The DevilsDictionary

AMBROSE BIERCE (1842-1913)


Public Domain — Copyright Expired





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[The Letter D]


v. A word formerly much used by the Paphlagonians, the meaning of which is lost. By the learned Dr. Dolabelly Gak it is believed to have been a term of satisfaction, implying the highest possible degree of mental tranquillity. Professor Groke, on the contrary, thinks it expressed an emotion of tumultuous delight, because it so frequently occurs in combination with the word jod or god, meaning "joy." It would be with great diffidence that I should advance an opinion conflicting with that of either of these formidable authorities.
v.i. To leap about to the sound of tittering music, preferably with arms about your neighbor's wife or daughter. There are many kinds of dances, but all those requiring the participation of the two sexes have two characteristics in common: they are conspicuously innocent, and warmly loved by the vicious.
    A savage beast which, when it sleeps,
        Man girds at and despises,
    But takes himself away by leaps
        And bounds when it arises.
                                                     Ambat Delaso
n. One of the most conspicuous qualities of a man in security.
n. A high ecclesiastic official of the Roman Catholic Church, whose important function is to brand the Pope's bulls with the words Datum Romœ. He enjoys a princely revenue and the friendship of God.
n. The time when men of reason go to bed. Certain old men prefer to rise at about that time, taking a cold bath and a long walk with an empty stomach, and otherwise mortifying the flesh. They then point with pride to these practices as the cause of their sturdy health and ripe years; the truth being that they are hearty and old, not because of their habits, but in spite of them. The reason we find only robust persons doing this thing is that it has killed all the others who have tried it.
n. A period of twenty-four hours, mostly misspent. This period is divided into two parts, the day proper and the night, or day improper — the former devoted to sins of business, the latter consecrated to the other sort. These two kinds of social activity overlap.
    Done with the work of breathing; done
    With all the world; the mad race run
    Though to the end; the golden goal
    Attained and found to be a hole!
                                                   Squatol Johnes
n. One who has so earnestly pursued pleasure that he has had the misfortune to overtake it.
n. An ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slave-driver.
    As, pent in an aquarium, the troutlet
    Swims round and round his tank to find an outlet,
    Pressing his nose against the glass that holds him,
    Nor ever sees the prison that enfolds him;
    So the poor debtor, seeing naught around him,
    Yet feels the narrow limits that impound him,
    Grieves at his debt and studies to evade it,
    And finds at last he might as well have paid it.
                                                   Barlow S. Vode
n. A series of commandments, ten in number — just enough to permit an intelligent selection for observance, but not enough to embarrass the choice. Following is the revised edition of the Decalogue, calculated for this meridian.
    Thou shalt no God but me adore:
    'Twere too expensive to have more.

    No images nor idols make
    For Robert Ingersoll to break.

    Take not God's name in vain; select
    A time when it will have effect.

    Work not on Sabbath days at all,
    But go to see the teams play ball.

    Honor thy parents. That creates
    For life insurance lower rates.

    Kill not, abet not those who kill;
    Thou shalt not pay thy butcher's bill.

    Kiss not thy neighbor's wife, unless
    Thine own thy neighbor doth caress

    Don't steal; thou'lt never thus compete
    Successfully in business. Cheat.

    Bear not false witness — that is low —
    But "hear 'tis rumored so and so."

    Cover thou naught that thou hast not
    By hook or crook, or somehow, got.

v.i. To succumb to the preponderance of one set of influences over another set.
    A leaf was riven from a tree,
    "I mean to fall to earth," said he.

    The west wind, rising, made him veer.
    "Eastward," said he, "I now shall steer."

    The east wind rose with greater force.
    Said he: "'Twere wise to change my course."

    With equal power they contend.
    He said: "My judgment I suspend."

    Down died the winds; the leaf, elate,
    Cried: "I've decided to fall straight."

    "First thoughts are best?"  That's not the moral;
    Just choose your own and we'll not quarrel.

