, saponaceous." And the good prelate was ever
afterward known as Soapy Sam. For every man there is something in the
vocabulary that would stick to him like a second skin. His enemies
have only to find it.
OLYMPIAN, adj. Relating to a mountain in Thessaly, once inhabited by gods, now a repository of yellowing newspapers, beer bottles and mutilated sardine cans, attesting the presence of the tourist and his appetite.
His name the smirking tourist scrawls Upon Minerva's temple walls,
Where thundered once Olympian Zeus, And marks his appetite's abuse.
OPERA, n. A play representing life in another world, whose inhabitants have no speech but song, no motions but gestures and no postures but attitudes. All acting is simulation, and the word _simulation_ is from _simia_, an ape; but in opera the actor takes for his model _Simia audibilis_ (or _Pithecanthropos stentor_) -- the ape that howls.The actor apes a man -- at least in shape; The opera performer apes and ape. OPIATE, n. An unlocked door in the prison of Identity. It leads into the jail yard. OPPORTUNITY, n. A favorable occasion for grasping a disappointment. OPPOSE, v. To assist with obstructions and objections.
How lonely he who thinks to vex With bandinage the Solemn Sex! Of levity, Mere Man, beware;
None but the Grave deserve the Unfair.
The King of Ghargaroo, who had been abroad to study the science of government, appointed one hundred of his fattest subjects as members of a parliament to make laws for the collection of revenue. Forty of these he named the Party of Opposition and had his Prime Minister carefully instruct them in their duty of opposing every royal measure. Nevertheless, the first one that was submitted passed unanimously. Greatly displeased, the King vetoed it, informing the Opposition that if they did that again they would pay for their obstinacy with their heads. The entire forty promptly disemboweled themselves.
"What shall we do now?" the King asked. "Liberal institutions cannot be maintained without a party of Opposition."
"Splendor of the universe," replied the Prime Minister, "it is true these dogs of darkness have no longer their credentials, but all is not lost. Leave the matter to this worm of the dust."
So the Minister had the bodies of his Majesty's Opposition embalmed and stuffed with straw, put back into the seats of power and nailed there. Forty votes were recorded against every bill and the nation prospered. But one day a bill imposing a tax on warts was defeated -- the members of the Government party had not been nailed to their seats! This so enraged the King that the Prime Minister was put to death, the parliament was dissolved with a battery of artillery, and government of the people, by the people, for the people perished from Ghargaroo.
OPTIMISM, n. The doctrine, or belief, that everything is beautiful, including what is ugly, everything good, especially the bad, and everything right that is wrong. It is held with greatest tenacity by those most accustomed to the mischance of falling into adversity, and is most acceptably expounded with the grin that apes a smile. Being a blind faith, it is inaccessible to the light of disproof -- an
intellectual disorder, yielding to no treatment but death. It is hereditary, but fortunately not contagious.
OPTIMIST, n. A proponent of the doctrine that black is white. A pessimist applied to God for relief.
"Ah, you wish me to restore your hope and cheerfulness," said God. "No," replied the petitioner, "I wish you to create something that
would justify them."
"The world is all created," said God, "but you have overlooked
something -- the mortality of the optimist."
ORPHAN, n. A living person whom death has deprived of the power of filial ingratitude -- a privation appealing with a particular eloquence to all that is sympathetic in human nature. When young the orphan is commonly sent to an asylum, where by careful cultivation of its rudimentary sense of locality it is taught to know its place. It is then instructed in the arts of dependence and servitude and eventually turned loose to prey upon the world as a bootblack or scullery maid.ORTHODOX, n. An ox wearing the popular religious joke.
ORTHOGRAPHY, n. The science of spelling by the eye instead of the ear. Advocated with more heat than light by the outmates of every asylum for the insane. They have had to concede a few things since the time of Chaucer, but are none the less hot in defence of those to be conceded hereafter.
A spelling reformer indicted
For fudge was before the court cicted. The judge said: "Enough --
His candle we'll snough,
And his sepulchre shall not be whicted." OSTRICH, n. A large bird to which (for its sins, doubtless) nature has denied that hinder toe in which so many pious naturalists have seen a conspicuous evidence of design. The absence of a good working pair of wings is no defect, for, as has been ingeniously pointed out, the ostrich does not fly.
OUTCOME, n. A particular type of disappointment. By the kind of intelligence that sees in an exception a proof of the rule the wisdom of an act is judged by the outcome, the result. This is immortal nonsense; the wisdom of an act is to be juded by the light that the doer had when he performed it.OUTDO, v.t. To make an enemy.
OUT-OF-DOORS, n. That part of one's environment upon which no government has been able to collect taxes. Chiefly useful to inspire poets.
I climbed to the top of a mountain one day To see the sun setting in glory,
And I thought, as I looked at his vanishing ray, Of a perfectly splendid story.
'Twas about an old man and the ass he bestrode Till the strength of the beast was o'ertested;
Then the man would carry him miles on the road Till Neddy was pretty well rested.
The moon rising solemnly over the crest Of the hills to the east of my station
Displayed her broad disk to the darkening west Like a visible new creation.
And I thought of a joke (and I laughed till I cried) Of an idle young woman who tarried
About a church-door for a look at the bride, Although 'twas herself that was married.
To poets all Nature is pregnant with grand Ideas -- with thought and emotion.
I pity the dunces who don't understand The speech of earth, heaven and ocean.
OVATION, n. n ancient Rome, a definite, formal pageant in honor of one who had been disserviceable to the enemies of the nation. A lesser "triumph." In modern English the word is improperly used to signify any loose and spontaneous expression of popular homage to the hero of the hour and place.
"I had an ovation!" the actor man said, But I thought it uncommonly queer,
That people and critics by him had been led By the ear.
The Latin lexicon makes his absurd Assertion as plain as a peg;
In "ovum" we find the true root of the word. It means egg.
Hail, Gastronome, Apostle of Excess, Well skilled to overeat without distress! Thy great invention, the unfatal feast, Shows Man's superiority to Beast.John Boop OVERWORK, n. A dangerous disorder affecting high public functionaries who want to go fishing.
OWE, v. To have (and to hold) a debt. The word formerly signified not indebtedness, but possession; it meant "own," and in the minds of debtors there is still a good deal of confusion between assets and liabilities.
OYSTER, n. A slimy, gobby shellfish which civilization gives men the hardihood to eat without removing its entrails! The shells are sometimes given to the poor.P
PAIN, n. An uncomfortable frame of mind that may have a physical basis in something that is being done to the body, or may be purely mental, caused by the good fortune of another.PAINTING, n. The art of protecting flat surfaces from the weather and exposing them to the critic.
Formerly, painting and sculpture were combined in the same work: the ancients painted their statues. The only present alliance between the two arts is that the modern painter chisels his patrons.
PALACE, n. A fine and costly residence, particularly that of a great official. The residence of a high dignitary of the Christian Church is called a palace; that of the Founder of his religion was known as a field, or wayside. There is progress.
PALM, n. A species of tree having several varieties, of which the familiar "itching palm" (_Palma hominis_) is most widely distributed and sedulously cultivated. This noble vegetable exudes a kind of invisible gum, which may be detected by applying to the bark a piece of gold or silver. The metal will adhere with remarkable tenacity. The fruit of the itching palm is so bitter and unsatisfying that a considerable percentage of it is sometimes given away in what are known as "benefactions."
PALMISTRY, n. The 947th method (according to Mimbleshaw's classification) of obtaining money by false pretences. It consists in "reading character" in the wrinkles made by closing the hand. The pretence is not altogether false; character can really be read very accurately in this way, for the wrinkles in every hand submitted plainly spell the word "dupe." The imposture consists in not reading it aloud.
PANDEMONIUM, n. Literally, the Place of All the Demons. Most of them have escaped into politics and finance, and the place is now used as a lecture hall by the Audible Reformer. When disturbed by his voice the ancient echoes clamor appropriate responses most gratifying to his pride of distinction.
PANTALOONS, n. A nether habiliment of the adult civilized male. The garment is tubular and unprovided with hinges at the points of flexion. Supposed to have been invented by a humorist. Called "trousers" by the enlightened and "pants" by the unworthy.PANTHEISM, n. The doctrine that everything is God, in contradistinction to the doctrine that God is everything. PANTOMIME, n. A play in which the story is told without violence to the language. The least disagreeable form of dramatic action. PARDON, v. To remit a penalty and restore to the life of crime. To add to the lure of crime the temptation of ingratitude.
PASSPORT, n. A document treacherously inflicted upon a citizen going abroad, exposing him as an alien and pointing him out for special reprobation and outrage.
PAST, n. That part of Eternity with some small fraction of which we have a slight and regrettable acquaintance. A moving line called the Present parts it from an imaginary period known as the Future. These two grand divisions of Eternity, of which the one is continually effacing the other, are entirely unlike. The one is dark with sorrow and disappointment, the other bright with prosperity and joy. The Past is the region of sobs, the Future is the realm of song. In the one crouches Memory, clad in sackcloth and ashes, mumbling penitential prayer; in the sunshine of the other Hope flies with a free wing, beckoning to temples of success and bowers of ease. Yet the Past is the Future of yesterday, the Future is the Past of to-morrow. They are one -- the knowledge and the dream.
In Dr. Johnson's famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer I beg to submit that it is the first.PEACE, n. In international affairs, a period of cheating between two periods of fighting.
O, what's the loud uproar assailing Mine ears without cease?
'Tis the voice of the hopeful, all-hailing The horrors of peace.
Ah, Peace Universal; they woo it -- Would marry it, too.
If only they knew how to do it 'Twere easy to do.
They're working by night and by day On their problem, like moles.
Have mercy, O Heaven, I pray, On their meddlesome souls!
The editor of an English magazine having received a letter pointing out the erroneous nature of his views and style, and signed "Perfection," promptly wrote at the foot of the letter: "I don't agree with you," and mailed it to Matthew Arnold.
PERIPATETIC, adj. Walking about. Relating to the philosophy of Aristotle, who, while expounding it, moved from place to place in order to avoid his pupil's objections. A needless precaution -- they knew no more of the matter than he.
PERORATION, n. The explosion of an oratorical rocket. It dazzles, but to an observer having the wrong kind of nose its most conspicuous peculiarity is the smell of the several kinds of powder used in preparing it.PERSEVERANCE, n. A lowly virtue whereby mediocrity achieves an inglorious success.
"Persevere, persevere!" cry the homilists all, Themselves, day and night, persevering to bawl. "Remember the fable of tortoise and hare -- The one at the goal while the other is -- where?" Why, back there in Dreamland, renewing his lease Of life, all his muscles preserving the peace, The goal and the rival forgotten alike,
And the long fatigue of the needless hike. His spirit a-squat in the grass and the dew Of the dogless Land beyond the Stew,
He sleeps, like a saint in a holy place,
A winner of all that is good in a race.
PESSIMISM, n. A philosophy forced upon the convictions of the observer by the disheartening prevalence of the optimist with his scarecrow hope and his unsightly smile.
PHILANTHROPIST, n. A rich (and usually bald) old gentleman who has trained himself to grin while his conscience is picking his pocket. PHILISTINE, n. One whose mind is the creature of its environment, following the fashion in thought, feeling and sentiment. He is sometimes learned, frequently prosperous, commonly clean and always solemn.PHILOSOPHY, n. A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing. PHOENIX, n. The classical prototype of the modern "small hot bird." PHONOGRAPH, n. An irritating toy that restores life to dead noises.
PHOTOGRAPH, n. A picture painted by the sun without instruction in art. It is a little better than the work of an Apache, but not quite so good as that of a Cheyenne.
PHRENOLOGY, n. The science of picking the pocket through the scalp. It consists in locating and exploiting the organ that one is a dupe with.PHYSICIAN, n. One upon whom we set our hopes when ill and our dogs when well.
PHYSIOGNOMY, n. The art of determining the character of another by the resemblances and differences between his face and our own, which is the standard of excellence.
"There is no art," says Shakespeare, foolish man, "To read the mind's construction in the face."
The physiognomists his portrait scan,
And say: "How little wisdom here we trace!
He knew his face disclosed his mind and heart,
So, in his own defence, denied our art."
PIANO, n. A parlor utensil for subduing the impenitent visitor. It is operated by pressing the keys of the machine and the spirits of the audience.PICKANINNY, n. The young of the _Procyanthropos_, or _Americanus dominans_. It is small, black and charged with political fatalities. PICTURE, n. A representation in two dimensions of something wearisome in three.
"Behold great Daubert's picture here on view -- Taken from Life." If that description's true, Grant, heavenly Powers, that I be taken, too. Jali HanePIE, n. An advance agent of the reaper whose name is Indigestion. Cold pie was highly esteemed by the remains. Rev. Dr. Mucker (in a funeral sermon over a British nobleman)
Cold pie is a detestable
That's why I'm done -- or undone -- So far from that dear London.
PIG, n. An animal (_Porcus omnivorus_) closely allied to the human race by the splendor and vivacity of its appetite, which, however, is inferior in scope, for it sticks at pig.
PIGMY, n. One of a tribe of very small men found by ancient travelers in many parts of the world, but by modern in Central Africa only. The Pigmies are so called to distinguish them from the bulkier Caucasians
-- who are Hogmies.
PILGRIM, n. A traveler that is taken seriously. A Pilgrim Father was one who, leaving Europe in 1620 because not permitted to sing psalms through his nose, followed it to Massachusetts, where he could personate God according to the dictates of his conscience.
PILLORY, n. A mechanical device for inflicting personal distinction
-- prototype of the modern newspaper conducted by persons of austere virtues and blameless lives.
PLAGUE, n. In ancient times a general punishment of the innocent for admonition of their ruler, as in the familiar instance of Pharaoh the Immune. The plague as we of to-day have the happiness to know it is merely Nature's fortuitous manifestation of her purposeless objectionableness.PLAN, v.t. To bother about the best method of accomplishing an accidental result.
