- n. A staff of office signifying authority. Its form, that of a heavy
club, indicates its original purpose and use in dissuading from dissent.
- n. The method employed by one's opponents in baffling one's open and
honorable efforts to do the right thing.
So plain the advantages of machination
It constitutes a moral obligation,
And honest wolves who think upon't with loathing
Feel bound to don the sheep's deceptive clothing.
So prospers still the diplomatic art,
And Satan bows, with hand upon his heart.
- n. One forgotten of the gods and living to a great age. History is
abundantly supplied with examples, from Methuselah to Old Parr, but some
notable instances of longevity are less well known. A Calabrian peasant
named Coloni, born in 1753, lived so long that he had what he considered
a glimpse of the dawn of universal peace. Scanavius relates that he knew
an archbishop who was so old that he could remember a time when he did
not deserve hanging. In 1566 a linen draper of Bristol, England, declared
that he had lived five hundred years, and that in all that time he had
never told a lie. There are instances of longevity (macrobiosis)
in our own country. Senator Chauncey Depew is old enough to know better.
The editor of The American, a newspaper in New York City, has a
memory that goes back to the time when he was a rascal, but not to the
fact. The President of the United States was born so long ago that many
of the friends of his youth have risen to high political and military preferment
without the assistance of personal merit. The verses following were written
by a macrobian:
When I was young the world was fair
And amiable and sunny.
A brightness was in all the air,
In all the waters, honey.
The jokes were fine and funny,
The statesmen honest in their views,
And in their lives, as well,
And when you heard a bit of news
'Twas true enough to tell.
Men were not ranting, shouting, reeking,
Nor women "generally speaking."
The Summer then was long indeed:
It lasted one whole season!
The sparkling Winter gave no heed
When ordered by Unreason
To bring the early peas on.
Now, where the dickens is the sense
In calling that a year
Which does no more than just commence
Before the end is near?
When I was young the year extended
From month to month until it ended.
I know not why the world has changed
To something dark and dreary,
And everything is now arranged
To make a fellow weary.
The Weather Man -- I fear he
Has much to do with it, for, sure,
The air is not the same:
It chokes you when it is impure,
When pure it makes you lame.
With windows closed you are asthmatic;
Open, neuralgic or sciatic.
Well, I suppose this new regime
Of dun degeneration
Seems eviler than it would seem
To a better observation,
And has for compensation
Some blessings in a deep disguise
Which mortal sight has failed
To pierce, although to angels' eyes
They're visible unveiled.
If Age is such a boon, good land!
He's costumed by a master hand!
- adj. Affected with a high degree of intellectual independence; not
conforming to standards of thought, speech and action derived by the conformants
from study of themselves; at odds with the majority; in short, unusual.
It is noteworthy that persons are pronounced mad by officials destitute
of evidence that themselves are sane. For illustration, this present (and
illustrious) lexicographer is no firmer in the faith of his own sanity
than is any inmate of any madhouse in the land; yet for aught he knows
to the contrary, instead of the lofty occupation that seems to him to be
engaging his powers he may really be beating his hands against the window
bars of an asylum and declaring himself Noah Webster, to the innocent delight
of many thoughtless spectators.
- n. An inhabitant of Magdala. Popularly, a woman found out. This definition
of the word has the authority of ignorance, Mary of Magdala being another
person than the penitent woman mentioned by St. Luke. It has also the official
sanction of the governments of Great Britain and the United States. In
England the word is pronounced Maudlin, whence maudlin, adjective, unpleasantly
sentimental. With their Maudlin for Magdalene, and their Bedlam for Bethlehem,
the English may justly boast themselves the greatest of revisers.
- n. An art of converting superstition into coin. There are other arts
serving the same high purpose, but the discreet lexicographer does not
- n. Something acted upon by magnetism.
- n. Something acting upon a magnet.
