AMBROSE BIERCE (1842-1913)
Public Domain Copyright
- n. An uncomfortable frame of mind that may have a
physical basis in something that is being done to the
body, or may be purely mental, caused by the good fortune
- n. The art of protecting flat surfaces from the
weather and exposing them to the critic.
Formerly, painting and sculpture were combined in the same work:
the ancients painted their statues. The only present alliance between
the two arts is that the modern painter chisels his patrons.
- n. A fine and costly residence, particularly that
of a great official. The residence of a high dignitary of
the Christian Church is called a palace; that of the
Founder of his religion was known as a field, or wayside.
There is progress.
- n. A species of tree having several varieties, of
which the familiar "itching palm" (Palma
hominis) is most widely distributed and sedulously
cultivated. This noble vegetable exudes a kind of
invisible gum, which may be detected by applying to the
bark a piece of gold or silver. The metal will adhere
with remarkable tenacity. The fruit of the itching palm
is so bitter and unsatisfying that a considerable
percentage of it is sometimes given away in what are
known as "benefactions."
- n. The 947th method (according to Mimbleshaw's
classification) of obtaining money by false pretences. It
consists in "reading character" in the wrinkles
made by closing the hand. The pretence is not altogether
false; character can really be read very accurately in
this way, for the wrinkles in every hand submitted
plainly spell the word "dupe." The imposture
consists in not reading it aloud.
- n. Literally, the Place of All the Demons. Most of
them have escaped into politics and finance, and the
place is now used as a lecture hall by the Audible
Reformer. When disturbed by his voice the ancient echoes
clamor appropriate responses most gratifying to his pride
- n. A nether habiliment of the adult civilized
male. The garment is tubular and unprovided with hinges
at the points of flexion. Supposed to have been invented
by a humorist. Called "trousers" by the
enlightened and "pants" by the unworthy.
- n. The doctrine that everything is God, in
contradistinction to the doctrine that God is everything.
- n. A play in which the story is told without
violence to the language. The least disagreeable form of
- v. To remit a penalty and restore to the life of
crime. To add to the lure of crime the temptation of
- n. A document treacherously inflicted upon a
citizen going abroad, exposing him as an alien and
pointing him out for special reprobation and outrage.
- n. That part of Eternity with some small fraction
of which we have a slight and regrettable acquaintance. A
moving line called the Present parts it from an imaginary
period known as the Future. These two grand divisions of
Eternity, of which the one is continually effacing the
other, are entirely unlike. The one is dark with sorrow
and disappointment, the other bright with prosperity and
joy. The Past is the region of sobs, the Future is the
realm of song. In the one crouches Memory, clad in
sackcloth and ashes, mumbling penitential prayer; in the
sunshine of the other Hope flies with a free wing,
beckoning to temples of success and bowers of ease. Yet
the Past is the Future of yesterday, the Future is the
Past of to-morrow. They are one the knowledge and
- n. A device for promoting dejection. Gentle
exercise for intellectual debility.
- n. A minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue.
- n. One to whom the interests of a part seem
superior to those of the whole. The dupe of statesmen and
the tool of conquerors.
- n. Combustible rubbish read to the torch of any
one ambitious to illuminate his name.
In Dr. Johnson's famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the
last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened
but inferior lexicographer I beg to submit that it is the first.
- n. In international affairs, a period of cheating
between two periods of fighting.
O, what's the loud uproar assailing
Mine ears without cease?
'Tis the voice of the hopeful, all-hailing
The horrors of peace.
Ah, Peace Universal; they woo it
Would marry it, too.
If only they knew how to do it
'Twere easy to do.
They're working by night and by day
On their problem, like moles.
Have mercy, O Heaven, I pray,
On their meddlesome souls!
- n. The variable (an audible) part of the roadway
for an automobile.
- n. The known part of the route from an arboreal
ancestor with a swim bladder to an urban descendant with
- adj. Undergoing or awaiting punishment.
- n. An imaginary state of quality distinguished
from the actual by an element known as excellence; an
attribute of the critic.
The editor of an English magazine having received a letter
pointing out the erroneous nature of his views and style, and signed
"Perfection," promptly wrote at the foot of the letter: "I don't
agree with you," and mailed it to Matthew Arnold.
- adj. Walking about. Relating to the philosophy of
Aristotle, who, while expounding it, moved from place to
place in order to avoid his pupil's objections. A
needless precaution they knew no more of the
matter than he.
- n. The explosion of an oratorical rocket. It
dazzles, but to an observer having the wrong kind of nose
its most conspicuous peculiarity is the smell of the
several kinds of powder used in preparing it.
- n. A lowly virtue whereby mediocrity achieves an
"Persevere, persevere!" cry the homilists all,
Themselves, day and night, persevering to bawl.
"Remember the fable of tortoise and hare
The one at the goal while the other is where?"
Why, back there in Dreamland, renewing his lease
Of life, all his muscles preserving the peace,
The goal and the rival forgotten alike,
And the long fatigue of the needless hike.
His spirit a-squat in the grass and the dew
Of the dogless Land beyond the Stew,
He sleeps, like a saint in a holy place,
A winner of all that is good in a race.
- n. A philosophy forced upon the convictions of the
observer by the disheartening prevalence of the optimist
with his scarecrow hope and his unsightly smile.
- n. A rich (and usually bald) old gentleman who has
trained himself to grin while his conscience is picking
- n. One whose mind is the creature of its
environment, following the fashion in thought, feeling
and sentiment. He is sometimes learned, frequently
prosperous, commonly clean and always solemn.