PLATITUDE, n. The fundamental element and special glory of popular literature. A thought that snores in words that smoke. The wisdom of a million fools in the diction of a dullard. A fossil sentiment in artificial rock. A moral without the fable. All that is mortal of a departed truth. A demi-tasse of milk-and-mortality. The Pope's-nose of a featherless peacock. A jelly-fish withering on the shore of the sea of thought. The cackle surviving the egg. A desiccated epigram.
PLATONIC, adj. Pertaining to the philosophy of Socrates. Platonic Love is a fool's name for the affection between a disability and a frost.PLAUDITS, n. Coins with which the populace pays those who tickle and devour it. PLEASE, v. To lay the foundation for a superstructure of imposition. PLEASURE, n. The least hateful form of dejection.
PLEBEIAN, n. An ancient Roman who in the blood of his country stained nothing but his hands. Distinguished from the Patrician, who was a saturated solution.PLEBISCITE, n. A popular vote to ascertain the will of the sovereign.
PLENIPOTENTIARY, adj. Having full power. A Minister Plenipotentiary is a diplomatist possessing absolute authority on condition that he never exert it.PLEONASM, n. An army of words escorting a corporal of thought. PLOW, n. An implement that cries aloud for hands accustomed to the pen.
PLUNDER, v. To take the property of another without observing the decent and customary reticences of theft. To effect a change of ownership with the candid concomitance of a brass band. To wrest the wealth of A from B and leave C lamenting a vanishing opportunity.
POCKET, n. The cradle of motive and the grave of conscience. In woman this organ is lacking; so she acts without motive, and her conscience, denied burial, remains ever alive, confessing the sins of others.POETRY, n. A form of expression peculiar to the Land beyond the Magazines. POKER, n. A game said to be played with cards for some purpose to this lexicographer unknown. POLICE, n. An armed force for protection and participation. POLITENESS, n. The most acceptable hypocrisy. POLITICS, n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.
POLITICIAN, n. An eel in the fundamental mud upon which the superstructure of organized society is reared. When we wriggles he mistakes the agitation of his tail for the trembling of the edifice. As compared with the statesman, he suffers the disadvantage of being alive.
POLYGAMY, n. A house of atonement, or expiatory chapel, fitted with several stools of repentance, as distinguished from monogamy, which has but one.
POPULIST, n. A fossil patriot of the early agricultural period, found in the old red soapstone underlying Kansas; characterized by an uncommon spread of ear, which some naturalists contend gave him the power of flight, though Professors Morse and Whitney, pursuing independent lines of thought, have ingeniously pointed out that had he possessed it he would have gone elsewhere. In the picturesque speech of his period, some fragments of which have come down to us, he was known as "The Matter with Kansas."PORTABLE, adj. Exposed to a mutable ownership through vicissitudes of possession.
His light estate, if neither he did make it Nor yet its former guardian forsake it, Is portable improperly, I take it.
PORTUGUESE, n.pl. A species of geese indigenous to Portugal. They are mostly without feathers and imperfectly edible, even when stuffed with garlic.POSITIVE, adj. Mistaken at the top of one's voice.
POSITIVISM, n. A philosophy that denies our knowledge of the Real and affirms our ignorance of the Apparent. Its longest exponent is Comte, its broadest Mill and its thickest Spencer.
POSTERITY, n. An appellate court which reverses the judgment of a popular author's contemporaries, the appellant being his obscure competitor.
POTABLE, n. Suitable for drinking. Water is said to be potable; indeed, some declare it our natural beverage, although even they find it palatable only when suffering from the recurrent disorder known as thirst, for which it is a medicine. Upon nothing has so great and diligent ingenuity been brought to bear in all ages and in all countries, except the most uncivilized, as upon the invention of substitutes for water. To hold that this general aversion to that liquid has no basis in the preservative instinct of the race is to be unscientific -- and without science we are as the snakes and toads.
POVERTY, n. A file provided for the teeth of the rats of reform. The number of plans for its abolition equals that of the reformers who suffer from it, plus that of the philosophers who know nothing about it. Its victims are distinguished by possession of all the virtues and by their faith in leaders seeking to conduct them into a prosperity where they believe these to be unknown.PRAY, v. To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy.
PRE-ADAMITE, n. One of an experimental and apparently unsatisfactory race of antedated Creation and lived under conditions not easily conceived. Melsius believed them to have inhabited "the Void" and to have been something intermediate between fishes and birds. Little its known of them beyond the fact that they supplied Cain with a wife and theologians with a controversy.
PRECEDENT, n. In Law, a previous decision, rule or practice which, in the absence of a definite statute, has whatever force and authority a Judge may choose to give it, thereby greatly simplifying his task of doing as he pleases. As there are precedents for everything, he has only to ignore those that make against his interest and accentuate those in the line of his desire. Invention of the precedent elevates the trial-at-law from the low estate of a fortuitous ordeal to the noble attitude of a dirigible arbitrament.PRECIPITATE, adj. Anteprandial. Precipitate in all, this sinner Took action first, and then his dinner. Judibras
PREDESTINATION, n. The doctrine that all things occur according to programme. This doctrine should not be confused with that of foreordination, which means that all things are programmed, but does not affirm their occurrence, that being only an implication from other doctrines by which this is entailed. The difference is great enough to have deluged Christendom with ink, to say nothing of the gore. With the distinction of the two doctrines kept well in mind, and a reverent belief in both, one may hope to escape perdition if spared.PREDICAMENT, n. The wage of consistency. PREDILECTION, n. The preparatory stage of disillusion. PRE-EXISTENCE, n. An unnoted factor in creation. PREFERENCE, n. A sentiment, or frame of mind, induced by the erroneous belief that one thing is better than another.
An ancient philosopher, expounding his conviction that life is no better than death, was asked by a disciple why, then, he did not die. "Because," he replied, "death is no better than life."It is longer. PREHISTORIC, adj. Belonging to an early period and a museum. Antedating the art and practice of perpetuating falsehood.
He lived in a period prehistoric,
When all was absurd and phantasmagoric. Born later, when Clio, celestial recorded, Set down great events in succession and order, He surely had seen nothing droll or fortuitous In anything here but the lies that she threw at us.
In Boorioboola-Gha a man is presentable on occasions of ceremony if he have his abdomen painted a bright blue and wear a cow's tail; in New York he may, if it please him, omit the paint, but after sunset he must wear two tails made of the wool of a sheep and dyed black.
PRESIDE, v. To guide the action of a deliberative body to a desirable result. In Journalese, to perform upon a musical instrument; as, "He presided at the piccolo."
The Headliner, holding the copy in hand, Read with a solemn face:
"The music was very uncommonly grand -- The best that was every provided,
For our townsman Brown presided
At the organ with skill and grace."
The Headliner discontinued to read,
And, spread the paper down
On the desk, he dashed in at the top of the screed: "Great playing by President Brown."
PRESIDENT, n. The leading figure in a small group of men of whom -- and of whom only -- it is positively known that immense numbers of their countrymen did not want any of them for President.
If that's an honor surely 'tis a greater
To have been a simple and undamned spectator. Behold in me a man of mark and note
Whom no elector e'er denied a vote! --
An undiscredited, unhooted gent
Who might, for all we know, be President By acclimation. Cheer, ye varlets, cheer -- I'm passing with a wide and open ear!
PRIMATE, n. The head of a church, especially a State church supported by involuntary contributions. The Primate of England is the Archbishop of Canterbury, an amiable old gentleman, who occupies Lambeth Palace when living and Westminster Abbey when dead. He is commonly dead.PRISON, n. A place of punishments and rewards. The poet assures us that -- "Stone walls do not a prison make," but a combination of the stone wall, the political parasite and the moral instructor is no garden of sweets. PRIVATE, n. A military gentleman with a field-marshal's baton in his knapsack and an impediment in his hope.
PROBOSCIS, n. The rudimentary organ of an elephant which serves him in place of the knife-and-fork that Evolution has as yet denied him. For purposes of humor it is popularly called a trunk.
Asked how he knew that an elephant was going on a journey, the illustrious Jo. Miller cast a reproachful look upon his tormentor, and answered, absently: "When it is ajar," and threw himself from a high promontory into the sea. Thus perished in his pride the most famous humorist of antiquity, leaving to mankind a heritage of woe! No successor worthy of the title has appeared, though Mr. Edward Bok, of _The Ladies' Home Journal_, is much respected for the purity and sweetness of his personal character.
PROJECTILE, n. The final arbiter in international disputes. Formerly these disputes were settled by physical contact of the disputants, with such simple arguments as the rudimentary logic of the times could supply -- the sword, the spear, and so forth. With the growth of prudence in military affairs the projectile came more and more into favor, and is now held in high esteem by the most courageous. Its capital defect is that it requires personal attendance at the point of propulsion.
PROOF, n. Evidence having a shade more of plausibility than of unlikelihood. The testimony of two credible witnesses as opposed to that of only one.
PROPERTY, n. Any material thing, having no particular value, that may be held by A against the cupidity of B. Whatever gratifies the passion for possession in one and disappoints it in all others. The object of man's brief rapacity and long indifference.PROPHECY, n. The art and practice of selling one's credibility for future delivery. PROSPECT, n. An outlook, usually forbidding. An expectation, usually forbidden.
Blow, blow, ye spicy breezes -- O'er Ceylon blow your breath,
Where every prospect pleases, Save only that of death.
PYRRHONISM, n. An ancient philosophy, named for its inventor. It consisted of an absolute disbelief in everything but Pyrrhonism. Its modern professors have added that.Q
QUEEN, n. A woman by whom the realm is ruled when there is a king, and through whom it is ruled when there is not.
QUILL, n. An implement of torture yielded by a goose and commonly wielded by an ass. This use of the quill is now obsolete, but its modern equivalent, the steel pen, is wielded by the same everlasting Presence.
He extracted from his quiver, Did the controversial Roman,
An argument well fitted
To the question as submitted,
Then addressed it to the liver, Of the unpersuaded foeman.
QUIXOTIC, adj. Absurdly chivalric, like Don Quixote. An insight into the beauty and excellence of this incomparable adjective is unhappily denied to him who has the misfortune to know that the gentleman's name is pronounced Ke-ho-tay.When ignorance from out of our lives can banish Philology, 'tis folly to know Spanish. Juan Smith
QUORUM, n. A sufficient number of members of a deliberative body to have their own way and their own way of having it. In the United States Senate a quorum consists of the chairman of the Committee on Finance and a messenger from the White House; in the House of Representatives, of the Speaker and the devil.QUOTATION, n. The act of repeating erroneously the words of another. The words erroneously repeated.
Intent on making his quotation truer, He sought the page infallible of Brewer, Then made a solemn vow that we would be Condemned eternally. Ah, me, ah, me!Stumpo Gaker
QUOTIENT, n. A number showing how many times a sum of money belonging to one person is contained in the pocket of another -- usually about as many times as it can be got there.
RABBLE, n. In a republic, those who exercise a supreme authority tempered by fraudulent elections. The rabble is like the sacred Simurgh, of Arabian fable -- omnipotent on condition that it do nothing. (The word is Aristocratese, and has no exact equivalent in our tongue, but means, as nearly as may be, "soaring swine.")
RACK, n. An argumentative implement formerly much used in persuading devotees of a false faith to embrace the living truth. As a call to the unconverted the rack never had any particular efficacy, and is now held in light popular esteem.RANK, n. Relative elevation in the scale of human worth.
He held at court a rank so high
That other noblemen asked why. "Because," 'twas answered, "others lack His skill to scratch the royal back."
RAREBIT, n. A Welsh rabbit, in the speech of the humorless, who point out that it is not a rabbit. To whom it may be solemnly explained that the comestible known as toad-in-a-hole is really not a toad, and that _riz-de-veau a la financiere_ is not the smile of a calf prepared after the recipe of a she banker.RASCAL, n. A fool considered under another aspect. RASCALITY, n. Stupidity militant. The activity of a clouded intellect. RASH, adj. Insensible to the value of our advice. "Now lay your bet with mine, nor let
These gamblers take your cash."
"Nay, this child makes no bet." "Great snakes!
How can you be so rash?"
Bootle P. Gish
RAZOR, n. An instrument used by the Caucasian to enhance his beauty, by the Mongolian to make a guy of himself, and by the Afro-American to affirm his worth.
REACH, n. The radius of action of the human hand. The area within which it is possible (and customary) to gratify directly the propensity to provide.
This is a truth, as old as the hills, That life and experience teach:
The poor man suffers that keenest of ills, An impediment of his reach.
READING, n. The general body of what one reads. In our country it consists, as a rule, of Indiana novels, short stories in "dialect" and humor in slang.
We know by one's reading His learning and breeding; By what draws his laughter We know his Hereafter. Read nothing, laugh never -- The Sphinx was less clever!Jupiter Muke RADICALISM, n. The conservatism of to-morrow injected into the affairs of to-day. RADIUM, n. A mineral that gives off heat and stimulates the organ that a scientist is a fool with.
RAILROAD, n. The chief of many mechanical devices enabling us to get away from where we are to where we are no better off. For this purpose the railroad is held in highest favor by the optimist, for it permits him to make the transit with great expedition.
RAMSHACKLE, adj. Pertaining to a certain order of architecture, otherwise known as the Normal American. Most of the public buildings of the United States are of the Ramshackle order, though some of our earlier architects preferred the Ironic. Recent additions to the White House in Washington are Theo-Doric, the ecclesiastic order of the Dorians. They are exceedingly fine and cost one hundred dollars a brick.
