Part 4 out of 5
PENITENT, adj. Undergoing or awaiting punishment.
PERFECTION, 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.
PERIPATETIC, 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.
PERORATION, 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
PERSEVERANCE, 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.
PESSIMISM, 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.
PHILANTHROPIST, n. A rich (and usually bald) old gentleman who has
trained himself to grin while his conscience is picking his pocket.
PHILISTINE, 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
PHILOSOPHY, n. A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.
PHOENIX, n. The classical prototype of the modern "small hot bird."
PHONOGRAPH, n. An irritating toy that restores life to dead noises.
PHOTOGRAPH, 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 Cheyenne.
PHRENOLOGY, n. The science of picking the pocket through the scalp.
It consists in locating and exploiting the organ that one is a dupe
PHYSICIAN, n. One upon whom we set our hopes when ill and our dogs
PHYSIOGNOMY, 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."
PIANO, n. A parlor utensil for subduing the impenitent visitor. It
is operated by pressing the keys of the machine and the spirits of the
PICKANINNY, n. The young of the _Procyanthropos_, or _Americanus
dominans_. It is small, black and charged with political fatalities.
PICTURE, n. A representation in two dimensions of something wearisome
"Behold great Daubert's picture here on view --
Taken from Life." If that description's true,
Grant, heavenly Powers, that I be taken, too.
PIE, n. An advance agent of the reaper whose name is Indigestion.
Cold pie was highly esteemed by the remains.
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)
PIETY, 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.
PIG, 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.
PIGMY, 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.
PILGRIM, 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.
PILLORY, n. A mechanical device for inflicting personal distinction
-- prototype of the modern newspaper conducted by persons of austere
virtues and blameless lives.
PIRACY, n. Commerce without its folly-swaddles, just as God made it.
PITIFUL, adj. The state of an enemy of opponent after an imaginary
encounter with oneself.
PITY, n. A failing sense of exemption, inspired by contrast.
PLAGIARISM, n. A literary coincidence compounded of a discreditable
priority and an honorable subsequence.
PLAGIARIZE, v. To take the thought or style of another writer whom
one has never, never read.
PLAGUE, 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
PLAN, v.t. To bother about the best method of accomplishing an
PLATITUDE, 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-mortality. 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.
PLATONIC, adj. Pertaining to the philosophy of Socrates. Platonic
Love is a fool's name for the affection between a disability and a
PLAUDITS, n. Coins with which the populace pays those who tickle and
PLEASE, v. To lay the foundation for a superstructure of imposition.
PLEASURE, n. The least hateful form of dejection.
PLEBEIAN, n. An ancient Roman who in the blood of his country stained
nothing but his hands. Distinguished from the Patrician, who was a
PLEBISCITE, n. A popular vote to ascertain the will of the sovereign.
PLENIPOTENTIARY, adj. Having full power. A Minister Plenipotentiary
is a diplomatist possessing absolute authority on condition that he
never exert it.
PLEONASM, n. An army of words escorting a corporal of thought.
PLOW, n. An implement that cries aloud for hands accustomed to the
PLUNDER, 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.
POCKET, 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
POETRY, n. A form of expression peculiar to the Land beyond the
POKER, n. A game said to be played with cards for some purpose to
this lexicographer unknown.
POLICE, n. An armed force for protection and participation.
POLITENESS, n. The most acceptable hypocrisy.
POLITICS, n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of
principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.
POLITICIAN, 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
POLYGAMY, n. A house of atonement, or expiatory chapel, fitted with
several stools of repentance, as distinguished from monogamy, which
has but one.
POPULIST, 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 with Kansas."
PORTABLE, adj. Exposed to a mutable ownership through vicissitudes of
His light estate, if neither he did make it
Nor yet its former guardian forsake it,
Is portable improperly, I take it.
PORTUGUESE, n.pl. A species of geese indigenous to Portugal. They
are mostly without feathers and imperfectly edible, even when stuffed
POSITIVE, adj. Mistaken at the top of one's voice.
POSITIVISM, 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 thickest Spencer.
POSTERITY, n. An appellate court which reverses the judgment of a
popular author's contemporaries, the appellant being his obscure
POTABLE, 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 toads.
POVERTY, 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.
PRAY, v. To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf
of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy.
PRE-ADAMITE, 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.
PRECEDENT, 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 dirigible arbitrament.
PRECIPITATE, adj. Anteprandial.
Precipitate in all, this sinner
Took action first, and then his dinner.
PREDESTINATION, 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.
PREDICAMENT, n. The wage of consistency.
PREDILECTION, n. The preparatory stage of disillusion.
PRE-EXISTENCE, n. An unnoted factor in creation.
PREFERENCE, 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.
PREHISTORIC, adj. Belonging to an early period and a museum.
Antedating the art and practice of perpetuating falsehood.
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.
PREJUDICE, n. A vagrant opinion without visible means of support.
PRELATE, n. A church officer having a superior degree of holiness and
a fat preferment. One of Heaven's aristocracy. A gentleman of God.
PREROGATIVE, n. A sovereign's right to do wrong.
PRESBYTERIAN, n. One who holds the conviction that the government
authorities of the Church should be called presbyters.
PRESCRIPTION, n. A physician's guess at what will best prolong the
situation with least harm to the patient.