- n. A route of many roads leading from nowhere to
- n. The classical prototype of the modern
"small hot bird."
- n. An irritating toy that restores life to dead
- n. A picture painted by the sun without
instruction in art. It is a little better than the work
of an Apache, but not quite so good as that of a
- n. The science of picking the pocket through the
scalp. It consists in locating and exploiting the organ
that one is a dupe with.
- n. One upon whom we set our hopes when ill and our
dogs when well.
- n. The art of determining the character of another
by the resemblances and differences between his face and
our own, which is the standard of excellence.
"There is no art," says Shakespeare, foolish man,
"To read the mind's construction in the face."
The physiognomists his portrait scan,
And say: "How little wisdom here we trace!
He knew his face disclosed his mind and heart,
So, in his own defence, denied our art."
- n. A parlor utensil for subduing the impenitent
visitor. It is operated by pressing the keys of the
machine and the spirits of the audience.
- n. The young of the Procyanthropos, or Americanus
dominans. It is small, black and charged with
- n. A representation in two dimensions of something
wearisome in three.
"Behold great Daubert's picture here on view
Taken from Life." If that description's true,
Grant, heavenly Powers, that I be taken, too.
- n. An advance agent of the reaper whose name is
Cold pie was highly esteemed by the remains. The Rev. Dr.
Mucker, in a funeral sermon over a British nobleman.
Cold pie is a detestable
That's why I'm done or undone
So far from that dear London.
from the Headstone of a British Nobleman, in Kalamazoo.
- n. Reverence for the Supreme Being, based upon His
supposed resemblance to man.
The pig is taught by sermons and epistles
To think the God of Swine has snout and bristles.
- n. An animal (Porcus omnivorus) closely
allied to the human race by the splendor and vivacity of
its appetite, which, however, is inferior in scope, for
it sticks at pig.
- n. One of a tribe of very small men found by
ancient travelers in many parts of the world, but by
modern in Central Africa only. The Pigmies are so called
to distinguish them from the bulkier Caucasians
who are Hogmies.
- n. A traveler that is taken seriously. A Pilgrim
Father was one who, leaving Europe in 1620 because not
permitted to sing psalms through his nose, followed it to
Massachusetts, where he could personate God according to
the dictates of his conscience.
- n. A mechanical device for inflicting personal
distinction prototype of the modern newspaper
conducted by persons of austere virtues and blameless
- n. Commerce without its folly-swaddles, just as
God made it.
- adj. The state of an enemy of opponent after an
imaginary encounter with oneself.
- n. A failing sense of exemption, inspired by
- n. A literary coincidence compounded of a
discreditable priority and an honorable subsequence.
- v. To take the thought or style of another writer
whom one has never, never read.
- n. In ancient times a general punishment of the
innocent for admonition of their ruler, as in the
familiar instance of Pharaoh the Immune. The plague as we
of to-day have the happiness to know it is merely
Nature's fortuitous manifestation of her purposeless
- v.t. To bother about the best method of
accomplishing an accidental result.
- n. The fundamental element and special glory of
popular literature. A thought that snores in words that
smoke. The wisdom of a million fools in the diction of a
dullard. A fossil sentiment in artificial rock. A moral
without the fable. All that is mortal of a departed
truth. A demi-tasse of milk-and-morality. The Pope's-nose
of a featherless peacock. A jelly-fish withering on the
shore of the sea of thought. The cackle surviving the
egg. A desiccated epigram.
- adj. Pertaining to the philosophy of Socrates.
Platonic Love is a fool's name for the affection between
a disability and a frost.
- n. Coins with which the populace pays those who
tickle and devour it.
- v. To lay the foundation for a superstructure of
- n. The least hateful form of dejection.
- n. An ancient Roman who in the blood of his
country stained nothing but his hands. Distinguished from
the Patrician, who was a saturated solution.
- n. A popular vote to ascertain the will of the
- adj. Having full power. A Minister Plenipotentiary
is a diplomatist possessing absolute authority on
condition that he never exert it.
- n. An army of words escorting a corporal of
- n. An implement that cries aloud for hands
accustomed to the pen.
- v. To take the property of another without
observing the decent and customary reticences of theft.
To effect a change of ownership with the candid
concomitance of a brass band. To wrest the wealth of A
from B and leave C lamenting a vanishing opportunity.
- n. The cradle of motive and the grave of
conscience. In woman this organ is lacking; so she acts
without motive, and her conscience, denied burial,
remains ever alive, confessing the sins of others.
- n. A form of expression peculiar to the Land
beyond the Magazines.
- n. A game said to be played with cards for some
purpose to this lexicographer unknown.
- n. An armed force for protection and
- n. The most acceptable hypocrisy.
- n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest
of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private
- n. An eel in the fundamental mud upon which the
superstructure of organized society is reared. When we
wriggles he mistakes the agitation of his tail for the
trembling of the edifice. As compared with the statesman,
he suffers the disadvantage of being alive.
- n. A house of atonement, or expiatory chapel,
fitted with several stools of repentance, as
distinguished from monogamy, which has but one.
- n. A fossil patriot of the early agricultural
period, found in the old red soapstone underlying Kansas;
characterized by an uncommon spread of ear, which some
naturalists contend gave him the power of flight, though
Professors Morse and Whitney, pursuing independent lines
of thought, have ingeniously pointed out that had he
possessed it he would have gone elsewhere. In the
picturesque speech of his period, some fragments of which
have come down to us, he was known as "The Matter
- adj. Exposed to a mutable ownership through
vicissitudes of possession.