REALISM, n. The art of depicting nature as it is seen by toads. The charm suffusing a landscape painted by a mole, or a story written by a measuring-worm.REALITY, n. The dream of a mad philosopher. That which would remain in the cupel if one should assay a phantom. The nucleus of a vacuum. REALLY, adv. Apparently. REAR, n. In American military matters, that exposed part of the army that is nearest to Congress. REASON, v.i. To weight probabilities in the scales of desire. REASON, n. Propensitate of prejudice. REASONABLE, adj. Accessible to the infection of our own opinions. Hospitable to persuasion, dissuasion and evasion. REBEL, n. A proponent of a new misrule who has failed to establish it. RECOLLECT, v. To recall with additions something not previously known. RECONCILIATION, n. A suspension of hostilities. An armed truce for the purpose of digging up the dead. RECONSIDER, v. To seek a justification for a decision already made. RECOUNT, n. In American politics, another throw of the dice, accorded to the player against whom they are loaded. RECREATION, n. A particular kind of dejection to relieve a general fatigue. RECRUIT, n. A person distinguishable from a civilian by his uniform and from a soldier by his gait. Fresh from the farm or factory or street, His marching, in pursuit or in retreat, Were an impressive martial spectacle Except for two impediments -- his feet. Thompson Johnson RECTOR, n. In the Church of England, the Third Person of the parochial Trinity, the Cruate and the Vicar being the other two.
REDEMPTION, n. Deliverance of sinners from the penalty of their sin, through their murder of the deity against whom they sinned. The doctrine of Redemption is the fundamental mystery of our holy religion, and whoso believeth in it shall not perish, but have everlasting life in which to try to understand it.
We must awake Man's spirit from his sin, And take some special measure for redeeming it;
Though hard indeed the task to get it in
Among the angels any way but teaming it, Or purify it otherwise than steaming it.
I'm awkward at Redemption -- a beginner:
My method is to crucify the sinner.
REDRESS, n. Reparation without satisfaction.
Among the Anglo-Saxon a subject conceiving himself wronged by the
king was permitted, on proving his injury, to beat a brazen image of
the royal offender with a switch that was afterward applied to his own
naked back. The latter rite was performed by the public hangman, and
it assured moderation in the plaintiff's choice of a switch.
The Sultan said: "There's evidence abundant To prove this unbelieving dog redundant." To whom the Grand Vizier, with mien impressive, Replied: "His head, at least, appears excessive."Habeeb Suleiman Mr. Debs is a redundant citizen. Theodore Roosevelt REFERENDUM, n. A law for submission of proposed legislation to a popular vote to learn the nonsensus of public opinion.
REFLECTION, n. An action of the mind whereby we obtain a clearer view of our relation to the things of yesterday and are able to avoid the perils that we shall not again encounter.REFORM, v. A thing that mostly satisfies reformers opposed to reformation.
REFUGE, n. Anything assuring protection to one in peril. Moses and Joshua provided six cities of refuge -- Bezer, Golan, Ramoth, Kadesh, Schekem and Hebron -- to which one who had taken life inadvertently could flee when hunted by relatives of the deceased. This admirable expedient supplied him with wholesome exercise and enabled them to enjoy the pleasures of the chase; whereby the soul of the dead man was appropriately honored by observations akin to the funeral games of early Greece.
REFUSAL, n. Denial of something desired; as an elderly maiden's hand in marriage, to a rich and handsome suitor; a valuable franchise to a rich corporation, by an alderman; absolution to an impenitent king, by a priest, and so forth. Refusals are graded in a descending scale of finality thus: the refusal absolute, the refusal condition, the refusal tentative and the refusal feminine. The last is called by some casuists the refusal assentive.
REGALIA, n. Distinguishing insignia, jewels and costume of such ancient and honorable orders as Knights of Adam; Visionaries of Detectable Bosh; the Ancient Order of Modern Troglodytes; the League of Holy Humbug; the Golden Phalanx of Phalangers; the Genteel Society of Expurgated Hoodlums; the Mystic Alliances of Georgeous Regalians; Knights and Ladies of the Yellow Dog; the Oriental Order of Sons of the West; the Blatherhood of Insufferable Stuff; Warriors of the Long Bow; Guardians of the Great Horn Spoon; the Band of Brutes; the Impenitent Order of Wife-Beaters; the Sublime Legion of Flamboyant Conspicuants; Worshipers at the Electroplated Shrine; Shining Inaccessibles; Fee-Faw-Fummers of the inimitable Grip; Jannissaries of the Broad-Blown Peacock; Plumed Increscencies of the Magic Temple; the Grand Cabal of Able-Bodied Sedentarians; Associated Deities of the Butter Trade; the Garden of Galoots; the Affectionate Fraternity of Men Similarly Warted; the Flashing Astonishers; Ladies of Horror; Cooperative Association for Breaking into the Spotlight; Dukes of Eden; Disciples Militant of the Hidden Faith; Knights-Champions of the Domestic Dog; the Holy Gregarians; the Resolute Optimists; the Ancient Sodality of Inhospitable Hogs; Associated Sovereigns of Mendacity; Dukes-Guardian of the Mystic Cess-Pool; the Society for Prevention of Prevalence; Kings of Drink; Polite Federation of Gents-Consequential; the Mysterious Order of the Undecipherable Scroll; Uniformed Rank of Lousy Cats; Monarchs of Worth and Hunger; Sons of the South Star; Prelates of the Tub-and-Sword.
RELIGION, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.
"What is your religion my son?" inquired the Archbishop of Rheims. "Pardon, monseigneur," replied Rochebriant; "I am ashamed of it." "Then why do you not become an atheist?"
"Impossible! I should be ashamed of atheism."
"In that case, monsieur, you should join the Protestants."
RELIQUARY, n. A receptacle for such sacred objects as pieces of the true cross, short-ribs of the saints, the ears of Balaam's ass, the lung of the cock that called Peter to repentance and so forth. Reliquaries are commonly of metal, and provided with a lock to prevent the contents from coming out and performing miracles at unseasonable times. A feather from the wing of the Angel of the Annunciation once escaped during a sermon in Saint Peter's and so tickled the noses of the congregation that they woke and sneezed with great vehemence three times each. It is related in the "Gesta Sanctorum" that a sacristan in the Canterbury cathedral surprised the head of Saint Dennis in the library. Reprimanded by its stern custodian, it explained that it was seeking a body of doctrine. This unseemly levity so raged the diocesan that the offender was publicly anathematized, thrown into the Stour and replaced by another head of Saint Dennis, brought from Rome.
RENOWN, n. A degree of distinction between notoriety and fame -- a little more supportable than the one and a little more intolerable than the other. Sometimes it is conferred by an unfriendly and inconsiderate hand.
I touched the harp in every key, But found no heeding ear;
And then Ithuriel touched me With a revealing spear.
Not all my genius, great as 'tis, Could urge me out of night.
I felt the faint appulse of his, And leapt into the light!
REPARTEE, n. Prudent insult in retort. Practiced by gentlemen with a constitutional aversion to violence, but a strong disposition to offend. In a war of words, the tactics of the North American Indian.
REPENTANCE, n. The faithful attendant and follower of Punishment. It is usually manifest in a degree of reformation that is not inconsistent with continuity of sin.
Desirous to avoid the pains of Hell,
You will repent and join the Church, Parnell? How needless! -- Nick will keep you off the coals And add you to the woes of other souls.
REPLICA, n. A reproduction of a work of art, by the artist that made the original. It is so called to distinguish it from a "copy," which is made by another artist. When the two are mae with equal skill the replica is the more valuable, for it is supposed to be more beautiful than it looks.REPORTER, n. A writer who guesses his way to the truth and dispels it with a tempest of words.
"More dear than all my bosom knows, O thou Whose 'lips are sealed' and will not disavow!" So sang the blithe reporter-man as grew Beneath his hand the leg-long "interview."Barson Maith REPOSE, v.i. To cease from troubling. REPRESENTATIVE, n. In national politics, a member of the Lower House in this world, and without discernible hope of promotion in the next.
REPROBATION, n. In theology, the state of a luckless mortal prenatally damned. The doctrine of reprobation was taught by Calvin, whose joy in it was somewhat marred by the sad sincerity of his conviction that although some are foredoomed to perdition, others are predestined to salvation.
REPUBLIC, n. A nation in which, the thing governing and the thing governed being the same, there is only a permitted authority to enforce an optional obedience. In a republic, the foundation of public order is the ever lessening habit of submission inherited from ancestors who, being truly governed, submitted because they had to. There are as many kinds of republics as there are graduations between the despotism whence they came and the anarchy whither they lead.
REQUIEM, n. A mass for the dead which the minor poets assure us the winds sing o'er the graves of their favorites. Sometimes, by way of providing a varied entertainment, they sing a dirge.
RESIDENT, adj. Unable to leave.
'Twas rumored Leonard Wood had signed A true renunciation
Of title, rank and every kind
Of military station --
Each honorable station.
By his example fired -- inclined To noble emulation,
The country humbly was resigned To Leonard's resignation -- His Christian resignation.
RESPIRATOR, n. An apparatus fitted over the nose and mouth of an inhabitant of London, whereby to filter the visible universe in its passage to the lungs.
RESPITE, n. A suspension of hostilities against a sentenced assassin, to enable the Executive to determine whether the murder may not have been done by the prosecuting attorney. Any break in the continuity of a disagreeable expectation.Altgeld upon his incandescent bed Lay, an attendant demon at his head. "O cruel cook, pray grant me some relief -- Some respite from the roast, however brief." "Remember how on earth I pardoned all Your friends in Illinois when held in thrall." "Unhappy soul! for that alone you squirm O'er fire unquenched, a never-dying worm. "Yet, for I pity your uneasy state,
Your doom I'll mollify and pains abate. "Naught, for a season, shall your comfort mar, Not even the memory of who you are."Throughout eternal space dread silence fell; Heaven trembled as Compassion entered Hell. "As long, sweet demon, let my respite be As, governing down here, I'd respite thee." "As long, poor soul, as any of the pack You thrust from jail consumed in getting back." A genial chill affected Altgeld's hide While they were turning him on t'other side. Joel Spate Woop
RESPLENDENT, adj. Like a simple American citizen beduking himself in his lodge, or affirming his consequence in the Scheme of Things as an elemental unit of a parade.The Knights of Dominion were so resplendent in their velvet- and-gold that their masters would hardly have known them. "Chronicles of the Classes"
RESPOND, v.i. To make answer, or disclose otherwise a consciousness of having inspired an interest in what Herbert Spencer calls "external coexistences," as Satan "squat like a toad" at the ear of Eve, responded to the touch of the angel's spear. To respond in damages is to contribute to the maintenance of the plaintiff's attorney and, incidentally, to the gratification of the plaintiff.
RESPONSIBILITY, n. A detachable burden easily shifted to the shoulders of God, Fate, Fortune, Luck or one's neighbor. In the days of astrology it was customary to unload it upon a star.
Alas, things ain't what we should see If Eve had let that apple be;
And many a feller which had ought To set with monarchses of thought, Or play some rosy little game
With battle-chaps on fields of fame, Is downed by his unlucky star
And hollers: "Peanuts! -- here you are!"
"The Sturdy Beggar" RESTITUTIONS, n. The founding or endowing of universities and public libraries by gift or bequest.RESTITUTOR, n. Benefactor; philanthropist. RETALIATION, n. The natural rock upon which is reared the Temple of Law.
RETRIBUTION, n. A rain of fire-and-brimstone that falls alike upon the just and such of the unjust as have not procured shelter by evicting them.
In the lines following, addressed to an Emperor in exile by Father Gassalasca Jape, the reverend poet appears to hint his sense of the improduence of turning about to face Retribution when it is talking exercise:
What, what! Dom Pedro, you desire to go Back to Brazil to end your days in quiet?
Why, what assurance have you 'twould be so? 'Tis not so long since you were in a riot, And your dear subjects showed a will to fly at
Your throat and shake you like a rat. You know
That empires are ungrateful; are you certain
Republics are less handy to get hurt in?
REVEILLE, n. A signal to sleeping soldiers to dream of battlefields no more, but get up and have their blue noses counted. In the American army it is ingeniously called "rev-e-lee," and to that pronunciation our countrymen have pledged their lives, their misfortunes and their sacred dishonor.
REVELATION, n. A famous book in which St. John the Divine concealed all that he knew. The revealing is done by the commentators, who know nothing.REVERENCE, n. The spiritual attitude of a man to a god and a dog to a man. REVIEW, v.t.
To set your wisdom (holding not a doubt of it, Although in truth there's neither bone nor skin to it)
At work upon a book, and so read out of it
The qualities that you have first read into it.
REVOLUTION, n. In politics, an abrupt change in the form of misgovernment. Specifically, in American history, the substitution of the rule of an Administration for that of a Ministry, whereby the welfare and happiness of the people were advanced a full half-inch. Revolutions are usually accompanied by a considerable effusion of blood, but are accounted worth it -- this appraisement being made by beneficiaries whose blood had not the mischance to be shed. The French revolution is of incalculable value to the Socialist of to-day; when he pulls the string actuating its bones its gestures are inexpressibly terrifying to gory tyrants suspected of fomenting law and order.RHADOMANCER, n. One who uses a divining-rod in prospecting for precious metals in the pocket of a fool. RIBALDRY, n. Censorious language by another concerning oneself.
RIBROASTER, n. Censorious language by oneself concerning another. The word is of classical refinement, and is even said to have been used in a fable by Georgius Coadjutor, one of the most fastidious writers of the fifteenth century -- commonly, indeed, regarded as the founder of the Fastidiotic School.
RICE-WATER, n. A mystic beverage secretly used by our most popular novelists and poets to regulate the imagination and narcotize the conscience. It is said to be rich in both obtundite and lethargine, and is brewed in a midnight fog by a fat which of the Dismal Swamp.