The two definitions immediately foregoing are condensed from the
works of one thousand eminent scientists, who have illuminated the
subject with a great white light, to the inexpressible advancement of
- adj. Having a grandeur or splendor superior to that to which the spectator
is accustomed, as the ears of an ass, to a rabbit, or the glory of a glowworm,
to a maggot.
- n. Size. Magnitude being purely relative, nothing is large and nothing
small. If everything in the universe were increased in bulk one thousand
diameters nothing would be any larger than it was before, but if one thing
remain unchanged all the others would be larger than they had been. To
an understanding familiar with the relativity of magnitude and distance
the spaces and masses of the astronomer would be no more impressive than
those of the microscopist. For anything we know to the contrary, the visible
universe may be a small part of an atom, with its component ions, floating
in the life- fluid (luminiferous ether) of some animal. Possibly the wee
creatures peopling the corpuscles of our own blood are overcome with the
proper emotion when contemplating the unthinkable distance from one of
these to another.
- n. A bird whose thievish disposition suggested to someone that it might
be taught to talk.
- n. A young person of the unfair sex addicted to clewless conduct and
views that madden to crime. The genus has a wide geographical distribution,
being found wherever sought and deplored wherever found. The maiden is
not altogether unpleasing to the eye, nor (without her piano and her views)
insupportable to the ear, though in respect to comeliness distinctly inferior
to the rainbow, and, with regard to the part of her that is audible, bleating
out of the field by the canary -- which, also, is more portable.
A lovelorn maiden she sat and sang --
This quaint, sweet song sang she;
"It's O for a youth with a football bang
And a muscle fair to see!
The Captain he
Of a team to be!
On the gridiron he shall shine,
A monarch by right divine,
And never to roast on it -- me!"
- n. The state and title of a king. Regarded with a just contempt by
the Most Eminent Grand Masters, Grand Chancellors, Great Incohonees and
Imperial Potentates of the ancient and honorable orders of republican America.
- n. A member of the unconsidered, or negligible sex. The male of the
human race is commonly known (to the female) as Mere Man. The genus has
two varieties: good providers and bad providers.
- n. The chief factor in the progress of the human race.
- adj. Pertaining to Malthus and his doctrines. Malthus believed in artificially
limiting population, but found that it could not be done by talking. One
of the most practical exponents of the Malthusian idea was Herod of Judea,
though all the famous soldiers have been of the same way of thinking.
- n.pl. A family of vertebrate animals whose females in a state of nature
suckle their young, but when civilized and enlightened put them out to
nurse, or use the bottle.
- n. The god of the world's leading religion. The chief temple is in
the holy city of New York.
He swore that all other religions were gammon,
And wore out his knees in the worship of Mammon.
- n. An animal so lost in rapturous contemplation of what he thinks he
is as to overlook what he indubitably ought to be. His chief occupation
is extermination of other animals and his own species, which, however,
multiplies with such insistent rapidity as to infest the whole habitable
earh and Canada.
When the world was young and Man was new,
And everything was pleasant,
Distinctions Nature never drew
'Mongst kings and priest and peasant.
We're not that way at present,
Save here in this Republic, where
We have that old regime,
For all are kings, however bare
Their backs, howe'er extreme
Their hunger. And, indeed, each has a voice
To accept the tyrant of his party's choice.
A citizen who would not vote,
And, therefore, was detested,
Was one day with a tarry coat
(With feathers backed and breasted)
By patriots invested.
"It is your duty," cried the crowd,
"Your ballot true to cast
For the man o' your choice." He humbly bowed,
And explained his wicked past:
"That's what I very gladly would have done,
Dear patriots, but he has never run."
- n. The immortal parts of dead Greeks and Romans. They were in a state
of dull discomfort until the bodies from which they had exhaled were buried
and burned; and they seem not to have been particularly happy afterward.
- n. The ancient Persian doctrine of an incessant warfare between Good
and Evil. When Good gave up the fight the Persians joined the victorious
- n. A food miraculously given to the Israelites in the wilderness. When
it was no longer supplied to them they settled down and tilled the soil,
fertilizing it, as a rule, with the bodies of the original occupants.