    Howe'er your choice may chance to fall,
    You'll have no hand in it at all.

v.t. To lie about another. To tell the truth about another.
adj. Unable to attack.
adj. Less conspicuously admirable than one's ancestors. The contemporaries of Homer were striking examples of degeneracy; it required ten of them to raise a rock or a riot that one of the heroes of the Trojan war could have raised with ease. Homer never tires of sneering at "men who live in these degenerate days," which is perhaps why they suffered him to beg his bread — a marked instance of returning good for evil, by the way, for if they had forbidden him he would certainly have starved.
n. One of the stages of moral and social progress from private station to political preferment.
n. An extinct pachyderm that flourished when the Pterodactyl was in fashion. The latter was a native of Ireland, its name being pronounced Terry Dactyl or Peter O'Dactyl, as the man pronouncing it may chance to have heard it spoken or seen it printed.
n. The breakfast of an American who has been in Paris. Variously pronounced.
n. In American politics, an article of merchandise that comes in sets.
n. The act of examining one's bread to determine which side it is buttered on.
n. A notable first experiment in baptism which washed away the sins (and sinners) of the world.
n. The father of a most respectable family, comprising Enthusiasm, Affection, Self-denial, Faith, Hope, Charity and many other goodly sons and daughters.
    All hail, Delusion! Were it not for thee
    The world turned topsy-turvy we should see;
    For Vice, respectable with cleanly fancies,
    Would fly abandoned Virtue's gross advances.
                                                   Mumfrey Mappel
n. A prestidigitator who, putting metal into your mouth, pulls coins out of your pocket.
adj. Reliant upon another's generosity for the support which you are not in a position to exact from his fears.
n. A male relative of an office-holder, or of his bondsman. The deputy is commonly a beautiful young man, with a red necktie and an intricate system of cobwebs extending from his nose to his desk. When accidentally struck by the janitor's broom, he gives off a cloud of dust.
    "Chief Deputy," the Master cried,
    "To-day the books are to be tried
    By experts and accountants who
    Have been commissioned to go through
    Our office here, to see if we
    Have stolen injudiciously.
    Please have the proper entries made,
    The proper balances displayed,
    Conforming to the whole amount
    Of cash on hand — which they will count.
    I've long admired your punctual way —
    Here at the break and close of day,
    Confronting in your chair the crowd
    Of business men, whose voices loud
    And gestures violent you quell
    By some mysterious, calm spell —
    Some magic lurking in your look
    That brings the noisiest to book
    And spreads a holy and profound
    Tranquillity o'er all around.
    So orderly all's done that they
    Who came to draw remain to pay.
    But now the time demands, at last,
    That you employ your genius vast
    In energies more active.  Rise
    And shake the lightnings from your eyes;
    Inspire your underlings, and fling
    Your spirit into everything!"
    The Master's hand here dealt a whack
    Upon the Deputy's bent back,
    When straightway to the floor there fell
    A shrunken globe, a rattling shell
    A blackened, withered, eyeless head!
    The man had been a twelvemonth dead.
                                                  Jamrach Holobom
n. A tyrant's authority for crime and fool's excuse for failure.
n. A physician's forecast of the disease by the patient's pulse and purse.
n. A muscular partition separating disorders of the chest from disorders of the bowels.
n. A daily record of that part of one's life, which he can relate to himself without blushing.
    Hearst kept a diary wherein were writ
    All that he had of wisdom and of wit.
    So the Recording Angel, when Hearst died,
    Erased all entries of his own and cried:
    "I'll judge you by your diary." Said Hearst:
    "Thank you; 'twill show you I am Saint the First" —
    Straightway producing, jubilant and proud,
    That record from a pocket in his shroud.
    The Angel slowly turned the pages o'er,
    Each stupid line of which he knew before,
    Glooming and gleaming as by turns he hit
    On Shallow sentiment and stolen wit;
    Then gravely closed the book and gave it back.
    "My friend, you've wandered from your proper track:
    You'd never be content this side the tomb —
    For big ideas Heaven has little room,
    And Hell's no latitude for making mirth,"
    He said, and kicked the fellow back to earth.
                                            "The Mad Philosopher"
n. The chief of a nation that prefers the pestilence of despotism to the plague of anarchy.
n. A malevolent literary device for cramping the growth of a language and making it hard and inelastic. This dictionary, however, is a most useful work.
n. The singular of "dice." We seldom hear the word, because there is a prohibitory proverb, "Never say die." At long intervals, however, some one says: "The die is cast," which is not true, for it is cut. The word is found in an immortal couplet by that eminent poet and domestic economist, Senator Depew:
    A cube of cheese no larger than a die