RICH, adj. Holding in trust and subject to an accounting the property of the indolent, the incompetent, the unthrifty, the envious and the luckless. That is the view that prevails in the underworld, where the Brotherhood of Man finds its most logical development and candid advocacy. To denizens of the midworld the word means good and wise.RICHES, n. A gift from Heaven signifying, "This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased." John D. Rockefeller The reward of toil and virtue. J.P. Morgan The sayings of many in the hands of one. Eugene Debs
To these excellent definitions the inspired lexicographer feels that he can add nothing of value.
RIDICULE, n. Words designed to show that the person of whom they are uttered is devoid of the dignity of character distinguishing him who utters them. It may be graphic, mimetic or merely rident.
Shaftesbury is quoted as having pronounced it the test of truth -- a ridiculous assertion, for many a solemn fallacy has undergone centuries of ridicule with no abatement of its popular acceptance. What, for example, has been more valorously derided than the doctrine of Infant Respectability?
RIGHT, n. Legitimate authority to be, to do or to have; as the right to be a king, the right to do one's neighbor, the right to have measles, and the like. The first of these rights was once universally believed to be derived directly from the will of God; and this is still sometimes affirmed _in partibus infidelium_ outside the enlightened realms of Democracy; as the well known lines of Sir Abednego Bink, following:
By what right, then, do royal rulers rule? Whose is the sanction of their state and pow'r?
He surely were as stubborn as a mule
Who, God unwilling, could maintain an hour His uninvited session on the throne, or air His pride securely in the Presidential chair.
Whatever is is so by Right Divine;
Whate'er occurs, God wills it so. Good land!
It were a wondrous thing if His design A fool could baffle or a rogue withstand! If so, then God, I say (intending no offence) Is guilty of contributory negligence.
RIGHTEOUSNESS, n. A sturdy virtue that was once found among the Pantidoodles inhabiting the lower part of the peninsula of Oque. Some feeble attempts were made by returned missionaries to introduce it into several European countries, but it appears to have been imperfectly expounded. An example of this faulty exposition is found in the only extant sermon of the pious Bishop Rowley, a characteristic passage from which is here given:
"Now righteousness consisteth not merely in a holy state of mind, nor yet in performance of religious rites and obedience to the letter of the law. It is not enough that one be pious and just: one must see to it that others also are in the same state; and to this end compulsion is a proper means. Forasmuch as my injustice may work ill to another, so by his injustice may evil be wrought upon still another, the which it is as manifestly my duty to estop as to forestall mine own tort. Wherefore if I would be righteous I am bound to restrain my neighbor, by force if needful, in all those injurious enterprises from which, through a better disposition and by the help of Heaven, I do myself restrain."
RIME, n. Agreeing sounds in the terminals of verse, mostly bad. The verses themselves, as distinguished from prose, mostly dull. Usually (and wickedly) spelled "rhyme."RIMER, n. A poet regarded with indifference or disesteem.
The rimer quenches his unheeded fires, The sound surceases and the sense expires. Then the domestic dog, to east and west, Expounds the passions burning in his breast. The rising moon o'er that enchanted land Pauses to hear and yearns to understand.Mowbray Myles RIOT, n. A popular entertainment given to the military by innocent bystanders.
R.I.P. A careless abbreviation of _requiescat in pace_, attesting to indolent goodwill to the dead. According to the learned Dr. Drigge, however, the letters originally meant nothing more than _reductus in pulvis_.
RITE, n. A religious or semi-religious ceremony fixed by law, precept or custom, with the essential oil of sincerity carefully squeezed out of it.RITUALISM, n. A Dutch Garden of God where He may walk in rectilinear freedom, keeping off the grass. ROAD, n. A strip of land along which one may pass from where it is too tiresome to be to where it is futile to go. All roads, howsoe'er they diverge, lead to Rome, Whence, thank the good Lord, at least one leads back home. Borey the Bald
ROBBER, n. A candid man of affairs.
It is related of Voltaire that one night he and some traveling
companion lodged at a wayside inn. The surroundings were suggestive,
and after supper they agreed to tell robber stories in turn. "Once
there was a Farmer-General of the Revenues." Saying nothing more, he
was encouraged to continue. "That," he said, "is the story."
ROMANCE, n. Fiction that owes no allegiance to the God of Things as They Are. In the novel the writer's thought is tethered to
probability, as a domestic horse to the hitching-post, but in romance it ranges at will over the entire region of the imagination -- free, lawless, immune to bit and rein. Your novelist is a poor creature, as Carlyle might say -- a mere reporter. He may invent his characters and plot, but he must not imagine anything taking place that might not occur, albeit his entire narrative is candidly a lie. Why he imposes this hard condition on himself, and "drags at each remove a lengthening chain" of his own forging he can explain in ten thick volumes without illuminating by so much as a candle's ray the black profound of his own ignorance of the matter. There are great novels, for great writers have "laid waste their powers" to write them, but it remains true that far and away the most fascinating fiction that we have is "The Thousand and One Nights."
ROPE, n. An obsolescent appliance for reminding assassins that they too are mortal. It is put about the neck and remains in place one's whole life long. It has been largely superseded by a more complex electrical device worn upon another part of the person; and this is rapidly giving place to an apparatus known as the preachment.
ROSTRUM, n. In Latin, the beak of a bird or the prow of a ship. In America, a place from which a candidate for office energetically expounds the wisdom, virtue and power of the rabble.
ROUNDHEAD, n. A member of the Parliamentarian party in the English civil war -- so called from his habit of wearing his hair short, whereas his enemy, the Cavalier, wore his long. There were other points of difference between them, but the fashion in hair was the fundamental cause of quarrel. The Cavaliers were royalists because the king, an indolent fellow, found it more convenient to let his hair grow than to wash his neck. This the Roundheads, who were mostly barbers and soap-boilers, deemed an injury to trade, and the royal neck was therefore the object of their particular indignation. Descendants of the belligerents now wear their hair all alike, but the fires of animosity enkindled in that ancient strife smoulder to this day beneath the snows of British civility.
RUBBISH, n. Worthless matter, such as the religions, philosophies, literatures, arts and sciences of the tribes infesting the regions lying due south from Boreaplas.RUIN, v. To destroy. Specifically, to destroy a maid's belief in the virtue of maids. RUM, n. Generically, fiery liquors that produce madness in total abstainers. RUMOR, n. A favorite weapon of the assassins of character. Sharp, irresistible by mail or shield,
By guard unparried as by flight unstayed, O serviceable Rumor, let me wield
Against my enemy no other blade.
His be the terror of a foe unseen,
His the inutile hand upon the hilt,
And mine the deadly tongue, long, slender, keen,
Hinting a rumor of some ancient guilt. So shall I slay the wretch without a blow, Spare me to celebrate his overthrow,
And nurse my valor for another foe.
SABBATH, n. A weekly festival having its origin in the fact that God made the world in six days and was arrested on the seventh. Among the Jews observance of the day was enforced by a Commandment of which this is the Christian version: "Remember the seventh day to make thy neighbor keep it wholly." To the Creator it seemed fit and expedient that the Sabbath should be the last day of the week, but the Early Fathers of the Church held other views. So great is the sanctity of the day that even where the Lord holds a doubtful and precarious jurisdiction over those who go down to (and down into) the sea it is reverently recognized, as is manifest in the following deep-water version of the Fourth Commandment:Six days shalt thou labor and do all thou art able, And on the seventh holystone the deck and scrape the cable.
Decks are no longer holystoned, but the cable still supplies the captain with opportunity to attest a pious respect for the divine ordinance.
SACERDOTALIST, n. One who holds the belief that a clergyman is a priest. Denial of this momentous doctrine is the hardest challenge that is now flung into the teeth of the Episcopalian church by the Neo-Dictionarians.
SACRAMENT, n. A solemn religious ceremony to which several degrees of authority and significance are attached. Rome has seven sacraments, but the Protestant churches, being less prosperous, feel that they can afford only two, and these of inferior sanctity. Some of the smaller sects have no sacraments at all -- for which mean economy they will indubitable be damned.
SACRED, adj. Dedicated to some religious purpose; having a divine character; inspiring solemn thoughts or emotions; as, the Dalai Lama of Thibet; the Moogum of M'bwango; the temple of Apes in Ceylon; the Cow in India; the Crocodile, the Cat and the Onion of ancient Egypt; the Mufti of Moosh; the hair of the dog that bit Noah, etc.
All things are either sacred or profane. The former to ecclesiasts bring gain; The latter to the devil appertain.Dumbo Omohundro
SANDLOTTER, n. A vertebrate mammal holding the political views of Denis Kearney, a notorious demagogue of San Francisco, whose audiences gathered in the open spaces (sandlots) of the town. True to the traditions of his species, this leader of the proletariat was finally bought off by his law-and-order enemies, living prosperously silent and dying impenitently rich. But before his treason he imposed upon California a constitution that was a confection of sin in a diction of solecisms. The similarity between the words "sandlotter" and "sansculotte" is problematically significant, but indubitably
SAFETY-CLUTCH, n. A mechanical device acting automatically to prevent the fall of an elevator, or cage, in case of an accident to the
Once I seen a human ruin
In an elevator-well,
And his members was bestrewin' All the place where he had fell.
And I says, apostrophisin' That uncommon woful wreck:
"Your position's so surprisin' That I tremble for your neck!"
Then that ruin, smilin' sadly And impressive, up and spoke:
"Well, I wouldn't tremble badly, For it's been a fortnight broke."
Where they each, respective, lie; How one trotter proves ungracious,
T'other one an _alibi_.
These particulars is mentioned For to show his dismal state,
Which I wasn't first intentioned To specifical relate.
None is worser to be dreaded
That I ever have heard tell
Than the gent's who there was spreaded In that elevator-well.
Now this tale is allegoric -- It is figurative all,
For the well is metaphoric And the feller didn't fall.
For a writer-man to cheat, And despise to wear a laurel
As was gotten by deceit.
For 'tis Politics intended By the elevator, mind,
It will boost a person splendid If his talent is the kind.
Col. Bryan had the talent (For the busted man is him)
And it shot him up right gallant Till his head begun to swim.
Then the rope it broke above him And he painful come to earth
Where there's nobody to love him For his detrimented worth.
Though he's livin' none would know him, Or at leastwise not as such.
Moral of this woful poem:
Frequent oil your safety-clutch.
The Duchess of Orleans relates that the irreverent old
calumniator, Marshal Villeroi, who in his youth had known St. Francis de Sales, said, on hearing him called saint: "I am delighted to hear that Monsieur de Sales is a saint. He was fond of saying indelicate things, and used to cheat at cards. In other respects he was a perfect gentleman, though a fool."
SALACITY, n. A certain literary quality frequently observed in popular novels, especially in those written by women and young girls, who give it another name and think that in introducing it they are occupying a neglected field of letters and reaping an overlooked harvest. If they have the misfortune to live long enough they are tormented with a desire to burn their sheaves.
SALAMANDER, n. Originally a reptile inhabiting fire; later, an anthropomorphous immortal, but still a pyrophile. Salamanders are now believed to be extinct, the last one of which we have an account having been seen in Carcassonne by the Abbe Belloc, who exorcised it with a bucket of holy water.
SARCOPHAGUS, n. Among the Greeks a coffin which being made of a certain kind of carnivorous stone, had the peculiar property of devouring the body placed in it. The sarcophagus known to modern obsequiographers is commonly a product of the carpenter's art.
SATAN, n. One of the Creator's lamentable mistakes, repented in sashcloth and axes. Being instated as an archangel, Satan made himself multifariously objectionable and was finally expelled from Heaven. Halfway in his descent he paused, bent his head in thought a moment and at last went back. "There is one favor that I should like to ask," said he.
"Man, I understand, is about to be created. He will need laws." "What, wretch! you his appointed adversary, charged from the dawn
"Pardon; what I have to ask is that he be permitted to make them himself."
It was so ordered.
SATIRE, n. An obsolete kind of literary composition in which the vices and follies of the author's enemies were expounded with imperfect tenderness. In this country satire never had more than a sickly and uncertain existence, for the soul of it is wit, wherein we are dolefully deficient, the humor that we mistake for it, like all humor, being tolerant and sympathetic. Moreover, although Americans are "endowed by their Creator" with abundant vice and folly, it is not generally known that these are reprehensible qualities, wherefore the satirist is popularly regarded as a soul-spirited knave, and his ever victim's outcry for codefendants evokes a national assent.
Hail Satire! be thy praises ever sung
In the dead language of a mummy's tongue, For thou thyself art dead, and damned as well -- Thy spirit (usefully employed) in Hell.
Had it been such as consecrates the Bible Thou hadst not perished by the law of libel.
SATYR, n. One of the few characters of the Grecian mythology accorded recognition in the Hebrew. (Leviticus, xvii, 7.) The satyr was at first a member of the dissolute community acknowledging a loose allegiance with Dionysius, but underwent many transformations and improvements. Not infrequently he is confounded with the faun, a later and decenter creation of the Romans, who was less like a man and more like a goat.
SAUCE, n. The one infallible sign of civilization and enlightenment. A people with no sauces has one thousand vices; a people with one sauce has only nine hundred and ninety-nine. For every sauce invented and accepted a vice is renounced and forgiven.
SAW, n. A trite popular saying, or proverb. (Figurative and colloquial.) So called because it makes its way into a wooden head. Following are examples of old saws fitted with new teeth.A penny saved is a penny to squander. A man is known by the company that he organizes. A bad workman quarrels with the man who calls him that. A bird in the hand is worth what it will bring. Better late than before anybody has invited you. Example is better than following it. Half a loaf is better than a whole one if there is much else. Think twice before you speak to a friend in need. What is worth doing is worth the trouble of asking somebody to do it. Least said is soonest disavowed. He laughs best who laughs least. Speak of the Devil and he will hear about it. Of two evils choose to be the least. Strike while your employer has a big contract. Where there's a will there's a won't.