His light estate, if neither he did make it
Nor yet its former guardian forsake it,
Is portable improperly, I take it.
- n. pl. A species of geese indigenous to Portugal.
They are mostly without feathers and imperfectly edible,
even when stuffed with garlic.
- adj. Mistaken at the top of one's voice.
- n. A philosophy that denies our knowledge of the
Real and affirms our ignorance of the Apparent. Its
longest exponent is Comte, its broadest Mill and its
- n. An appellate court which reverses the judgment
of a popular author's contemporaries, the appellant being
his obscure competitor.
- n. Suitable for drinking. Water is said to be
potable; indeed, some declare it our natural beverage,
although even they find it palatable only when suffering
from the recurrent disorder known as thirst, for which it
is a medicine. Upon nothing has so great and diligent
ingenuity been brought to bear in all ages and in all
countries, except the most uncivilized, as upon the
invention of substitutes for water. To hold that this
general aversion to that liquid has no basis in the
preservative instinct of the race is to be unscientific
and without science we are as the snakes and
- n. A file provided for the teeth of the rats of
reform. The number of plans for its abolition equals that
of the reformers who suffer from it, plus that of the
philosophers who know nothing about it. Its victims are
distinguished by possession of all the virtues and by
their faith in leaders seeking to conduct them into a
prosperity where they believe these to be unknown.
- v. To ask that the laws of the universe be
annulled in behalf of a single petitioner confessedly
- n. One of an experimental and apparently
unsatisfactory race of antedated Creation and lived under
conditions not easily conceived. Melsius believed them to
have inhabited "the Void" and to have been
something intermediate between fishes and birds. Little
its known of them beyond the fact that they supplied Cain
with a wife and theologians with a controversy.
- n. In Law, a previous decision, rule or practice
which, in the absence of a definite statute, has whatever
force and authority a Judge may choose to give it,
thereby greatly simplifying his task of doing as he
pleases. As there are precedents for everything, he has
only to ignore those that make against his interest and
accentuate those in the line of his desire. Invention of
the precedent elevates the trial-at-law from the low
estate of a fortuitous ordeal to the noble attitude of a
- adj. Anteprandial.
Precipitate in all, this sinner
Took action first, and then his dinner.
- n. The doctrine that all things occur according to
programme. This doctrine should not be confused with that
of foreordination, which means that all things are
programmed, but does not affirm their occurrence, that
being only an implication from other doctrines by which
this is entailed. The difference is great enough to have
deluged Christendom with ink, to say nothing of the gore.
With the distinction of the two doctrines kept well in
mind, and a reverent belief in both, one may hope to
escape perdition if spared.
- n. The wage of consistency.
- n. The preparatory stage of disillusion.
- n. An unnoted factor in creation.
- n. A sentiment, or frame of mind, induced by the
erroneous belief that one thing is better than another.
An ancient philosopher, expounding his conviction that life is no
better than death, was asked by a disciple why, then, he did not die.
"Because," he replied, "death is no better than life."
It is longer.
- adj. Belonging to an early period and a museum.
Antedating the art and practice of perpetuating
He lived in a period prehistoric,
When all was absurd and phantasmagoric.
Born later, when Clio, celestial recorded,
Set down great events in succession and order,
He surely had seen nothing droll or fortuitous
In anything here but the lies that she threw at us.
- n. A vagrant opinion without visible means of
- n. A church officer having a superior degree of
holiness and a fat preferment. One of Heaven's
aristocracy. A gentleman of God.
- n. A sovereign's right to do wrong.
- n. One who holds the conviction that the
government authorities of the Church should be called
- n. A physician's guess at what will best prolong
the situation with least harm to the patient.
- n. That part of eternity dividing the domain of
disappointment from the realm of hope.
- adj. Hideously appareled after the manner of the
time and place.
In Boorioboola-Gha a man is presentable on occasions of ceremony
if he have his abdomen painted a bright blue and wear a cow's tail; in
New York he may, if it please him, omit the paint, but after sunset he
must wear two tails made of the wool of a sheep and dyed black.
- v. To guide the action of a deliberative body to
a desirable result. In Journalese, to perform upon a
musical instrument; as, "He presided at the
The Headliner, holding the copy in hand,
Read with a solemn face:
"The music was very uncommonly grand
The best that was every provided,
For our townsman Brown presided
At the organ with skill and grace."
The Headliner discontinued to read,
And, spread the paper down
On the desk, he dashed in at the top of the screed:
"Great playing by President Brown."
- n. The greased pig in the field game of American
- n. The leading figure in a small group of men of
whom and of whom only it is positively
known that immense numbers of their countrymen did not
want any of them for President.
If that's an honor surely 'tis a greater
To have been a simple and undamned spectator.
Behold in me a man of mark and note
Whom no elector e'er denied a vote!
An undiscredited, unhooted gent
Who might, for all we know, be President
By acclimation. Cheer, ye varlets, cheer
I'm passing with a wide and open ear!
- n. A liar in the caterpillar estate.
- n. Value, plus a reasonable sum for the wear and
tear of conscience in demanding it.
- n. The head of a church, especially a State church
supported by involuntary contributions. The Primate of
England is the Archbishop of Canterbury, an amiable old
gentleman, who occupies Lambeth Palace when living and
Westminster Abbey when dead. He is commonly dead.
- n. A place of punishments and rewards. The poet
assures us that
"Stone walls do not a prison make,"
but a combination of the stone wall, the political parasite and the
moral instructor is no garden of sweets.