- n. The state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a
mistress and two slaves, making in all, two.
- n. One who moves along the line of least reluctance to a desired death.
- adj. Having an actual existence, as distinguished from an imaginary
Material things I know, or fell, or see;
All else is immaterial to me.
- n. The final and funniest folly of the rich.
- n. One of the sauces which serve the French in place of a state religion.
- pro. The objectionable case of I. The personal pronoun in English has
three cases, the dominative, the objectionable and the oppressive. Each
is all three.
- n. To proceed sinuously and aimlessly. The word is the ancient name
of a river about one hundred and fifty miles south of Troy, which turned
and twisted in the effort to get out of hearing when the Greeks and Trojans
boasted of their prowess.
- n. A small metal disk given as a reward for virtues, attainments or
services more or less authentic.
It is related of Bismark, who had been awarded a medal for
gallantly rescuing a drowning person, that, being asked the meaning of
the medal, he replied: "I save lives sometimes." And sometimes he
- n. A stone flung down the Bowery to kill a dog in Broadway.
- n. Uncommon patience in planning a revenge that is worth while.
M is for Moses,
Who slew the Egyptian.
As sweet as a rose is
The meekness of Moses.
No monument shows his
But M is for Moses
Who slew the Egyptian.
The Biographical Alphabet
- n. (Literally, seafoam, and by many erroneously supposed to be made
of it.) A fine white clay, which for convenience in coloring it brown is
made into tobacco pipes and smoked by the workmen engaged in that industry.
The purpose of coloring it has not been disclosed by the manufacturers.
There was a youth (you've heard before,
This woeful tale, may be),
Who bought a meerschaum pipe and swore
That color it would he!
He shut himself from the world away,
Nor any soul he saw.
He smoke by night, he smoked by day,
As hard as he could draw.
His dog died moaning in the wrath
Of winds that blew aloof;
The weeds were in the gravel path,
The owl was on the roof.
"He's gone afar, he'll come no more,"
The neighbors sadly say.
And so they batter in the door
To take his goods away.
Dead, pipe in mouth, the youngster lay,
Nut-brown in face and limb.
"That pipe's a lovely white," they say,
"But it has colored him!"
The moral there's small need to sing --
'Tis plain as day to you:
Don't play your game on any thing
That is a gamester too.
- adj. Addicted to rhetoric.
- n. One engaged in a commercial pursuit. A commercial pursuit is one
in which the thing pursued is a dollar.
- n. An attribute beloved of detected offenders.
- n. Hypnotism before it wore good clothes, kept a carriage and asked
Incredulity to dinner.
- n. A stronghold of provincialism.
- n. The period of a thousand years when the lid is to be screwed down,
with all reformers on the under side.
- n. A mysterious form of matter secreted by the brain. Its chief activity
consists in the endeavor to ascertain its own nature, the futility of the
attempt being due to the fact that it has nothing but itself to know itself
with. From the Latin mens, a fact unknown to that honest shoe-seller,
who, observing that his learned competitor over the way had displayed the
motto "Mens conscia recti," emblazoned his own front with
the words "Men's, women's and children's conscia recti."
- adj. Belonging to me if I can hold or seize it.
- n. An agent of a higher power with a lower responsibility. In diplomacy
and officer sent into a foreign country as the visible embodiment of his
sovereign's hostility. His principal qualification is a degree of plausible
inveracity next below that of an ambassador.
- adj. Less objectionable.
- adj. Formerly a poet, singer or musician; now a nigger with a color
less than skin deep and a humor more than flesh and blood can bear.
- n. An act or event out of the order of nature and unaccountable, as
beating a normal hand of four kings and an ace with four aces and a king.
- n. A person of the highest degree of unworth. Etymologically, the word
means unbeliever, and its present signification may be regarded as theology's
noblest contribution to the development of our language.
- n. An infraction of the law having less dignity than a felony and constituting
no claim to admittance into the best criminal society.