SCARABAEUS, n. The sacred beetle of the ancient Egyptians, allied to our familiar "tumble-bug." It was supposed to symbolize immortality, the fact that God knew why giving it its peculiar sanctity. Its habit of incubating its eggs in a ball of ordure may also have commended it to the favor of the priesthood, and may some day assure it an equal reverence among ourselves. True, the American beetle is an inferior beetle, but the American priest is an inferior priest.SCARABEE, n. The same as scarabaeus. He fell by his own hand
Beneath the great oak tree.
He'd traveled in a foreign land.
He tried to make her understand
The dance that's called the Saraband,
But he called it Scarabee.
He had called it so through an afternoon,
And she, the light of his harem if so might be, Had smiled and said naught. O the body was fair to see,
All frosted there in the shine o' the moon --
Dead for a Scarabee
And a recollection that came too late.
They buried him where he lay,
He sleeps awaiting the Day,
And two Possible Puns, moon-eyed and wan,
Gloom over the grave and then move on.
Dead for a Scarabee!
SCARIFICATION, n. A form of penance practised by the mediaeval pious. The rite was performed, sometimes with a knife, sometimes with a hot iron, but always, says Arsenius Asceticus, acceptably if the penitent spared himself no pain nor harmless disfigurement. Scarification, with other crude penances, has now been superseded by benefaction. The founding of a library or endowment of a university is said to yield to the penitent a sharper and more lasting pain than is conferred by the knife or iron, and is therefore a surer means of grace. There are, however, two grave objections to it as a penitential method: the good that it does and the taint of justice.
SCEPTER, n. A king's staff of office, the sign and symbol of his authority. It was originally a mace with which the sovereign admonished his jester and vetoed ministerial measures by breaking the bones of their proponents.
SCIMETAR, n. A curved sword of exceeding keenness, in the conduct of which certain Orientals attain a surprising proficiency, as the incident here related will serve to show. The account is translated from the Japanese by Shusi Itama, a famous writer of the thirteenth century.
When the great Gichi-Kuktai was Mikado he condemned to decapitation Jijiji Ri, a high officer of the Court. Soon after the hour appointed for performance of the rite what was his Majesty's surprise to see calmly approaching the throne the man who should have been at that time ten minutes dead!
"Seventeen hundred impossible dragons!" shouted the enraged monarch. "Did I not sentence you to stand in the market-place and have your head struck off by the public executioner at three o'clock? And is it not now 3:10?"
"Son of a thousand illustrious deities," answered the condemned minister, "all that you say is so true that the truth is a lie in comparison. But your heavenly Majesty's sunny and vitalizing wishes have been pestilently disregarded. With joy I ran and placed my unworthy body in the market-place. The executioner appeared with his bare scimetar, ostentatiously whirled it in air, and then, tapping me lightly upon the neck, strode away, pelted by the populace, with whom I was ever a favorite. I am come to pray for justice upon his own dishonorable and treasonous head."
"To what regiment of executioners does the black-boweled caitiff belong?" asked the Mikado.
"To the gallant Ninety-eight Hundred and Thirty-seventh -- I know the man. His name is Sakko-Samshi."
"Let him be brought before me," said the Mikado to an attendant, and a half-hour later the culprit stood in the Presence.
"Thou bastard son of a three-legged hunchback without thumbs!" roared the sovereign -- "why didst thou but lightly tap the neck that it should have been thy pleasure to sever?"
"Lord of Cranes of Cherry Blooms," replied the executioner, unmoved, "command him to blow his nose with his fingers."
Being commanded, Jijiji Ri laid hold of his nose and trumpeted like an elephant, all expecting to see the severed head flung violently from him. Nothing occurred: the performance prospered peacefully to the close, without incident.
All eyes were now turned on the executioner, who had grown as white as the snows on the summit of Fujiama. His legs trembled and his breath came in gasps of terror.
"Several kinds of spike-tailed brass lions!" he cried; "I am a ruined and disgraced swordsman! I struck the villain feebly because in flourishing the scimetar I had accidentally passed it through my own neck! Father of the Moon, I resign my office."
So saying, he gasped his top-knot, lifted off his head, and advancing to the throne laid it humbly at the Mikado's feet.
SCRAP-BOOK, n. A book that is commonly edited by a fool. Many persons of some small distinction compile scrap-books containing whatever they happen to read about themselves or employ others to collect. One of these egotists was addressed in the lines following, by Agamemnon Melancthon Peters:
Dear Frank, that scrap-book where you boast You keep a record true
Of every kind of peppered roast
That's made of you;
Wherein you paste the printed gibes That revel round your name,
Thinking the laughter of the scribes Attests your fame;
Where all the pictures you arrange That comic pencils trace --
Your funny figure and your strange Semitic face --
Pray lend it me. Wit I have not, Nor art, but there I'll list
The daily drubbings you'd have got Had God a fist.
SCRIPTURES, n. The sacred books of our holy religion, as distinguished from the false and profane writings on which all other faiths are based.
SEAL, n. A mark impressed upon certain kinds of documents to attest their authenticity and authority. Sometimes it is stamped upon wax, and attached to the paper, sometimes into the paper itself. Sealing, in this sense, is a survival of an ancient custom of inscribing important papers with cabalistic words or signs to give them a magical efficacy independent of the authority that they represent. In the British museum are preserved many ancient papers, mostly of a sacerdotal character, validated by necromantic pentagrams and other devices, frequently initial letters of words to conjure with; and in many instances these are attached in the same way that seals are appended now. As nearly every reasonless and apparently meaningless custom, rite or observance of modern times had origin in some remote utility, it is pleasing to note an example of ancient nonsense evolving in the process of ages into something really useful. Our word "sincere" is derived from _sine cero_, without wax, but the learned are not in agreement as to whether this refers to the absence of the cabalistic signs, or to that of the wax with which letters were formerly closed from public scrutiny. Either view of the matter will serve one in immediate need of an hypothesis. The initials L.S., commonly appended to signatures of legal documents, mean _locum sigillis_, the place of the seal, although the seal is no longer used
-- an admirable example of conservatism distinguishing Man from the beasts that perish. The words _locum sigillis_ are humbly suggested as a suitable motto for the Pribyloff Islands whenever they shall take their place as a sovereign State of the American Union.
SEINE, n. A kind of net for effecting an involuntary change of environment. For fish it is made strong and coarse, but women are more easily taken with a singularly delicate fabric weighted with small, cut stones.
The devil casting a seine of lace, (With precious stones 'twas weighted)
Drew it into the landing place
And its contents calculated.
All souls of women were in that sack -- A draft miraculous, precious!
But ere he could throw it across his back They'd all escaped through the meshes.
SERIAL, n. A literary work, usually a story that is not true, creeping through several issues of a newspaper or magazine. Frequently appended to each installment is a "synposis of preceding chapters" for those who have not read them, but a direr need is a synposis of succeeding chapters for those who do not intend to read _them_. A synposis of the entire work would be still better.
The late James F. Bowman was writing a serial tale for a weekly paper in collaboration with a genius whose name has not come down to us. They wrote, not jointly but alternately, Bowman supplying the installment for one week, his friend for the next, and so on, world without end, they hoped. Unfortunately they quarreled, and one Monday morning when Bowman read the paper to prepare himself for his task, he found his work cut out for him in a way to surprise and pain him. His collaborator had embarked every character of the narrative on a ship and sunk them all in the deepest part of the Atlantic.
SEVERALTY, n. Separateness, as, lands in severalty, i.e., lands held individually, not in joint ownership. Certain tribes of Indians are believed now to be sufficiently civilized to have in severalty the lands that they have hitherto held as tribal organizations, and could not sell to the Whites for waxen beads and potato whiskey.
Lo! the poor Indian whose unsuited mind Saw death before, hell and the grave behind; Whom thrifty settler ne'er besought to stay -- His small belongings their appointed prey; Whom Dispossession, with alluring wile, Persuaded elsewhere every little while! His fire unquenched and his undying worm By "land in severalty" (charming term!) Are cooled and killed, respectively, at last, And he to his new holding anchored fast!
SHERIFF, n. In America the chief executive office of a country, whose most characteristic duties, in some of the Western and Southern States, are the catching and hanging of rogues.
John Elmer Pettibone Cajee (I write of him with little glee) Was just as bad as he could be.
'Twas frequently remarked: "I swon! The sun has never looked upon So bad a man as Neighbor John."
A sinner through and through, he had This added fault: it made him mad To know another man was bad.
In such a case he thought it right To rise at any hour of night
And quench that wicked person's light.
Despite the town's entreaties, he Would hale him to the nearest tree And leave him swinging wide and free.
Or sometimes, if the humor came, A luckless wight's reluctant frame Was given to the cheerful flame.
While it was turning nice and brown, All unconcerned John met the frown Of that austere and righteous town.
"How sad," his neighbors said, "that he So scornful of the law should be -- An anar c, h, i, s, t."
(That is the way that they preferred To utter the abhorrent word,
So strong the aversion that it stirred.)
"Resolved," they said, continuing,
"That Badman John must cease this thing Of having his unlawful fling.
"Now, by these sacred relics" -- here Each man had out a souvenir Got at a lynching yesteryear --
"By these we swear he shall forsake His ways, nor cause our hearts to ache By sins of rope and torch and stake.
"We'll tie his red right hand until He'll have small freedom to fulfil The mandates of his lawless will."
So, in convention then and there, They named him Sheriff. The affair Was opened, it is said, with prayer.J. Milton Sloluck
SIREN, n. One of several musical prodigies famous for a vain attempt to dissuade Odysseus from a life on the ocean wave. Figuratively, any lady of splendid promise, dissembled purpose and disappointing performance.
SLANG, n. The grunt of the human hog (_Pignoramus intolerabilis_) with an audible memory. The speech of one who utters with his tongue what he thinks with his ear, and feels the pride of a creator in accomplishing the feat of a parrot. A means (under Providence) of setting up as a wit without a capital of sense.
SMITHAREEN, n. A fragment, a decomponent part, a remain. The word is used variously, but in the following verse on a noted female reformer who opposed bicycle-riding by women because it "led them to the devil" it is seen at its best:
The wheels go round without a sound -- The maidens hold high revel;
In sinful mood, insanely gay,
True spinsters spin adown the way From duty to the devil!
They laugh, they sing, and -- ting-a-ling! Their bells go all the morning;
Their lanterns bright bestar the night Pedestrians a-warning.
With lifted hands Miss Charlotte stands, Good-Lording and O-mying,
Her rheumatism forgotten quite,
Her fat with anger frying.
She blocks the path that leads to wrath, Jack Satan's power defying.
The wheels go round without a sound The lights burn red and blue and green.
What's this that's found upon the ground? Poor Charlotte Smith's a smithareen!
SOPHISTRY, n. The controversial method of an opponent, distinguished from one's own by superior insincerity and fooling. This method is that of the later Sophists, a Grecian sect of philosophers who began by teaching wisdom, prudence, science, art and, in brief, whatever men ought to know, but lost themselves in a maze of quibbles and a fog of words.
His bad opponent's "facts" he sweeps away, And drags his sophistry to light of day;
Then swears they're pushed to madness who resort To falsehood of so desperate a sort.
Not so; like sods upon a dead man's breast, He lies most lightly who the least is pressed.
SORCERY, n. The ancient prototype and forerunner of political influence. It was, however, deemed less respectable and sometimes was punished by torture and death. Augustine Nicholas relates that a poor peasant who had been accused of sorcery was put to the torture to compel a confession. After enduring a few gentle agonies the suffering simpleton admitted his guilt, but naively asked his tormentors if it were not possible to be a sorcerer without knowing it.
SOUL, n. A spiritual entity concerning which there hath been brave disputation. Plato held that those souls which in a previous state of existence (antedating Athens) had obtained the clearest glimpses of eternal truth entered into the bodies of persons who became philosophers. Plato himself was a philosopher. The souls that had least contemplated divine truth animated the bodies of usurpers and despots. Dionysius I, who had threatened to decapitate the broadbrowed philosopher, was a usurper and a despot. Plato, doubtless, was not the first to construct a system of philosophy that could be quoted against his enemies; certainly he was not the last.
"Concerning the nature of the soul," saith the renowned author of _Diversiones Sanctorum_, "there hath been hardly more argument than that of its place in the body. Mine own belief is that the soul hath her seat in the abdomen -- in which faith we may discern and interpret a truth hitherto unintelligible, namely that the glutton is of all men most devout. He is said in the Scripture to 'make a god of his belly'
-- why, then, should he not be pious, having ever his Deity with him to freshen his faith? Who so well as he can know the might and majesty that he shrines? Truly and soberly, the soul and the stomach are one Divine Entity; and such was the belief of Promasius, who nevertheless erred in denying it immortality. He had observed that its visible and material substance failed and decayed with the rest of the body after death, but of its immaterial essence he knew nothing. This is what we call the Appetite, and it survives the wreck and reek of mortality, to be rewarded or punished in another world, according to what it hath demanded in the flesh. The Appetite whose coarse clamoring was for the unwholesome viands of the general market and the public refectory shall be cast into eternal famine, whilst that which firmly through civilly insisted on ortolans, caviare, terrapin, anchovies, _pates de foie gras_ and all such Christian comestibles shall flesh its spiritual tooth in the souls of them forever and ever, and wreak its divine thirst upon the immortal parts of the rarest and richest wines ever quaffed here below. Such is my religious faith, though I grieve to confess that neither His Holiness the Pope nor His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury (whom I equally and profoundly revere) will assent to its dissemination."
SPOOKER, n. A writer whose imagination concerns itself with supernatural phenomena, especially in the doings of spooks. One of the most illustrious spookers of our time is Mr. William D. Howells, who introduces a well-credentialed reader to as respectable and mannerly a company of spooks as one could wish to meet. To the terror that invests the chairman of a district school board, the Howells ghost adds something of the mystery enveloping a farmer from another township.STORY, n. A narrative, commonly untrue. The truth of the stories here following has, however, not been successfully impeached.