    May bait the trap to catch a nibbling mie.
n. The conversion of victuals into virtues. When the process is imperfect, vices are evolved instead — a circumstance from which that wicked writer, Dr. Jeremiah Blenn, infers that the ladies are the greater sufferers from dyspepsia.
n. The patriotic art of lying for one's country.
v.t. The present your neighbor with another and better error than the one which he has deemed it advantageous to embrace.
v.i. To note the particulars in which one person or thing is, if possible, more objectionable than another.
n. A method of confirming others in their errors.
n. The silver lining to the cloud of servitude.
v.t. To celebrate with an appropriate ceremony the maturity of a command.
    His right to govern me is clear as day,
    My duty manifest to disobey;
    And if that fit observance e'er I shun
    May I and duty be alike undone.
                                                    Israfel Brown
v.i. To put a clean shirt upon the character.
    Let us dissemble. – Adam.
n. The only thing that the rich are willing for the poor to call theirs, and keep.
n. A disease incurred by exposure to the prosperity of a friend.
n. The art of nosing out the occult. Divination is of as many kinds as there are fruit-bearing varieties of the flowering dunce and the early fool.
n. A kind of additional or subsidiary Deity designed to catch the overflow and surplus of the world's worship. This Divine Being in some of his smaller and silkier incarnations takes, in the affection of Woman, the place to which there is no human male aspirant. The Dog is a survival — an anachronism. He toils not, neither does he spin, yet Solomon in all his glory never lay upon a door-mat all day long, sun-soaked and fly-fed and fat, while his master worked for the means wherewith to purchase the idle wag of the Solomonic tail, seasoned with a look of tolerant recognition.
n. A soldier who combines dash and steadiness in so equal measure that he makes his advances on foot and his retreats on horseback.
n. One who adapts plays from the French.
n. Priests and ministers of an ancient Celtic religion which did not disdain to employ the humble allurement of human sacrifice. Very little is now known about the Druids and their faith. Pliny says their religion, originating in Britain, spread eastward as far as Persia. Csar says those who desired to study its mysteries went to Britain. Csar himself went to Britain, but does not appear to have obtained any high preferment in the Druidical Church, although his talent for human sacrifice was considerable.
Druids performed their religious rites in groves, and knew nothing of church mortgages and the season-ticket system of pew rents. They were, in short, heathens and — as they were once complacently catalogued by a distinguished prelate of the Church of England — Dissenters.
n. Your account at your restaurant during the canvas-back season.
n. A formal ceremony preliminary to the reconciliation of two enemies. Great skill is necessary to its satisfactory observance; if awkwardly performed the most unexpected and deplorable consequences sometimes ensue. A long time ago a man lost his life in a duel.
    That dueling's a gentlemanly vice
        I hold; and wish that it had been my lot
        To live my life out in some favored spot —
    Some country where it is considered nice
    To split a rival like a fish, or slice
        A husband like a spud, or with a shot
        Bring down a debtor doubled in a knot
    And ready to be put upon the ice.
    Some miscreants there are, whom I do long
        To shoot, to stab, or some such way reclaim
    The scurvy rogues to better lives and manners,
    I seem to see them now — a mighty throng.
        It looks as if to challenge me they came,
    Jauntily marching with brass bands and banners!
                                                     Xamba Q. Dar
n. A member of the reigning dynasty in letters and life. The Dullards came in with Adam, and being both numerous and sturdy have overrun the habitable world. The secret of their power is their insensibility to blows; tickle them with a bludgeon and they laugh with a platitude. The Dullards came originally from Bœotia, whence they were driven by stress of starvation, their dullness having blighted the crops. For some centuries they infested Philistia, and many of them are called Philistines to this day. In the turbulent times of the Crusades they withdrew thence and gradually over-spread all Europe, occupying most of the high places in politics, art, literature, science and theology. Since a detachment of Dullards came over with the Pilgrims in the Mayflower and made a favorable report of the country, their increase by birth, immigration, and conversion has been rapid and steady. According to the most trustworthy statistics the number of adult Dullards in the United States is but little short of thirty millions, including the statisticians. The intellectual centre of the race is somewhere about Peoria, Illinois, but the New England Dullard is the most shockingly moral.
n. That which sternly impels us in the direction of profit, along the line of desire.
    Sir Lavender Portwine, in favor at court,
    Was wroth at his master, who'd kissed Lady Port.
    His anger provoked him to take the king's head,
    But duty prevailed, and he took the king's bread,




