THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY
Part 2 out of 5
bunch of radishes, is doomed to a long inutility. We shall get him
after awhile if we are spared, but in the meantime the violet and rose
are languishing for a nibble at his _glutoeus maximus_.
EMOTION, n. A prostrating disease caused by a determination of the
heart to the head. It is sometimes accompanied by a copious discharge
of hydrated chloride of sodium from the eyes.
ENCOMIAST, n. A special (but not particular) kind of liar.
END, n. The position farthest removed on either hand from the
The man was perishing apace
Who played the tambourine;
The seal of death was on his face --
'Twas pallid, for 'twas clean.
"This is the end," the sick man said
In faint and failing tones.
A moment later he was dead,
And Tambourine was Bones.
ENOUGH, pro. All there is in the world if you like it.
Enough is as good as a feast -- for that matter
Enougher's as good as a feast for the platter.
Arbely C. Strunk
ENTERTAINMENT, n. Any kind of amusement whose inroads stop short of
death by injection.
ENTHUSIASM, n. A distemper of youth, curable by small doses of
repentance in connection with outward applications of experience.
Byron, who recovered long enough to call it "entuzy-muzy," had a
relapse, which carried him off -- to Missolonghi.
ENVELOPE, n. The coffin of a document; the scabbard of a bill; the
husk of a remittance; the bed-gown of a love-letter.
ENVY, n. Emulation adapted to the meanest capacity.
EPAULET, n. An ornamented badge, serving to distinguish a military
officer from the enemy -- that is to say, from the officer of lower
rank to whom his death would give promotion.
EPICURE, n. An opponent of Epicurus, an abstemious philosopher who,
holding that pleasure should be the chief aim of man, wasted no time
in gratification from the senses.
EPIGRAM, n. A short, sharp saying in prose or verse, frequently
characterize by acidity or acerbity and sometimes by wisdom.
Following are some of the more notable epigrams of the learned and
ingenious Dr. Jamrach Holobom:
We know better the needs of ourselves than of others. To
serve oneself is economy of administration.
In each human heart are a tiger, a pig, an ass and a
nightingale. Diversity of character is due to their unequal
There are three sexes; males, females and girls.
Beauty in women and distinction in men are alike in this:
they seem to be the unthinking a kind of credibility.
Women in love are less ashamed than men. They have less to be
While your friend holds you affectionately by both your hands
you are safe, for you can watch both his.
EPITAPH, n. An inscription on a tomb, showing that virtues acquired
by death have a retroactive effect. Following is a touching example:
Here lie the bones of Parson Platt,
Wise, pious, humble and all that,
Who showed us life as all should live it;
Let that be said -- and God forgive it!
ERUDITION, n. Dust shaken out of a book into an empty skull.
So wide his erudition's mighty span,
He knew Creation's origin and plan
And only came by accident to grief --
He thought, poor man, 'twas right to be a thief.
ESOTERIC, adj. Very particularly abstruse and consummately occult.
The ancient philosophies were of two kinds, -- _exoteric_, those that
the philosophers themselves could partly understand, and _esoteric_,
those that nobody could understand. It is the latter that have most
profoundly affected modern thought and found greatest acceptance in
ETHNOLOGY, n. The science that treats of the various tribes of Man,
as robbers, thieves, swindlers, dunces, lunatics, idiots and
EUCHARIST, n. A sacred feast of the religious sect of Theophagi.
A dispute once unhappily arose among the members of this sect as
to what it was that they ate. In this controversy some five hundred
thousand have already been slain, and the question is still unsettled.
EULOGY, n. Praise of a person who has either the advantages of wealth
and power, or the consideration to be dead.
EVANGELIST, n. A bearer of good tidings, particularly (in a religious
sense) such as assure us of our own salvation and the damnation of
EVERLASTING, adj. Lasting forever. It is with no small diffidence
that I venture to offer this brief and elementary definition, for I am
not unaware of the existence of a bulky volume by a sometime Bishop of
Worcester, entitled, _A Partial Definition of the Word "Everlasting,"
as Used in the Authorized Version of the Holy Scriptures_. His book
was once esteemed of great authority in the Anglican Church, and is
still, I understand, studied with pleasure to the mind and profit of
EXCEPTION, n. A thing which takes the liberty to differ from other
things of its class, as an honest man, a truthful woman, etc. "The
exception proves the rule" is an expression constantly upon the lips
of the ignorant, who parrot it from one another with never a thought
of its absurdity. In the Latin, "_Exceptio probat regulam_" means
that the exception _tests_ the rule, puts it to the proof, not
_confirms_ it. The malefactor who drew the meaning from this
excellent dictum and substituted a contrary one of his own exerted an
evil power which appears to be immortal.
EXCESS, n. In morals, an indulgence that enforces by appropriate
penalties the law of moderation.
Hail, high Excess -- especially in wine,
To thee in worship do I bend the knee
Who preach abstemiousness unto me --
My skull thy pulpit, as my paunch thy shrine.
Precept on precept, aye, and line on line,
Could ne'er persuade so sweetly to agree
With reason as thy touch, exact and free,
Upon my forehead and along my spine.
At thy command eschewing pleasure's cup,
With the hot grape I warm no more my wit;
When on thy stool of penitence I sit
I'm quite converted, for I can't get up.
Ungrateful he who afterward would falter
To make new sacrifices at thine altar!
This "excommunication" is a word
In speech ecclesiastical oft heard,
And means the damning, with bell, book and candle,
Some sinner whose opinions are a scandal --
A rite permitting Satan to enslave him
Forever, and forbidding Christ to save him.
EXECUTIVE, n. An officer of the Government, whose duty it is to
enforce the wishes of the legislative power until such time as the
judicial department shall be pleased to pronounce them invalid and of
no effect. Following is an extract from an old book entitled, _The
Lunarian Astonished_ -- Pfeiffer & Co., Boston, 1803:
LUNARIAN: Then when your Congress has passed a law it goes
directly to the Supreme Court in order that it may at once be
known whether it is constitutional?
TERRESTRIAN: O no; it does not require the approval of the
Supreme Court until having perhaps been enforced for many
years somebody objects to its operation against himself -- I
mean his client. The President, if he approves it, begins to
execute it at once.
LUNARIAN: Ah, the executive power is a part of the legislative.
Do your policemen also have to approve the local ordinances
that they enforce?
TERRESTRIAN: Not yet -- at least not in their character of
constables. Generally speaking, though, all laws require the
approval of those whom they are intended to restrain.
LUNARIAN: I see. The death warrant is not valid until signed by
TERRESTRIAN: My friend, you put it too strongly; we are not so
LUNARIAN: But this system of maintaining an expensive judicial
machinery to pass upon the validity of laws only after they
have long been executed, and then only when brought before the
court by some private person -- does it not cause great
TERRESTRIAN: It does.
LUNARIAN: Why then should not your laws, previously to being
executed, be validated, not by the signature of your
President, but by that of the Chief Justice of the Supreme
TERRESTRIAN: There is no precedent for any such course.
LUNARIAN: Precedent. What is that?
TERRESTRIAN: It has been defined by five hundred lawyers in three
volumes each. So how can any one know?
EXHORT, v.t. In religious affairs, to put the conscience of another
upon the spit and roast it to a nut-brown discomfort.
EXILE, n. One who serves his country by residing abroad, yet is not
An English sea-captain being asked if he had read "The Exile of
Erin," replied: "No, sir, but I should like to anchor on it." Years
afterwards, when he had been hanged as a pirate after a career of
unparalleled atrocities, the following memorandum was found in the
ship's log that he had kept at the time of his reply:
Aug. 3d, 1842. Made a joke on the ex-Isle of Erin. Coldly
received. War with the whole world!
A transient, horrible, fantastic dream,
Wherein is nothing yet all things do seem:
From which we're wakened by a friendly nudge
Of our bedfellow Death, and cry: "O fudge!"
EXPERIENCE, n. The wisdom that enables us to recognize as an
undesirable old acquaintance the folly that we have already embraced.
To one who, journeying through night and fog,
Is mired neck-deep in an unwholesome bog,
Experience, like the rising of the dawn,
Reveals the path that he should not have gone.
Joel Frad Bink
EXPOSTULATION, n. One of the many methods by which fools prefer to
lose their friends.
EXTINCTION, n. The raw material out of which theology created the
FAIRY, n. A creature, variously fashioned and endowed, that formerly
inhabited the meadows and forests. It was nocturnal in its habits,
and somewhat addicted to dancing and the theft of children. The
fairies are now believed by naturalist to be extinct, though a
clergyman of the Church of England saw three near Colchester as lately
as 1855, while passing through a park after dining with the lord of
the manor. The sight greatly staggered him, and he was so affected
that his account of it was incoherent. In the year 1807 a troop of
fairies visited a wood near Aix and carried off the daughter of a
peasant, who had been seen to enter it with a bundle of clothing. The
son of a wealthy _bourgeois_ disappeared about the same time, but
afterward returned. He had seen the abduction been in pursuit of the
fairies. Justinian Gaux, a writer of the fourteenth century, avers
that so great is the fairies' power of transformation that he saw one
change itself into two opposing armies and fight a battle with great
slaughter, and that the next day, after it had resumed its original
shape and gone away, there were seven hundred bodies of the slain
which the villagers had to bury. He does not say if any of the
wounded recovered. In the time of Henry III, of England, a law was
made which prescribed the death penalty for "Kyllynge, wowndynge, or
mamynge" a fairy, and it was universally respected.