By misdemeanors he essays to climb
Into the aristocracy of crime.
O, woe was him! -- with manner chill and grand
"Captains of industry" refused his hand,
"Kings of finance" denied him recognition
And "railway magnates" jeered his low condition.
He robbed a bank to make himself respected.
They still rebuffed him, for he was detected.
- n. A dagger which in mediaeval warfare was used by the foot soldier
to remind an unhorsed knight that he was mortal.
- n. The kind of fortune that never misses.
- n. The title with which we brand unmarried women to indicate that they
are in the market. Miss, Missis (Mrs.) and Mister (Mr.) are the three most
distinctly disagreeable words in the language, in sound and sense. Two
are corruptions of Mistress, the other of Master. In the general abolition
of social titles in this our country they miraculously escaped to plague
us. If we must have them let us be consistent and give one to the unmarried
man. I venture to suggest Mush, abbreviated to Mh.
- n. The ultimate, indivisible unit of matter. It is distinguished from
the corpuscle, also the ultimate, indivisible unit of matter, by a closer
resemblance to the atom, also the ultimate, indivisible unit of matter.
Three great scientific theories of the structure of the universe are the
molecular, the corpuscular and the atomic. A fourth affirms, with Haeckel,
the condensation of precipitation of matter from ether -- whose existence
is proved by the condensation of precipitation. The present trend of scientific
thought is toward the theory of ions. The ion differs from the molecule,
the corpuscle and the atom in that it is an ion. A fifth theory is held
by idiots, but it is doubtful if they know any more about the matter than
- n. The ultimate, indivisible unit of matter. (See Molecule.)
According to Leibnitz, as nearly as he seems willing to be understood,
the monad has body without bulk, and mind without manifestation -- Leibnitz
knows him by the innate power of considering. He has founded upon him a
theory of the universe, which the creature bears without resentment, for
the monad is a gentlmean. Small as he is, the monad contains all the powers
and possibilities needful to his evolution into a German philosopher of
the first class -- altogether a very capable little fellow. He is not to
be confounded with the microbe, or bacillus; by its inability to discern
him, a good microscope shows him to be of an entirely distinct species.
- n. A person engaged in reigning. Formerly the monarch ruled, as the
derivation of the word attests, and as many subjects have had occasion
to learn. In Russia and the Orient the monarch has still a considerable
influence in public affairs and in the disposition of the human head, but
in western Europe political administration is mostly entrusted to his ministers,
he being somewhat preoccupied with reflections relating to the status of
his own head.
- MONARCHICAL GOVERNMENT
- n. Government.
- n. In Christian countries, the day after the baseball game.
- n. A blessing that is of no advantage to us excepting when we part
with it. An evidence of culture and a passport to polite society. Supportable
- n. An arboreal animal which makes itself at home in genealogical trees.
- adj. Composed of words of one syllable, for literary babes who never
tire of testifying their delight in the vapid compound by appropriate googoogling.
The words are commonly Saxon -- that is to say, words of a barbarous people
destitute of ideas and incapable of any but the most elementary sentiments
The man who writes in Saxon
Is the man to use an ax on
- n. A high ecclesiastical title, of which the Founder of our religion
overlooked the advantages.
- n. A structure intended to commemorate something which either needs
no commemoration or cannot be commemorated.
The bones of Agammemnon are a show,
And ruined is his royal monument,
but Agammemnon's fame suffers no diminution in consequence. The
monument custom has its reductiones ad absurdum in monuments "to the
unknown dead" -- that is to say, monuments to perpetuate the memory of
those who have left no memory.
- adj. Conforming to a local and mutable standard of right. Having the
quality of general expediency.
It is sayd there be a raunge of mountaynes in the Easte, on
one syde of the which certayn conducts are immorall, yet on the other
syde they are holden in good esteeme; wherebye the mountayneer is much
conveenyenced, for it is given to him to goe downe eyther way and act
as it shall suite his moode, withouten offence.
- adj. The comparative degree of too much.