PRESENT, n. That part of eternity dividing the domain of
disappointment from the realm of hope.
PRESENTABLE, adj. Hideously appareled after the manner of the time
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.
PRESIDE, 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 piccolo."
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."
PRESIDENCY, n. The greased pig in the field game of American
PRESIDENT, 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!
PREVARICATOR, n. A liar in the caterpillar estate.
PRICE, n. Value, plus a reasonable sum for the wear and tear of
conscience in demanding it.
PRIMATE, 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
PRISON, n. A place of punishments and rewards. The poet assures us
"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.
PRIVATE, n. A military gentleman with a field-marshal's baton in his
knapsack and an impediment in his hope.
PROBOSCIS, 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.
PROJECTILE, 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
PROOF, n. Evidence having a shade more of plausibility than of
unlikelihood. The testimony of two credible witnesses as opposed to
that of only one.
PROOF-READER, n. A malefactor who atones for making your writing
nonsense by permitting the compositor to make it unintelligible.
PROPERTY, 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.
PROPHECY, n. The art and practice of selling one's credibility for
PROSPECT, n. An outlook, usually forbidding. An expectation, usually
Blow, blow, ye spicy breezes --
O'er Ceylon blow your breath,
Where every prospect pleases,
Save only that of death.
PROVIDENTIAL, adj. Unexpectedly and conspicuously beneficial to the
person so describing it.
PRUDE, n. A bawd hiding behind the back of her demeanor.
PUBLISH, n. In literary affairs, to become the fundamental element in
a cone of critics.
PUSH, n. One of the two things mainly conducive to success,
especially in politics. The other is Pull.
PYRRHONISM, n. An ancient philosophy, named for its inventor. It
consisted of an absolute disbelief in everything but Pyrrhonism. Its
modern professors have added that.
QUEEN, n. A woman by whom the realm is ruled when there is a king,
and through whom it is ruled when there is not.
QUILL, 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
QUIVER, n. A portable sheath in which the ancient statesman and the
aboriginal lawyer carried their lighter arguments.
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
QUIXOTIC, 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 pronounced Ke-ho-tay.
When ignorance from out of our lives can banish
Philology, 'tis folly to know Spanish.
QUORUM, 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.
QUOTATION, 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!
QUOTIENT, 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 got there.
RABBLE, 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 swine.")
RACK, 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 popular esteem.
RANK, 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."
RANSOM, n. The purchase of that which neither belongs to the seller,
nor can belong to the buyer. The most unprofitable of investments.
RAPACITY, n. Providence without industry. The thrift of power.
RAREBIT, 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 a la financiere_ is not the smile of a calf prepared
after the recipe of a she banker.
RASCAL, n. A fool considered under another aspect.
RASCALITY, n. Stupidity militant. The activity of a clouded
RASH, 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
RATIONAL, adj. Devoid of all delusions save those of observation,
experience and reflection.
RATTLESNAKE, n. Our prostrate brother, _Homo ventrambulans_.
RAZOR, 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.
REACH, 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.
READING, 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!
RADICALISM, n. The conservatism of to-morrow injected into the
affairs of to-day.
RADIUM, n. A mineral that gives off heat and stimulates the organ
that a scientist is a fool with.
RAILROAD, n. The chief of many mechanical devices enabling us to get
away from where we are to wher 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.
RAMSHACKLE, 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
REALISM, 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
REALITY, 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.
REALLY, adv. Apparently.
REAR, n. In American military matters, that exposed part of the army
that is nearest to Congress.
REASON, v.i. To weight probabilities in the scales of desire.
REASON, n. Propensitate of prejudice.
REASONABLE, adj. Accessible to the infection of our own opinions.
Hospitable to persuasion, dissuasion and evasion.
REBEL, n. A proponent of a new misrule who has failed to establish
RECOLLECT, v. To recall with additions something not previously
RECONCILIATION, n. A suspension of hostilities. An armed truce for
the purpose of digging up the dead.
RECONSIDER, v. To seek a justification for a decision already made.
RECOUNT, n. In American politics, another throw of the dice, accorded
to the player against whom they are loaded.
RECREATION, n. A particular kind of dejection to relieve a general
RECRUIT, 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.
RECTOR, n. In the Church of England, the Third Person of the
parochial Trinity, the Cruate and the Vicar being the other two.
REDEMPTION, 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.
REDRESS, 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.
RED-SKIN, n. A North American Indian, whose skin is not red -- at
least not on the outside.
REDUNDANT, 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.
REFERENDUM, n. A law for submission of proposed legislation to a
popular vote to learn the nonsensus of public opinion.
REFLECTION, 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 encounter.
REFORM, v. A thing that mostly satisfies reformers opposed to
REFUGE, 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
REFUSAL, 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 assentive.
REGALIA, 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;
Cooperative 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 Cess-Pool; 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.
RELIGION, 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."
RELIQUARY, 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.
RENOWN, 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
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!
REPARATION, n. Satisfaction that is made for a wrong and deducted
from the satisfaction felt in committing it.
REPARTEE, 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.
REPENTANCE, n. The faithful attendant and follower of Punishment. It
is usually manifest in a degree of reformation that is not
inconsistent with continuity of sin.
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.
