Kosti's Ambrose, Part II
by Richard Kostelanetz (August 2014)
In memory of B(rian). S. Johnson (1933-1973).
Long an admirer of Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary, I’m here appropriating him, much as I’ve appropriated other literary heroes, in this case rewriting some of his entries to make them mine and adding a few of my own reflecting his influence, not just what I wish I wrote but what I rewrote. Humor I like to rewrite mostly to be mine. Some of my own entries, written in 1958, became the earliest text ever reprinted by me (in Skeptical Essays ) and thus stands in retrospect as my first piece of serious writing. These appear here boldfaced. Other entries, some more personal, were written recently and distributed without my credits alphabetically.
--Richard Kostelanetz, RidgeWood-SoHo, NY 11385-5751.
Continued from Part I.
I is the first letter of the alphabet, the first word of the language, the first thought of the mind, the first object of affection. In grammar it is a pronoun representing the first person and a singular number. Its plural is said to be We, but how there can be more than one myself is doubtless clearer to the grammarians than it is to the author of this purportedly definitive dictionary. Conception of two myselfs is difficult, but fine.
ICONOCLAST, n. A breaker of idols, whose performances gratify worshipers, who most strenuously protest that he unbuildeth but doth not reedify, that he pulleth down but pileth not up. For the poor things would have other idols in place of those he thwacketh upon the mazzard and dispelleth.
IDIOT-IDENTIFIER, n. An intellectual position or critical enthusiasm so untenable that it’s not just idiotic but it identifies its proponent as an idiot until demonstrated otherwise.
IDIOT, n. A member of a large and powerful tribe whose influence in human affairs has always been dominant and controlling. Not confined to any special field of thought or action, the Idiot's activity "pervades and regulates the whole." He insists upon having the last word in everything with opinions he regards as unappealable. He typically sets the fashions and opinion of taste, dictates the limitations of speech, and circumscribes conduct with impossible deadlines.
IDLENESS, n. A model farm where the devil experiments with seeds of new sins and promotes the growth of staple vices.
IGNORAMUS, n. A person unacquainted with certain kinds of knowledge familiar to yourself, and perhaps possessing certain other kinds that you know nothing about.
IGPAY ATINLAY, n. A lingo most useful when used to speak a private message to another English-speaker among an audience that thinks it understands English
ILLNUMERATE, adj. An otherwise educated human being unable to verify the accuracy of, say, a restaurant check
ILLUSTRIOUS, adj. Suitably placed for the shafts of malice, envy, and detraction.
IMBECILITY, n. A kind of divine inspiration, or sacred fire affecting censorious critics of this dictionary.
IMMIGRANT, n. An unenlightened person who thinks one country outside the USA as better than another.
IMMIGRATION PROBLEMS, n. A sure measure unknown to those countries, especially “Communist,” to which few mobile people ever wanted to move.
IMMODEST, adj. Having a strong sense of one's own merit, coupled with a feeble conception of worth in others.
IMMORAL, adj. Inexpedient. Whatever in the long run and with regard to the greater number of instances men find to be generally inexpedient comes to be considered wrong, wicked, immoral.
IMPALE, v.t. In popular usage to pierce with any weapon which remains fixed in the wound. This, however, is inaccurate; to impale is, properly, to put to death by thrusting an upright sharp stake into the body, the victim being left in a sitting position.
IMPARTIAL, adj. Unable to perceive any promise of personal advantage from espousing either side of a controversy or adopting either of two conflicting opinions.
IMPENITENCE, n. A state of mind intermediate in point of time between sin and punishment.
IMPIETY, n. Your irreverence toward my deity.
IMPOSITION, n. The act of blessing or consecrating by the laying on of hands—a ceremony common to many ecclesiastical systems, but performed with the frankest sincerity by the sect known as Thieves.
INADMISSIBLE, adj. Not competent to be considered. Said of certain kinds of testimony which juries are supposed to be unfit to be entrusted with, and which judges, therefore, rule out, even of proceedings before themselves alone. Hearsay evidence is inadmissible because the person quoted was unsworn and is not before the court for examination; yet most momentous actions-- military, political, commercial and of every other kind--are daily undertaken on hearsay evidence.
INASTUTE: The temper of cynics who repeatedly miscalculate.
INAUSPICIOUSLY, adv. In an unpromising manner, the auspices being unfavorable. Among the Romans it was customary before undertaking any important action or enterprise to obtain from the augurs, or state prophets, some hint of its probable outcome; and one of their favorite and most trustworthy modes of divination consisted in observing the flight of birds—the omens thence derived being called auspices. *
INCOMPATIBILITY, n. In matrimony the result of a similarity of tastes, particularly the taste for domination.
INCOMPOSSIBLE, adj. Unable to exist if something else exists. Two things are incompossible when the world of being has scope enough for one of them, but not enough for both—as Walt Whitman's poetry and God's mercy to man. Incompossibility, it will be seen, is only incompatibility let loose. Instead of such low language as "Go heel yourself—I mean to kill you on sight," the words, "Sir, we are incompossible," would convey and equally significant intimation and in stately courtesy are altogether superior.
INDEPENDENCE: For my entire life an ideal; sometimes synonymous with Liberty.
INDIFFERENT, adj. Imperfectly sensible to distinctions among things.
INDULGENCE, n. Excess both disciplined and undisciplined.
INDULGENCE, n. Excess both disciplined and undisciplined.