[The Letter E]


v.i. To perform successively (and successfully) the functions of mastication, humectation, and deglutition.
    "I was in the drawing-room, enjoying my dinner," said Brillat-
Savarin, beginning an anecdote. "What!" interrupted Rochebriant;
"eating dinner in a drawing-room?" "I must beg you to observe,
monsieur," explained the great gastronome, "that I did not say I was
eating my dinner, but enjoying it. I had dined an hour before."
v.i. Secretly to overhear a catalogue of the crimes and vices of another or yourself.
    A lady with one of her ears applied
    To an open keyhole heard, inside,
    Two female gossips in converse free —
    The subject engaging them was she.
    "I think," said one, "and my husband thinks
    That she's a prying, inquisitive minx!"
    As soon as no more of it she could hear
    The lady, indignant, removed her ear.
    "I will not stay," she said, with a pout,
    "To hear my character lied about!"
                                                   Gopete Sherany
n. A method of distinction so cheap that fools employ it to accentuate their incapacity.
n. Purchasing the barrel of whiskey that you do not need for the price of the cow that you cannot afford.
adj. Good to eat, and wholesome to digest, as a worm to a toad, a toad to a snake, a snake to a pig, a pig to a man, and a man to a worm.
n. A person who combines the judicial functions of Minos, Rhadamanthus and acus, but is placable with an obolus; a severely virtuous censor, but so charitable withal that he tolerates the virtues of others and the vices of himself; who flings about him the splintering lightning and sturdy thunders of admonition till he resembles a bunch of firecrackers petulantly uttering his mind at the tail of a dog; then straightway murmurs a mild, melodious lay, soft as the cooing of a donkey intoning its prayer to the evening star. Master of mysteries and lord of law, high-pinnacled upon the throne of thought, his face suffused with the dim splendors of the Transfiguration, his legs intertwisted and his tongue a-cheek, the editor spills his will along the paper and cuts it off in lengths to suit. And at intervals from behind the veil of the temple is heard the voice of the foreman demanding three inches of wit and six lines of religious meditation, or bidding him turn off the wisdom and whack up some pathos.
    O, the Lord of Law on the Throne of Thought,
        A gilded impostor is he.
    Of shreds and patches his robes are wrought,
                His crown is brass,
                Himself an ass,
        And his power is fiddle-dee-dee.
    Prankily, crankily prating of naught,
    Silly old quilly old Monarch of Thought.
        Public opinion's camp-follower he,
        Thundering, blundering, plundering free.
    Respected contemporaree!
                                                 J.H. Bumbleshook
n. That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.
n. The second of two phenomena which always occur together in the same order. The first, called a Cause, is said to generate the other — which is no more sensible than it would be for one who has never seen a dog except in the pursuit of a rabbit to declare the rabbit the cause of a dog.
n. A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me.
    Megaceph, chosen to serve the State
    In the halls of legislative debate,
    One day with all his credentials came
    To the capitol's door and announced his name.
    The doorkeeper looked, with a comical twist
    Of the face, at the eminent egotist,
    And said: "Go away, for we settle here
    All manner of questions, knotty and queer,
    And we cannot have, when the speaker demands
    To be told how every member stands,
    A man who to all things under the sky
    Assents by eternally voting 'I'."
n. An approved remedy for the disease of garrulity. It is also much used in cases of extreme poverty.
n. One who enjoys the sacred privilege of voting for the man of another man's choice.
n. The power that causes all natural phenomena not known to be caused by something else. It is the same thing as lightning, and its famous attempt to strike Dr. Franklin is one of the most picturesque incidents in that great and good man's career. The memory of Dr. Franklin is justly held in great reverence, particularly in France, where a waxen effigy of him was recently on exhibition, bearing the following touching account of his life and services to science:
        "Monsieur Franqulin, inventor of electricity. This
    illustrious savant, after having made several voyages around the
    world, died on the Sandwich Islands and was devoured by savages,
    of whom not a single fragment was ever recovered."
    Electricity seems destined to play a most important part in the
arts and industries. The question of its economical application to
some purposes is still unsettled, but experiment has already proved
that it will propel a street car better than a gas jet and give more
light than a horse.
n. A composition in verse, in which, without employing any of the methods of humor, the writer aims to produce in the reader's mind the dampest kind of dejection. The most famous English example begins somewhat like this:
    The cur foretells the knell of parting day;
        The loafing herd winds slowly o'er the lea;
    The wise man homeward plods; I only stay
        To fiddle-faddle in a minor key.
n. The art of orally persuading fools that white is the color that it appears to be. It includes the gift of making any color appear white.
n. An imaginary delightful country which the ancients foolishly believed to be inhabited by the spirits of the good. This ridiculous and mischievous fable was swept off the face of the earth by the early Christians — may their souls be happy in Heaven!
n. A bondman's change from the tyranny of another to the despotism of himself.
    He was a slave: at word he went and came;
        His iron collar cut him to the bone.
    Then Liberty erased his owner's name,
        Tightened the rivets and inscribed his own.
v.i. To cheat vegetation by locking up the gases upon which it feeds. By embalming their dead and thereby deranging the natural balance between animal and vegetable life, the Egyptians made their once fertile and populous country barren and incapable of supporting more than a meagre crew. The modern metallic burial casket is a step in the same direction, and many a dead man who ought now to be ornamenting his neighbor's lawn as a tree, or enriching his table as a bunch of radishes, is doomed to a long inutility. We shall get him after awhile if we are spared, but in the meantime the violet and rose are languishing for a nibble at his glutœus maximus.
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.
n. A special (but not particular) kind of liar.
n. The position farthest removed on either hand from the Interlocutor.
    The man was perishing apace
        Who played the tambourine;
    The seal of death was on his face —
        'Twas pallid, for 'twas clean.