FAITH, n. Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks
without knowledge, of things without parallel.
FAMOUS, adj. Conspicuously miserable.
Done to a turn on the iron, behold
Him who to be famous aspired.
Content? Well, his grill has a plating of gold,
And his twistings are greatly admired.
FASHION, n. A despot whom the wise ridicule and obey.
A king there was who lost an eye
In some excess of passion;
And straight his courtiers all did try
To follow the new fashion.
Each dropped one eyelid when before
The throne he ventured, thinking
'Twould please the king. That monarch swore
He'd slay them all for winking.
What should they do? They were not hot
To hazard such disaster;
They dared not close an eye -- dared not
See better than their master.
Seeing them lacrymose and glum,
A leech consoled the weepers:
He spread small rags with liquid gum
And covered half their peepers.
The court all wore the stuff, the flame
Of royal anger dying.
That's how court-plaster got its name
Unless I'm greatly lying.
FEAST, n. A festival. A religious celebration usually signalized by
gluttony and drunkenness, frequently in honor of some holy person
distinguished for abstemiousness. In the Roman Catholic Church
feasts are "movable" and "immovable," but the celebrants are uniformly
immovable until they are full. In their earliest development these
entertainments took the form of feasts for the dead; such were held by
the Greeks, under the name _Nemeseia_, by the Aztecs and Peruvians,
as in modern times they are popular with the Chinese; though it is
believed that the ancient dead, like the modern, were light eaters.
Among the many feasts of the Romans was the _Novemdiale_, which was
held, according to Livy, whenever stones fell from heaven.
FELON, n. A person of greater enterprise than discretion, who in
embracing an opportunity has formed an unfortunate attachment.
FEMALE, n. One of the opposing, or unfair, sex.
The Maker, at Creation's birth,
With living things had stocked the earth.
From elephants to bats and snails,
They all were good, for all were males.
But when the Devil came and saw
He said: "By Thine eternal law
Of growth, maturity, decay,
These all must quickly pass away
And leave untenanted the earth
Unless Thou dost establish birth" --
Then tucked his head beneath his wing
To laugh -- he had no sleeve -- the thing
With deviltry did so accord,
That he'd suggested to the Lord.
The Master pondered this advice,
Then shook and threw the fateful dice
Wherewith all matters here below
Are ordered, and observed the throw;
Then bent His head in awful state,
Confirming the decree of Fate.
From every part of earth anew
The conscious dust consenting flew,
While rivers from their courses rolled
To make it plastic for the mould.
Enough collected (but no more,
For niggard Nature hoards her store)
He kneaded it to flexible clay,
While Nick unseen threw some away.
And then the various forms He cast,
Gross organs first and finer last;
No one at once evolved, but all
By even touches grew and small
Degrees advanced, till, shade by shade,
To match all living things He'd made
Females, complete in all their parts
Except (His clay gave out) the hearts.
"No matter," Satan cried; "with speed
I'll fetch the very hearts they need" --
So flew away and soon brought back
The number needed, in a sack.
That night earth range with sounds of strife --
Ten million males each had a wife;
That night sweet Peace her pinions spread
O'er Hell -- ten million devils dead!
FIB, n. A lie that has not cut its teeth. An habitual liar's nearest
approach to truth: the perigee of his eccentric orbit.
When David said: "All men are liars," Dave,
Himself a liar, fibbed like any thief.
Perhaps he thought to weaken disbelief
By proof that even himself was not a slave
To Truth; though I suspect the aged knave
Had been of all her servitors the chief
Had he but known a fig's reluctant leaf
Is more than e'er she wore on land or wave.
No, David served not Naked Truth when he
Struck that sledge-hammer blow at all his race;
Nor did he hit the nail upon the head:
For reason shows that it could never be,
And the facts contradict him to his face.
Men are not liars all, for some are dead.
FICKLENESS, n. The iterated satiety of an enterprising affection.
FIDDLE, n. An instrument to tickle human ears by friction of a
horse's tail on the entrails of a cat.
To Rome said Nero: "If to smoke you turn
I shall not cease to fiddle while you burn."
To Nero Rome replied: "Pray do your worst,
'Tis my excuse that you were fiddling first."
FIDELITY, n. A virtue peculiar to those who are about to be betrayed.
FINANCE, n. The art or science of managing revenues and resources for
the best advantage of the manager. The pronunciation of this word
with the i long and the accent on the first syllable is one of
America's most precious discoveries and possessions.
FLAG, n. A colored rag borne above troops and hoisted on forts and
ships. It appears to serve the same purpose as certain signs that one
sees and vacant lots in London -- "Rubbish may be shot here."
FLESH, n. The Second Person of the secular Trinity.
FLOP, v. Suddenly to change one's opinions and go over to another
party. The most notable flop on record was that of Saul of Tarsus,
who has been severely criticised as a turn-coat by some of our
FLY-SPECK, n. The prototype of punctuation. It is observed by
Garvinus that the systems of punctuation in use by the various
literary nations depended originally upon the social habits and
general diet of the flies infesting the several countries. These
creatures, which have always been distinguished for a neighborly and
companionable familiarity with authors, liberally or niggardly
embellish the manuscripts in process of growth under the pen,
according to their bodily habit, bringing out the sense of the work by
a species of interpretation superior to, and independent of, the
writer's powers. The "old masters" of literature -- that is to say,
the early writers whose work is so esteemed by later scribes and
critics in the same language -- never punctuated at all, but worked
right along free-handed, without that abruption of the thought which
comes from the use of points. (We observe the same thing in children
to-day, whose usage in this particular is a striking and beautiful
instance of the law that the infancy of individuals reproduces the
methods and stages of development characterizing the infancy of
races.) In the work of these primitive scribes all the punctuation is
found, by the modern investigator with his optical instruments and
chemical tests, to have been inserted by the writers' ingenious and
serviceable collaborator, the common house-fly -- _Musca maledicta_.
In transcribing these ancient MSS, for the purpose of either making
the work their own or preserving what they naturally regard as divine
revelations, later writers reverently and accurately copy whatever
marks they find upon the papyrus or parchment, to the unspeakable
enhancement of the lucidity of the thought and value of the work.
Writers contemporary with the copyists naturally avail themselves of
the obvious advantages of these marks in their own work, and with such
assistance as the flies of their own household may be willing to
grant, frequently rival and sometimes surpass the older compositions,
in respect at least of punctuation, which is no small glory. Fully to
understand the important services that flies perform to literature it
is only necessary to lay a page of some popular novelist alongside a
saucer of cream-and-molasses in a sunny room and observe "how the wit
brightens and the style refines" in accurate proportion to the
duration of exposure.
FOLLY, n. That "gift and faculty divine" whose creative and
controlling energy inspires Man's mind, guides his actions and adorns
Folly! although Erasmus praised thee once
In a thick volume, and all authors known,
If not thy glory yet thy power have shown,
Deign to take homage from thy son who hunts
Through all thy maze his brothers, fool and dunce,
To mend their lives and to sustain his own,
However feebly be his arrows thrown,
Howe'er each hide the flying weapons blunts.
All-Father Folly! be it mine to raise,
With lusty lung, here on his western strand
With all thine offspring thronged from every land,
Thyself inspiring me, the song of praise.
And if too weak, I'll hire, to help me bawl,
Dick Watson Gilder, gravest of us all.
Aramis Loto Frope
FOOL, n. A person who pervades the domain of intellectual speculation
and diffuses himself through the channels of moral activity. He is
omnific, omniform, omnipercipient, omniscience, omnipotent. He it was
who invented letters, printing, the railroad, the steamboat, the
telegraph, the platitude and the circle of the sciences. He created
patriotism and taught the nations war -- founded theology, philosophy,
law, medicine and Chicago. He established monarchical and republican
government. He is from everlasting to everlasting -- such as
creation's dawn beheld he fooleth now. In the morning of time he sang
upon primitive hills, and in the noonday of existence headed the
procession of being. His grandmotherly hand was warmly tucked-in the
set sun of civilization, and in the twilight he prepares Man's evening
meal of milk-and-morality and turns down the covers of the universal
grave. And after the rest of us shall have retired for the night of
eternal oblivion he will sit up to write a history of human
"Force is but might," the teacher said --
"That definition's just."
The boy said naught but through instead,
Remembering his pounded head:
"Force is not might but must!"