INFIDEL, n. In New York, one who does not believe in the Christian religion; in Constantinople, one who does. A kind of scoundrel imperfectly reverent of, and niggardly contributory to, divines, ecclesiastics, popes, parsons, canons, monks, mollahs, voodoos, presbyters, hierophants, prelates, obeah-men, abbes, nuns, missionaries, exhorters, deacons, friars, hadjis, high-priests, muezzins, brahmins, medicine-men, confessors, eminences, elders, primates, prebendaries, pilgrims, prophets, imaums, beneficiaries, clerks, vicars-choral, archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, preachers, padres, abbotesses, caloyers, palmers, curates, patriarchs, bonezs, santons, beadsmen, canonesses, residentiaries, diocesans, deans, subdeans, rural deans, abdals, charm-sellers, archdeacons, hierarchs, class-leaders, incumbents, capitulars, sheiks, talapoins, postulants, scribes, gooroos, precentors, beadles, fakeers, sextons, reverences, revivalists, cenobites, perpetual curates, chaplains, mudjoes, readers, novices, vicars, pastors, rabbis, ulemas, lamas, sacristans, vergers, dervises, lectors, church wardens, cardinals, prioresses, suffragans, acolytes, rectors, cures, sophis, mutifs and pumpums.
INFLAMMABLE, adj. A synonym for, surprise, flammable.
INFLUENCE, n. In politics, a visionary quo given in exchange for a substantial quid.
INGRATITUDE, n. Epitomized by the wayward child’s dismissal of his parents who had invested so much their money and time.
INJURY, n. An offense next in degree of enormity to a slight.
INJUSTICE, n. Of all the burdens that we load upon others and carry ourselves this is lightest in the hands and heaviest upon the back.
INK, n. A villainous compound of tannogallate of iron, gum-arabic and water, chiefly used to facilitate the infection of idiocy and promote intellectual crime. The properties of ink are peculiar and contradictory: it may be used to make reputations and unmake them; to blacken them and to make them white; but it is most generally and acceptably employed as a mortar to bind together the stones of an edifice of fame, and as a whitewash to conceal afterward the rascal quality of the material. There are men called journalists who have established ink baths which some persons pay money to get into, others to get out of. Not infrequently it occurs that a person who has paid to get in pays twice as much to get out.
INNATE, adj. Natural, inherent—as innate ideas, that is to say, ideas that we are born with, having had them previously imparted to us.
INSURANCE, n. An ingenious modern game of chance in which the player is permitted to enjoy the comfortable conviction that he is beating the man who keeps the table.
INTELLECTUAL CLUBS, n. De facto universities sometimes more effective than institutions at conveying important learning.
Inter-service rivalries, n. An excuse doled out of would-be Napoleons for any military inefficiencies.
INTERPRETER, n. One who enables two persons of different languages to understand each other by repeating to each what it would have been to the interpreter's advantage for the other to have said.
INTERREGNUM, n. The period during which a monarchical country is governed by a warm spot on the cushion of the throne. The experiment of letting the spot grow cold has commonly been attended by most unhappy results from the zeal of many worthy persons to make it warm again.
INTIMACY, n. A relation into which fools are providentially drawn for their mutual destruction.
INVERSION, n. A rich esthetic move not synonymous with perversion.
INVERSION, n. A rich esthetic move not synonymous with perversion, though sometimes incorporating it.
INVESTMENTS: Of all kinds necessary, if you expect to live past tomorrow.
JAIL, n. State-sponsored free lodging that’s more comfortable in most American climates than sleeping on the streets, which is also free, usually.
Join the Union, n. The surest way not to work more than eight hours per day.
judicial functions of Minos, Rhadamanthus and Aeacus, but is placable with an obolus; a severely virtuous censor, but so charitable withal that he tolerates the virtues of others and the vices of himself; who flings about him the splintering lightning and sturdy thunders of admonition till he resembles a bunch of firecrackers petulantly uttering his mind at the tail of a dog; then straightway murmurs a mild, melodious lay, soft as the cooing of a donkey intoning its prayer to the evening star.
JUMP, n. What powerful people can make others do.
JUSTICE, n. A commodity which is a more or less adulterated condition the State sells to the citizen as a reward for his allegiance, taxes and personal service.
Keynote address, n. An imaginative speech intend to display the speaker’s vocabulary of colorful words and warped conceptions of recent history.
KIDNAPPING, n. Risky activity worth doing only if the kidnapee is desirable to someone rich.
KILL, v.t. To create a vacancy without nominating a successor.
KING, n. A male person commonly known in America as a "crowned head," although he never wears a crown and has usually no head to speak of.
KISS, n. A word invented by the poets as a rhyme for "bliss." It is supposed to signify, in a general way, some kind of rite or ceremony appertaining to a good understanding; but the manner of its performance is unknown to this lexicographer.
KLEPTOMANIAC, n. A rich thief.
KNOWLEDGE: A limitless well from which none of us can ever drink enough.
KORAN, n. A book which the Mohammedans foolishly believe to have been written by divine inspiration, but which Christians know to be a wicked imposture, contradictory to the Holy Scriptures.
LABOR, n. One of the processes by which A acquires property for B.