    "This is the end," the sick man said
        In faint and failing tones.
    A moment later he was dead,
        And Tambourine was Bones.
                                                    Tinley Roquot
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
n. Any kind of amusement whose inroads stop short of death by injection.
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.
n. The coffin of a document; the scabbard of a bill; the husk of a remittance; the bed-gown of a love-letter.
n. Emulation adapted to the meanest capacity.
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.
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.
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 ashamed of.
        While your friend holds you affectionately by both your
    hands you are safe, for you can watch both his.
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!
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.
                                                      Romach Pute
adj. Very particularly abstruse and consummately occult. The ancient philosophies were of two kinds, — exoteric, those that the philosophers themselves could partly understand, and esoteric, those that nobody could understand. It is the latter that have most profoundly affected modern thought and found greatest acceptance in our time.
n. The science that treats of the various tribes of Man, as robbers, thieves, swindlers, dunces, lunatics, idiots and ethnologists.
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.
n. Praise of a person who has either the advantages of wealth and power, or the consideration to be dead.
n. A bearer of good tidings, particularly (in a religious sense) such as assure us of our own salvation and the damnation of our neighbors.
adj. Lasting forever. It is with no small diffidence that I venture to offer this brief and elementary definition, for I am not unaware of the existence of a bulky volume by a sometime Bishop of Worcester, entitled, A Partial Definition of the Word "Everlasting," as Used in the Authorized Version of the Holy Scriptures. His book was once esteemed of great authority in the Anglican Church, and is still, I understand, studied with pleasure to the mind and profit of the soul.
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.
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.
                                                       Gat Huckle
n. An officer of the Government, whose duty it is to enforce the wishes of the legislative power until such time as the judicial department shall be pleased to pronounce them invalid and of no effect. Following is an extract from an old book entitled, The Lunarian Astonished — Pfeiffer & Co., Boston, 1803:
    LUNARIAN: Then when your Congress has passed a law it goes
        directly to the Supreme Court in order that it may at
        once be known whether it is constitutional?
    TERRESTRIAN: O no; it does not require the approval of the
        Supreme Court until having perhaps been enforced for many
        years somebody objects to its operation against himself —
        I mean his client. The President, if he approves it,
        begins to execute it at once.
    LUNARIAN: Ah, the executive power is a part of the legislative.
        Do your policemen also have to approve the local ordinances
        that they enforce?
    TERRESTRIAN: Not yet — at least not in their character of
        constables. Generally speaking, though, all laws require
        the approval of those whom they are intended to restrain.
    LUNARIAN: I see. The death warrant is not valid until signed
        by the murderer.
    TERRESTRIAN: My friend, you put it too strongly; we are not
        so consistent.
    LUNARIAN: But this system of maintaining an expensive judicial
        machinery to pass upon the validity of laws only after they
        have long been executed, and then only when brought before
        the court by some private person — does it not cause great
    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?
v.t. In religious affairs, to put the conscience of another upon the spit and roast it to a nut-brown discomfort.
n. One who serves his country by residing abroad, yet is not an ambassador.
    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!"
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
n. One of the many methods by which fools prefer to lose their friends.
n. The raw material out of which theology created the future state.