- n. A military gentleman with a field-marshal's
baton in his knapsack and an impediment in his hope.
- n. The rudimentary organ of an elephant which
serves him in place of the knife-and-fork that Evolution
has as yet denied him. For purposes of humor it is
popularly called a trunk.
Asked how he knew that an elephant was going on a journey, the
illustrious Jo. Miller cast a reproachful look upon his tormentor,
and answered, absently: "When it is ajar," and threw himself from a
high promontory into the sea. Thus perished in his pride the most
famous humorist of antiquity, leaving to mankind a heritage of woe!
No successor worthy of the title has appeared, though Mr. Edward Bok,
of The Ladies' Home Journal, is much respected for the purity and
sweetness of his personal character.
- n. The final arbiter in international disputes.
Formerly these disputes were settled by physical contact
of the disputants, with such simple arguments as the
rudimentary logic of the times could supply the
sword, the spear, and so forth. With the growth of
prudence in military affairs the projectile came more and
more into favor, and is now held in high esteem by the
most courageous. Its capital defect is that it requires
personal attendance at the point of propulsion.
- n. Evidence having a shade more of plausibility
than of unlikelihood. The testimony of two credible
witnesses as opposed to that of only one.
- n. A malefactor who atones for making your writing
nonsense by permitting the compositor to make it
- n. Any material thing, having no particular value,
that may be held by A against the cupidity of B. Whatever
gratifies the passion for possession in one and
disappoints it in all others. The object of man's brief
rapacity and long indifference.
- n. The art and practice of selling one's
credibility for future delivery.
- n. An outlook, usually forbidding. An expectation,
Blow, blow, ye spicy breezes
O'er Ceylon blow your breath,
Where every prospect pleases,
Save only that of death.
- adj. Unexpectedly and conspicuously beneficial to
the person so describing it.
- n. A bawd hiding behind the back of her demeanor.
- n. In literary affairs, to become the fundamental
element in a cone of critics.
- n. One of the two things mainly conducive to
success, especially in politics. The other is Pull.
- n. An ancient philosophy, named for its inventor.
It consisted of an absolute disbelief in everything but
Pyrrhonism. Its modern professors have added that.
- n. A woman by whom the realm is ruled when there
is a king, and through whom it is ruled when there is
- n. An implement of torture yielded by a goose and
commonly wielded by an ass. This use of the quill is now
obsolete, but its modern equivalent, the steel pen, is
wielded by the same everlasting Presence.
- n. A portable sheath in which the ancient
statesman and the aboriginal lawyer carried their lighter
He extracted from his quiver,
Did the controversial Roman,
An argument well fitted
To the question as submitted,
Then addressed it to the liver,
Of the unpersuaded foeman.
Oglum P. Boomp
- adj. Absurdly chivalric, like Don Quixote. An
insight into the beauty and excellence of this
incomparable adjective is unhappily denied to him who has
the misfortune to know that the gentleman's name is
When ignorance from out of our lives can banish
Philology, 'tis folly to know Spanish.
- n. A sufficient number of members of a
deliberative body to have their own way and their own way
of having it. In the United States Senate a quorum
consists of the chairman of the Committee on Finance and
a messenger from the White House; in the House of
Representatives, of the Speaker and the devil.
- n. The act of repeating erroneously the words of
another. The words erroneously repeated.
Intent on making his quotation truer,
He sought the page infallible of Brewer,
Then made a solemn vow that we would be
Condemned eternally. Ah, me, ah, me!
- n. A number showing how many times a sum of money
belonging to one person is contained in the pocket of
another usually about as many times as it can be
- n. In a republic, those who exercise a supreme
authority tempered by fraudulent elections. The rabble is
like the sacred Simurgh, of Arabian fable
omnipotent on condition that it do nothing. (The word is
Aristocratese, and has no exact equivalent in our tongue,
but means, as nearly as may be, "soaring
- n. An argumentative implement formerly much used
in persuading devotees of a false faith to embrace the
living truth. As a call to the unconverted the rack never
had any particular efficacy, and is now held in light
- n. The conservatism of to-morrow injected into the
affairs of to-day.
- n. A mineral that gives off heat and stimulates
the organ that a scientist is a fool with.
- n. The chief of many mechanical devices enabling
us to get away from where we are to where we are no
better off. For this purpose the railroad is held in
highest favor by the optimist, for it permits him to make
the transit with great expedition.
- adj. Pertaining to a certain order of
architecture, otherwise known as the Normal American.
Most of the public buildings of the United States are of
the Ramshackle order, though some of our earlier
architects preferred the Ironic. Recent additions to the
White House in Washington are Theo-Doric, the
ecclesiastic order of the Dorians. They are exceedingly
fine and cost one hundred dollars a brick.
- n. Relative elevation in the scale of human worth.
He held at court a rank so high
That other noblemen asked why.
"Because," 'twas answered, "others lack
His skill to scratch the royal back."
- n. The purchase of that which neither belongs to
the seller, nor can belong to the buyer. The most
unprofitable of investments.
- n. Providence without industry. The thrift of
- n. A Welsh rabbit, in the speech of the humorless,
who point out that it is not a rabbit. To whom it may be
solemnly explained that the comestible known as
toad-in-a-hole is really not a toad, and that riz-de-veau
à la financière is not the smile of a calf prepared
after the recipe of a she banker.
- n. A fool considered under another aspect.