LAND, n. A part of the earth's surface, considered as property. The theory that land is property subject to private ownership and control is the foundation of modern society, and is eminently worthy of the superstructure. Carried to its logical conclusion, it means that some have the right to prevent others from living; for the right to own implies the right exclusively to occupy; and in fact laws of trespass are enacted wherever property in land is recognized. It follows that if the whole area of terra firma is owned by A, B and C, there will be no place for D, E, F and G to be born, or, born as trespassers, to exist.
LAP, n. One of the most important organs of the female system—an admirable provision of nature for the repose of infancy, but chiefly useful in rural festivities to support plates of cold chicken and heads of adult males. The male of our species has a rudimentary lap, imperfectly developed and in no way contributing to this animal's attractiveness.
LAUGHTER, n. An interior convulsion, producing a distortion of the features and accompanied by inarticulate noises. It is infectious and, though intermittent, incurable. Liability to attacks of laughter is one of the characteristics distinguishing man from the animals— these being not only inaccessible to the provocation of his example, but impregnable to the microbes having original jurisdiction in bestowal of the disease.
LAWFUL, adj. Compatible with the will of a judge having jurisdiction.
LAWN, n. Green growths that look scarcely different from each other.
Laws, n. Documents conceived by lawyers for future interpretation by other lawyers for a fee.
LAWYER, n. One skilled in circumvention of the law.
LAZINESS, n. Unwarranted repose of manner in a person of low degree.
LEAD, n. A heavy blue-gray metal much used in giving stability to light lovers—particularly to those who love not wisely but other men's wives. Lead is also of great service as a counterpoise to an argument of such weight that it turns the scale of debate the wrong way.
LEARNING, n. The kind of ignorance distinguishing those purportedly studious.
LECTIONARY, n. A more appropriate word for an alphabetical ordering that must be seen rather than heard.
LECTURER, n. One with his hand in your pocket, his tongue in your ear and his faith in your patience.
LECTURN, n. A necessary prosthesis when a speaker feels that he won’t otherwise be heard.
LEGACY, n. A gift from one who is legging it out of this vale of tears.
LETTUCE, n. An herb of the genus Lactuca, "Wherewith," says that pious gastronome, Hengist Pelly, "God has been pleased to reward the good and punish the wicked. For by his inner light the righteous man has discerned a manner of compounding for it a dressing to the appetency whereof a multitude of gustible condiments conspire, being reconciled and ameliorated with profusion of oil, the entire comestible making glad the heart of the godly and causing his face to shine.
LEXICOGRAPHER, n. A pestilent fellow who, under the pretense of recording some particular stage in the development of a language, does what he can to arrest its growth, stiffen its flexibility and mechanize its methods. For your lexicographer, having written his dictionary, comes to be considered "as one having authority," whereas his function is only to make a record, not to give a law.
LIAR, n. A lawyer with a roving commission.
LIBEL, n. A legal fiction whose ulterior purpose is unacceptable censorship
LIBERAL, adj. Open to alternatives within strictly marked limits,
LIBERTY, n. An ideal both personal and political.
LIBERTY, n. One of Imagination's most precious possessions.
LICKSPITTLE, n. A useful functionary, not infrequently found editing a newspaper. In his character of editor he is closely allied to the blackmailer by the tie of occasional identity; for in truth the lickspittle is only the blackmailer under another aspect, although the latter is frequently found as an independent species. Lickspittling is more detestable than blackmailing, precisely as the business of a confidence man is more detestable than that of a highway robber; and the parallel maintains itself throughout, for whereas few robbers will cheat, every sneak will plunder if he dare.
LIES: What everyone tells for one discreditable reason or another, usually necessary for ulterior purposes.
LIFE, n. A spiritual pickle preserving the body from decay. We live in daily apprehension of its loss; yet when lost it is not missed.
LIGHTHOUSE, n. A tall building on the seashore in which the government maintains a lamp and the friend of some politician.
LIMB, n. The branch of a tree or the leg of an American woman.
LIME, n. A lemon dyed green and injected with acidic bitterness.
LITIGANT, n. A person about to give up his skin for the hope of retaining his bones.
LITIGATION, n. A hideous machine which you enter as a pig and exit as a sausage.
LIVER, n. A large red organ thoughtfully provided by nature to be bilious with.
LOCK-AND-KEY, n. A distinguishing device of civilization and enlightenment.
London Times, n. A newspaper so old-fashioned that one must turn to page 5 to read in quarter-inch headlines hat war has been declared.
LOQUACITY, n. A disorder that renders the sufferer unable to curb his tongue when you wish to talk.
LORD, n. In American society, an English tourist above the state of a costermonger, as, lord 'Aberdasher, Lord Hartisan and so forth. The traveling Briton of lesser degree is addressed as "Sir," as, Sir 'Arry Donkiboi, or 'Amstead 'Eath. The word "Lord" is sometimes used, also, as a title of the Supreme Being; but this is thought to be rather flattery than true reverence.
LOVE, n. A grand illusion that is sometimes solid; v. Not always a great waste of effort.
LOVE, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage or by removal of the patient from the influences under which he incurred the disorder. This disease, like caries and many other ailments, is prevalent only among civilized races living under artificial conditions; barbarous nations breathing pure air and eating simple food enjoy immunity from its ravages. It is sometimes fatal, but more frequently to the physician than to the patient.
LOVERS: What should be earned through friendship, rather than power and manipulation.
LOW-BRED, adj. "Raised" instead of brought up.
LUMINARY, n. One who throws light upon a subject, such as an editor by not writing about it.