- n. An animal which strews its path with fainting women. As in Rome
Christians were thrown to the lions, so centuries earlier in Otumwee, the
most ancient and famous city of the world, female heretics were thrown
to the mice. Jakak-Zotp, the historian, the only Otumwump whose writings
have descended to us, says that these martyrs met their death with little
dignity and much exertion. He even attempts to exculpate the mice (such
is the malice of bigotry) by declaring that the unfortunate women perished,
some from exhaustion, some of broken necks from falling over their own
feet, and some from lack of restoratives. The mice, he avers, enjoyed the
pleasures of the chase with composure. But if "Roman history is nine-tenths
lying," we can hardly expect a smaller proportion of that rhetorical
figure in the annals of a people capable of so incredible cruelty to a
lovely women; for a hard heart has a false tongue.
- n. A long glove covering a part of the arm. Worn in New Jersey. But
"mousquetaire" is a might poor way to spell muskeeter.
- n. In man, the gateway to the soul; in woman, the outlet of the heart.
- n. In politics one afflicted with self-respect and addicted to the
vice of independence. A term of contempt.
- n. A child of two races, ashamed of both.
- n. A crowd; the source of political wisdom and virtue. In a republic,
the object of the statesman's adoration. "In a multitude of consellors
there is wisdom," saith the proverb. If many men of equal individual
wisdom are wiser than any one of them, it must be that they acquire the
excess of wisdom by the mere act of getting together. Whence comes it?
Obviously from nowhere -- as well say that a range of mountains is higher
than the single mountains composing it. A multitude is as wise as its wisest
member if it obey him; if not, it is no wiser than its most foolish.
- n. An ancient Egyptian, formerly in universal use among modern civilized
nations as medicine, and now engaged in supplying art with an excellent
pigment. He is handy, too, in museums in gratifying the vulgar curiosity
that serves to distinguish man from the lower animals.
By means of the Mummy, mankind, it is said,
Attests to the gods its respect for the dead.
We plunder his tomb, be he sinner or saint,
Distil him for physic and grind him for paint,
Exhibit for money his poor, shrunken frame,
And with levity flock to the scene of the shame.
O, tell me, ye gods, for the use of my rhyme:
For respecting the dead what's the limit of time?
- n. An indocile horse of the western plains. In English society, the
American wife of an English nobleman.
- n. A follower of Achilles -- particularly when he didn't lead.
- n. The body of a primitive people's beliefs concerning its origin,
early history, heroes, deities and so forth, as distinguished from the
true accounts which it invents later.
- n. A drink served at banquets of the Olympian deities. The secret of
its preparation is lost, but the modern Kentuckians believe that they come
pretty near to a knowledge of its chief ingredient.
Juno drank a cup of nectar,
But the draught did not affect her.
Juno drank a cup of rye --
Then she bad herself good-bye.
- n. The piece de resistance in the American political problem.
Representing him by the letter n, the Republicans begin to build their
equation thus: "Let n = the white man." This, however, appears
to give an unsatisfactory solution.
- n. One whom we are commanded to love as ourselves, and who does all
he knows how to make us disobedient.
- n. Appointing your grandmother to office for the good of the party.
- adj. Pertaining to a philosophy of the universe invented by Newton,
who discovered that an apple will fall to the ground, but was unable to
say why. His successors and disciples have advanced so far as to be able
to say when.
- n. A Russian who denies the existence of anything but Tolstoi. The
leader of the school is Tolstoi.
- n. In the Buddhist religion, a state of pleasurable annihilation awarded
to the wise, particularly to those wise enough to understand it.
- n. Nature's provision for wealthy American minds ambitious to incur
social distinction and suffer high life.
- n. A stench in the ear. Undomesticated music. The chief product and
authenticating sign of civilization.
- v. To designate for the heaviest political assessment. To put forward
a suitable person to incur the mudgobbling and deadcatting of the opposition.
- n. A modest gentleman shrinking from the distinction of private life
and diligently seeking the honorable obscurity of public office.