REPLICA, 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 mae with equal skill the
replica is the more valuable, for it is supposed to be more beautiful
than it looks.
REPORTER, 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."
REPOSE, v.i. To cease from troubling.
REPRESENTATIVE, n. In national politics, a member of the Lower House
in this world, and without discernible hope of promotion in the next.
REPROBATION, 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 salvation.
REPUBLIC, 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.
REQUIEM, 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.
RESIDENT, adj. Unable to leave.
RESIGN, 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.
RESOLUTE, adj. Obstinate in a course that we approve.
RESPECTABILITY, n. The offspring of a _liaison_ between a bald head
and a bank account.
RESPIRATOR, 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.
RESPITE, 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 expectation.
Altgeld upon his incandescend 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
RESPLENDENT, 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"
RESPOND, 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.
RESPONSIBILITY, 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"
RESTITUTIONS, n. The founding or endowing of universities and public
libraries by gift or bequest.
RESTITUTOR, n. Benefactor; philanthropist.
RETALIATION, n. The natural rock upon which is reared the Temple of
RETRIBUTION, n. A rain of fire-and-brimstone that falls alike upon
the just and such of the unjust as have not procured shelter by
In the lines following, addressed to an Emperor in exile by Father
Gassalasca Jape, the reverend poet appears to hint his sense of the
improduence of turning about to face Retribution when it is talking
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?
REVEILLE, 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.
REVELATION, n. A famous book in which St. John the Divine concealed
all that he knew. The revealing is done by the commentators, who know
REVERENCE, n. The spiritual attitude of a man to a god and a dog to a
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.
REVOLUTION, 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
RHADOMANCER, n. One who uses a divining-rod in prospecting for
precious metals in the pocket of a fool.
RIBALDRY, n. Censorious language by another concerning oneself.
RIBROASTER, 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.
RICE-WATER, 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.
RICH, 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 and wise.
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.
The sayings of many in the hands of one.
To these excellent definitions the inspired lexicographer feels
that he can add nothing of value.
RIDICULE, 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?
RIGHT, 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.
RIGHTEOUSNESS, 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."
RIME, n. Agreeing sounds in the terminals of verse, mostly bad. The
verses themselves, as distinguished from prose, mostly dull. Usually
(and wickedly) spelled "rhyme."
RIMER, 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.
RIOT, n. A popular entertainment given to the military by innocent
R.I.P. 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
RITE, n. A religious or semi-religious ceremony fixed by law, precept
or custom, with the essential oil of sincerity carefully squeezed out
RITUALISM, n. A Dutch Garden of God where He may walk in rectilinear
freedom, keeping off the grass.
ROAD, n. A strip of land along which one may pass from where it is
too tiresome to be to where it is futile to go.
All roads, howsoe'er they diverge, lead to Rome,
Whence, thank the good Lord, at least one leads back home.
Borey the Bald
ROBBER, 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."
ROMANCE, 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."
ROPE, 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 preachment.
ROSTRUM, 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.
ROUNDHEAD, 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 British civility.
RUBBISH, n. Worthless matter, such as the religions, philosophies,
literatures, arts and sciences of the tribes infesting the regions
lying due south from Boreaplas.
RUIN, v. To destroy. Specifically, to destroy a maid's belief in the
virtue of maids.
RUM, n. Generically, fiery liquors that produce madness in total
RUMOR, n. A favorite weapon of the assassins of character.
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.
RUSSIAN, n. A person with a Caucasian body and a Mongolian soul. A
SABBATH, n. A weekly festival having its origin in the fact that God
made the world in six days and was arrested on the seventh. Among the
Jews observance of the day was enforced by a Commandment of which this
is the Christian version: "Remember the seventh day to make thy
neighbor keep it wholly." To the Creator it seemed fit and expedient
that the Sabbath should be the last day of the week, but the Early
Fathers of the Church held other views. So great is the sanctity of
the day that even where the Lord holds a doubtful and precarious
jurisdiction over those who go down to (and down into) the sea it is
reverently recognized, as is manifest in the following deep-water
version of the Fourth Commandment:
Six days shalt thou labor and do all thou art able,
And on the seventh holystone the deck and scrape the cable.
Decks are no longer holystoned, but the cable still supplies the
captain with opportunity to attest a pious respect for the divine
SACERDOTALIST, n. One who holds the belief that a clergyman is a
priest. Denial of this momentous doctrine is the hardest challenge
that is now flung into the teeth of the Episcopalian church by the
SACRAMENT, n. A solemn religious ceremony to which several degrees of
authority and significance are attached. Rome has seven sacraments,
but the Protestant churches, being less prosperous, feel that they can
afford only two, and these of inferior sanctity. Some of the smaller
sects have no sacraments at all -- for which mean economy they will
indubitable be damned.
SACRED, adj. Dedicated to some religious purpose; having a divine
character; inspiring solemn thoughts or emotions; as, the Dalai Lama
of Thibet; the Moogum of M'bwango; the temple of Apes in Ceylon; the
Cow in India; the Crocodile, the Cat and the Onion of ancient Egypt;
the Mufti of Moosh; the hair of the dog that bit Noah, etc.
All things are either sacred or profane.
The former to ecclesiasts bring gain;
The latter to the devil appertain.