LUNARIAN, n. An inhabitant of the moon, as distinguished from Lunatic, one whom the moon inhabits.
MACE, n. A staff of some position signifying authority. The form of a heavy club indicates its original purpose and use in dissuading from dissent.
MACHINATION, n. The method employed by one's opponents in baffling one's open and honorable efforts to do the right thing.
MAD, 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 any evidence that themselves are sane.
Made in Occupied Arkansas, n. A slogan on a bottle of 150-proof, grade-A moonshine.
Madisonowsky Prospect, n. The origin of all Soviet propaganda.
MAGIC, n. An art of converting superstition into coin. There are other arts serving the same high purpose, but the discreet lexicographer does not name them.
MAGNET, n. Something acted upon by magnetism.
MAGNETISM, n. Something acting upon a magnet.
MAGNIFICENT, 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.
MAGNITUDE, 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.
MAGPIE, n. A bird whose thievish disposition suggested to someone that it might be taught to talk.
MAIDEN, 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.
MAJESTY, 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.
MALE, 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.
MALEFACTOR, n. The chief factor in the progress of the human race
MAN, 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 earth and Canada.
MANNA, n. Imaginary nourishment.
MARKET BUBBLES, n. Balloons waiting to be popped, even if no one does.
MARRIAGE, n. State-licensing that, by making legal must better remain illegal, causes unnecessary complications and crime, much like psychiatric-licensing.
MARRIAGE, n. The state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress and two slaves, making in all, two.
MARTYR, n. One who moves along the line of least reluctance to a desired death
Mass-produced, adj. Manufactured by lower classes, which is to say the masses.
Massive retaliation, n. A phrase originated by a Madison Avenue ad man for an anti-bacteria toothpaste advertisement.
MAUSOLEUM, n. The final and funniest folly of the rich.
MEDAL, n. A small metal disk given as a reward for virtues, attainments or services more or less authentic.
MEDICINES, n. Liquids or pills that, when ingested, produce beneficial effects initially chemically, later psychologically.
MELBOURNE, n. Australia’s Boston comparable to Russia’s St. Petersburg and Uruguay’s Montevideo, each claiming a culture superior to its country’s predominant city, usually persuasive only to its own denizens.
MEMORIES: How what was is.
MEMORY: A taste machine that remembers what’s important while forgetting what is not, functioning involuntarily.
MENDACIOUS, adj. Addicted to rhetoric.
MERCHANT, n. One engaged in a commercial pursuit. A commercial pursuit is one in which the thing ultimately pursued is a dollar.
MERCY, n. An attribute beloved of detected offenders.
MIND, 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.
MINE, adj. Belonging to me if I can hold or seize it.
MINISTER, n. An agent for a higher power with lower responsibility. In diplomacy an 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.
MINOR, adj. Because smaller, less objectionable.
MIRACLE, n. An act or event out of the order of nature and unaccountable, such as beating a normal hand of four kings and an ace with your own four aces and a king.
MISCREANT, n. A person of the highest degree of unworth.
MISDEMEANOR, n. An infraction of the law having less dignity than a felony and thus constituting no claim to admittance into the highest criminal society.
MISFORTUNE, n. The kind of troublesome fortune that never misses.
MISS, 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.
MOAT, n. An artificial rivulet that many freestanding-homeowners often wished they (we) had around even their tiniest castles.
Modern American education, n. the process of leaning how to conform, with facility.
Modern American Education, n. The process of learning how to conform, with facility.
MOLECULE, 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 the others.
MONEY, n. A blessing that is of no value to us excepting when we part with it. An evidence of culture and a passport to polite society.
MONEY: The principal prerequisite to realizing the primary goal of independence from employment; the “credit card” that need not be electronically verified.
MONKEY, n. An arboreal animal at home in genealogical trees.
MONOSYLLABIC, adj. Composed of words of one syllable, for literary babes who never tire of testifying their delight in the vapid compound by appropriate googoogling. Such 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 and emotions.
MONUMENT, n. A structure intended to commemorate something that either needs no commemoration or cannot otherwise be commemorated.
MOUSE, n. A puny animal that strews its path with much larger 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.
MOUTH, n. In man, the gateway to the soul; in woman, an outlet for the heart.
MUGWUMP, n. In politics someone afflicted with self-respect and addicted to the vice of independence and thus a term of contempt.
MULATTO, n. A child of two races, ashamed of both.
MULTIRADICAL, adj. An intellectual who has rethought many issues and domains differently.
MULTITUDE, n. A crowd regarded as the source of political wisdom and virtue. In a republic, the object of the statesman's fawning adoration.
MUSE, n. For the artist, a source of inspiration better looked at directly, than placed behind where shehe might become a distraction requiring attention.
MUSIC: The highest art, because at its best it articulates qualities unique to itself.
MUSTANG, n. An indocile horse of the western plains. In English society, the American wife of an British nobleman.
National Association of Manufacturers, n. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Big Business.
NEIGHBOR, n. One whom we are commanded to love as ourselves, though he does all he can to make us disobedient.
NEPOTISM, n. Appointing your grandmother to office for the good of the party.
Nepotism, n. the belief in the principles advocated by C. Donald Nepot, a lonely old man with a big family and a heart of gold.
NIPPLES: In women more compelling than breasts, though rarely, if ever, augmented surgically.
NIRVANA, n. In the Buddhist religion, a state of pleasurable annihilation awarded to the wise, particularly to those wise enough to understand it.