- n. A dead Quaker.
- n. The objections that are urged against this excellent dictionary.
- n. The extreme outpost of the face. From the circumstance that great
conquerors have great noses, Getius, whose writings antedate the age of
humor, calls the nose the organ of quell. It has been observed that one's
nose is never so happy as when thrust into the affairs of others, from
which some physiologists have drawn the inference that the nose is devoid
of the sense of smell.
There's a man with a Nose,
And wherever he goes
The people run from him and shout:
"No cotton have we
For our ears if so be
He blow that interminous snout!"
So the lawyers applied
For injunction. "Denied,"
Said the Judge: "the defendant prefixion,
Whate'er it portend,
Appears to transcend
The bounds of this court's jurisdiction."
- n. The fame of one's competitor for public honors. The kind of renown
most accessible and acceptable to mediocrity. A Jacob's-ladder leading
to the vaudeville stage, with angels ascending and descending.
- n. That which exists, as distinguished from that which merely seems
to exist, the latter being a phenomenon. The noumenon is a bit difficult
to locate; it can be apprehended only be a process of reasoning -- which
is a phenomenon. Nevertheless, the discovery and exposition of noumena
offer a rich field for what Lewes calls "the endless variety and excitement
of philosophic thought." Hurrah (therefore) for the noumenon!
- n. A short story padded. A species of composition bearing the same
relation to literature that the panorama bears to art. As it is too long
to be read at a sitting the impressions made by its successive parts are
successively effaced, as in the panorama. Unity, totality of effect, is
impossible; for besides the few pages last read all that is carried in
mind is the mere plot of what has gone before. To the romance the novel
is what photography is to painting. Its distinguishing principle, probability,
corresponds to the literal actuality of the photograph and puts it distinctly
into the category of reporting; whereas the free wing of the romancer enables
him to mount to such altitudes of imagination as he may be fitted to attain;
and the first three essentials of the literary art are imagination, imagination
and imagination. The art of writing novels, such as it was, is long dead
everywhere except in Russia, where it is new. Peace to its ashes -- some
of which have a large sale.
- n. The eleventh twelfth of a weariness.
- n. In law, a solemn appeal to the Deity, made binding upon the conscience
by a penalty for perjury.
- n. The state or condition in which the wicked cease from struggling
and the dreary are at rest. Fame's eternal dumping ground. Cold storage
for high hopes. A place where ambitious authors meet their works without
pride and their betters without envy. A dormitory without an alarm clock.
- n. A place where astronomers conjecture away the guesses of their predecessors.
- p.p. Vexed by an evil spirit, like the Gadarene swine and other critics.
Obsession was once more common than it is now. Arasthus tells of a peasant
who was occupied by a different devil for every day in the week, and on
Sundays by two. They were frequently seen, always walking in his shadow,
when he had one, but were finally driven away by the village notary, a
holy man; but they took the peasant with them, for he vanished utterly.
A devil thrown out of a woman by the Archbishop of Rheims ran through the
trees, pursued by a hundred persons, until the open country was reached,
where by a leap higher than a church spire he escaped into a bird. A chaplain
in Cromwell's army exorcised a soldier's obsessing devil by throwing the
soldier into the water, when the devil came to the surface. The soldier,
unfortunately, did not.
- adj. No longer used by the timid. Said chiefly of words. A word which
some lexicographer has marked obsolete is ever thereafter an object of
dread and loathing to the fool writer, but if it is a good word and has
no exact modern equivalent equally good, it is good enough for the good
writer. Indeed, a writer's attitude toward "obsolete" words is
as true a measure of his literary ability as anything except the character
of his work. A dictionary of obsolete and obsolescent words would not only
be singularly rich in strong and sweet parts of speech; it would add large
possessions to the vocabulary of every competent writer who might not happen
to be a competent reader.
- adj. Inaccessible to the truth as it is manifest in the splendor and
stress of our advocacy.
