THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY
Part 5 out of 5
of course. Why, I knew it was not you before I had been in the room
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
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_.
SYLLOGISM, n. A logical formula consisting of a major and a minor
assumption and an inconsequent. (See LOGIC.)
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
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.
"I dote upon good grub," he cried,
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
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
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
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
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
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 absemious 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
"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
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 clames 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
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
ULTIMATUM, n. In diplomacy, a last demand before resorting to
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
"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
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.
UNITARIAN, n. One who denies the divinity of a Trinitarian.
UNIVERSALIST, n. One who forgoes the advantage of a Hell for persons
of another faith.
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."
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
VALOR, n. A soldierly compound of vanity, duty and the gambler's
"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."
VANITY, n. The tribute of a fool to the worth of the nearest ass.
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?
VIRTUES, n.pl. Certain abstentions.
VITUPERATION, n. Saite, as understood by dunces and all such as
suffer from an impediment in their wit.
VOTE, n. The instrument and symbol of a freeman's power to make a
fool of himself and a wreck of his country.
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!
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 he
heard 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
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.
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 incadescent 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."
WEDDING, n. A ceremony at which two persons undertake to become one,
one undertakes to become nothing, and nothing undertakes to become
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
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
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."
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.
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?
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 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.
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.
It is said that in his last illness the poet Arnegriff was
attended at different times by seven doctors.
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
clows 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!
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
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.
ZEAL, n. A certain nervous disorder afflicting the young and
inexperienced. A passion that goeth before a sprawl.
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.
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