NOBLEMAN, n. Nature's provision for wealthy American minds ambitious to incur social distinction and suffer high life.
NOCISSISM, n. Self-love denied.
NOISE, n. Stench engulfing an ear. Undomesticated music. A chief product and authenticating sign of civilization.
NOMINATE, v. To designate for the heaviest political assessment. To put forward a suitable person to incur the mudgobbling and deadcatting of the opposition.
NOMINEE, n. A modest gentleman shrinking from the distinction of private life and diligently seeking the honorable obscurity of public office.
NON-COMBATANT, n. A dead Quaker.
NONEOFYOURBUSINESS, int. Four words made more pointed and elegant if spoken as one, especially in New York City.
NONSENSE, n. A sweeping broom for objections that are urged against this excellent dictionary that you are now reading.
NOSE, n. The extreme outpost of the face. 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 must be devoid of the sense of smell.
NOTORIETY, n. The fame of a competitor for public recognition.
NOUMENON, n. That which exists, as distinguished from that which merely seems to exist, the latter being a phenomenon. As the noumenon is a bit difficult to locate, it can be apprehended only be a process of reasoning, which is itself a phenomenon.
NOVEL, n. As a short story padded, it bears the same relation to literature that the panorama bears to art. Since 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 stands as photography stands to painting. By its distinguishing principle, probability, the novel corresponds to the literal actuality of the photograph. This puts the novel 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. The first three essentials of the literary art, not reportage, are imagination, imagination, and imagination. [Kosti wishes especially that he wrote this.]
NOVELLA, n. The most elastic prose genre.
NOVELS, n. Novellas strung together.
NUMBERS: A medium as communicative as words to those who are numerate.
NUMERALS, n. Signs made sensible only if verifiable.
OATH, n. In law, a solemn appeal to the Deity, made binding upon the conscience by a penalty for perjury.
OBAMA, n. The exemplification of isappointment based upon immaturity.
OBAMASM, n. The highly developed art of making attractive promises you can’t deliver and then trying to talk you way out of problems of your own creation.
OBLIVION, 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.
OBSERVATORY, n. A place where astronomers conjecture away the guesses of their predecessors.
OBSOLETE, adj. No longer used by the timid. Said chiefly of words. A word that some lexicographer has marked obsolete is ever thereafter an object of dread and loathing to the foolish 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.
OBSTACLES: What you must early master overcoming, because they will arise to challenge you, often by surprise, for your entire life.
OBSTINATE, adj. Inaccessible to the truth as it is manifest in the splendor and stress of our advocacy. The popular exemplar and exponent of obstinacy is the mule, commonly regarded as a most intelligent animal.
OCCASIONAL, 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.
OFFERING, n. A carillon out of tune
OMEN, n. A sign that something will happen if nothing happens.
ONCE, adv. Enough.
OPERA, 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.
OPINIONS, n. The less common, the more interesting.
OPPORTUNITY, n. A favorable occasion for grasping a disappointment.
OPPOSE, v. To assist with obstructions and objections.
OPPOSITION, n. In politics the party that prevents the official government from running amuck.
OPTIMISM, n. The doctrine, or belief, that everything is beautiful, including what looks ugly, everything good, especially the bad, and everything is right with what 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. Probably hereditary, it is fortunately not contagious.
OPTIMIST, n. A proponent of the doctrine that black must be white.
ORANGE, n. A pale citrus commonly dyed bright orange before it is delivered to American grocers.
ORCHESTRA CONDUCTOR, n. A totem who seems dispensable until several dozen musicians try to perform without him.
ORTHODOX, n. An ox wearing the popular religious yoke.
ORTHOGRAPHY, n. The science of spelling by the eye instead of the ear.
OSTENSIBLE, n. Not invisible.
OTHERWISE, adv. No better.
OUROBOROS, n. A snake eating its tail and, by extension, all similarly thin circular entities.
OUT-OF-DOORS, n. That part of the world upon which no government has been able to collect taxes.
OUTCOME, 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 its outcome, the result. This is immortal nonsense; the wisdom of an act is to be judged by whatever light that the doer had when he initiated it.
OUTDO, v.t. To make an enemy.
OVERCOME, v. A result more desirable than undercome, especially in a romantic circumstance.
OVERWORK, n. A dangerous disorder affecting high corporate and sometmes public functionaries who want to go fishing.
OYSTER, n. A slimy, gobby shellfish which civilization gives men the hardihood to eat without removing its entrails, thus classified as traif or non-kosher for good reason.
PAIN, n. An uncomfortable frame of mind that may have a physical basis in something that is being done to or happening in a human body, or may be purely mental, caused by misfortune to oneself or the good fortune of another.
PAINTING, n. The art of protecting flat surfaces from the weather while later exposing them to critics and collectors.
PALACE, n. A fine and costly residence, particularly hosting a great official. While the residence of a high dignitary of the Christian Church is called a palace, the Founder of his religion resided in a field, or wayside. Measure thus progress spanning centuries?
PALM, n. A species of tree having several varieties, of which the familiar "itching palm" (Palma hominis) is most widely distributed and sedulously cultivated. This noble vegetable exudes a kind of invisible gum, which may be detected by applying to the bark a piece of gold or silver. The metal will adhere with remarkable tenacity. The fruit of the itching palm is so bitter and unsatisfying that a considerable percentage of it is sometimes given away in what are known as "benefactions."