- n. Stupidity militant. The activity of a clouded
- adj. Insensible to the value of our advice.
"Now lay your bet with mine, nor let
These gamblers take your cash."
"Nay, this child makes no bet." "Great snakes!
How can you be so rash?"
Bootle P. Gish
- adj. Devoid of all delusions save those of
observation, experience and reflection.
- n. Our prostrate brother, Homo ventrambulans.
- n. An instrument used by the Caucasian to enhance
his beauty, by the Mongolian to make a guy of himself,
and by the Afro-American to affirm his worth.
- n. The radius of action of the human hand. The
area within which it is possible (and customary) to
gratify directly the propensity to provide.
This is a truth, as old as the hills,
That life and experience teach:
The poor man suffers that keenest of ills,
An impediment of his reach.
- n. The general body of what one reads. In our
country it consists, as a rule, of Indiana novels, short
stories in "dialect" and humor in slang.
We know by one's reading
His learning and breeding;
By what draws his laughter
We know his Hereafter.
Read nothing, laugh never
The Sphinx was less clever!
- n. The art of depicting nature as it is seem by toads.
The charm suffusing a landscape painted by a mole, or a
story written by a measuring-worm.
- n. The dream of a mad philosopher. That which
would remain in the cupel if one should assay a phantom.
The nucleus of a vacuum.
- adv. Apparently.
- n. In American military matters, that exposed part
of the army that is nearest to Congress.
- v.i. To weight probabilities in the scales of
- n. Propensitate of prejudice.
- adj. Accessible to the infection of our own
opinions. Hospitable to persuasion, dissuasion and
- n. A proponent of a new misrule who has failed to
- v. To recall with additions something not
- n. A suspension of hostilities. An armed truce for
the purpose of digging up the dead.
- v. To seek a justification for a decision already
- n. In American politics, another throw of the
dice, accorded to the player against whom they are
- n. A particular kind of dejection to relieve a
- n. A person distinguishable from a civilian by his
uniform and from a soldier by his gait.
Fresh from the farm or factory or street,
His marching, in pursuit or in retreat,
Were an impressive martial spectacle
Except for two impediments his feet.
- n. In the Church of England, the Third Person of
the parochial Trinity, the Curate and the Vicar being the
- n. Deliverance of sinners from the penalty of
their sin, through their murder of the deity against whom
they sinned. The doctrine of Redemption is the
fundamental mystery of our holy religion, and whoso
believeth in it shall not perish, but have everlasting
life in which to try to understand it.
We must awake Man's spirit from his sin,
And take some special measure for redeeming it;
Though hard indeed the task to get it in
Among the angels any way but teaming it,
Or purify it otherwise than steaming it.
I'm awkward at Redemption a beginner:
My method is to crucify the sinner.
- n. Reparation without satisfaction.
Among the Anglo-Saxon a subject conceiving himself wronged by the
king was permitted, on proving his injury, to beat a brazen image of
the royal offender with a switch that was afterward applied to his
own naked back. The latter rite was performed by the public hangman,
and it assured moderation in the plaintiff's choice of a switch.
- n. A North American Indian, whose skin is not red
at least not on the outside.
- adj. Superfluous; needless; de trop.
The Sultan said: "There's evidence abundant
To prove this unbelieving dog redundant."
To whom the Grand Vizier, with mien impressive,
Replied: "His head, at least, appears excessive."
Mr. Debs is a redundant citizen. Theodore Roosevelt
- n. A law for submission of proposed legislation to
a popular vote to learn the nonsensus of public opinion.
- n. An action of the mind whereby we obtain a
clearer view of our relation to the things of yesterday
and are able to avoid the perils that we shall not again
- v. A thing that mostly satisfies reformers opposed
- n. Anything assuring protection to one in peril.
Moses and Joshua provided six cities of refuge
Bezer, Golan, Ramoth, Kadesh, Schekem and Hebron
to which one who had taken life inadvertently could flee
when hunted by relatives of the deceased. This admirable
expedient supplied him with wholesome exercise and
enabled them to enjoy the pleasures of the chase; whereby
the soul of the dead man was appropriately honored by
observations akin to the funeral games of early Greece.
- n. Denial of something desired; as an elderly
maiden's hand in marriage, to a rich and handsome suitor;
a valuable franchise to a rich corporation, by an
alderman; absolution to an impenitent king, by a priest,
and so forth. Refusals are graded in a descending scale
of finality thus: the refusal absolute, the refusal
condition, the refusal tentative and the refusal
feminine. The last is called by some casuists the refusal
- n. Distinguishing insignia, jewels and costume of
such ancient and honorable orders as Knights of Adam;
Visionaries of Detectable Bosh; the Ancient Order of
Modern Troglodytes; the League of Holy Humbug; the Golden
Phalanx of Phalangers; the Genteel Society of Expurgated
Hoodlums; the Mystic Alliances of Georgeous Regalians;
Knights and Ladies of the Yellow Dog; the Oriental Order
of Sons of the West; the Blatherhood of Insufferable
Stuff; Warriors of the Long Bow; Guardians of the Great
Horn Spoon; the Band of Brutes; the Impenitent Order of
Wife-Beaters; the Sublime Legion of Flamboyant
Conspicuants; Worshipers at the Electroplated Shrine;
Shining Inaccessibles; Fee-Faw-Fummers of the Inimitable
Grip; Jannissaries of the Broad-Blown Peacock; Plumed
Increscencies of the Magic Temple; the Grand Cabal of
Able-Bodied Sedentarians; Associated Deities of the
Butter Trade; the Garden of Galoots; the Affectionate
Fraternity of Men Similarly Warted; the Flashing
Astonishers; Ladies of Horror; Coöperative Association
for Breaking into the Spotlight; Dukes of Eden; Disciples
Militant of the Hidden Faith; Knights-Champions of the
Domestic Dog; the Holy Gregarians; the Resolute
Optimists; the Ancient Sodality of Inhospitable Hogs;
Associated Sovereigns of Mendacity; Dukes-Guardian of the
Mystic Cesspool; the Society for Prevention of
Prevalence; Kings of Drink; Polite Federation of
Gents-Consequential; the Mysterious Order of the
Undecipherable Scroll; Uniformed Rank of Lousy Cats;
Monarchs of Worth and Hunger; Sons of the South Star;
Prelates of the Tub-and-Sword.