FOREFINGER, n. The finger commonly used in pointing out two
FOREORDINATION, n. This looks like an easy word to define, but when I
consider that pious and learned theologians have spent long lives in
explaining it, and written libraries to explain their explanations;
when I remember the nations have been divided and bloody battles
caused by the difference between foreordination and predestination,
and that millions of treasure have been expended in the effort to
prove and disprove its compatibility with freedom of the will and the
efficacy of prayer, praise, and a religious life, -- recalling these
awful facts in the history of the word, I stand appalled before the
mighty problem of its signification, abase my spiritual eyes, fearing
to contemplate its portentous magnitude, reverently uncover and humbly
refer it to His Eminence Cardinal Gibbons and His Grace Bishop Potter.
FORGETFULNESS, n. A gift of God bestowed upon doctors in compensation
for their destitution of conscience.
FORK, n. An instrument used chiefly for the purpose of putting dead
animals into the mouth. Formerly the knife was employed for this
purpose, and by many worthy persons is still thought to have many
advantages over the other tool, which, however, they do not altogether
reject, but use to assist in charging the knife. The immunity of
these persons from swift and awful death is one of the most striking
proofs of God's mercy to those that hate Him.
FORMA PAUPERIS. [Latin] In the character of a poor person -- a
method by which a litigant without money for lawyers is considerately
permitted to lose his case.
When Adam long ago in Cupid's awful court
(For Cupid ruled ere Adam was invented)
Sued for Eve's favor, says an ancient law report,
He stood and pleaded unhabilimented.
"You sue _in forma pauperis_, I see," Eve cried;
"Actions can't here be that way prosecuted."
So all poor Adam's motions coldly were denied:
He went away -- as he had come -- nonsuited.
FRANKALMOIGNE, n. The tenure by which a religious corporation holds
lands on condition of praying for the soul of the donor. In mediaeval
times many of the wealthiest fraternities obtained their estates in
this simple and cheap manner, and once when Henry VIII of England sent
an officer to confiscate certain vast possessions which a fraternity
of monks held by frankalmoigne, "What!" said the Prior, "would you
master stay our benefactor's soul in Purgatory?" "Ay," said the
officer, coldly, "an ye will not pray him thence for naught he must
e'en roast." "But look you, my son," persisted the good man, "this
act hath rank as robbery of God!" "Nay, nay, good father, my master
the king doth but deliver him from the manifold temptations of too
FREEBOOTER, n. A conqueror in a small way of business, whose
annexations lack of the sanctifying merit of magnitude.
FREEDOM, n. Exemption from the stress of authority in a beggarly half
dozen of restraint's infinite multitude of methods. A political
condition that every nation supposes itself to enjoy in virtual
monopoly. Liberty. The distinction between freedom and liberty is
not accurately known; naturalists have never been able to find a
living specimen of either.
Freedom, as every schoolboy knows,
Once shrieked as Kosciusko fell;
On every wind, indeed, that blows
I hear her yell.
She screams whenever monarchs meet,
And parliaments as well,
To bind the chains about her feet
And toll her knell.
And when the sovereign people cast
The votes they cannot spell,
Upon the pestilential blast
Her clamors swell.
For all to whom the power's given
To sway or to compel,
Among themselves apportion Heaven
And give her Hell.
FREEMASONS, n. An order with secret rites, grotesque ceremonies and
fantastic costumes, which, originating in the reign of Charles II,
among working artisans of London, has been joined successively by the
dead of past centuries in unbroken retrogression until now it embraces
all the generations of man on the hither side of Adam and is drumming
up distinguished recruits among the pre-Creational inhabitants of
Chaos and Formless Void. The order was founded at different times by
Charlemagne, Julius Caesar, Cyrus, Solomon, Zoroaster, Confucious,
Thothmes, and Buddha. Its emblems and symbols have been found in the
Catacombs of Paris and Rome, on the stones of the Parthenon and the
Chinese Great Wall, among the temples of Karnak and Palmyra and in the
Egyptian Pyramids -- always by a Freemason.
FRIENDLESS, adj. Having no favors to bestow. Destitute of fortune.
Addicted to utterance of truth and common sense.
FRIENDSHIP, n. A ship big enough to carry two in fair weather, but
only one in foul.
The sea was calm and the sky was blue;
Merrily, merrily sailed we two.
(High barometer maketh glad.)
On the tipsy ship, with a dreadful shout,
The tempest descended and we fell out.
(O the walking is nasty bad!)
Armit Huff Bettle
FROG, n. A reptile with edible legs. The first mention of frogs in
profane literature is in Homer's narrative of the war between them and
the mice. Skeptical persons have doubted Homer's authorship of the
work, but the learned, ingenious and industrious Dr. Schliemann has
set the question forever at rest by uncovering the bones of the slain
frogs. One of the forms of moral suasion by which Pharaoh was
besought to favor the Israelities was a plague of frogs, but Pharaoh,
who liked them _fricasees_, remarked, with truly oriental stoicism,
that he could stand it as long as the frogs and the Jews could; so the
programme was changed. The frog is a diligent songster, having a good
voice but no ear. The libretto of his favorite opera, as written by
Aristophanes, is brief, simple and effective -- "brekekex-koax"; the
music is apparently by that eminent composer, Richard Wagner. Horses
have a frog in each hoof -- a thoughtful provision of nature, enabling
them to shine in a hurdle race.
FRYING-PAN, n. One part of the penal apparatus employed in that
punitive institution, a woman's kitchen. The frying-pan was invented
by Calvin, and by him used in cooking span-long infants that had died
without baptism; and observing one day the horrible torment of a tramp
who had incautiously pulled a fried babe from the waste-dump and
devoured it, it occurred to the great divine to rob death of its
terrors by introducing the frying-pan into every household in Geneva.
Thence it spread to all corners of the world, and has been of
invaluable assistance in the propagation of his sombre faith. The
following lines (said to be from the pen of his Grace Bishop Potter)
seem to imply that the usefulness of this utensil is not limited to
this world; but as the consequences of its employment in this life
reach over into the life to come, so also itself may be found on the
other side, rewarding its devotees:
Old Nick was summoned to the skies.
Said Peter: "Your intentions
Are good, but you lack enterprise
Concerning new inventions.
"Now, broiling in an ancient plan
Of torment, but I hear it
Reported that the frying-pan
Sears best the wicked spirit.
"Go get one -- fill it up with fat --
Fry sinners brown and good in't."
"I know a trick worth two o' that,"
Said Nick -- "I'll cook their food in't."
FUNERAL, n. A pageant whereby we attest our respect for the dead by
enriching the undertaker, and strengthen our grief by an expenditure
that deepens our groans and doubles our tears.
The savage dies -- they sacrifice a horse
To bear to happy hunting-grounds the corse.
Our friends expire -- we make the money fly
In hope their souls will chase it to the sky.
FUTURE, n. That period of time in which our affairs prosper, our
friends are true and our happiness is assured.
GALLOWS, n. A stage for the performance of miracle plays, in which
the leading actor is translated to heaven. In this country the
gallows is chiefly remarkable for the number of persons who escape it.
Whether on the gallows high
Or where blood flows the reddest,
The noblest place for man to die --
Is where he died the deadest.
GARGOYLE, n. A rain-spout projecting from the eaves of mediaeval
buildings, commonly fashioned into a grotesque caricature of some
personal enemy of the architect or owner of the building. This was
especially the case in churches and ecclesiastical structures
generally, in which the gargoyles presented a perfect rogues' gallery
of local heretics and controversialists. Sometimes when a new dean
and chapter were installed the old gargoyles were removed and others
substituted having a closer relation to the private animosities of the
GARTHER, n. An elastic band intended to keep a woman from coming out
of her stockings and desolating the country.
GENEROUS, adj. Originally this word meant noble by birth and was
rightly applied to a great multitude of persons. It now means noble
by nature and is taking a bit of a rest.
GENEALOGY, n. An account of one's descent from an ancestor who did
not particularly care to trace his own.
GENTEEL, adj. Refined, after the fashion of a gent.
Observe with care, my son, the distinction I reveal:
A gentleman is gentle and a gent genteel.
Heed not the definitions your "Unabridged" presents,
For dictionary makers are generally gents.
GEOGRAPHER, n. A chap who can tell you offhand the difference between
the outside of the world and the inside.
Habeam, geographer of wide reknown,
Native of Abu-Keber's ancient town,
In passing thence along the river Zam
To the adjacent village of Xelam,
Bewildered by the multitude of roads,
Got lost, lived long on migratory toads,
Then from exposure miserably died,
And grateful travelers bewailed their guide.
GEOLOGY, n. The science of the earth's crust -- to which, doubtless,
will be added that of its interior whenever a man shall come up
garrulous out of a well. The geological formations of the globe
already noted are catalogued thus: The Primary, or lower one,
consists of rocks, bones or mired mules, gas-pipes, miners' tools,
antique statues minus the nose, Spanish doubloons and ancestors. The
Secondary is largely made up of red worms and moles. The Tertiary
comprises railway tracks, patent pavements, grass, snakes, mouldy
boots, beer bottles, tomato cans, intoxicated citizens, garbage,
anarchists, snap-dogs and fools.