PALMISTRY, n. The 947th method (according to Mimbleshaw's classification) of obtaining money by false pretences. It consists in "reading character" in the wrinkles made by closing the hand. The pretence is not altogether false; character can really be read very accurately in this way, for the wrinkles in every hand submitted plainly spell the word "dupe."
PANTOMIME, n. A play in which the story is told without violence to the language. The least disagreeable form of dramatic action.
PAPER, n. An especially beautiful artifact, especially if clean white and undefaced.
PARDON, v. To remit a penalty and restore to the life of crime. To add to the lure of crime the temptation of ingratitude.
PASSPORT, n. A document treacherously inflicted upon a citizen going abroad, exposing him as an alien and pointing him out for special reprobation and outrage.
PAST, n. That part of Eternity with some small fraction of which we have a slight and regrettable acquaintance. A moving line called the Present parts it from an imaginary period known as the Future. These two grand divisions of Eternity, of which the one is continually effacing the other, are entirely unlike. The one is dark with sorrow and disappointment, the other bright with prosperity and joy. The Past is the region of sobs, the Future is the realm of song. In the one crouches Memory, clad in sackcloth and ashes, mumbling penitential prayer; in the sunshine of the other Hope flies with a free wing, beckoning to temples of success and bowers of ease. Yet the Past is the Future of yesterday, the Future is the Past of to-morrow. They are one—the knowledge and the dream.
PATRIOT, n. One to whom the interests of a part seem superior to those of the whole and, therefore, the dupe of statesmen and the tool of conquerors.
PAVEMENT, n. Source of invisible feet-killers.
PENIS: Insufficient in some respects; awesome in others.
PERSEVERANCE, n. A lowly virtue enabling mediocrities to achieve an inglorious success.
PHILANTHROPIST, n. A rich (and usually bald) old gentleman who has trained himself to grin while beggars are 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 solemn.
PHILOSOPHY, n. A map with many roads leading garrulously from nowhere to nothing.
PHOTOGRAPHY, n. The principal new medium of the 19th Century that rendered obsolete the painting of realistic pictures much as videography in the late 20th Century rendered filmed motion pictures obsolete.
PHYSICIAN, n. One upon whom we set our hopes when ill and our dogs when well.
PHYSIOGNOMY, n. The art of determining the character of another by the resemblances and differences between his face and our own, which we have established as the standard of excellence.
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 audience.
PICTURE, n. A representation in two dimensions of something wearisome in three.
PIE, n. An advance agent of the reaper whose name is Indigestion.
PIETY, n. Reverence for the Supreme Being, based upon His supposed resemblance to man.
Pigeon hole, n. A deathbed for such necessary evil as budge cuts, increased dependency allowances, aid to education, and censures.
PISTOLS, n. A great equalizer for those physically disadvantaged, such as little old ladies.
PLAGIARISM, n. The intellectual sin of copying an earlier source without acknowledgment has become more problematic since the 21st-Century development of the Internet with its voluminous library of obscure sources.
PLAGIARISM, n. The theft of words better than the writer’s own becomes the implicit principle of most dictionaries.
PLAN, v.t. To bother about the best method of accomplishing an accidental result.
Plank, n. A piece of very soft wood with a history of collapsing.
PLANNING, n. Best done by individuals and enterprises; when done by governments, often disastrous.
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.
PLEASE, v. A platitude designed to lay the foundation for a claim for imposition.
PLEASURE, n. A good feeling that customarily arises as a surprise.
PLEBISCITE, n. A popular vote offered to ascertain the will of the sovereign.
PLUNDER, v. To take the property of another without observing the decent and customary restraints of theft. To effect a change of ownership with the candid concomitance of a brass band.
POCKET, n. The cradle of motive and the grave of conscience. In woman this organ is lacking; so she acts without motive, as her conscience, denied burial, remains ever alive, identifying the sins of others.
POLITENESS, n. Hypocrisy with the slickest veneer.
Political analyst, n. A Monday morning quarterback.
Political moderate, n. A person who doesn't take stands.
POLITICIAN, n. Upon this eel in fundamental mud the superstructure of organized society is reared. When he wriggles we mistake the agitation of his tail for the trembling of the edifice. As compared with the statesman, he suffers the disadvantage of being alive.
POLITICIAN, n. Whoever’s skills at talking exceed those of doing.
POLITICS, n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.
Pollster, n. A learned expert who can verify anything his employer wishes.
POLYANDRY, n. A bountiful possibility available to those born female, until recently.
POLYARTIST, n. My coinage, acknowledged by some other lexicographers, for someone who creates first-rank work in two or more non-adjacent arts (writing and painting, say, music and architecture).
POLYGAMY, n. A house of atonement, or expiatory chapel, fitted with several stools of repentance, as distinguished from monogamy, which has but one.
POP MUSIC, n. A genre of acoustic journalism meant to be hot now and cold later.
POP SONGS, n. Music journalism that even at its best is heard today and forgotten tomorrow.
POPULARITY, n. A limited achievement, less socially than professionally, unless accompanied by power.
PORTABLE, adj. Exposed to a mutable ownership through insecurities of possession.
POSITIVE, adj. Mistaken at the top of one's voice.
POSITIVISM, n. A philosophy that by denying our knowledge of any thing Real thereby affirms our ignorance of the Apparent. Its longest exponent is Comte; its broadest, Mill; and its thickest. Spencer.