SANDLOTTER, n. A vertebrate mammal holding the political views of
Denis Kearney, a notorious demagogue of San Francisco, whose audiences
gathered in the open spaces (sandlots) of the town. True to the
traditions of his species, this leader of the proletariat was finally
bought off by his law-and-order enemies, living prosperously silent
and dying impenitently rich. But before his treason he imposed upon
California a constitution that was a confection of sin in a diction of
solecisms. The similarity between the words "sandlotter" and
"sansculotte" is problematically significant, but indubitably
SAFETY-CLUTCH, n. A mechanical device acting automatically to prevent
the fall of an elevator, or cage, in case of an accident to the
Once I seen a human ruin
In an elevator-well,
And his members was bestrewin'
All the place where he had fell.
And I says, apostrophisin'
That uncommon woful wreck:
"Your position's so surprisin'
That I tremble for your neck!"
Then that ruin, smilin' sadly
And impressive, up and spoke:
"Well, I wouldn't tremble badly,
For it's been a fortnight broke."
Then, for further comprehension
Of his attitude, he begs
I will focus my attention
On his various arms and legs --
How they all are contumacious;
Where they each, respective, lie;
How one trotter proves ungracious,
T'other one an _alibi_.
These particulars is mentioned
For to show his dismal state,
Which I wasn't first intentioned
To specifical relate.
None is worser to be dreaded
That I ever have heard tell
Than the gent's who there was spreaded
In that elevator-well.
Now this tale is allegoric --
It is figurative all,
For the well is metaphoric
And the feller didn't fall.
I opine it isn't moral
For a writer-man to cheat,
And despise to wear a laurel
As was gotten by deceit.
For 'tis Politics intended
By the elevator, mind,
It will boost a person splendid
If his talent is the kind.
Col. Bryan had the talent
(For the busted man is him)
And it shot him up right gallant
Till his head begun to swim.
Then the rope it broke above him
And he painful come to earth
Where there's nobody to love him
For his detrimented worth.
Though he's livin' none would know him,
Or at leastwise not as such.
Moral of this woful poem:
Frequent oil your safety-clutch.
SAINT, n. A dead sinner revised and edited.
The Duchess of Orleans relates that the irreverent old
calumniator, Marshal Villeroi, who in his youth had known St. Francis
de Sales, said, on hearing him called saint: "I am delighted to hear
that Monsieur de Sales is a saint. He was fond of saying indelicate
things, and used to cheat at cards. In other respects he was a
perfect gentleman, though a fool."
SALACITY, n. A certain literary quality frequently observed in
popular novels, especially in those written by women and young girls,
who give it another name and think that in introducing it they are
occupying a neglected field of letters and reaping an overlooked
harvest. If they have the misfortune to live long enough they are
tormented with a desire to burn their sheaves.
SALAMANDER, n. Originally a reptile inhabiting fire; later, an
anthropomorphous immortal, but still a pyrophile. Salamanders are now
believed to be extinct, the last one of which we have an account
having been seen in Carcassonne by the Abbe Belloc, who exorcised it
with a bucket of holy water.
SARCOPHAGUS, n. Among the Greeks a coffin which being made of a
certain kind of carnivorous stone, had the peculiar property of
devouring the body placed in it. The sarcophagus known to modern
obsequiographers is commonly a product of the carpenter's art.
SATAN, n. One of the Creator's lamentable mistakes, repented in
sashcloth and axes. Being instated as an archangel, Satan made
himself multifariously objectionable and was finally expelled from
Heaven. Halfway in his descent he paused, bent his head in thought a
moment and at last went back. "There is one favor that I should like
to ask," said he.
"Man, I understand, is about to be created. He will need laws."
"What, wretch! you his appointed adversary, charged from the dawn
of eternity with hatred of his soul -- you ask for the right to make
"Pardon; what I have to ask is that he be permitted to make them
It was so ordered.
SATIETY, n. The feeling that one has for the plate after he has eaten
its contents, madam.
SATIRE, n. An obsolete kind of literary composition in which the
vices and follies of the author's enemies were expounded with
imperfect tenderness. In this country satire never had more than a
sickly and uncertain existence, for the soul of it is wit, wherein we
are dolefully deficient, the humor that we mistake for it, like all
humor, being tolerant and sympathetic. Moreover, although Americans
are "endowed by their Creator" with abundant vice and folly, it is not
generally known that these are reprehensible qualities, wherefore the
satirist is popularly regarded as a soul-spirited knave, and his ever
victim's outcry for codefendants evokes a national assent.
Hail Satire! be thy praises ever sung
In the dead language of a mummy's tongue,
For thou thyself art dead, and damned as well --
Thy spirit (usefully employed) in Hell.
Had it been such as consecrates the Bible
Thou hadst not perished by the law of libel.
SATYR, n. One of the few characters of the Grecian mythology accorded
recognition in the Hebrew. (Leviticus, xvii, 7.) The satyr was at
first a member of the dissolute community acknowledging a loose
allegiance with Dionysius, but underwent many transformations and
improvements. Not infrequently he is confounded with the faun, a
later and decenter creation of the Romans, who was less like a man and
more like a goat.
SAUCE, n. The one infallible sign of civilization and enlightenment.