GHOST, n. The outward and visible sign of an inward fear.
He saw a ghost.
It occupied -- that dismal thing! --
The path that he was following.
Before he'd time to stop and fly,
An earthquake trifled with the eye
That saw a ghost.
He fell as fall the early good;
Unmoved that awful vision stood.
The stars that danced before his ken
He wildly brushed away, and then
He saw a post.
Accounting for the uncommon behavior of ghosts, Heine mentions
somebody's ingenious theory to the effect that they are as much
afraid of us as we of them. Not quite, if I may judge from such
tables of comparative speed as I am able to compile from memories of
my own experience.
There is one insuperable obstacle to a belief in ghosts. A ghost
never comes naked: he appears either in a winding-sheet or "in his
habit as he lived." To believe in him, then, is to believe that not
only have the dead the power to make themselves visible after there is
nothing left of them, but that the same power inheres in textile
fabrics. Supposing the products of the loom to have this ability,
what object would they have in exercising it? And why does not the
apparition of a suit of clothes sometimes walk abroad without a ghost
in it? These be riddles of significance. They reach away down and
get a convulsive grip on the very tap-root of this flourishing faith.
GHOUL, n. A demon addicted to the reprehensible habit of devouring
the dead. The existence of ghouls has been disputed by that class of
controversialists who are more concerned to deprive the world of
comforting beliefs than to give it anything good in their place. In
1640 Father Secchi saw one in a cemetery near Florence and frightened
it away with the sign of the cross. He describes it as gifted with
many heads an an uncommon allowance of limbs, and he saw it in more
than one place at a time. The good man was coming away from dinner at
the time and explains that if he had not been "heavy with eating" he
would have seized the demon at all hazards. Atholston relates that a
ghoul was caught by some sturdy peasants in a churchyard at Sudbury
and ducked in a horsepond. (He appears to think that so distinguished
a criminal should have been ducked in a tank of rosewater.) The water
turned at once to blood "and so contynues unto ys daye." The pond has
since been bled with a ditch. As late as the beginning of the
fourteenth century a ghoul was cornered in the crypt of the cathedral
at Amiens and the whole population surrounded the place. Twenty armed
men with a priest at their head, bearing a crucifix, entered and
captured the ghoul, which, thinking to escape by the stratagem, had
transformed itself to the semblance of a well known citizen, but was
nevertheless hanged, drawn and quartered in the midst of hideous
popular orgies. The citizen whose shape the demon had assumed was so
affected by the sinister occurrence that he never again showed himself
in Amiens and his fate remains a mystery.
GLUTTON, n. A person who escapes the evils of moderation by
GNOME, n. In North-European mythology, a dwarfish imp inhabiting the
interior parts of the earth and having special custody of mineral
treasures. Bjorsen, who died in 1765, says gnomes were common enough
in the southern parts of Sweden in his boyhood, and he frequently saw
them scampering on the hills in the evening twilight. Ludwig
Binkerhoof saw three as recently as 1792, in the Black Forest, and
Sneddeker avers that in 1803 they drove a party of miners out of a
Silesian mine. Basing our computations upon data supplied by these
statements, we find that the gnomes were probably extinct as early as
GNOSTICS, n. A sect of philosophers who tried to engineer a fusion
between the early Christians and the Platonists. The former would not
go into the caucus and the combination failed, greatly to the chagrin
of the fusion managers.
GNU, n. An animal of South Africa, which in its domesticated state
resembles a horse, a buffalo and a stag. In its wild condition it is
something like a thunderbolt, an earthquake and a cyclone.
A hunter from Kew caught a distant view
Of a peacefully meditative gnu,
And he said: "I'll pursue, and my hands imbrue
In its blood at a closer interview."
But that beast did ensue and the hunter it threw
O'er the top of a palm that adjacent grew;
And he said as he flew: "It is well I withdrew
Ere, losing my temper, I wickedly slew
That really meritorious gnu."
GOOD, adj. Sensible, madam, to the worth of this present writer.
Alive, sir, to the advantages of letting him alone.
GOOSE, n. A bird that supplies quills for writing. These, by some
occult process of nature, are penetrated and suffused with various
degrees of the bird's intellectual energies and emotional character,
so that when inked and drawn mechanically across paper by a person
called an "author," there results a very fair and accurate transcript
of the fowl's thought and feeling. The difference in geese, as
discovered by this ingenious method, is considerable: many are found
to have only trivial and insignificant powers, but some are seen to be
very great geese indeed.
The Gorgon was a maiden bold
Who turned to stone the Greeks of old
That looked upon her awful brow.
We dig them out of ruins now,
And swear that workmanship so bad
Proves all the ancient sculptors mad.
GOUT, n. A physician's name for the rheumatism of a rich patient.
GRACES, n. Three beautiful goddesses, Aglaia, Thalia and Euphrosyne,
who attended upon Venus, serving without salary. They were at no
expense for board and clothing, for they ate nothing to speak of and
dressed according to the weather, wearing whatever breeze happened to
GRAMMAR, n. A system of pitfalls thoughtfully prepared for the feet
for the self-made man, along the path by which he advances to
Hail noble fruit! -- by Homer sung,
Anacreon and Khayyam;
Thy praise is ever on the tongue
Of better men than I am.
The lyre in my hand has never swept,
The song I cannot offer:
My humbler service pray accept --
I'll help to kill the scoffer.
The water-drinkers and the cranks
Who load their skins with liquor --
I'll gladly bear their belly-tanks
And tap them with my sticker.
Fill up, fill up, for wisdom cools
When e'er we let the wine rest.
Here's death to Prohibition's fools,
And every kind of vine-pest!
GRAPESHOT, n. An argument which the future is preparing in answer to
the demands of American Socialism.
GRAVE, n. A place in which the dead are laid to await the coming of
the medical student.
Beside a lonely grave I stood --
With brambles 'twas encumbered;
The winds were moaning in the wood,
Unheard by him who slumbered,
A rustic standing near, I said:
"He cannot hear it blowing!"
"'Course not," said he: "the feller's dead --
He can't hear nowt [sic] that's going."
"Too true," I said; "alas, too true --
No sound his sense can quicken!"
"Well, mister, wot is that to you? --
The deadster ain't a-kickin'."
I knelt and prayed: "O Father, smile
On him, and mercy show him!"
That countryman looked on the while,
And said: "Ye didn't know him."
GRAVITATION, n. The tendency of all bodies to approach one another
with a strength proportion to the quantity of matter they contain --
the quantity of matter they contain being ascertained by the strength
of their tendency to approach one another. This is a lovely and
edifying illustration of how science, having made A the proof of B,
makes B the proof of A.
"I'm great," the Lion said -- "I reign
The monarch of the wood and plain!"
The Elephant replied: "I'm great --
No quadruped can match my weight!"
"I'm great -- no animal has half
So long a neck!" said the Giraffe.
"I'm great," the Kangaroo said -- "see
My femoral muscularity!"
The 'Possum said: "I'm great -- behold,
My tail is lithe and bald and cold!"
An Oyster fried was understood
To say: "I'm great because I'm good!"
Each reckons greatness to consist
In that in which he heads the list,
And Vierick thinks he tops his class
Because he is the greatest ass.
Arion Spurl Doke
GUILLOTINE, n. A machine which makes a Frenchman shrug his shoulders
with good reason.
In his great work on _Divergent Lines of Racial Evolution_, the
learned Professor Brayfugle argues from the prevalence of this gesture
-- the shrug -- among Frenchmen, that they are descended from turtles
and it is simply a survival of the habit of retracing the head inside
the shell. It is with reluctance that I differ with so eminent an
authority, but in my judgment (as more elaborately set forth and
enforced in my work entitled _Hereditary Emotions_ -- lib. II, c. XI)
the shrug is a poor foundation upon which to build so important a
theory, for previously to the Revolution the gesture was unknown. I
have not a doubt that it is directly referable to the terror inspired
by the guillotine during the period of that instrument's activity.
GUNPOWDER, n. An agency employed by civilized nations for the
settlement of disputes which might become troublesome if left
unadjusted. By most writers the invention of gunpowder is ascribed to
the Chinese, but not upon very convincing evidence. Milton says it
was invented by the devil to dispel angels with, and this opinion
seems to derive some support from the scarcity of angels. Moreover,
it has the hearty concurrence of the Hon. James Wilson, Secretary of
Secretary Wilson became interested in gunpowder through an event
that occurred on the Government experimental farm in the District of
Columbia. One day, several years ago, a rogue imperfectly reverent of
the Secretary's profound attainments and personal character presented
him with a sack of gunpowder, representing it as the sed of the
_Flashawful flabbergastor_, a Patagonian cereal of great commercial
value, admirably adapted to this climate. The good Secretary was
instructed to spill it along in a furrow and afterward inhume it with
soil. This he at once proceeded to do, and had made a continuous line
of it all the way across a ten-acre field, when he was made to look
backward by a shout from the generous donor, who at once dropped a
lighted match into the furrow at the starting-point. Contact with the
earth had somewhat dampened the powder, but the startled functionary
saw himself pursued by a tall moving pillar of fire and smoke and
fierce evolution. He stood for a moment paralyzed and speechless,
then he recollected an engagement and, dropping all, absented himself
thence with such surprising celerity that to the eyes of spectators
along the route selected he appeared like a long, dim streak
prolonging itself with inconceivable rapidity through seven villages,
and audibly refusing to be comforted. "Great Scott! what is that?"
cried a surveyor's chainman, shading his eyes and gazing at the fading
line of agriculturist which bisected his visible horizon. "That,"
said the surveyor, carelessly glancing at the phenomenon and again
centering his attention upon his instrument, "is the Meridian of
HABEAS CORPUS. A writ by which a man may be taken out of jail when
confined for the wrong crime.