The popular type and exponent of obstinacy is the mule, a most
- adj. Afflicting us with greater or less frequency. That, however, is
not the sense in which the word is used in the phrase "occasional
verses," which are verses written for an "occasion," such
as an anniversary, a celebration or other event. True, they afflict us
a little worse than other sorts of verse, but their name has no reference
to irregular recurrence.
- n. The part of the world lying west (or east) of the Orient. It is
largely inhabited by Christians, a powerful subtribe of the Hypocrites,
whose principal industries are murder and cheating, which they are pleased
to call "war" and "commerce." These, also, are the
principal industries of the Orient.
- n. A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made for man
-- who has no gills.
- adj. Generating disagreeable emotions or sensations, as the advance
of an army against its enemy.
"Were the enemy's tactics offensive?" the king asked. "I should
say so!" replied the unsuccessful general. "The blackguard wouldn't
come out of his works!"
- adj. In that stage of usefulness which is not inconsistent with general
inefficiency, as an old man. Discredited by lapse of time and offensive
to the popular taste, as an old book.
"Old books? The devil take them!" Goby said.
"Fresh every day must be my books and bread."
Nature herself approves the Goby rule
And gives us every moment a fresh fool.
- adj. Oily, smooth, sleek.
Disraeli once described the manner of Bishop Wilberforce as
"unctuous, oleaginous, saponaceous." And the good prelate was ever
afterward known as Soapy Sam. For every man there is something in the
vocabulary that would stick to him like a second skin. His enemies
have only to find it.
- adj. Relating to a mountain in Thessaly, once inhabited by gods, now
a repository of yellowing newspapers, beer bottles and mutilated sardine
cans, attesting the presence of the tourist and his appetite.
His name the smirking tourist scrawls
Upon Minerva's temple walls,
Where thundered once Olympian Zeus,
And marks his appetite's abuse.
- n. A sign that something will happen if nothing happens.
- adv. Enough.
- n. A play representing life in another world, whose inhabitants have
no speech but song, no motions but gestures and no postures but attitudes.
All acting is simulation, and the word simulation is from simia,
an ape; but in opera the actor takes for his model Simia audibilis
(or Pithecanthropos stentor) -- the ape that howls.
The actor apes a man -- at least in shape;
The opera performer apes and ape.
- n. An unlocked door in the prison of Identity. It leads into the jail
- n. A favorable occasion for grasping a disappointment.
- v. To assist with obstructions and objections.
How lonely he who thinks to vex
With bandinage the Solemn Sex!
Of levity, Mere Man, beware;
None but the Grave deserve the Unfair.
Percy P. Orminder
- n. In politics the party that prevents the Government from running
amuck by hamstringing it.
The King of Ghargaroo, who had been abroad to study the science of
government, appointed one hundred of his fattest subjects as members
of a parliament to make laws for the collection of revenue. Forty of
these he named the Party of Opposition and had his Prime Minister
carefully instruct them in their duty of opposing every royal measure.
Nevertheless, the first one that was submitted passed unanimously.
Greatly displeased, the King vetoed it, informing the Opposition that
if they did that again they would pay for their obstinacy with their
heads. The entire forty promptly disemboweled themselves.
"What shall we do now?" the King asked. "Liberal institutions
cannot be maintained without a party of Opposition."
"Splendor of the universe," replied the Prime Minister, "it is
true these dogs of darkness have no longer their credentials, but all
is not lost. Leave the matter to this worm of the dust."
So the Minister had the bodies of his Majesty's Opposition
embalmed and stuffed with straw, put back into the seats of power and
nailed there. Forty votes were recorded against every bill and the
nation prospered. But one day a bill imposing a tax on warts was
defeated -- the members of the Government party had not been nailed to
their seats! This so enraged the King that the Prime Minister was put
to death, the parliament was dissolved with a battery of artillery,
and government of the people, by the people, for the people perished
- n. The doctrine, or belief, that everything is beautiful, including
what is ugly, everything good, especially the bad, and everything right
that is wrong. It is held with greatest tenacity by those most accustomed
to the mischance of falling into adversity, and is most acceptably expounded
with the grin that apes a smile. Being a blind faith, it is inaccessible
to the light of disproof -- an intellectual disorder, yielding to no treatment
but death. It is hereditary, but fortunately not contagious.