- n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to
Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.
"What is your religion my son?" inquired the Archbishop of Rheims.
"Pardon, monseigneur," replied Rochebriant; "I am ashamed of it."
"Then why do you not become an atheist?"
"Impossible! I should be ashamed of atheism."
"In that case, monsieur, you should join the Protestants."
- n. A receptacle for such sacred objects as pieces
of the true cross, short-ribs of the saints, the ears of
Balaam's ass, the lung of the cock that called Peter to
repentance and so forth. Reliquaries are commonly of
metal, and provided with a lock to prevent the contents
from coming out and performing miracles at unseasonable
times. A feather from the wing of the Angel of the
Annunciation once escaped during a sermon in Saint
Peter's and so tickled the noses of the congregation that
they woke and sneezed with great vehemence three times
each. It is related in the "Gesta Sanctorum"
that a sacristan in the Canterbury cathedral surprised
the head of Saint Dennis in the library. Reprimanded by
its stern custodian, it explained that it was seeking a
body of doctrine. This unseemly levity so raged the
diocesan that the offender was publicly anathematized,
thrown into the Stour and replaced by another head of
Saint Dennis, brought from Rome.
- n. A degree of distinction between notoriety and
fame a little more supportable than the one and a
little more intolerable than the other. Sometimes it is
conferred by an unfriendly and inconsiderate hand.
I touched the harp in every key,
But found no heeding ear;
And then Ithuriel touched me
With a revealing spear.
Not all my genius, great as 'tis,
Could urge me out of night.
I felt the faint appulse of his,
And leapt into the light!
- n. Satisfaction that is made for a wrong and
deducted from the satisfaction felt in committing it.
- n. Prudent insult in retort. Practiced by
gentlemen with a constitutional aversion to violence, but
a strong disposition to offend. In a war of words, the
tactics of the North American Indian.
- n. The faithful attendant and follower of
Punishment. It is usually manifest in a degree of
reformation that is not inconsistent with continuity of
Desirous to avoid the pains of Hell,
You will repent and join the Church, Parnell?
How needless! Nick will keep you off the coals
And add you to the woes of other souls.
- n. A reproduction of a work of art, by the artist
that made the original. It is so called to distinguish it
from a "copy," which is made by another artist.
When the two are made with equal skill the replica is the
more valuable, for it is supposed to be more beautiful
than it looks.
- n. A writer who guesses his way to the truth and
dispels it with a tempest of words.
"More dear than all my bosom knows, O thou
Whose 'lips are sealed' and will not disavow!"
So sang the blithe reporter-man as grew
Beneath his hand the leg-long "interview."
- v.i. To cease from troubling.
- n. In national politics, a member of the Lower
House in this world, and without discernible hope of
promotion in the next.
- n. In theology, the state of a luckless mortal
prenatally damned. The doctrine of reprobation was taught
by Calvin, whose joy in it was somewhat marred by the sad
sincerity of his conviction that although some are
foredoomed to perdition, others are predestined to
- n. A nation in which, the thing governing and the
thing governed being the same, there is only a permitted
authority to enforce an optional obedience. In a
republic, the foundation of public order is the ever
lessening habit of submission inherited from ancestors
who, being truly governed, submitted because they had to.
There are as many kinds of republics as there are
graduations between the despotism whence they came and
the anarchy whither they lead.
- n. A mass for the dead which the minor poets
assure us the winds sing o'er the graves of their
favorites. Sometimes, by way of providing a varied
entertainment, they sing a dirge.
- adj. Unable to leave.
- v.t. To renounce an honor for an advantage. To
renounce an advantage for a greater advantage.
'Twas rumored Leonard Wood had signed
A true renunciation
Of title, rank and every kind
Of military station
Each honorable station.
By his example fired inclined
To noble emulation,
The country humbly was resigned
To Leonard's resignation
His Christian resignation.
- adj. Obstinate in a course that we approve.
- n. The offspring of a liaison between a
bald head and a bank account.
- n. An apparatus fitted over the nose and mouth of
an inhabitant of London, whereby to filter the visible
universe in its passage to the lungs.
- n. A suspension of hostilities against a sentenced
assassin, to enable the Executive to determine whether
the murder may not have been done by the prosecuting
attorney. Any break in the continuity of a disagreeable
Altgeld upon his incandescent bed
Lay, an attendant demon at his head.
"O cruel cook, pray grant me some relief
Some respite from the roast, however brief."
"Remember how on earth I pardoned all
Your friends in Illinois when held in thrall."
"Unhappy soul! for that alone you squirm
O'er fire unquenched, a never-dying worm.
"Yet, for I pity your uneasy state,
Your doom I'll mollify and pains abate.