HABIT, n. A shackle for the free.
HADES, n. The lower world; the residence of departed spirits; the
place where the dead live.
Among the ancients the idea of Hades was not synonymous with our
Hell, many of the most respectable men of antiquity residing there in
a very comfortable kind of way. Indeed, the Elysian Fields themselves
were a part of Hades, though they have since been removed to Paris.
When the Jacobean version of the New Testament was in process of
evolution the pious and learned men engaged in the work insisted by a
majority vote on translating the Greek word "Aides" as "Hell"; but a
conscientious minority member secretly possessed himself of the record
and struck out the objectional word wherever he could find it. At the
next meeting, the Bishop of Salisbury, looking over the work, suddenly
sprang to his feet and said with considerable excitement: "Gentlemen,
somebody has been razing 'Hell' here!" Years afterward the good
prelate's death was made sweet by the reflection that he had been the
means (under Providence) of making an important, serviceable and
immortal addition to the phraseology of the English tongue.
HAG, n. An elderly lady whom you do not happen to like; sometimes
called, also, a hen, or cat. Old witches, sorceresses, etc., were
called hags from the belief that their heads were surrounded by a kind
of baleful lumination or nimbus -- hag being the popular name of that
peculiar electrical light sometimes observed in the hair. At one time
hag was not a word of reproach: Drayton speaks of a "beautiful hag,
all smiles," much as Shakespeare said, "sweet wench." It would not
now be proper to call your sweetheart a hag -- that compliment is
reserved for the use of her grandchildren.
HALF, n. One of two equal parts into which a thing may be divided, or
considered as divided. In the fourteenth century a heated discussion
arose among theologists and philosophers as to whether Omniscience
could part an object into three halves; and the pious Father
Aldrovinus publicly prayed in the cathedral at Rouen that God would
demonstrate the affirmative of the proposition in some signal and
unmistakable way, and particularly (if it should please Him) upon the
body of that hardy blasphemer, Manutius Procinus, who maintained the
negative. Procinus, however, was spared to die of the bite of a
HALO, n. Properly, a luminous ring encircling an astronomical body,
but not infrequently confounded with "aureola," or "nimbus," a
somewhat similar phenomenon worn as a head-dress by divinities and
saints. The halo is a purely optical illusion, produced by moisture
in the air, in the manner of a rainbow; but the aureola is conferred
as a sign of superior sanctity, in the same way as a bishop's mitre,
or the Pope's tiara. In the painting of the Nativity, by Szedgkin, a
pious artist of Pesth, not only do the Virgin and the Child wear the
nimbus, but an ass nibbling hay from the sacred manger is similarly
decorated and, to his lasting honor be it said, appears to bear his
unaccustomed dignity with a truly saintly grace.
HAND, n. A singular instrument worn at the end of the human arm and
commonly thrust into somebody's pocket.
HANDKERCHIEF, n. A small square of silk or linen, used in various
ignoble offices about the face and especially serviceable at funerals
to conceal the lack of tears. The handkerchief is of recent
invention; our ancestors knew nothing of it and intrusted its duties
to the sleeve. Shakespeare's introducing it into the play of
"Othello" is an anachronism: Desdemona dried her nose with her skirt,
as Dr. Mary Walker and other reformers have done with their coattails
in our own day -- an evidence that revolutions sometimes go backward.
HANGMAN, n. An officer of the law charged with duties of the highest
dignity and utmost gravity, and held in hereditary disesteem by a
populace having a criminal ancestry. In some of the American States
his functions are now performed by an electrician, as in New Jersey,
where executions by electricity have recently been ordered -- the
first instance known to this lexicographer of anybody questioning the
expediency of hanging Jerseymen.
HAPPINESS, n. An agreeable sensation arising from contemplating the
misery of another.
HARANGUE, n. A speech by an opponent, who is known as an harrangue-
HARBOR, n. A place where ships taking shelter from stores are exposed
to the fury of the customs.
HARMONISTS, n. A sect of Protestants, now extinct, who came from
Europe in the beginning of the last century and were distinguished for
the bitterness of their internal controversies and dissensions.
HASH, x. There is no definition for this word -- nobody knows what
HATCHET, n. A young axe, known among Indians as a Thomashawk.
"O bury the hatchet, irascible Red,
For peace is a blessing," the White Man said.
The Savage concurred, and that weapon interred,
With imposing rites, in the White Man's head.
HATRED, n. A sentiment appropriate to the occasion of another's
HEAD-MONEY, n. A capitation tax, or poll-tax.
In ancient times there lived a king
Whose tax-collectors could not wring
From all his subjects gold enough
To make the royal way less rough.
For pleasure's highway, like the dames
Whose premises adjoin it, claims
Perpetual repairing. So
The tax-collectors in a row
Appeared before the throne to pray
Their master to devise some way
To swell the revenue. "So great,"
Said they, "are the demands of state
A tithe of all that we collect
Will scarcely meet them. Pray reflect:
How, if one-tenth we must resign,
Can we exist on t'other nine?"
The monarch asked them in reply:
"Has it occurred to you to try
The advantage of economy?"
"It has," the spokesman said: "we sold
All of our gray garrotes of gold;
With plated-ware we now compress
The necks of those whom we assess.
Plain iron forceps we employ
To mitigate the miser's joy
Who hoards, with greed that never tires,
That which your Majesty requires."
Deep lines of thought were seen to plow
Their way across the royal brow.
"Your state is desperate, no question;
Pray favor me with a suggestion."
"O King of Men," the spokesman said,
"If you'll impose upon each head
A tax, the augmented revenue
We'll cheerfully divide with you."
As flashes of the sun illume
The parted storm-cloud's sullen gloom,
The king smiled grimly. "I decree
That it be so -- and, not to be
In generosity outdone,
Declare you, each and every one,
Exempted from the operation
Of this new law of capitation.
But lest the people censure me
Because they're bound and you are free,
'Twere well some clever scheme were laid
By you this poll-tax to evade.
I'll leave you now while you confer
With my most trusted minister."
The monarch from the throne-room walked
And straightway in among them stalked
A silent man, with brow concealed,
Bare-armed -- his gleaming axe revealed!
HEARSE, n. Death's baby-carriage.
HEART, n. An automatic, muscular blood-pump. Figuratively, this
useful organ is said to be the esat of emotions and sentiments -- a
very pretty fancy which, however, is nothing but a survival of a once
universal belief. It is now known that the sentiments and emotions
reside in the stomach, being evolved from food by chemical action of
the gastric fluid. The exact process by which a beefsteak becomes a
feeling -- tender or not, according to the age of the animal from
which it was cut; the successive stages of elaboration through which a
caviar sandwich is transmuted to a quaint fancy and reappears as a
pungent epigram; the marvelous functional methods of converting a
hard-boiled egg into religious contrition, or a cream-puff into a sigh
of sensibility -- these things have been patiently ascertained by M.
Pasteur, and by him expounded with convincing lucidity. (See, also,
my monograph, _The Essential Identity of the Spiritual Affections and
Certain Intestinal Gases Freed in Digestion_ -- 4to, 687 pp.) In a
scientific work entitled, I believe, _Delectatio Demonorum_ (John
Camden Hotton, London, 1873) this view of the sentiments receives a
striking illustration; and for further light consult Professor Dam's
famous treatise on _Love as a Product of Alimentary Maceration_.
Heat, says Professor Tyndall, is a mode
Of motion, but I know now how he's proving
His point; but this I know -- hot words bestowed
With skill will set the human fist a-moving,
And where it stops the stars burn free and wild.
_Crede expertum_ -- I have seen them, child.
HEATHEN, n. A benighted creature who has the folly to worship
something that he can see and feel. According to Professor Howison,
of the California State University, Hebrews are heathens.
"The Hebrews are heathens!" says Howison. He's
A Christian philosopher. I'm
A scurril agnostical chap, if you please,
Addicted too much to the crime
Of religious discussion in my rhyme.
Though Hebrew and Howison cannot agree
On a _modus vivendi_ -- not they! --
Yet Heaven has had the designing of me,
And I haven't been reared in a way
To joy in the thick of the fray.