[The Letter F]


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 "Kyllinge, wowndynge, or mamynge" a fairy, and it was universally respected.
n. Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.
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.
                                                  Hassan Brubuddy
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.
                                                       Naramy Oof
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.
n. A person of greater enterprise than discretion, who in embracing an opportunity has formed an unfortunate attachment.
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!
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.
                                                   Bartle Quinker
n. The iterated satiety of an enterprising affection.
n. An instrument to tickle human ears by friction of a horse's tail on the entrails of a cat.
    To Rome said Nero: "If to smoke you turn
    I shall not cease to fiddle while you burn."
    To Nero Rome replied: "Pray do your worst,
    'Tis my excuse that you were fiddling first."
                                                       Orm Pludge
n. A virtue peculiar to those who are about to be betrayed.
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.
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."
n. The Second Person of the secular Trinity.
v. Suddenly to change one's opinions and go over to another party. The most notable flop on record was that of Saul of Tarsus, who has been severely criticised as a turn-coat by some of our partisan journals.
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.
n. That "gift and faculty divine" whose creative and controlling energy inspires Man's mind, guides his actions and adorns his life.
    Folly! although Erasmus praised thee once
        In a thick volume, and all authors known,
        If not thy glory yet thy power have shown,
    Deign to take homage from thy son who hunts
    Through all thy maze his brothers, fool and dunce,
        To mend their lives and to sustain his own,
        However feebly be his arrows thrown,

    Howe'er each hide the flying weapons blunts.
    All-Father Folly! be it mine to raise,
        With lusty lung, here on his western strand
        With all thine offspring thronged from every land,
    Thyself inspiring me, the song of praise.
    And if too weak, I'll hire, to help me bawl,
    Dick Watson Gilder, gravest of us all.
                                                Aramis Loto Frope
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 civilization.
    "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!"
n. The finger commonly used in pointing out two malefactors.
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.
n. A gift of God bestowed upon doctors in compensation for their destitution of conscience.
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.
(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.
n. The tenure by which a religious corporation holds lands on condition of praying for the soul of the donor. In mediaeval times many of the wealthiest fraternities obtained their estates in this simple and cheap manner, and once when Henry VIII of England sent an officer to confiscate certain vast possessions which a fraternity of monks held by frankalmoigne, "What!" said the Prior, "would you master stay our benefactor's soul in Purgatory?" "Ay," said the officer, coldly, "an ye will not pray him thence for naught he must e'en roast." "But look you, my son," persisted the good man, "this act hath rank as robbery of God!" "Nay, nay, good father, my master the king doth but deliver him from the manifold temptations of too great wealth."
n. A conqueror in a small way of business, whose annexations lack of the sanctifying merit of magnitude.
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.
                                                     Blary O'Gary
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, Confucius, 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.
adj. Having no favors to bestow. Destitute of fortune. Addicted to utterance of truth and common sense.
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
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 Israelites was a plague of frogs, but Pharaoh, who liked them fricases, 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-kox"; 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.
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."
n. A pageant whereby we attest our respect for the dead by enriching the undertaker, and strengthen our grief by an expenditure that deepens our groans and doubles our tears.
    The savage dies — they sacrifice a horse
    To bear to happy hunting-grounds the corse.
    Our friends expire — we make the money fly
    In hope their souls will chase it to the sky.
                                                       Jex Wopley
n. That period of time in which our affairs prosper, our friends are true and our happiness is assured.



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