A people with no sauces has one thousand vices; a people with one
sauce has only nine hundred and ninety-nine. For every sauce invented
and accepted a vice is renounced and forgiven.
SAW, n. A trite popular saying, or proverb. (Figurative and
colloquial.) So called because it makes its way into a wooden head.
Following are examples of old saws fitted with new teeth.
A penny saved is a penny to squander.
A man is known by the company that he organizes.
A bad workman quarrels with the man who calls him that.
A bird in the hand is worth what it will bring.
Better late than before anybody has invited you.
Example is better than following it.
Half a loaf is better than a whole one if there is much else.
Think twice before you speak to a friend in need.
What is worth doing is worth the trouble of asking somebody to do it.
Least said is soonest disavowed.
He laughs best who laughs least.
Speak of the Devil and he will hear about it.
Of two evils choose to be the least.
Strike while your employer has a big contract.
Where there's a will there's a won't.
SCARABAEUS, n. The sacred beetle of the ancient Egyptians, allied to
our familiar "tumble-bug." It was supposed to symbolize immortality,
the fact that God knew why giving it its peculiar sanctity. Its habit
of incubating its eggs in a ball of ordure may also have commended it
to the favor of the priesthood, and may some day assure it an equal
reverence among ourselves. True, the American beetle is an inferior
beetle, but the American priest is an inferior priest.
SCARABEE, n. The same as scarabaeus.
He fell by his own hand
Beneath the great oak tree.
He'd traveled in a foreign land.
He tried to make her understand
The dance that's called the Saraband,
But he called it Scarabee.
He had called it so through an afternoon,
And she, the light of his harem if so might be,
Had smiled and said naught. O the body was fair to see,
All frosted there in the shine o' the moon --
Dead for a Scarabee
And a recollection that came too late.
They buried him where he lay,
He sleeps awaiting the Day,
And two Possible Puns, moon-eyed and wan,
Gloom over the grave and then move on.
Dead for a Scarabee!
SCARIFICATION, n. A form of penance practised by the mediaeval pious.
The rite was performed, sometimes with a knife, sometimes with a hot
iron, but always, says Arsenius Asceticus, acceptably if the penitent
spared himself no pain nor harmless disfigurement. Scarification,
with other crude penances, has now been superseded by benefaction.
The founding of a library or endowment of a university is said to
yield to the penitent a sharper and more lasting pain than is
conferred by the knife or iron, and is therefore a surer means of
grace. There are, however, two grave objections to it as a
penitential method: the good that it does and the taint of justice.
SCEPTER, n. A king's staff of office, the sign and symbol of his
authority. It was originally a mace with which the sovereign
admonished his jester and vetoed ministerial measures by breaking the
bones of their proponents.
SCIMETAR, n. A curved sword of exceeding keenness, in the conduct of
which certain Orientals attain a surprising proficiency, as the
incident here related will serve to show. The account is translated
from the Japanese by Shusi Itama, a famous writer of the thirteenth
When the great Gichi-Kuktai was Mikado he condemned to
decapitation Jijiji Ri, a high officer of the Court. Soon after
the hour appointed for performance of the rite what was his
Majesty's surprise to see calmly approaching the throne the man
who should have been at that time ten minutes dead!
"Seventeen hundred impossible dragons!" shouted the enraged
monarch. "Did I not sentence you to stand in the market-place and
have your head struck off by the public executioner at three
o'clock? And is it not now 3:10?"
"Son of a thousand illustrious deities," answered the
condemned minister, "all that you say is so true that the truth is
a lie in comparison. But your heavenly Majesty's sunny and
vitalizing wishes have been pestilently disregarded. With joy I
ran and placed my unworthy body in the market-place. The
executioner appeared with his bare scimetar, ostentatiously
whirled it in air, and then, tapping me lightly upon the neck,
strode away, pelted by the populace, with whom I was ever a
favorite. I am come to pray for justice upon his own dishonorable
and treasonous head."
"To what regiment of executioners does the black-boweled
caitiff belong?" asked the Mikado.
"To the gallant Ninety-eight Hundred and Thirty-seventh -- I
know the man. His name is Sakko-Samshi."
"Let him be brought before me," said the Mikado to an
attendant, and a half-hour later the culprit stood in the
"Thou bastard son of a three-legged hunchback without thumbs!"
roared the sovereign -- "why didst thou but lightly tap the neck
that it should have been thy pleasure to sever?"
"Lord of Cranes of Cherry Blooms," replied the executioner,
unmoved, "command him to blow his nose with his fingers."
Being commanded, Jijiji Ri laid hold of his nose and trumpeted
like an elephant, all expecting to see the severed head flung
violently from him. Nothing occurred: the performance prospered
peacefully to the close, without incident.
All eyes were now turned on the executioner, who had grown as
white as the snows on the summit of Fujiama. His legs trembled
and his breath came in gasps of terror.
"Several kinds of spike-tailed brass lions!" he cried; "I am a
ruined and disgraced swordsman! I struck the villain feebly
because in flourishing the scimetar I had accidentally passed it
through my own neck! Father of the Moon, I resign my office."
So saying, he gasped his top-knot, lifted off his head, and
advancing to the throne laid it humbly at the Mikado's feet.