One evening Mr. Rudolph Block, of New York, found himself seated at dinner alongside Mr. Percival Pollard, the distinguished critic.
"Mr. Pollard," said he, "my book, _The Biography of a Dead Cow_, is published anonymously, but you can hardly be ignorant of its authorship. Yet in reviewing it you speak of it as the work of the Idiot of the Century. Do you think that fair criticism?"
"I am very sorry, sir," replied the critic, amiably, "but it did not occur to me that you really might not wish the public to know who wrote it."
Mr. W.C. Morrow, who used to live in San Jose, California, was addicted to writing ghost stories which made the reader feel as if a stream of lizards, fresh from the ice, were streaking it up his back and hiding in his hair. San Jose was at that time believed to be haunted by the visible spirit of a noted bandit named Vasquez, who had been hanged there. The town was not very well lighted, and it is putting it mildly to say that San Jose was reluctant to be out o' nights. One particularly dark night two gentlemen were abroad in the loneliest spot within the city limits, talking loudly to keep up their courage, when they came upon Mr. J.J. Owen, a well-known journalist.
"Why, Owen," said one, "what brings you here on such a night as this? You told me that this is one of Vasquez' favorite haunts! And you are a believer. Aren't you afraid to be out?"
"My dear fellow," the journalist replied with a drear autumnal cadence in his speech, like the moan of a leaf-laden wind, "I am afraid to be in. I have one of Will Morrow's stories in my pocket and I don't dare to go where there is light enough to read it."
Rear-Admiral Schley and Representative Charles F. Joy were standing near the Peace Monument, in Washington, discussing the question, Is success a failure? Mr. Joy suddenly broke off in the middle of an eloquent sentence, exclaiming: "Hello! I've heard that band before. Santlemann's, I think."
"I don't hear any band," said Schley.
"Come to think, I don't either," said Joy; "but I see General Miles coming down the avenue, and that pageant always affects me in the same way as a brass band. One has to scrutinize one's impressions pretty closely, or one will mistake their origin."
While the Admiral was digesting this hasty meal of philosophy General Miles passed in review, a spectacle of impressive dignity. When the tail of the seeming procession had passed and the two observers had recovered from the transient blindness caused by its effulgence --
"He seems to be enjoying himself," said the Admiral.
"There is nothing," assented Joy, thoughtfully, "that he enjoys one-half so well."
The illustrious statesman, Champ Clark, once lived about a mile from the village of Jebigue, in Missouri. One day he rode into town on a favorite mule, and, hitching the beast on the sunny side of a street, in front of a saloon, he went inside in his character of teetotaler, to apprise the barkeeper that wine is a mocker. It was a dreadfully hot day. Pretty soon a neighbor came in and seeing Clark, said:"Champ, it is not right to leave that mule out there in the sun.
He'll roast, sure! -- he was smoking as I passed him."
"O, he's all right," said Clark, lightly; "he's an inveterate
The neighbor took a lemonade, but shook his head and repeated that
it was not right.
He was a conspirator. There had been a fire the night before: a
stable just around the corner had burned and a number of horses had
put on their immortality, among them a young colt, which was roasted
to a rich nut-brown. Some of the boys had turned Mr. Clark's mule
loose and substituted the mortal part of the colt. Presently another
man entered the saloon.
"For mercy's sake!" he said, taking it with sugar, "do remove that
mule, barkeeper: it smells."
"Yes," interposed Clark, "that animal has the best nose in
Missouri. But if he doesn't mind, you shouldn't."
In the course of human events Mr. Clark went out, and there,
apparently, lay the incinerated and shrunken remains of his charger.
The boys did not have any fun out of Mr. Clarke, who looked at the
body and, with the non-committal expression to which he owes so much
of his political preferment, went away. But walking home late that
night he saw his mule standing silent and solemn by the wayside in the
misty moonlight. Mentioning the name of Helen Blazes with uncommon
emphasis, Mr. Clark took the back track as hard as ever he could hook
it, and passed the night in town.
General H.H. Wotherspoon, president of the Army War College, has a pet rib-nosed baboon, an animal of uncommon intelligence but imperfectly beautiful. Returning to his apartment one evening, the General was surprised and pained to find Adam (for so the creature is named, the general being a Darwinian) sitting up for him and wearing his master's best uniform coat, epaulettes and all.
"You confounded remote ancestor!" thundered the great strategist, "what do you mean by being out of bed after naps? -- and with my coat on!"
Adam rose and with a reproachful look got down on all fours in the manner of his kind and, scuffling across the room to a table, returned with a visiting-card: General Barry had called and, judging by an empty champagne bottle and several cigar-stumps, had been hospitably entertained while waiting. The general apologized to his faithful progenitor and retired. The next day he met General Barry, who said:
"Spoon, old man, when leaving you last evening I forgot to ask you about those excellent cigars. Where did you get them?"
General Wotherspoon did not deign to reply, but walked away.
"Pardon me, please," said Barry, moving after him; "I was joking of course. Why, I knew it was not you before I had been in the room fifteen minutes."
SUCCESS, n. The one unpardonable sin against one's fellows. In literature, and particularly in poetry, the elements of success are exceedingly simple, and are admirably set forth in the following lines by the reverend Father Gassalasca Jape, entitled, for some mysterious reason, "John A. Joyce."
The bard who would prosper must carry a book, Do his thinking in prose and wear
A crimson cravat, a far-away look
And a head of hexameter hair.
Be thin in your thought and your body'll be fat;
If you wear your hair long you needn't your hat.
SUFFRAGE, n. Expression of opinion by means of a ballot. The right of suffrage (which is held to be both a privilege and a duty) means, as commonly interpreted, the right to vote for the man of another man's choice, and is highly prized. Refusal to do so has the bad name of "incivism." The incivilian, however, cannot be properly arraigned for his crime, for there is no legitimate accuser. If the accuser is himself guilty he has no standing in the court of opinion; if not, he profits by the crime, for A's abstention from voting gives greater weight to the vote of B. By female suffrage is meant the right of a woman to vote as some man tells her to. It is based on female responsibility, which is somewhat limited. The woman most eager to jump out of her petticoat to assert her rights is first to jump back into it when threatened with a switching for misusing them.
SYCOPHANT, n. One who approaches Greatness on his belly so that he may not be commanded to turn and be kicked. He is sometimes an editor.
As the lean leech, its victim found, is pleased To fix itself upon a part diseased
Till, its black hide distended with bad blood, It drops to die of surfeit in the mud,
So the base sycophant with joy descries His neighbor's weak spot and his mouth applies, Gorges and prospers like the leech, although, Unlike that reptile, he will not let go.
Gelasma, if it paid you to devote
Your talent to the service of a goat,
Showing by forceful logic that its beard
Is more than Aaron's fit to be revered;
If to the task of honoring its smell
Profit had prompted you, and love as well, The world would benefit at last by you
And wealthy malefactors weep anew --
Your favor for a moment's space denied And to the nobler object turned aside.
Is't not enough that thrifty millionaires Who loot in freight and spoliate in fares, Or, cursed with consciences that bid them fly To safer villainies of darker dye,
Forswearing robbery and fain, instead,
To steal (they call it "cornering") our bread May see you groveling their boots to lick And begging for the favor of a kick?
Still must you follow to the bitter end
Your sycophantic disposition's trend,
And in your eagerness to please the rich Hunt hungry sinners to their final ditch? In Morgan's praise you smite the sounding wire, And sing hosannas to great Havemeyher! What's Satan done that him you should eschew? He too is reeking rich -- deducting _you_.
SYLPH, n. An immaterial but visible being that inhabited the air when the air was an element and before it was fatally polluted with factory smoke, sewer gas and similar products of civilization. Sylphs were allied to gnomes, nymphs and salamanders, which dwelt, respectively, in earth, water and fire, all now insalubrious. Sylphs, like fowls of the air, were male and female, to no purpose, apparently, for if they had progeny they must have nested in accessible places, none of the chicks having ever been seen.
SYMBOL, n. Something that is supposed to typify or stand for something else. Many symbols are mere "survivals" -- things which having no longer any utility continue to exist because we have inherited the tendency to make them; as funereal urns carved on memorial monuments. They were once real urns holding the ashes of the dead. We cannot stop making them, but we can give them a name that conceals our helplessness.SYMBOLIC, adj. Pertaining to symbols and the use and interpretation of symbols.
They say 'tis conscience feels compunction; I hold that that's the stomach's function, For of the sinner I have noted
That when he's sinned he's somewhat bloated, Or ill some other ghastly fashion Within that bowel of compassion. True, I believe the only sinner
Is he that eats a shabby dinner. You know how Adam with good reason, For eating apples out of season, Was "cursed." But that is all symbolic: The truth is, Adam had the colic.
T, the twentieth letter of the English alphabet, was by the Greeks absurdly called _tau_. In the alphabet whence ours comes it had the form of the rude corkscrew of the period, and when it stood alone (which was more than the Phoenicians could always do) signified _Tallegal_, translated by the learned Dr. Brownrigg, "tanglefoot."TABLE D'HOTE, n. A caterer's thrifty concession to the universal passion for irresponsibility.
Old Paunchinello, freshly wed, Took Madam P. to table,
And there deliriously fed As fast as he was able.
Intent upon its throatage. "Ah, yes," said the neglected bride,
"You're in your _table d'hotage_."
TAIL, n. The part of an animal's spine that has transcended its natural limitations to set up an independent existence in a world of its own. Excepting in its foetal state, Man is without a tail, a privation of which he attests an hereditary and uneasy consciousness by the coat-skirt of the male and the train of the female, and by a marked tendency to ornament that part of his attire where the tail should be, and indubitably once was. This tendency is most observable in the female of the species, in whom the ancestral sense is strong and persistent. The tailed men described by Lord Monboddo are now generally regarded as a product of an imagination unusually susceptible to influences generated in the golden age of our pithecan past.TAKE, v.t. To acquire, frequently by force but preferably by stealth. TALK, v.t. To commit an indiscretion without temptation, from an impulse without purpose. TARIFF, n. A scale of taxes on imports, designed to protect the domestic producer against the greed of his consumer.
The Enemy of Human Souls
Sat grieving at the cost of coals; For Hell had been annexed of late, And was a sovereign Southern State.
"It were no more than right," said he, "That I should get my fuel free.
The duty, neither just nor wise,
Compels me to economize --
Whereby my broilers, every one,
Are execrably underdone.
What would they have? -- although I yearn To do them nicely to a turn,
I can't afford an honest heat.
This tariff makes even devils cheat! I'm ruined, and my humble trade
All rascals may at will invade:
Beneath my nose the public press
Outdoes me in sulphureousness;
The bar ingeniously applies
To my undoing my own lies;
My medicines the doctors use
(Albeit vainly) to refuse
To me my fair and rightful prey
And keep their own in shape to pay; The preachers by example teach
What, scorning to perform, I teach; And statesmen, aping me, all make More promises than they can break. Against such competition I
Lift up a disregarded cry.
Since all ignore my just complaint, By Hokey-Pokey! I'll turn saint!"
Now, the Republicans, who all
Are saints, began at once to bawl
Against _his_ competition; so
There was a devil of a go!
They locked horns with him, tete-a-tete In acrimonious debate,
Till Democrats, forlorn and lone, Had hopes of coming by their own. That evil to avert, in haste
The two belligerents embraced; But since 'twere wicked to relax A tittle of the Sacred Tax,
'Twas finally agreed to grant The bold Insurgent-protestant A bounty on each soul that fell Into his ineffectual Hell.
TECHNICALITY, n. In an English court a man named Home was tried for slander in having accused his neighbor of murder. His exact words were: "Sir Thomas Holt hath taken a cleaver and stricken his cook upon the head, so that one side of the head fell upon one shoulder and the other side upon the other shoulder." The defendant was acquitted by instruction of the court, the learned judges holding that the words did not charge murder, for they did not affirm the death of the cook, that being only an inference.
TEDIUM, n. Ennui, the state or condition of one that is bored. Many fanciful derivations of the word have been affirmed, but so high an authority as Father Jape says that it comes from a very obvious source -- the first words of the ancient Latin hymn _Te Deum Laudamus_. In this apparently natural derivation there is something that saddens.TEETOTALER, n. One who abstains from strong drink, sometimes totally, sometimes tolerably totally. TELEPHONE, n. An invention of the devil which abrogates some of the advantages of making a disagreeable person keep his distance.
TELESCOPE, n. A device having a relation to the eye similar to that of the telephone to the ear, enabling distant objects to plague us with a multitude of needless details. Luckily it is unprovided with a bell summoning us to the sacrifice.
TENACITY, n. A certain quality of the human hand in its relation to the coin of the realm. It attains its highest development in the hand of authority and is considered a serviceable equipment for a career in politics. The following illustrative lines were written of a Californian gentleman in high political preferment, who has passed to his accounting:
Of such tenacity his grip
That nothing from his hand can slip. Well-buttered eels you may o'erwhelm In tubs of liquid slippery-elm
In vain -- from his detaining pinch They cannot struggle half an inch! 'Tis lucky that he so is planned
That breath he draws not with his hand, For if he did, so great his greed
He'd draw his last with eager speed. Nay, that were well, you say. Not so He'd draw but never let it go!
THEOSOPHY, n. An ancient faith having all the certitude of religion and all the mystery of science. The modern Theosophist holds, with the Buddhists, that we live an incalculable number of times on this earth, in as many several bodies, because one life is not long enough for our complete spiritual development; that is, a single lifetime does not suffice for us to become as wise and good as we choose to wish to become. To be absolutely wise and good -- that is perfection; and the Theosophist is so keen-sighted as to have observed that everything desirous of improvement eventually attains perfection. Less competent observers are disposed to except cats, which seem neither wiser nor better than they were last year. The greatest and fattest of recent Theosophists was the late Madame Blavatsky, who had no cat.
