AMBROSE BIERCE (1842-1913)
Public Domain Copyright
- 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
- 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.
- n. One of the most conspicuous qualities of a man
- n. A high ecclesiastic official of the Roman
Catholic Church, whose important function is to brand the
Pope's bulls with the words Datum Rom. 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!
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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
"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.
- 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,
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
- 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.
- 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. Cæsar says those who desired to study its
mysteries went to Britain. Cæsar 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
- n. Your account at your restaurant during the
- 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 Botia,
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,
- v.i. To perform successively (and successfully)
the functions of mastication, humectation, and
"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!"
- 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 Æacus, 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.
- 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
- 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 glutus
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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.
- 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
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
- 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.
- 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
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
- 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
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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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
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.
- n. The iterated satiety of an enterprising
- 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."
- n. A virtue peculiar to those who are about to be
- 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
- 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
- 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
- (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.
- 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 fricasées,
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-koäx";
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.
- n. That period of time in which our affairs
prosper, our friends are true and our happiness is
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