"Naught, for a season, shall your comfort mar,
Not even the memory of who you are."
Throughout eternal space dread silence fell;
Heaven trembled as Compassion entered Hell.
"As long, sweet demon, let my respite be
As, governing down here, I'd respite thee."
"As long, poor soul, as any of the pack
You thrust from jail consumed in getting back."
A genial chill affected Altgeld's hide
While they were turning him on t'other side.
Joel Spate Woop
- adj. Like a simple American citizen beduking
himself in his lodge, or affirming his consequence in the
Scheme of Things as an elemental unit of a parade.
The Knights of Dominion were so resplendent in their velvet-
and-gold that their masters would hardly have known them.
"Chronicles of the Classes"
- v.i. To make answer, or disclose otherwise a
consciousness of having inspired an interest in what
Herbert Spencer calls "external coexistences,"
as Satan "squat like a toad" at the ear of Eve,
responded to the touch of the angel's spear. To respond
in damages is to contribute to the maintenance of the
plaintiff's attorney and, incidentally, to the
gratification of the plaintiff.
- n. A detachable burden easily shifted to the
shoulders of God, Fate, Fortune, Luck or one's neighbor.
In the days of astrology it was customary to unload it
upon a star.
Alas, things ain't what we should see
If Eve had let that apple be;
And many a feller which had ought
To set with monarchses of thought,
Or play some rosy little game
With battle-chaps on fields of fame,
Is downed by his unlucky star
And hollers: "Peanuts! here you are!"
"The Sturdy Beggar"
- n. The founding or endowing of universities and
public libraries by gift or bequest.
- n. Benefactor; philanthropist.
- n. The natural rock upon which is reared the
Temple of Law.
- n. A rain of fire-and-brimstone that falls alike
upon the just and such of the unjust as have not procured
shelter by evicting them.
In the lines following, addressed to an Emperor in exile by
Father Gassalasca Jape, the reverend poet appears to hint his sense
of the imprudence of turning about to face Retribution when it is
What, what! Dom Pedro, you desire to go
Back to Brazil to end your days in quiet?
Why, what assurance have you 'twould be so?
'Tis not so long since you were in a riot,
And your dear subjects showed a will to fly at
Your throat and shake you like a rat. You know
That empires are ungrateful; are you certain
Republics are less handy to get hurt in?
- n. A signal to sleeping soldiers to dream of
battlefields no more, but get up and have their blue
noses counted. In the American army it is ingeniously
called "rev-e-lee," and to that pronunciation
our countrymen have pledged their lives, their
misfortunes and their sacred dishonor.
- n. A famous book in which St. John the Divine
concealed all that he knew. The revealing is done by the
commentators, who know nothing.
- n. The spiritual attitude of a man to a god and a
dog to a man.
To set your wisdom (holding not a doubt of it,
Although in truth there's neither bone nor skin to it)
At work upon a book, and so read out of it
The qualities that you have first read into it.
- n. In politics, an abrupt change in the form of
misgovernment. Specifically, in American history, the
substitution of the rule of an Administration for that of
a Ministry, whereby the welfare and happiness of the
people were advanced a full half-inch. Revolutions are
usually accompanied by a considerable effusion of blood,
but are accounted worth it this appraisement being
made by beneficiaries whose blood had not the mischance
to be shed. The French revolution is of incalculable
value to the Socialist of to-day; when he pulls the
string actuating its bones its gestures are inexpressibly
terrifying to gory tyrants suspected of fomenting law and
- n. One who uses a divining-rod in prospecting for
precious metals in the pocket of a fool.
- n. Censorious language by another concerning
- n. Censorious language by oneself concerning
another. The word is of classical refinement, and is even
said to have been used in a fable by Georgius Coadjutor,
one of the most fastidious writers of the fifteenth
century commonly, indeed, regarded as the founder
of the Fastidiotic School.
- n. A mystic beverage secretly used by our most
popular novelists and poets to regulate the imagination
and narcotize the conscience. It is said to be rich in
both obtundite and lethargine, and is brewed in a
midnight fog by a fat which of the Dismal Swamp.
- adj. Holding in trust and subject to an accounting
the property of the indolent, the incompetent, the
unthrifty, the envious and the luckless. That is the view
that prevails in the underworld, where the Brotherhood of
Man finds its most logical development and candid
advocacy. To denizens of the midworld the word means good
A gift from Heaven signifying, "This is my beloved son, in
whom I am well pleased." John D. Rockefeller
The reward of toil and virtue. J.P. Morgan
The sayings of many in the hands of one. Eugene Debs
To these excellent definitions the inspired lexicographer feels
that he can add nothing of value.
- n. Words designed to show that the person of whom
they are uttered is devoid of the dignity of character
distinguishing him who utters them. It may be graphic,
mimetic or merely rident. Shaftesbury is quoted as having
pronounced it the test of truth a ridiculous
assertion, for many a solemn fallacy has undergone
centuries of ridicule with no abatement of its popular
acceptance. What, for example, has been more valorously
derided than the doctrine of Infant Respectability?
- n. Legitimate authority to be, to do or to have;
as the right to be a king, the right to do one's
neighbor, the right to have measles, and the like. The
first of these rights was once universally believed to be
derived directly from the will of God; and this is still
sometimes affirmed in partibus infidelium
outside the enlightened realms of Democracy; as the well
known lines of Sir Abednego Bink, following:
By what right, then, do royal rulers rule?
Whose is the sanction of their state and pow'r?