POSTERITY, n. An appellate court so distant in time that it can sometimes reverse the judgment of a popular author's contemporaries.
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 the cheapest medicine.
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, first, by possession of all the virtues and then by their faith in leaders seeking to conduct them into prosperity.
PRAY, v. To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled on behalf of a single petitioner who is confessedly unworthy.
PRECEDENT, n. In law, a previous decision, rule, or practice that, 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 a precedent purportedly elevates the trial-at-law from the low estate of a fortuitous ordeal to the noble attitude of a dirigible arbitrament.
PRECIPITATE, adj. Anteprandial.
PREDESTINATION, n. The doctrine that all things occur according to some 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.
PREDICTIONS, n. Inevitably insufficient, whether for the future of the stock market, a student’s potential, or tomorrow’s weather, because the future both near and far of everything includes surprises. That last truth is predictable.
PREJUDICE, n. A vagrant opinion without visible means of support.
PRESCRIPTION, n. A physician's guess at what will best prolong the discomfort 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 in whatever manner fashionable in a certain time at a certain place.
PRESIDENCY, n. The greased pig in the field game of American politics.
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.
President, n. the position that every red-blooded American boy wants to attain until he realizes it doesn't offer stock options, retirement plans, incentive bonuses, and compensatory time off.
PRICE, n. Value, plus a reasonable sum for the wear and tear of conscience in demanding it.
PRIMATE, n. If not generically monkeys, then the head of a church, especially a State church supported by government-enforced 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. Commonly he dies.
PRISON, n. The ultimate realization of the dream of equal social results in which all citizens wear the same clothing and have no spending money, regardless of earlier differences in their lives or social origins.
PRIZE, LITERARY, n. A token of someone’s appreciation, perhaps accompanied by money, that otherwise counts for nothing and thus is scarcely remembered, even by a writer’s colleagues, more than a week after its rewarding.
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 projectiles came more and more into favor, and is now held in high esteem by the most courageous. Its principal defect is that it requires personal attendance at the point of propulsion.
PROOF-READER, n. A malefactor who atones for making your writing nonsense by permitting the compositor to make it unintelligible.
PROOF, n. Evidence having a shade more of plausibility than of unlikelihood, such as requiring the testimony of two credible witnesses as opposed to that of only one.
PROOFREADER, n. The sidekick that every writer needs, especially if he has chronic problems with misspellings and typographical miscues.
PROPHECY, n. The art and practice of selling one's credibility for future delivery.
PROSPECT, n. An outlook, usually forbidding; an expectation, usually forbidden.
PROSPERITY, n. A plateau realized in terms not only monetary.
PUBLICATION (IN PRINT), n. Once a goal available only to a few, including me; now less prestigious, thanks to the Internet, which makes publicizing equally available to everyone.
PUBLISHING, n. Once restricted by self-financed gate-keepers, the activity of placing one’s words in a repository outside oneself becomes in the 21st Century, thanks to the Internet and other new technologies, open to everyone. Persuading potential readers to pay for what is freely published becomes more problematic.
PURCHASING, v. If for himself, the buyer pays attention to quality and price. If for another with his own money, he pays more attention to price than quality. If for himself with another’s money, he pays less attention to price than quality. If neither for himself nor with his own money, he’s the government.
PUSH, n. One of the two things mainly conducive to success in bureaucracies, the other being Pull.
QUEEN, n. A woman who rules a realm without a king and though him when there is.
QUEEN, n. The face of money in Britain and certain colonies.
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 Presence.
QUIVER, n. A portable sheath in which the ancient statesman and the aboriginal lawyer carried their lighter arguments.
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.
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.
RACK, n. An argumentative implement formerly much used in persuading devotees of a false faith to embrace the living truth. At leveraging the unconverted the rack never had any particular efficacy, and is now held in light popular esteem.
RAILROAD, n. The chief of many mechanical devices enabling us to get away from where we are to where we are no better off. For this purpose the railroad is held in highest favor by the optimist, for it permits him to make the transit with great expedition.
RAILYARDS, n. Where trains go to sleep for the night.
RAIN, n. Desirable until it floods.
RAMSHACKLE, adj. Pertaining to a certain architectural signature otherwise known as the Normal American. Most of the public buildings of the United States were Ramshackle’s, though some of our earlier architects preferred the Ironic.
RANSOM, n. As the purchase of that which neither belongs to the seller, nor can belong to the buyer, this is the most unprofitable of investments.
RASCAL, n. A fool considered under another aspect.
RASH, adj. Insensible to the value of our advice.
RATIONAL, adj. Devoid of all delusions save those of observation, experience and reflection.
Rank and file voter, n. A man who forgets to register
RAVEL, v. A synonym for, surprise, unravel.
READING, n. A pleasure that, unlike sex, say, is never exhausting or depleting.
REALITY, n. No matter what is claimed, another man’s fantasy and a third man’s corn.
REASON, n. An intelligence no less limited than humor.
REASONABLE, adj. As accessible to the infection of our own opinions, so hospitable to persuasion, dissuasion, and evasion.
Recession, n. A period of time when the cost of living doesn’t rise.
RECOLLECT, v. To recall with additions something not previously known.
RECONCILIATION, n. A lull of hostilities, an armed truce, for the purpose of digging up the dead.
RECONSIDER, v. To seek some 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.
RECTOR, n. In the Church of England, the Third Person of the parochial Trinity, the Curate 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.