TIGHTS, n. An habiliment of the stage designed to reinforce the general acclamation of the press agent with a particular publicity. Public attention was once somewhat diverted from this garment to Miss Lillian Russell's refusal to wear it, and many were the conjectures as to her motive, the guess of Miss Pauline Hall showing a high order of ingenuity and sustained reflection. It was Miss Hall's belief that nature had not endowed Miss Russell with beautiful legs. This theory was impossible of acceptance by the male understanding, but the conception of a faulty female leg was of so prodigious originality as to rank among the most brilliant feats of philosophical speculation! It is strange that in all the controversy regarding Miss Russell's aversion to tights no one seems to have thought to ascribe it to what was known among the ancients as "modesty." The nature of that sentiment is now imperfectly understood, and possibly incapable of exposition with the vocabulary that remains to us. The study of lost arts has, however, been recently revived and some of the arts themselves recovered. This is an epoch of _renaissances_, and there is ground for hope that the primitive "blush" may be dragged from its hiding-place amongst the tombs of antiquity and hissed on to the stage.
TOMB, n. The House of Indifference. Tombs are now by common consent invested with a certain sanctity, but when they have been long tenanted it is considered no sin to break them open and rifle them, the famous Egyptologist, Dr. Huggyns, explaining that a tomb may be innocently "glened" as soon as its occupant is done "smellynge," the soul being then all exhaled. This reasonable view is now generally accepted by archaeologists, whereby the noble science of Curiosity has been greatly dignified.
TOPE, v. To tipple, booze, swill, soak, guzzle, lush, bib, or swig. In the individual, toping is regarded with disesteem, but toping nations are in the forefront of civilization and power. When pitted against the hard-drinking Christians the abstemious Mahometans go down like grass before the scythe. In India one hundred thousand beef- eating and brandy-and-soda guzzling Britons hold in subjection two hundred and fifty million vegetarian abstainers of the same Aryan race. With what an easy grace the whisky-loving American pushed the temperate Spaniard out of his possessions! From the time when the Berserkers ravaged all the coasts of western Europe and lay drunk in every conquered port it has been the same way: everywhere the nations that drink too much are observed to fight rather well and not too righteously. Wherefore the estimable old ladies who abolished the canteen from the American army may justly boast of having materially augmented the nation's military power.TORTOISE, n. A creature thoughtfully created to supply occasion for the following lines by the illustrious Ambat Delaso: TO MY PET TORTOISE My friend, you are not graceful -- not at all; Your gait's between a stagger and a sprawl. Nor are you beautiful: your head's a snake's To look at, and I do not doubt it aches. As to your feet, they'd make an angel weep. 'Tis true you take them in whene'er you sleep. No, you're not pretty, but you have, I own, A certain firmness -- mostly you're [sic] backbone. Firmness and strength (you have a giant's thews) Are virtues that the great know how to use -- I wish that they did not; yet, on the whole, You lack -- excuse my mentioning it -- Soul. So, to be candid, unreserved and true, I'd rather you were I than I were you. Perhaps, however, in a time to be, When Man's extinct, a better world may see Your progeny in power and control, Due to the genesis and growth of Soul. So I salute you as a reptile grand Predestined to regenerate the land. Father of Possibilities, O deign To accept the homage of a dying reign! In the far region of the unforeknown I dream a tortoise upon every throne. I see an Emperor his head withdraw Into his carapace for fear of Law; A King who carries something else than fat, Howe'er acceptably he carries that; A President not strenuously bent On punishment of audible dissent -- Who never shot (it were a vain attack) An armed or unarmed tortoise in the back; Subject and citizens that feel no need To make the March of Mind a wild stampede; All progress slow, contemplative, sedate, And "Take your time" the word, in Church and State. O Tortoise, 'tis a happy, happy dream, My glorious testudinous regime! I wish in Eden you'd brought this about By slouching in and chasing Adam out.
TREE, n. A tall vegetable intended by nature to serve as a penal apparatus, though through a miscarriage of justice most trees bear only a negligible fruit, or none at all. When naturally fruited, the tree is a beneficient agency of civilization and an important factor in public morals. In the stern West and the sensitive South its fruit (white and black respectively) though not eaten, is agreeable to the public taste and, though not exported, profitable to the general welfare. That the legitimate relation of the tree to justice was no discovery of Judge Lynch (who, indeed, conceded it no primacy over the lamp-post and the bridge-girder) is made plain by the following passage from Morryster, who antedated him by two centuries: While in yt londe I was carried to see ye Ghogo tree, whereof
I had hearde moch talk; but sayynge yt I saw naught remarkabyll in it, ye hed manne of ye villayge where it grewe made answer as followeth:
"Ye tree is not nowe in fruite, but in his seasonne you shall see dependynge fr. his braunches all soch as have affroynted ye King his Majesty."And I was furder tolde yt ye worde "Ghogo" sygnifyeth in yr tong ye same as "rapscal" in our owne. _Trauvells in ye Easte_
TRIAL, n. A formal inquiry designed to prove and put upon record the blameless characters of judges, advocates and jurors. In order to effect this purpose it is necessary to supply a contrast in the person of one who is called the defendant, the prisoner, or the accused. If the contrast is made sufficiently clear this person is made to undergo such an affliction as will give the virtuous gentlemen a comfortable sense of their immunity, added to that of their worth. In our day the accused is usually a human being, or a socialist, but in mediaeval times, animals, fishes, reptiles and insects were brought to trial. A beast that had taken human life, or practiced sorcery, was duly arrested, tried and, if condemned, put to death by the public executioner. Insects ravaging grain fields, orchards or vineyards were cited to appeal by counsel before a civil tribunal, and after testimony, argument and condemnation, if they continued _in contumaciam_ the matter was taken to a high ecclesiastical court, where they were solemnly excommunicated and anathematized. In a street of Toledo, some pigs that had wickedly run between the viceroy's legs, upsetting him, were arrested on a warrant, tried and punished. In Naples and ass was condemned to be burned at the stake, but the sentence appears not to have been executed. D'Addosio relates from the court records many trials of pigs, bulls, horses, cocks, dogs, goats, etc., greatly, it is believed, to the betterment of their conduct and morals. In 1451 a suit was brought against the leeches infesting some ponds about Berne, and the Bishop of Lausanne, instructed by the faculty of Heidelberg University, directed that some of "the aquatic worms" be brought before the local magistracy. This was done and the leeches, both present and absent, were ordered to leave the places that they had infested within three days on pain of incurring "the malediction of God." In the voluminous records of this _cause celebre_ nothing is found to show whether the offenders braved the punishment, or departed forthwith out of that inhospitable jurisdiction.
TRICHINOSIS, n. The pig's reply to proponents of porcophagy. Moses Mendlessohn having fallen ill sent for a Christian
physician, who at once diagnosed the philosopher's disorder as
trichinosis, but tactfully gave it another name. "You need and immediate change of diet," he said; "you must eat six ounces of pork
every other day."
"Pork?" shrieked the patient -- "pork? Nothing shall induce me to
"Do you mean that?" the doctor gravely asked.
"I swear it!"
"Good! -- then I will undertake to cure you."
TRINITY, n. In the multiplex theism of certain Christian churches, three entirely distinct deities consistent with only one. Subordinate deities of the polytheistic faith, such as devils and angels, are not dowered with the power of combination, and must urge individually their claims to adoration and propitiation. The Trinity is one of the most sublime mysteries of our holy religion. In rejecting it because it is incomprehensible, Unitarians betray their inadequate sense of theological fundamentals. In religion we believe only what we do not understand, except in the instance of an intelligible doctrine that contradicts an incomprehensible one. In that case we believe the former as a part of the latter.
TROGLODYTE, n. Specifically, a cave-dweller of the paleolithic period, after the Tree and before the Flat. A famous community of troglodytes dwelt with David in the Cave of Adullam. The colony consisted of "every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented" -- in brief, all the Socialists of Judah.TRUCE, n. Friendship.
TRUTH, n. An ingenious compound of desirability and appearance. Discovery of truth is the sole purpose of philosophy, which is the most ancient occupation of the human mind and has a fair prospect of existing with increasing activity to the end of time.TRUTHFUL, adj. Dumb and illiterate.
TRUST, n. In American politics, a large corporation composed in greater part of thrifty working men, widows of small means, orphans in the care of guardians and the courts, with many similar malefactors and public enemies.
TURKEY, n. A large bird whose flesh when eaten on certain religious anniversaries has the peculiar property of attesting piety and gratitude. Incidentally, it is pretty good eating.TWICE, adv. Once too often.
TYPE, n. Pestilent bits of metal suspected of destroying civilization and enlightenment, despite their obvious agency in this incomparable dictionary.
TZETZE (or TSETSE) FLY, n. An African insect (_Glossina morsitans_) whose bite is commonly regarded as nature's most efficacious remedy for insomnia, though some patients prefer that of the American novelist (_Mendax interminabilis_).
UBIQUITY, n. The gift or power of being in all places at one time, but not in all places at all times, which is omnipresence, an attribute of God and the luminiferous ether only. This important distinction between ubiquity and omnipresence was not clear to the mediaeval Church and there was much bloodshed about it. Certain Lutherans, who affirmed the presence everywhere of Christ's body were known as Ubiquitarians. For this error they were doubtless damned, for Christ's body is present only in the eucharist, though that sacrament may be performed in more than one place simultaneously. In recent times ubiquity has not always been understood -- not even by Sir Boyle Roche, for example, who held that a man cannot be in two places at once unless he is a bird.UGLINESS, n. A gift of the gods to certain women, entailing virtue without humility. ULTIMATUM, n. In diplomacy, a last demand before resorting to concessions.
Having received an ultimatum from Austria, the Turkish Ministry met to consider it.
"O servant of the Prophet," said the Sheik of the Imperial Chibouk to the Mamoosh of the Invincible Army, "how many unconquerable soldiers have we in arms?"
"Upholder of the Faith," that dignitary replied after examining his memoranda, "they are in numbers as the leaves of the forest!"
"And how many impenetrable battleships strike terror to the hearts of all Christian swine?" he asked the Imaum of the Ever Victorious Navy.
"Uncle of the Full Moon," was the reply, "deign to know that they are as the waves of the ocean, the sands of the desert and the stars of Heaven!"
For eight hours the broad brow of the Sheik of the Imperial Chibouk was corrugated with evidences of deep thought: he was calculating the chances of war. Then, "Sons of angels," he said, "the die is cast! I shall suggest to the Ulema of the Imperial Ear that he advise inaction. In the name of Allah, the council is adjourned."
UN-AMERICAN, adj. Wicked, intolerable, heathenish. UNCTION, n. An oiling, or greasing. The rite of extreme unction consists in touching with oil consecrated by a bishop several parts of the body of one engaged in dying. Marbury relates that after the rite had been administered to a certain wicked English nobleman it was discovered that the oil had not been properly consecrated and no other could be obtained. When informed of this the sick man said in anger: "Then I'll be damned if I die!""My son," said the priest, "this is what we fear."
UNDERSTANDING, n. A cerebral secretion that enables one having it to know a house from a horse by the roof on the house. Its nature and laws have been exhaustively expounded by Locke, who rode a house, and Kant, who lived in a horse.
His understanding was so keen
That all things which he'd felt, heard, seen, He could interpret without fail
If he was in or out of jail.
He wrote at Inspiration's call
Deep disquisitions on them all,
Then, pent at last in an asylum,
Performed the service to compile 'em. So great a writer, all men swore,
They never had not read before.
URBANITY, n. The kind of civility that urban observers ascribe to dwellers in all cities but New York. Its commonest expression is heard in the words, "I beg your pardon," and it is not consistent with disregard of the rights of others.The owner of a powder mill Was musing on a distant hill --
Something his mind foreboded -- When from the cloudless sky there fell A deviled human kidney! Well,
The man's mill had exploded. His hat he lifted from his head; "I beg your pardon, sir," he said;"I didn't know 'twas loaded."
Swatkin USAGE, n. The First Person of the literary Trinity, the Second and Third being Custom and Conventionality. Imbued with a decent reverence for this Holy Triad an industrious writer may hope to produce books that will live as long as the fashion.UXORIOUSNESS, n. A perverted affection that has strayed to one's own wife. V VALOR, n. A soldierly compound of vanity, duty and the gambler's hope. "Why have you halted?" roared the commander of a division and
Chickamauga, who had ordered a charge; "move forward, sir, at once." "General," said the commander of the delinquent brigade, "I am
persuaded that any further display of valor by my troops will bring
them into collision with the enemy."
They say that hens do cackle loudest when There's nothing vital in the eggs they've laid; And there are hens, professing to have made
A study of mankind, who say that men Whose business 'tis to drive the tongue or pen Make the most clamorous fanfaronade O'er their most worthless work; and I'm afraid
They're not entirely different from the hen.
Lo! the drum-major in his coat of gold,
His blazing breeches and high-towering cap --
Imperiously pompous, grandly bold,
Grim, resolute, an awe-inspiring chap!
Who'd think this gorgeous creature's only virtue
Is that in battle he will never hurt you?
W (double U) has, of all the letters in our alphabet, the only cumbrous name, the names of the others being monosyllabic. This advantage of the Roman alphabet over the Grecian is the more valued after audibly spelling out some simple Greek word, like
_epixoriambikos_. Still, it is now thought by the learned that other agencies than the difference of the two alphabets may have been concerned in the decline of "the glory that was Greece" and the rise of "the grandeur that was Rome." There can be no doubt, however, that by simplifying the name of W (calling it "wow," for example) our civilization could be, if not promoted, at least better endured.