He surely were as stubborn as a mule
Who, God unwilling, could maintain an hour
His uninvited session on the throne, or air
His pride securely in the Presidential chair.
Whatever is is so by Right Divine;
Whate'er occurs, God wills it so. Good land!
It were a wondrous thing if His design
A fool could baffle or a rogue withstand!
If so, then God, I say (intending no offence)
Is guilty of contributory negligence.
- n. A sturdy virtue that was once found among the
Pantidoodles inhabiting the lower part of the peninsula
of Oque. Some feeble attempts were made by returned
missionaries to introduce it into several European
countries, but it appears to have been imperfectly
expounded. An example of this faulty exposition is found
in the only extant sermon of the pious Bishop Rowley, a
characteristic passage from which is here given:
"Now righteousness consisteth not merely in a holy state of
mind, nor yet in performance of religious rites and obedience to
the letter of the law. It is not enough that one be pious and
just: one must see to it that others also are in the same state;
and to this end compulsion is a proper means. Forasmuch as my
injustice may work ill to another, so by his injustice may evil be
wrought upon still another, the which it is as manifestly my duty
to estop as to forestall mine own tort. Wherefore if I would be
righteous I am bound to restrain my neighbor, by force if needful,
in all those injurious enterprises from which, through a better
disposition and by the help of Heaven, I do myself restrain."
- n. Agreeing sounds in the terminals of verse,
mostly bad. The verses themselves, as distinguished from
prose, mostly dull. Usually (and wickedly) spelled
- n. A poet regarded with indifference or disesteem.
The rimer quenches his unheeded fires,
The sound surceases and the sense expires.
Then the domestic dog, to east and west,
Expounds the passions burning in his breast.
The rising moon o'er that enchanted land
Pauses to hear and yearns to understand.
- n. A popular entertainment given to the military
by innocent bystanders.
- A careless abbreviation of requiescat in pace,
attesting to indolent goodwill to the dead. According to
the learned Dr. Drigge, however, the letters originally
meant nothing more than reductus in pulvis.
- n. A religious or semi-religious ceremony fixed by
law, precept or custom, with the essential oil of
sincerity carefully squeezed out of it.
- n. A Dutch Garden of God where He may walk in
rectilinear freedom, keeping off the grass.
- n. A strip of land along which one may pass from
where it is too tiresome to be to where it is futile to
All roads, howsoe'er they diverge, lead to Rome,
Whence, thank the good Lord, at least one leads back home.
Borey the Bald
- n. A candid man of affairs.
It is related of Voltaire that one night he and some traveling
companion lodged at a wayside inn. The surroundings were suggestive,
and after supper they agreed to tell robber stories in turn. "Once
there was a Farmer-General of the Revenues." Saying nothing more, he
was encouraged to continue. "That," he said, "is the story."
- n. Fiction that owes no allegiance to the God of
Things as They Are. In the novel the writer's thought is
tethered to probability, as a domestic horse to the
hitching-post, but in romance it ranges at will over the
entire region of the imagination free, lawless,
immune to bit and rein. Your novelist is a poor creature,
as Carlyle might say a mere reporter. He may
invent his characters and plot, but he must not imagine
anything taking place that might not occur, albeit his
entire narrative is candidly a lie. Why he imposes this
hard condition on himself, and "drags at each remove
a lengthening chain" of his own forging he can
explain in ten thick volumes without illuminating by so
much as a candle's ray the black profound of his own
ignorance of the matter. There are great novels, for
great writers have "laid waste their powers" to
write them, but it remains true that far and away the
most fascinating fiction that we have is "The
Thousand and One Nights."
- n. An obsolescent appliance for reminding
assassins that they too are mortal. It is put about the
neck and remains in place one's whole life long. It has
been largely superseded by a more complex electrical
device worn upon another part of the person; and this is
rapidly giving place to an apparatus known as the
- n. In Latin, the beak of a bird or the prow of a
ship. In America, a place from which a candidate for
office energetically expounds the wisdom, virtue and
power of the rabble.
- n. A member of the Parliamentarian party in the
English civil war so called from his habit of
wearing his hair short, whereas his enemy, the Cavalier,
wore his long. There were other points of difference
between them, but the fashion in hair was the fundamental
cause of quarrel. The Cavaliers were royalists because
the king, an indolent fellow, found it more convenient to
let his hair grow than to wash his neck. This the
Roundheads, who were mostly barbers and soap-boilers,
deemed an injury to trade, and the royal neck was
therefore the object of their particular indignation.
Descendants of the belligerents now wear their hair all
alike, but the fires of animosity enkindled in that
ancient strife smoulder to this day beneath the snows of
- n. Worthless matter, such as the religions,
philosophies, literatures, arts and sciences of the
tribes infesting the regions lying due south from
- v. To destroy. Specifically, to destroy a maid's
belief in the virtue of maids.
- n. Generically, fiery liquors that produce madness
in total abstainers.
- n. A favorite weapon of the assassins of
Sharp, irresistible by mail or shield,
By guard unparried as by flight unstayed,
O serviceable Rumor, let me wield
Against my enemy no other blade.
His be the terror of a foe unseen,
His the inutile hand upon the hilt,
And mine the deadly tongue, long, slender, keen,
Hinting a rumor of some ancient guilt.
So shall I slay the wretch without a blow,
Spare me to celebrate his overthrow,
And nurse my valor for another foe.
- n. A person with a Caucasian body and a Mongolian
soul. A Tartar Emetic.
HTML eBook Copyright
1999-2003 Numeraire.com. All rights reserved.