For this of my creed is the soul and the gist,
And the truth of it I aver:
Who differs from me in his faith is an 'ist,
And 'ite, an 'ie, or an 'er --
And I'm down upon him or her!
Let Howison urge with perfunctory chin
Toleration -- that's all very well,
But a roast is "nuts" to his nostril thin,
And he's running -- I know by the smell --
A secret and personal Hell!
HEAVEN, n. A place where the wicked cease from troubling you with
talk of their personal affairs, and the good listen with attention
while you expound your own.
HEBREW, n. A male Jew, as distinguished from the Shebrew, an
altogether superior creation.
HELPMATE, n. A wife, or bitter half.
"Now, why is yer wife called a helpmate, Pat?"
Says the priest. "Since the time 'o yer wooin'
She's niver [sic] assisted in what ye were at --
For it's naught ye are ever doin'."
"That's true of yer Riverence [sic]," Patrick replies,
And no sign of contrition envices;
"But, bedad, it's a fact which the word implies,
For she helps to mate the expinses [sic]!"
HEMP, n. A plant from whose fibrous bark is made an article of
neckwear which is frequently put on after public speaking in the open
air and prevents the wearer from taking cold.
HERMIT, n. A person whose vices and follies are not sociable.
HERS, pron. His.
HIBERNATE, v.i. To pass the winter season in domestic seclusion.
There have been many singular popular notions about the hibernation of
various animals. Many believe that the bear hibernates during the
whole winter and subsists by mechanically sucking its paws. It is
admitted that it comes out of its retirement in the spring so lean
that it had to try twice before it can cast a shadow. Three or four
centuries ago, in England, no fact was better attested than that
swallows passed the winter months in the mud at the bottom of their
brooks, clinging together in globular masses. They have apparently
been compelled to give up the custom and account of the foulness of
the brooks. Sotus Ecobius discovered in Central Asia a whole nation
of people who hibernate. By some investigators, the fasting of Lent
is supposed to have been originally a modified form of hibernation, to
which the Church gave a religious significance; but this view was
strenuously opposed by that eminent authority, Bishop Kip, who did not
wish any honors denied to the memory of the Founder of his family.
HIPPOGRIFF, n. An animal (now extinct) which was half horse and half
griffin. The griffin was itself a compound creature, half lion and
half eagle. The hippogriff was actually, therefore, a one-quarter
eagle, which is two dollars and fifty cents in gold. The study of
zoology is full of surprises.
HISTORIAN, n. A broad-gauge gossip.
HISTORY, n. An account mostly false, of events mostly unimportant,
which are brought about by rulers mostly knaves, and soldiers mostly
Of Roman history, great Niebuhr's shown
'Tis nine-tenths lying. Faith, I wish 'twere known,
Ere we accept great Niebuhr as a guide,
Wherein he blundered and how much he lied.
HOG, n. A bird remarkable for the catholicity of its appetite and
serving to illustrate that of ours. Among the Mahometans and Jews,
the hog is not in favor as an article of diet, but is respected for
the delicacy and the melody of its voice. It is chiefly as a songster
that the fowl is esteemed; the cage of him in full chorus has been
known to draw tears from two persons at once. The scientific name of
this dicky-bird is _Porcus Rockefelleri_. Mr. Rockefeller did not
discover the hog, but it is considered his by right of resemblance.
HOMOEOPATHIST, n. The humorist of the medical profession.
HOMOEOPATHY, n. A school of medicine midway between Allopathy and
Christian Science. To the last both the others are distinctly
inferior, for Christian Science will cure imaginary diseases, and they
HOMICIDE, n. The slaying of one human being by another. There are
four kinds of homocide: felonious, excusable, justifiable, and
praiseworthy, but it makes no great difference to the person slain
whether he fell by one kind or another -- the classification is for
advantage of the lawyers.
HOMILETICS, n. The science of adapting sermons to the spiritual
needs, capacities and conditions of the congregation.
So skilled the parson was in homiletics
That all his normal purges and emetics
To medicine the spirit were compounded
With a most just discrimination founded
Upon a rigorous examination
Of tongue and pulse and heart and respiration.
Then, having diagnosed each one's condition,
His scriptural specifics this physician
Administered -- his pills so efficacious
And pukes of disposition so vivacious
That souls afflicted with ten kinds of Adam
Were convalescent ere they knew they had 'em.
But Slander's tongue -- itself all coated -- uttered
Her bilious mind and scandalously muttered
That in the case of patients having money
The pills were sugar and the pukes were honey.
_Biography of Bishop Potter_
HONORABLE, adj. Afflicted with an impediment in one's reach. In
legislative bodies it is customary to mention all members as
honorable; as, "the honorable gentleman is a scurvy cur."
HOPE, n. Desire and expectation rolled into one.
Delicious Hope! when naught to man it left --
Of fortune destitute, of friends bereft;
When even his dog deserts him, and his goat
With tranquil disaffection chews his coat
While yet it hangs upon his back; then thou,
The star far-flaming on thine angel brow,
Descendest, radiant, from the skies to hint
The promise of a clerkship in the Mint.
HOSPITALITY, n. The virtue which induces us to feed and lodge certain
persons who are not in need of food and lodging.
HOSTILITY, n. A peculiarly sharp and specially applied sense of the
earth's overpopulation. Hostility is classified as active and
passive; as (respectively) the feeling of a woman for her female
friends, and that which she entertains for all the rest of her sex.
HOURI, n. A comely female inhabiting the Mohammedan Paradise to make
things cheery for the good Mussulman, whose belief in her existence
marks a noble discontent with his earthly spouse, whom he denies a
soul. By that good lady the Houris are said to be held in deficient
HOUSE, n. A hollow edifice erected for the habitation of man, rat,
mouse, beelte, cockroach, fly, mosquito, flea, bacillus and microbe.
_House of Correction_, a place of reward for political and personal
service, and for the detention of offenders and appropriations.
_House of God_, a building with a steeple and a mortgage on it.
_House-dog_, a pestilent beast kept on domestic premises to insult
persons passing by and appal the hardy visitor. _House-maid_, a
youngerly person of the opposing sex employed to be variously
disagreeable and ingeniously unclean in the station in which it has
pleased God to place her.
HOUSELESS, adj. Having paid all taxes on household goods.
HOVEL, n. The fruit of a flower called the Palace.
Twaddle had a hovel,
Twiddle had a palace;
Twaddle said: "I'll grovel
Or he'll think I bear him malice" --
A sentiment as novel
As a castor on a chalice.
Down upon the middle
Of his legs fell Twaddle
And astonished Mr. Twiddle,
Who began to lift his noddle.
Feed upon the fiddle-
Faddle flummery, unswaddle
A new-born self-sufficiency and think himself a [mockery.]
HUMANITY, n. The human race, collectively, exclusive of the
HUMORIST, n. A plague that would have softened down the hoar
austerity of Pharaoh's heart and persuaded him to dismiss Israel with
his best wishes, cat-quick.
Lo! the poor humorist, whose tortured mind
See jokes in crowds, though still to gloom inclined --
Whose simple appetite, untaught to stray,
His brains, renewed by night, consumes by day.
He thinks, admitted to an equal sty,
A graceful hog would bear his company.
HURRICANE, n. An atmospheric demonstration once very common but now
generally abandoned for the tornado and cyclone. The hurricane is
still in popular use in the West Indies and is preferred by certain
old-fashioned sea-captains. It is also used in the construction of
the upper decks of steamboats, but generally speaking, the hurricane's
usefulness has outlasted it.
HURRY, n. The dispatch of bunglers.
HUSBAND, n. One who, having dined, is charged with the care of the
HYBRID, n. A pooled issue.
HYDRA, n. A kind of animal that the ancients catalogued under many
HYENA, n. A beast held in reverence by some oriental nations from its
habit of frequenting at night the burial-places of the dead. But the
medical student does that.
HYPOCHONDRIASIS, n. Depression of one's own spirits.
Some heaps of trash upon a vacant lot
Where long the village rubbish had been shot
Displayed a sign among the stuff and stumps --
"Hypochondriasis." It meant The Dumps.
Bogul S. Purvy
HYPOCRITE, n. One who, profession virtues that he does not respect
secures the advantage of seeming to be what he depises.
I is the first letter of the alphabet, the first word of the language,
the first thought of the mind, the first object of affection. In
grammar it is a pronoun of the first person and singular number. Its
plural is said to be _We_, but how there can be more than one myself
is doubtless clearer the grammarians than it is to the author of this
incomparable dictionary. Conception of two myselfs is difficult, but
fine. The frank yet graceful use of "I" distinguishes a good writer
from a bad; the latter carries it with the manner of a thief trying to
cloak his loot.
ICHOR, n. A fluid that serves the gods and goddesses in place of
Fair Venus, speared by Diomed,
Restrained the raging chief and said:
"Behold, rash mortal, whom you've bled --
Your soul's stained white with ichorshed!"