SCRAP-BOOK, n. A book that is commonly edited by a fool. Many
persons of some small distinction compile scrap-books containing
whatever they happen to read about themselves or employ others to
collect. One of these egotists was addressed in the lines following,
by Agamemnon Melancthon Peters:
Dear Frank, that scrap-book where you boast
You keep a record true
Of every kind of peppered roast
That's made of you;
Wherein you paste the printed gibes
That revel round your name,
Thinking the laughter of the scribes
Attests your fame;
Where all the pictures you arrange
That comic pencils trace --
Your funny figure and your strange
Semitic face --
Pray lend it me. Wit I have not,
Nor art, but there I'll list
The daily drubbings you'd have got
Had God a fist.
SCRIBBLER, n. A professional writer whose views are antagonistic to
SCRIPTURES, n. The sacred books of our holy religion, as
distinguished from the false and profane writings on which all other
faiths are based.
SEAL, n. A mark impressed upon certain kinds of documents to attest
their authenticity and authority. Sometimes it is stamped upon wax,
and attached to the paper, sometimes into the paper itself. Sealing,
in this sense, is a survival of an ancient custom of inscribing
important papers with cabalistic words or signs to give them a magical
efficacy independent of the authority that they represent. In the
British museum are preserved many ancient papers, mostly of a
sacerdotal character, validated by necromantic pentagrams and other
devices, frequently initial letters of words to conjure with; and in
many instances these are attached in the same way that seals are
appended now. As nearly every reasonless and apparently meaningless
custom, rite or observance of modern times had origin in some remote
utility, it is pleasing to note an example of ancient nonsense
evolving in the process of ages into something really useful. Our
word "sincere" is derived from _sine cero_, without wax, but the
learned are not in agreement as to whether this refers to the absence
of the cabalistic signs, or to that of the wax with which letters were
formerly closed from public scrutiny. Either view of the matter will
serve one in immediate need of an hypothesis. The initials L.S.,
commonly appended to signatures of legal documents, mean _locum
sigillis_, the place of the seal, although the seal is no longer used
-- an admirable example of conservatism distinguishing Man from the
beasts that perish. The words _locum sigillis_ are humbly suggested
as a suitable motto for the Pribyloff Islands whenever they shall take
their place as a sovereign State of the American Union.
SEINE, n. A kind of net for effecting an involuntary change of
environment. For fish it is made strong and coarse, but women are
more easily taken with a singularly delicate fabric weighted with
small, cut stones.
The devil casting a seine of lace,
(With precious stones 'twas weighted)
Drew it into the landing place
And its contents calculated.
All souls of women were in that sack --
A draft miraculous, precious!
But ere he could throw it across his back
They'd all escaped through the meshes.
Baruch de Loppis
SELF-ESTEEM, n. An erroneous appraisement.
SELF-EVIDENT, adj. Evident to one's self and to nobody else.
SELFISH, adj. Devoid of consideration for the selfishness of others.
SENATE, n. A body of elderly gentlemen charged with high duties and
SERIAL, n. A literary work, usually a story that is not true,
creeping through several issues of a newspaper or magazine.
Frequently appended to each installment is a "synposis of preceding
chapters" for those who have not read them, but a direr need is a
synposis of succeeding chapters for those who do not intend to read
_them_. A synposis of the entire work would be still better.
The late James F. Bowman was writing a serial tale for a weekly
paper in collaboration with a genius whose name has not come down to
us. They wrote, not jointly but alternately, Bowman supplying the
installment for one week, his friend for the next, and so on, world
without end, they hoped. Unfortunately they quarreled, and one Monday
morning when Bowman read the paper to prepare himself for his task, he
found his work cut out for him in a way to surprise and pain him. His
collaborator had embarked every character of the narrative on a ship
and sunk them all in the deepest part of the Atlantic.
SEVERALTY, n. Separateness, as, lands in severalty, i.e., lands held
individually, not in joint ownership. Certain tribes of Indians are
believed now to be sufficiently civilized to have in severalty the
lands that they have hitherto held as tribal organizations, and could
not sell to the Whites for waxen beads and potato whiskey.
Lo! the poor Indian whose unsuited mind
Saw death before, hell and the grave behind;
Whom thrifty settler ne'er besought to stay --
His small belongings their appointed prey;
Whom Dispossession, with alluring wile,
Persuaded elsewhere every little while!
His fire unquenched and his undying worm
By "land in severalty" (charming term!)
Are cooled and killed, respectively, at last,
And he to his new holding anchored fast!
SHERIFF, n. In America the chief executive office of a country, whose
most characteristic duties, in some of the Western and Southern
States, are the catching and hanging of rogues.
John Elmer Pettibone Cajee
(I write of him with little glee)
Was just as bad as he could be.
'Twas frequently remarked: "I swon!
The sun has never looked upon
So bad a man as Neighbor John."
A sinner through and through, he had
This added fault: it made him mad
To know another man was bad.
In such a case he thought it right
To rise at any hour of night
And quench that wicked person's light.
Despite the town's entreaties, he
Would hale him to the nearest tree
And leave him swinging wide and free.
Or sometimes, if the humor came,
A luckless wight's reluctant frame
Was given to the cheerful flame.
While it was turning nice and brown,
All unconcerned John met the frown
Of that austere and righteous town.
"How sad," his neighbors said, "that he
So scornful of the law should be --
An anar c, h, i, s, t."