- n. A proponent of the doctrine that black is white.
A pessimist applied to God for relief.
"Ah, you wish me to restore your hope and cheerfulness," said God.
"No," replied the petitioner, "I wish you to create something that
would justify them."
"The world is all created," said God, "but you have overlooked
something -- the mortality of the optimist."
- n. A conspiracy between speech and action to cheat the understanding.
A tyranny tempered by stenography.
- n. A living person whom death has deprived of the power of filial ingratitude
-- a privation appealing with a particular eloquence to all that is sympathetic
in human nature. When young the orphan is commonly sent to an asylum, where
by careful cultivation of its rudimentary sense of locality it is taught
to know its place. It is then instructed in the arts of dependence and
servitude and eventually turned loose to prey upon the world as a bootblack
or scullery maid.
- n. An ox wearing the popular religious joke.
- n. The science of spelling by the eye instead of the ear. Advocated
with more heat than light by the outmates of every asylum for the insane.
They have had to concede a few things since the time of Chaucer, but are
none the less hot in defence of those to be conceded hereafter.
A spelling reformer indicted
For fudge was before the court cicted.
The judge said: "Enough --
His candle we'll snough,
And his sepulchre shall not be whicted."
- n. A large bird to which (for its sins, doubtless) nature has denied
that hinder toe in which so many pious naturalists have seen a conspicuous
evidence of design. The absence of a good working pair of wings is no defect,
for, as has been ingeniously pointed out, the ostrich does not fly.
- adv. No better.
- n. A particular type of disappointment. By the kind of intelligence
that sees in an exception a proof of the rule the wisdom of an act is judged
by the outcome, the result. This is immortal nonsense; the wisdom of an
act is to be juded by the light that the doer had when he performed it.
- v.t. To make an enemy.
- n. That part of one's environment upon which no government has been
able to collect taxes. Chiefly useful to inspire poets.
I climbed to the top of a mountain one day
To see the sun setting in glory,
And I thought, as I looked at his vanishing ray,
Of a perfectly splendid story.
'Twas about an old man and the ass he bestrode
Till the strength of the beast was o'ertested;
Then the man would carry him miles on the road
Till Neddy was pretty well rested.
The moon rising solemnly over the crest
Of the hills to the east of my station
Displayed her broad disk to the darkening west
Like a visible new creation.
And I thought of a joke (and I laughed till I cried)
Of an idle young woman who tarried
About a church-door for a look at the bride,
Although 'twas herself that was married.
To poets all Nature is pregnant with grand
Ideas -- with thought and emotion.
I pity the dunces who don't understand
The speech of earth, heaven and ocean.
- n. n ancient Rome, a definite, formal pageant in honor of one who had
been disserviceable to the enemies of the nation. A lesser "triumph."
In modern English the word is improperly used to signify any loose and
spontaneous expression of popular homage to the hero of the hour and place.
"I had an ovation!" the actor man said,
But I thought it uncommonly queer,
That people and critics by him had been led
By the ear.
The Latin lexicon makes his absurd
Assertion as plain as a peg;
In "ovum" we find the true root of the word.
It means egg.
- v. To dine.
Hail, Gastronome, Apostle of Excess,
Well skilled to overeat without distress!
Thy great invention, the unfatal feast,
Shows Man's superiority to Beast.
- n. A dangerous disorder affecting high public functionaries who want
to go fishing.
- v. To have (and to hold) a debt. The word formerly signified not indebtedness,
but possession; it meant "own," and in the minds of debtors there
is still a good deal of confusion between assets and liabilities.
- n. A slimy, gobby shellfish which civilization gives men the hardihood
to eat without removing its entrails! The shells are sometimes given to