ICONOCLAST, n. A breaker of idols, the worshipers whereof are
imperfectly gratified by the performance, and most strenuously protest
that he unbuildeth but doth not reedify, that he pulleth down but
pileth not up. For the poor things would have other idols in place of
those he thwacketh upon the mazzard and dispelleth. But the
iconoclast saith: "Ye shall have none at all, for ye need them not;
and if the rebuilder fooleth round hereabout, behold I will depress
the head of him and sit thereon till he squawk it."
IDIOT, n. A member of a large and powerful tribe whose influence in
human affairs has always been dominant and controlling. The Idiot's
activity is not confined to any special field of thought or action,
but "pervades and regulates the whole." He has the last word in
everything; his decision is unappealable. He sets the fashions and
opinion of taste, dictates the limitations of speech and circumscribes
conduct with a dead-line.
IDLENESS, n. A model farm where the devil experiments with seeds of
new sins and promotes the growth of staple vices.
IGNORAMUS, n. A person unacquainted with certain kinds of knowledge
familiar to yourself, and having certain other kinds that you know
Dumble was an ignoramus,
Mumble was for learning famous.
Mumble said one day to Dumble:
"Ignorance should be more humble.
Not a spark have you of knowledge
That was got in any college."
Dumble said to Mumble: "Truly
You're self-satisfied unduly.
Of things in college I'm denied
A knowledge -- you of all beside."
ILLUMINATI, n. A sect of Spanish heretics of the latter part of the
sixteenth century; so called because they were light weights --
ILLUSTRIOUS, adj. Suitably placed for the shafts of malice, envy and
IMAGINATION, n. A warehouse of facts, with poet and liar in joint
IMBECILITY, n. A kind of divine inspiration, or sacred fire affecting
censorious critics of this dictionary.
IMMIGRANT, n. An unenlightened person who thinks one country better
IMMODEST, adj. Having a strong sense of one's own merit, coupled with
a feeble conception of worth in others.
There was once a man in Ispahan
Ever and ever so long ago,
And he had a head, the phrenologists said,
That fitted him for a show.
For his modesty's bump was so large a lump
(Nature, they said, had taken a freak)
That its summit stood far above the wood
Of his hair, like a mountain peak.
So modest a man in all Ispahan,
Over and over again they swore --
So humble and meek, you would vainly seek;
None ever was found before.
Meantime the hump of that awful bump
Into the heavens contrived to get
To so great a height that they called the wight
The man with the minaret.
There wasn't a man in all Ispahan
Prouder, or louder in praise of his chump:
With a tireless tongue and a brazen lung
He bragged of that beautiful bump
Till the Shah in a rage sent a trusty page
Bearing a sack and a bow-string too,
And that gentle child explained as he smiled:
"A little present for you."
The saddest man in all Ispahan,
Sniffed at the gift, yet accepted the same.
"If I'd lived," said he, "my humility
Had given me deathless fame!"
IMMORAL, adj. Inexpedient. Whatever in the long run and with regard
to the greater number of instances men find to be generally
inexpedient comes to be considered wrong, wicked, immoral. If man's
notions of right and wrong have any other basis than this of
expediency; if they originated, or could have originated, in any other
way; if actions have in themselves a moral character apart from, and
nowise dependent on, their consequences -- then all philosophy is a
lie and reason a disorder of the mind.
A toy which people cry for,
And on their knees apply for,
Dispute, contend and lie for,
And if allowed
Would be right proud
Eternally to die for.
IMPALE, v.t. In popular usage to pierce with any weapon which remains
fixed in the wound. This, however, is inaccurate; to imaple is,
properly, to put to death by thrusting an upright sharp stake into the
body, the victim being left in a sitting position. This was a common
mode of punishment among many of the nations of antiquity, and is
still in high favor in China and other parts of Asia. Down to the
beginning of the fifteenth century it was widely employed in
"churching" heretics and schismatics. Wolecraft calls it the "stoole
of repentynge," and among the common people it was jocularly known as
"riding the one legged horse." Ludwig Salzmann informs us that in
Thibet impalement is considered the most appropriate punishment for
crimes against religion; and although in China it is sometimes awarded
for secular offences, it is most frequently adjudged in cases of
sacrilege. To the person in actual experience of impalement it must
be a matter of minor importance by what kind of civil or religious
dissent he was made acquainted with its discomforts; but doubtless he
would feel a certain satisfaction if able to contemplate himself in
the character of a weather-cock on the spire of the True Church.
IMPARTIAL, adj. Unable to perceive any promise of personal advantage
from espousing either side of a controversy or adopting either of two
IMPENITENCE, n. A state of mind intermediate in point of time between
sin and punishment.
IMPIETY, n. Your irreverence toward my deity.
IMPOSITION, n. The act of blessing or consecrating by the laying on
of hands -- a ceremony common to many ecclesiastical systems, but
performed with the frankest sincerity by the sect known as Thieves.
"Lo! by the laying on of hands,"
Say parson, priest and dervise,
"We consecrate your cash and lands
To ecclesiastical service.
No doubt you'll swear till all is blue
At such an imposition. Do."
IMPOSTOR n. A rival aspirant to public honors.
His tale he told with a solemn face
And a tender, melancholy grace.
Improbable 'twas, no doubt,
When you came to think it out,
But the fascinated crowd
Their deep surprise avowed
And all with a single voice averred
'Twas the most amazing thing they'd heard --
All save one who spake never a word,
But sat as mum
As if deaf and dumb,
Serene, indifferent and unstirred.
Then all the others turned to him
And scrutinized him limb from limb --
Scanned him alive;
But he seemed to thrive
And tranquiler grow each minute,
As if there were nothing in it.
"What! what!" cried one, "are you not amazed
At what our friend has told?" He raised
Soberly then his eyes and gazed
In a natural way
And proceeded to say,
As he crossed his feet on the mantel-shelf:
"O no -- not at all; I'm a liar myself."
IMPROVIDENCE, n. Provision for the needs of to-day from the revenues
IMPUNITY, n. Wealth.
INADMISSIBLE, adj. Not competent to be considered. Said of certain
kinds of testimony which juries are supposed to be unfit to be
entrusted with, and which judges, therefore, rule out, even of
proceedings before themselves alone. Hearsay evidence is inadmissible
because the person quoted was unsworn and is not before the court for
examination; yet most momentous actions, military, political,
commercial and of every other kind, are daily undertaken on hearsay
evidence. There is no religion in the world that has any other basis
than hearsay evidence. Revelation is hearsay evidence; that the
Scriptures are the word of God we have only the testimony of men long
dead whose identity is not clearly established and who are not known
to have been sworn in any sense. Under the rules of evidence as they
now exist in this country, no single assertion in the Bible has in its
support any evidence admissible in a court of law. It cannot be
proved that the battle of Blenheim ever was fought, that there was
such as person as Julius Caesar, such an empire as Assyria.
But as records of courts of justice are admissible, it can easily
be proved that powerful and malevolent magicians once existed and were
a scourge to mankind. The evidence (including confession) upon which
certain women were convicted of witchcraft and executed was without a
flaw; it is still unimpeachable. The judges' decisions based on it
were sound in logic and in law. Nothing in any existing court was
ever more thoroughly proved than the charges of witchcraft and sorcery
for which so many suffered death. If there were no witches, human
testimony and human reason are alike destitute of value.
INAUSPICIOUSLY, adv. In an unpromising manner, the auspices being
unfavorable. Among the Romans it was customary before undertaking any
important action or enterprise to obtain from the augurs, or state
prophets, some hint of its probable outcome; and one of their favorite
and most trustworthy modes of divination consisted in observing the
flight of birds -- the omens thence derived being called _auspices_.
Newspaper reporters and certain miscreant lexicographers have decided
that the word -- always in the plural -- shall mean "patronage" or
"management"; as, "The festivities were under the auspices of the
Ancient and Honorable Order of Body-Snatchers"; or, "The hilarities
were auspicated by the Knights of Hunger."
A Roman slave appeared one day
Before the Augur. "Tell me, pray,
If --" here the Augur, smiling, made
A checking gesture and displayed
His open palm, which plainly itched,
For visibly its surface twitched.
A _denarius_ (the Latin nickel)
Successfully allayed the tickle,
And then the slave proceeded: "Please
Inform me whether Fate decrees
Success or failure in what I
To-night (if it be dark) shall try.
Its nature? Never mind -- I think
'Tis writ on this" -- and with a wink
Which darkened half the earth, he drew
Another denarius to view,
Its shining face attentive scanned,
Then slipped it into the good man's hand,
Who with great gravity said: "Wait
While I retire to question Fate."
That holy person then withdrew
His scared clay and, passing through
The temple's rearward gate, cried "Shoo!"
Waving his robe of office. Straight
Each sacred peacock and its mate
(Maintained for Juno's favor) fled
With clamor from the trees o'erhead,
Where they were perching for the night.
The temple's roof received their flight,
For thither they would always go,
When danger threatened them below.
Back to the slave the Augur went:
"My son, forecasting the event
By flight of birds, I must confess
The auspices deny success."