(That is the way that they preferred
To utter the abhorrent word,
So strong the aversion that it stirred.)
"Resolved," they said, continuing,
"That Badman John must cease this thing
Of having his unlawful fling.
"Now, by these sacred relics" -- here
Each man had out a souvenir
Got at a lynching yesteryear --
"By these we swear he shall forsake
His ways, nor cause our hearts to ache
By sins of rope and torch and stake.
"We'll tie his red right hand until
He'll have small freedom to fulfil
The mandates of his lawless will."
So, in convention then and there,
They named him Sheriff. The affair
Was opened, it is said, with prayer.
J. Milton Sloluck
SIREN, n. One of several musical prodigies famous for a vain attempt
to dissuade Odysseus from a life on the ocean wave. Figuratively, any
lady of splendid promise, dissembled purpose and disappointing
SLANG, n. The grunt of the human hog (_Pignoramus intolerabilis_)
with an audible memory. The speech of one who utters with his tongue
what he thinks with his ear, and feels the pride of a creator in
accomplishing the feat of a parrot. A means (under Providence) of
setting up as a wit without a capital of sense.
SMITHAREEN, n. A fragment, a decomponent part, a remain. The word is
used variously, but in the following verse on a noted female reformer
who opposed bicycle-riding by women because it "led them to the devil"
it is seen at its best:
The wheels go round without a sound --
The maidens hold high revel;
In sinful mood, insanely gay,
True spinsters spin adown the way
From duty to the devil!
They laugh, they sing, and -- ting-a-ling!
Their bells go all the morning;
Their lanterns bright bestar the night
With lifted hands Miss Charlotte stands,
Good-Lording and O-mying,
Her rheumatism forgotten quite,
Her fat with anger frying.
She blocks the path that leads to wrath,
Jack Satan's power defying.
The wheels go round without a sound
The lights burn red and blue and green.
What's this that's found upon the ground?
Poor Charlotte Smith's a smithareen!
John William Yope
SOPHISTRY, n. The controversial method of an opponent, distinguished
from one's own by superior insincerity and fooling. This method is
that of the later Sophists, a Grecian sect of philosophers who began
by teaching wisdom, prudence, science, art and, in brief, whatever men
ought to know, but lost themselves in a maze of quibbles and a fog of
His bad opponent's "facts" he sweeps away,
And drags his sophistry to light of day;
Then swears they're pushed to madness who resort
To falsehood of so desperate a sort.
Not so; like sods upon a dead man's breast,
He lies most lightly who the least is pressed.
SORCERY, n. The ancient prototype and forerunner of political
influence. It was, however, deemed less respectable and sometimes was
punished by torture and death. Augustine Nicholas relates that a poor
peasant who had been accused of sorcery was put to the torture to
compel a confession. After enduring a few gentle agonies the
suffering simpleton admitted his guilt, but naively asked his
tormentors if it were not possible to be a sorcerer without knowing
SOUL, n. A spiritual entity concerning which there hath been brave
disputation. Plato held that those souls which in a previous state of
existence (antedating Athens) had obtained the clearest glimpses of
eternal truth entered into the bodies of persons who became
philosophers. Plato himself was a philosopher. The souls that had
least contemplated divine truth animated the bodies of usurpers and
despots. Dionysius I, who had threatened to decapitate the broad-
browed philosopher, was a usurper and a despot. Plato, doubtless, was
not the first to construct a system of philosophy that could be quoted
against his enemies; certainly he was not the last.
"Concerning the nature of the soul," saith the renowned author of
_Diversiones Sanctorum_, "there hath been hardly more argument than
that of its place in the body. Mine own belief is that the soul hath
her seat in the abdomen -- in which faith we may discern and interpret
a truth hitherto unintelligible, namely that the glutton is of all men
most devout. He is said in the Scripture to 'make a god of his belly'
-- why, then, should he not be pious, having ever his Deity with him
to freshen his faith? Who so well as he can know the might and
majesty that he shrines? Truly and soberly, the soul and the stomach
are one Divine Entity; and such was the belief of Promasius, who
nevertheless erred in denying it immortality. He had observed that
its visible and material substance failed and decayed with the rest of
the body after death, but of its immaterial essence he knew nothing.
This is what we call the Appetite, and it survives the wreck and reek
of mortality, to be rewarded or punished in another world, according
to what it hath demanded in the flesh. The Appetite whose coarse
clamoring was for the unwholesome viands of the general market and the
public refectory shall be cast into eternal famine, whilst that which
firmly through civilly insisted on ortolans, caviare, terrapin,
anchovies, _pates de foie gras_ and all such Christian comestibles
shall flesh its spiritual tooth in the souls of them forever and ever,
and wreak its divine thirst upon the immortal parts of the rarest and
richest wines ever quaffed here below. Such is my religious faith,
though I grieve to confess that neither His Holiness the Pope nor His
Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury (whom I equally and profoundly
revere) will assent to its dissemination."
SPOOKER, n. A writer whose imagination concerns itself with
supernatural phenomena, especially in the doings of spooks. One of
the most illustrious spookers of our time is Mr. William D. Howells,
who introduces a well-credentialed reader to as respectable and
mannerly a company of spooks as one could wish to meet. To the terror
that invests the chairman of a district school board, the Howells
ghost adds something of the mystery enveloping a farmer from another
STORY, n. A narrative, commonly untrue. The truth of the stories
here following has, however, not been successfully impeached.