WALL STREET, n. A symbol for sin for every devil to rebuke. That Wall Street is a den of thieves is a belief that serves every unsuccessful thief in place of a hope in Heaven. Even the great and good Andrew Carnegie has made his profession of faith in the matter.
Carnegie the dauntless has uttered his call To battle: "The brokers are parasites all!" Carnegie, Carnegie, you'll never prevail; Keep the wind of your slogan to belly your sail, Go back to your isle of perpetual brume, Silence your pibroch, doff tartan and plume: Ben Lomond is calling his son from the fray -- Fly, fly from the region of Wall Street away! While still you're possessed of a single baubee (I wish it were pledged to endowment of me) 'Twere wise to retreat from the wars of finance Lest its value decline ere your credit advance. For a man 'twixt a king of finance and the sea, Carnegie, Carnegie, your tongue is too free!Anonymus Bink
WAR, n. A by-product of the arts of peace. The most menacing political condition is a period of international amity. The student of history who has not been taught to expect the unexpected may justly boast himself inaccessible to the light. "In time of peace prepare for war" has a deeper meaning than is commonly discerned; it means, not merely that all things earthly have an end -- that change is the one immutable and eternal law -- but that the soil of peace is thickly sown with the seeds of war and singularly suited to their germination and growth. It was when Kubla Khan had decreed his "stately pleasure dome" -- when, that is to say, there were peace and fat feasting in Xanadu -- that heheard from afar Ancestral voices prophesying war.
One of the greatest of poets, Coleridge was one of the wisest of men, and it was not for nothing that he read us this parable. Let us have a little less of "hands across the sea," and a little more of that elemental distrust that is the security of nations. War loves to come like a thief in the night; professions of eternal amity provide the night.
WASHINGTONIAN, n. A Potomac tribesman who exchanged the privilege of governing himself for the advantage of good government. In justice to him it should be said that he did not want to.
They took away his vote and gave instead The right, when he had earned, to _eat_ his bread. In vain -- he clamors for his "boss," pour soul, To come again and part him from his roll.Offenbach Stutz
WEAKNESSES, n.pl. Certain primal powers of Tyrant Woman wherewith she holds dominion over the male of her species, binding him to the service of her will and paralyzing his rebellious energies.
WEATHER, n. The climate of the hour. A permanent topic of conversation among persons whom it does not interest, but who have inherited the tendency to chatter about it from naked arboreal ancestors whom it keenly concerned. The setting up official weather bureaus and their maintenance in mendacity prove that even governments are accessible to suasion by the rude forefathers of the jungle.
Once I dipt into the future far as human eye could see, And I saw the Chief Forecaster, dead as any one can be -- Dead and damned and shut in Hades as a liar from his birth, With a record of unreason seldom paralleled on earth. While I looked he reared him solemnly, that incandescent youth, From the coals that he'd preferred to the advantages of truth. He cast his eyes about him and above him; then he wrote On a slab of thin asbestos what I venture here to quote -- For I read it in the rose-light of the everlasting glow: "Cloudy; variable winds, with local showers; cooler; snow."
Halcyon Jones WEDDING, n. A ceremony at which two persons undertake to become one, one undertakes to become nothing, and nothing undertakes to become supportable.
WEREWOLF, n. A wolf that was once, or is sometimes, a man. All werewolves are of evil disposition, having assumed a bestial form to gratify a beastial appetite, but some, transformed by sorcery, are as humane and is consistent with an acquired taste for human flesh.
Some Bavarian peasants having caught a wolf one evening, tied it to a post by the tail and went to bed. The next morning nothing was there! Greatly perplexed, they consulted the local priest, who told them that their captive was undoubtedly a werewolf and had resumed its human for during the night. "The next time that you take a wolf," the good man said, "see that you chain it by the leg, and in the morning you will find a Lutheran."WHANGDEPOOTENAWAH, n. In the Ojibwa tongue, disaster; an unexpected affliction that strikes hard.
Should you ask me whence this laughter, Whence this audible big-smiling, With its labial extension,
With its maxillar distortion
And its diaphragmic rhythmus
Like the billowing of an ocean,
Like the shaking of a carpet,
I should answer, I should tell you: From the great deeps of the spirit, From the unplummeted abysmus Of the soul this laughter welleth
As the fountain, the gug-guggle,
Like the river from the canon [sic], To entoken and give warning
That my present mood is sunny.
Should you ask me further question -- Why the great deeps of the spirit, Why the unplummeted abysmus
Of the soule extrudes this laughter, This all audible big-smiling,
I should answer, I should tell you With a white heart, tumpitumpy, With a true tongue, honest Injun: William Bryan, he has Caught It, Caught the Whangdepootenawah!
Is't the sandhill crane, the shankank, Standing in the marsh, the kneedeep, Standing silent in the kneedeep With his wing-tips crossed behind him And his neck close-reefed before him, With his bill, his william, buried In the down upon his bosom,
With his head retracted inly,
While his shoulders overlook it? Does the sandhill crane, the shankank, Shiver grayly in the north wind, Wishing he had died when little, As the sparrow, the chipchip, does? No 'tis not the Shankank standing, Standing in the gray and dismal Marsh, the gray and dismal kneedeep. No, 'tis peerless William Bryan
Realizing that he's Caught It,
Caught the Whangdepootenawah!
WHEAT, n. A cereal from which a tolerably good whisky can with some difficulty be made, and which is used also for bread. The French are said to eat more bread _per capita_ of population than any other people, which is natural, for only they know how to make the stuff palatable.WHITE, adj. and n. Black.
WIDOW, n. A pathetic figure that the Christian world has agreed to take humorously, although Christ's tenderness towards widows was one of the most marked features of his character.
WINE, n. Fermented grape-juice known to the Women's Christian Union as "liquor," sometimes as "rum." Wine, madam, is God's next best gift to man.WIT, n. The salt with which the American humorist spoils his intellectual cookery by leaving it out.
WITCH, n. (1) Any ugly and repulsive old woman, in a wicked league with the devil. (2) A beautiful and attractive young woman, in wickedness a league beyond the devil.WITTICISM, n. A sharp and clever remark, usually quoted, and seldom noted; what the Philistine is pleased to call a "joke." WOMAN, n.
An animal usually living in the vicinity of Man, and having a rudimentary susceptibility to domestication. It is credited by many of the elder zoologists with a certain vestigial docility acquired in a former state of seclusion, but naturalists of the postsusananthony period, having no knowledge of the seclusion, deny the virtue and declare that such as creation's dawn beheld, it roareth now. The species is the most widely distributed of all beasts of prey, infesting all habitable parts of the globe, from Greeland's spicy mountains to India's moral strand. The popular name (wolfman) is incorrect, for the creature is of the cat kind. The woman is lithe and graceful in its movement, especially the American variety (_felis pugnans_), is omnivorous and can be taught not to talk.Balthasar Pober
WORMS'-MEAT, n. The finished product of which we are the raw material. The contents of the Taj Mahal, the Tombeau Napoleon and the Granitarium. Worms'-meat is usually outlasted by the structure that houses it, but "this too must pass away." Probably the silliest work in which a human being can engage is construction of a tomb for himself. The solemn purpose cannot dignify, but only accentuates by contrast the foreknown futility.Ambitious fool! so mad to be a show! How profitless the labor you bestow Upon a dwelling whose magnificence The tenant neither can admire nor know.
Build deep, build high, build massive as you can, The wanton grass-roots will defeat the plan By shouldering asunder all the stones In what to you would be a moment's span.Time to the dead so all unreckoned flies That when your marble is all dust, arise, If wakened, stretch your limbs and yawn -- You'll think you scarcely can have closed your eyes. What though of all man's works your tomb alone Should stand till Time himself be overthrown? Would it advantage you to dwell therein Forever as a stain upon a stone? Joel Huck
WORSHIP, n. Homo Creator's testimony to the sound construction and fine finish of Deus Creatus. A popular form of abjection, having an element of pride.
WRATH, n. Anger of a superior quality and degree, appropriate to exalted characters and momentous occasions; as, "the wrath of God," "the day of wrath," etc. Amongst the ancients the wrath of kings was deemed sacred, for it could usually command the agency of some god for its fit manifestation, as could also that of a priest. The Greeks before Troy were so harried by Apollo that they jumped out of the frying-pan of the wrath of Cryses into the fire of the wrath of Achilles, though Agamemnon, the sole offender, was neither fried nor roasted. A similar noted immunity was that of David when he incurred the wrath of Yahveh by numbering his people, seventy thousand of whom paid the penalty with their lives. God is now Love, and a director of the census performs his work without apprehension of disaster.X
X in our alphabet being a needless letter has an added invincibility to the attacks of the spelling reformers, and like them, will doubtless last as long as the language. X is the sacred symbol of ten dollars, and in such words as Xmas, Xn, etc., stands for Christ, not, as is popular supposed, because it represents a cross, but because the corresponding letter in the Greek alphabet is the initial of his name
-- _Xristos_. If it represented a cross it would stand for St. Andrew, who "testified" upon one of that shape. In the algebra of psychology x stands for Woman's mind. Words beginning with X are Grecian and will not be defined in this standard English dictionary.
YANKEE, n. In Europe, an American. In the Northern States of our Union, a New Englander. In the Southern States the word is unknown. (See DAMNYANK.)YEAR, n. A period of three hundred and sixty-five disappointments. YESTERDAY, n. The infancy of youth, the youth of manhood, the entire past of age.
But yesterday I should have thought me blest
To stand high-pinnacled upon the peak
Of middle life and look adown the bleak
And unfamiliar foreslope to the West,
Where solemn shadows all the land invest
And stilly voices, half-remembered, speak
Unfinished prophecy, and witch-fires freak
The haunted twilight of the Dark of Rest.
Yea, yesterday my soul was all aflame
To stay the shadow on the dial's face
At manhood's noonmark! Now, in God His name I chide aloud the little interspace
Disparting me from Certitude, and fain
Would know the dream and vision ne'er again.
YOKE, n. An implement, madam, to whose Latin name, _jugum_, we owe one of the most illuminating words in our language -- a word that defines the matrimonial situation with precision, point and poignancy. A thousand apologies for withholding it.
YOUTH, n. The Period of Possibility, when Archimedes finds a fulcrum, Cassandra has a following and seven cities compete for the honor of endowing a living Homer.
Youth is the true Saturnian Reign, the Golden Age on earth again, when figs are grown on thistles, and pigs betailed with whistles and, wearing silken bristles, live ever in clover, and cows fly over, delivering milk at every door, and Justice never is heard to snore, and every assassin is made a ghost and, howling, is cast into Baltimost!Polydore Smith Z
ZANY, n. A popular character in old Italian plays, who imitated with ludicrous incompetence the _buffone_, or clown, and was therefore the ape of an ape; for the clown himself imitated the serious characters of the play. The zany was progenitor to the specialist in humor, as we to-day have the unhappiness to know him. In the zany we see an example of creation; in the humorist, of transmission. Another excellent specimen of the modern zany is the curate, who apes the rector, who apes the bishop, who apes the archbishop, who apes the devil.
ZANZIBARI, n. An inhabitant of the Sultanate of Zanzibar, off the eastern coast of Africa. The Zanzibaris, a warlike people, are best known in this country through a threatening diplomatic incident that occurred a few years ago. The American consul at the capital occupied a dwelling that faced the sea, with a sandy beach between. Greatly to the scandal of this official's family, and against repeated
remonstrances of the official himself, the people of the city persisted in using the beach for bathing. One day a woman came down to the edge of the water and was stooping to remove her attire (a pair of sandals) when the consul, incensed beyond restraint, fired a charge of bird-shot into the most conspicuous part of her person. Unfortunately for the existing _entente cordiale_ between two great nations, she was the Sultana.
When Zeal sought Gratitude for his reward He went away exclaiming: "O my Lord!"
"What do you want?" the Lord asked, bending down. "An ointment for my cracked and bleeding crown."
ZENITH, n. The point in the heavens directly overhead to a man standing or a growing cabbage. A man in bed or a cabbage in the pot is not considered as having a zenith, though from this view of the matter there was once a considerably dissent among the learned, some holding that the posture of the body was immaterial. These were called Horizontalists, their opponents, Verticalists. The
Horizontalist heresy was finally extinguished by Xanobus, the philosopher-king of Abara, a zealous Verticalist. Entering an assembly of philosophers who were debating the matter, he cast a severed human head at the feet of his opponents and asked them to determine its zenith, explaining that its body was hanging by the heels outside. Observing that it was the head of their leader, the Horizontalists hastened to profess themselves converted to whatever opinion the Crown might be pleased to hold, and Horizontalism took its place among _fides defuncti_.
ZEUS, n. The chief of Grecian gods, adored by the Romans as Jupiter and by the modern Americans as God, Gold, Mob and Dog. Some explorers who have touched upon the shores of America, and one who professes to have penetrated a considerable distance to the interior, have thought that these four names stand for as many distinct deities, but in his monumental work on Surviving Faiths, Frumpp insists that the natives are monotheists, each having no other god than himself, whom he worships under many sacred names.
ZIGZAG, v.t. To move forward uncertainly, from side to side, as one carrying the white man's burden. (From _zed_, _z_, and _jag_, an Icelandic word of unknown meaning.)
He zedjagged so uncomen wyde Thet non coude pas on eyder syde; So, to com saufly thruh, I been Constreynet for to doodge betwene.
ZOOLOGY, n. The science and history of the animal kingdom, including its king, the House Fly (_Musca maledicta_). The father of Zoology was Aristotle, as is universally conceded, but the name of its mother has not come down to us. Two of the science's most illustrious expounders were Buffon and Oliver Goldsmith, from both of whom we learn (_L'Histoire generale des animaux_ and _A History of Animated Nature_) that the domestic cow sheds its horn every two years.End of The Project Gutenberg Etext of The Devil's Dictionary by Bierce