That slave retired, a sadder man,
Abandoning his secret plan --
Which was (as well the craft seer
Had from the first divined) to clear
The wall and fraudulently seize
On Juno's poultry in the trees.
INCOME, n. The natural and rational gauge and measure of
respectability, the commonly accepted standards being artificial,
arbitrary and fallacious; for, as "Sir Sycophas Chrysolater" in the
play has justly remarked, "the true use and function of property (in
whatsoever it consisteth -- coins, or land, or houses, or merchant-
stuff, or anything which may be named as holden of right to one's own
subservience) as also of honors, titles, preferments and place, and
all favor and acquaintance of persons of quality or ableness, are but
to get money. Hence it followeth that all things are truly to be
rated as of worth in measure of their serviceableness to that end; and
their possessors should take rank in agreement thereto, neither the
lord of an unproducing manor, howsoever broad and ancient, nor he who
bears an unremunerate dignity, nor yet the pauper favorite of a king,
being esteemed of level excellency with him whose riches are of daily
accretion; and hardly should they whose wealth is barren claim and
rightly take more honor than the poor and unworthy."
INCOMPATIBILITY, n. In matrimony a similarity of tastes, particularly
the taste for domination. Incompatibility may, however, consist of a
meek-eyed matron living just around the corner. It has even been
known to wear a moustache.
INCOMPOSSIBLE, adj. Unable to exist if something else exists. Two
things are incompossible when the world of being has scope enough for
one of them, but not enough for both -- as Walt Whitman's poetry and
God's mercy to man. Incompossibility, it will be seen, is only
incompatibility let loose. Instead of such low language as "Go heel
yourself -- I mean to kill you on sight," the words, "Sir, we are
incompossible," would convey and equally significant intimation and in
stately courtesy are altogether superior.
INCUBUS, n. One of a race of highly improper demons who, though
probably not wholly extinct, may be said to have seen their best
nights. For a complete account of _incubi_ and _succubi_, including
_incubae_ and _succubae_, see the _Liber Demonorum_ of Protassus
(Paris, 1328), which contains much curious information that would be
out of place in a dictionary intended as a text-book for the public
Victor Hugo relates that in the Channel Islands Satan himself --
tempted more than elsewhere by the beauty of the women, doubtless --
sometimes plays at _incubus_, greatly to the inconvenience and alarm
of the good dames who wish to be loyal to their marriage vows,
generally speaking. A certain lady applied to the parish priest to
learn how they might, in the dark, distinguish the hardy intruder from
their husbands. The holy man said they must feel his brown for horns;
but Hugo is ungallant enough to hint a doubt of the efficacy of the
INCUMBENT, n. A person of the liveliest interest to the outcumbents.
INDECISION, n. The chief element of success; "for whereas," saith Sir
Thomas Brewbold, "there is but one way to do nothing and divers way to
do something, whereof, to a surety, only one is the right way, it
followeth that he who from indecision standeth still hath not so many
chances of going astray as he who pusheth forwards" -- a most clear
and satisfactory exposition on the matter.
"Your prompt decision to attack," said Genera Grant on a certain
occasion to General Gordon Granger, "was admirable; you had but five
minutes to make up your mind in."
"Yes, sir," answered the victorious subordinate, "it is a great
thing to be know exactly what to do in an emergency. When in doubt
whether to attack or retreat I never hesitate a moment -- I toss us a
"Do you mean to say that's what you did this time?"
"Yes, General; but for Heaven's sake don't reprimand me: I
disobeyed the coin."
INDIFFERENT, adj. Imperfectly sensible to distinctions among things.
"You tiresome man!" cried Indolentio's wife,
"You've grown indifferent to all in life."
"Indifferent?" he drawled with a slow smile;
"I would be, dear, but it is not worth while."
Apuleius M. Gokul
INDIGESTION, n. A disease which the patient and his friends
frequently mistake for deep religious conviction and concern for the
salvation of mankind. As the simple Red Man of the western wild put
it, with, it must be confessed, a certain force: "Plenty well, no
pray; big bellyache, heap God."
INDISCRETION, n. The guilt of woman.
INEXPEDIENT, adj. Not calculated to advance one's interests.
INFANCY, n. The period of our lives when, according to Wordsworth,
"Heaven lies about us." The world begins lying about us pretty soon
INFERIAE,n. [Latin] Among the Greeks and Romans, sacrifices for
propitation of the _Dii Manes_, or souls of the dead heroes; for the
pious ancients could not invent enough gods to satisfy their spiritual
needs, and had to have a number of makeshift deities, or, as a sailor
might say, jury-gods, which they made out of the most unpromising
materials. It was while sacrificing a bullock to the spirit of
Agamemnon that Laiaides, a priest of Aulis, was favored with an
audience of that illustrious warrior's shade, who prophetically
recounted to him the birth of Christ and the triumph of Christianity,
giving him also a rapid but tolerably complete review of events down
to the reign of Saint Louis. The narrative ended abruptly at the
point, owing to the inconsiderate crowing of a cock, which compelled
the ghosted King of Men to scamper back to Hades. There is a fine
mediaeval flavor to this story, and as it has not been traced back
further than Pere Brateille, a pious but obscure writer at the court
of Saint Louis, we shall probably not err on the side of presumption
in considering it apocryphal, though Monsignor Capel's judgment of the
matter might be different; and to that I bow -- wow.
INFIDEL, n. In New York, one who does not believe in the Christian
religion; in Constantinople, one who does. (See GIAOUR.) A kind of
scoundrel imperfectly reverent of, and niggardly contributory to,
divines, ecclesiastics, popes, parsons, canons, monks, mollahs,
voodoos, presbyters, hierophants, prelates, obeah-men, abbes, nuns,
missionaries, exhorters, deacons, friars, hadjis, high-priests,
muezzins, brahmins, medicine-men, confessors, eminences, elders,
primates, prebendaries, pilgrims, prophets, imaums, beneficiaries,
clerks, vicars-choral, archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors,
preachers, padres, abbotesses, caloyers, palmers, curates, patriarchs,
bonezs, santons, beadsmen, canonesses, residentiaries, diocesans,
deans, subdeans, rural deans, abdals, charm-sellers, archdeacons,
hierarchs, class-leaders, incumbents, capitulars, sheiks, talapoins,
postulants, scribes, gooroos, precentors, beadles, fakeers, sextons,
reverences, revivalists, cenobites, perpetual curates, chaplains,
mudjoes, readers, novices, vicars, pastors, rabbis, ulemas, lamas,
sacristans, vergers, dervises, lectors, church wardens, cardinals,
prioresses, suffragans, acolytes, rectors, cures, sophis, mutifs and
INFLUENCE, n. In politics, a visionary _quo_ given in exchange for a
INFALAPSARIAN, n. One who ventures to believe that Adam need not have
sinned unless he had a mind to -- in opposition to the
Supralapsarians, who hold that that luckless person's fall was decreed
from the beginning. Infralapsarians are sometimes called
Sublapsarians without material effect upon the importance and lucidity
of their views about Adam.
Two theologues once, as they wended their way
To chapel, engaged in colloquial fray --
An earnest logomachy, bitter as gall,
Concerning poor Adam and what made him fall.
"'Twas Predestination," cried one -- "for the Lord
Decreed he should fall of his own accord."
"Not so -- 'twas Free will," the other maintained,
"Which led him to choose what the Lord had ordained."
So fierce and so fiery grew the debate
That nothing but bloodshed their dudgeon could sate;
So off flew their cassocks and caps to the ground
And, moved by the spirit, their hands went round.
Ere either had proved his theology right
By winning, or even beginning, the fight,
A gray old professor of Latin came by,
A staff in his hand and a scowl in his eye,
And learning the cause of their quarrel (for still
As they clumsily sparred they disputed with skill
Of foreordination freedom of will)
Cried: "Sirrahs! this reasonless warfare compose:
Atwixt ye's no difference worthy of blows.
The sects ye belong to -- I'm ready to swear
Ye wrongly interpret the names that they bear.
_You_ -- Infralapsarian son of a clown! --
Should only contend that Adam slipped down;
While _you_ -- you Supralapsarian pup! --
Should nothing aver but that Adam slipped up.
It's all the same whether up or down
You slip on a peel of banana brown.
Even Adam analyzed not his blunder,
But thought he had slipped on a peal of thunder!
INGRATE, n. One who receives a benefit from another, or is otherwise
an object of charity.
"All men are ingrates," sneered the cynic. "Nay,"
The good philanthropist replied;
"I did great service to a man one day
Who never since has cursed me to repay,
"Ho!" cried the cynic, "lead me to him straight --
With veneration I am overcome,
And fain would have his blessing." "Sad your fate --
He cannot bless you, for AI grieve to state
This man is dumb."
INJURY, n. An offense next in degree of enormity to a slight.
INJUSTICE, n. A burden which of all those that we load upon others
and carry ourselves is lightest in the hands and heaviest upon the
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