One evening Mr. Rudolph Block, of New York, found himself seated
at dinner alongside Mr. Percival Pollard, the distinguished critic.
"Mr. Pollard," said he, "my book, _The Biography of a Dead Cow_,
is published anonymously, but you can hardly be ignorant of its
authorship. Yet in reviewing it you speak of it as the work of the
Idiot of the Century. Do you think that fair criticism?"
"I am very sorry, sir," replied the critic, amiably, "but it did
not occur to me that you really might not wish the public to know who
Mr. W.C. Morrow, who used to live in San Jose, California, was
addicted to writing ghost stories which made the reader feel as if a
stream of lizards, fresh from the ice, were streaking it up his back
and hiding in his hair. San Jose was at that time believed to be
haunted by the visible spirit of a noted bandit named Vasquez, who had
been hanged there. The town was not very well lighted, and it is
putting it mildly to say that San Jose was reluctant to be out o'
nights. One particularly dark night two gentlemen were abroad in the
loneliest spot within the city limits, talking loudly to keep up their
courage, when they came upon Mr. J.J. Owen, a well-known journalist.
"Why, Owen," said one, "what brings you here on such a night as
this? You told me that this is one of Vasquez' favorite haunts! And
you are a believer. Aren't you afraid to be out?"
"My dear fellow," the journalist replied with a drear autumnal
cadence in his speech, like the moan of a leaf-laden wind, "I am
afraid to be in. I have one of Will Morrow's stories in my pocket and
I don't dare to go where there is light enough to read it."
Rear-Admiral Schley and Representative Charles F. Joy were
standing near the Peace Monument, in Washington, discussing the
question, Is success a failure? Mr. Joy suddenly broke off in the
middle of an eloquent sentence, exclaiming: "Hello! I've heard that
band before. Santlemann's, I think."
"I don't hear any band," said Schley.
"Come to think, I don't either," said Joy; "but I see General
Miles coming down the avenue, and that pageant always affects me in
the same way as a brass band. One has to scrutinize one's impressions
pretty closely, or one will mistake their origin."
While the Admiral was digesting this hasty meal of philosophy
General Miles passed in review, a spectacle of impressive dignity.
When the tail of the seeming procession had passed and the two
observers had recovered from the transient blindness caused by its
"He seems to be enjoying himself," said the Admiral.
"There is nothing," assented Joy, thoughtfully, "that he enjoys
one-half so well."
The illustrious statesman, Champ Clark, once lived about a mile
from the village of Jebigue, in Missouri. One day he rode into town
on a favorite mule, and, hitching the beast on the sunny side of a
street, in front of a saloon, he went inside in his character of
teetotaler, to apprise the barkeeper that wine is a mocker. It was a
dreadfully hot day. Pretty soon a neighbor came in and seeing Clark,
"Champ, it is not right to leave that mule out there in the sun.
He'll roast, sure! -- he was smoking as I passed him."
"O, he's all right," said Clark, lightly; "he's an inveterate
The neighbor took a lemonade, but shook his head and repeated that
it was not right.
He was a conspirator. There had been a fire the night before: a
stable just around the corner had burned and a number of horses had
put on their immortality, among them a young colt, which was roasted
to a rich nut-brown. Some of the boys had turned Mr. Clark's mule
loose and substituted the mortal part of the colt. Presently another
man entered the saloon.
"For mercy's sake!" he said, taking it with sugar, "do remove that
mule, barkeeper: it smells."
"Yes," interposed Clark, "that animal has the best nose in
Missouri. But if he doesn't mind, you shouldn't."
In the course of human events Mr. Clark went out, and there,
apparently, lay the incinerated and shrunken remains of his charger.
The boys idd not have any fun out of Mr. Clarke, who looked at the
body and, with the non-committal expression to which he owes so much
of his political preferment, went away. But walking home late that
night he saw his mule standing silent and solemn by the wayside in the
misty moonlight. Mentioning the name of Helen Blazes with uncommon
emphasis, Mr. Clark took the back track as hard as ever he could hook
it, and passed the night in town.
General H.H. Wotherspoon, president of the Army War College, has a
pet rib-nosed baboon, an animal of uncommon intelligence but
imperfectly beautiful. Returning to his apartment one evening, the
General was surprised and pained to find Adam (for so the creature is
named, the general being a Darwinian) sitting up for him and wearing
his master's best uniform coat, epaulettes and all.
"You confounded remote ancestor!" thundered the great strategist,
"what do you mean by being out of bed after naps? -- and with my coat
Adam rose and with a reproachful look got down on all fours in the
manner of his kind and, scuffling across the room to a table, returned
with a visiting-card: General Barry had called and, judging by an
empty champagne bottle and several cigar-stumps, had been hospitably
entertained while waiting. The general apologized to his faithful
progenitor and retired. The next day he met General Barry, who said:
"Spoon, old man, when leaving you last evening I forgot to ask you
about those excellent cigars. Where did you get them?"
General Wotherspoon did not deign to reply, but walked away.
"Pardon me, please," said Barry, moving after him; "I was joking