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.
REFLECTION, n. Intelligence reconsidering itself.
REFUSAL, n. Denial of something desired, such 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.
REFUSE, v. t. Asking again to fuse, to connect; opposite of defuse.
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.
RELATIVES (BLOOD), n. People best avoided, especially if they also live in one’s home city.
RELIGION, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.
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
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 conferred by an unfriendly and inconsiderate hand.
REPARATION, n. Satisfaction that is made for righting 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.
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.
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 made with equal skill the replica is the more valuable, for it is supposed to be more beautiful than it looks.
REPORTER, n. A writer guessing his way to some truth and dispels it with a tempest of words.
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, as the thing governing and the thing governed are 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.
REPUTATION, n. An image inevitably temporary.
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 privilege for an advantage.
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.
RESTITUTIONS, n. The founding or endowing of universities and public libraries by gift or bequest.
RESTIVE, adj. Not predisposed to laziness, counter-intuitively.
RETIREMENT, n. No doubt a goal for people who don’t like their “work” but not for those who of us spend most of their days with art and writing.
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 evicting them.
RETURN, v. A decision more momentous than departure.
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 nothing.
REVERENCE, n. The spiritual attitude of a man to a god and a dog to a man.
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.
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.
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.
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;
RIME, n. Agreeable 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.
RITE, n. A religious or semi-religious ceremony fixed by law, precept or custom, with the essential oil of sincerity carefully squeezed out of it.
ROGUE, n. Not to be confused with rouge, though the latter likewise makes different from what was.
ROMANCE, n. Elixir when you have one who comes to you; a problem if unavailable or unreciprocated.
ROMANCE, n. Fiction that owes no allegiance to the God of Things as They Are. In a 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.
ROPE, n. An extension of the hand when used for pulling; of the ceiling, when used for hanging.
ROTARY, n. An American social club whose members run rapidly in circles.
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 abstainers.
RUMOR, n. A favorite weapon employed by assassins of character.
RUSSIA, n. A Third-World country with first world ambitions that can’t be realized.
RUSSIAN, n. A person with a Caucasian body and a Mongolian soul. A Tartar Emetic.
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 indubitably 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.
SAINT, n. A dead sinner revised and edited.
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.
SALAMANDER, n. Originally a reptile inhabiting fire; later, an anthropomorphous immortal, but still a pyrophile.
SALUTARY, adj. Fortunate after subservience; appreciative honoring of one’s superiors with the gesture of a straight hand diagonally over the right eye, to the accompaniment of a grim facial expression.
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.
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.
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.
SCIENCE, n. An endeavor that most of us would like to trust more.
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.
SCRIBBLER, n. A professional writer whose views are antagonistic to one's own.
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.
SEDUCTION, n. A conclusion perhaps imaginary.
SEDUCTION: Unavailable to most, a thrill to some (including me).
Segregation, n. The issue most likely to bring the needed realignment of the major parties along more strictly conservative and liberal lines.
SELF-DEFEATING: Behaviors strictly for those rich and/or privileged.
SELF-ESTEEM, n. An erroneous appraisement.
SELF-EVIDENT, adj. Evident to one's self and to nobody else.
SELF-PUBLISHING, n. The cornerstone of literary/intellectual freedom.
SELFISH, adj. Devoid of consideration for the selfishness of others.
SENATE, n. A body of elderly gentlemen charged with high duties and misdemeanors.
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 "synopsis of preceding chapters" for those who have not read them, but a direr need is a synopsis of succeeding chapters for those who do not intend to read them. A synopsis of the entire work would be still better.
SEX, v.i.; n. A desire making for strange bedfellows.
Shorter work week, n. A measure designed to permit a busy worker to pay two sets of union dues by allowing him to hold two jobs.
SIN, n. Negative behavior frequently reclassified over time.
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 performance.
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.
SLAVERY, n. Unfreedom that is more costly than anticipated to everyone involved.
SLEEP: One of life’s greatest no-cost pleasures.
Small business, n. Last in gross sales, last in profits, but first in the league for politicians' promises and bankruptcy.
SMITHAREEN, n. A fragment, a decomponent part, a remain.
SMUG, adj. Capable of screwing oneself without recognizing that you’ve done so until much later.
SO, adj. A more emphatic as, or vice versa.
SOLE, n. A fish without friends.
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 words.
SORCERY, n. The ancient prototype and forerunner of political influence. It was, however, deemed less respectable and sometimes was punished by torture and death.
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.
Southern Democrat, n. Midwestern Republication spelled backwards.
SPIDER, n. Nothing else can more reliably frighten sentient entities one thousand times larger.
SPRINGBOARD DIVING, n. The closest most of us will ever get to flying unaided.
SPRINT, v. Better for reading than writing.
Statehood for Hawaii, n. A proposed change that Congressmen like to examine during their vacations.
STINK, v. The present tense of stunk and past tense of skunk.
STOCK MARKET, n. The epitome of chaos that is resolved daily.
STRAWBERRY, n. A shrunken pear dyed bright red.
STUMBLEBUM, n. A homeless person who frequently kisses the ground on which he or she walks.
STUPIDITY, n. Feigned ignorance only if you can afford it.
SUBWAY, n. A transport system that decisively separates the tolerable cities from those experienced as intolerable.
SUDDEN, adj. Genuinely surprising, beyond everyone’s expectations, such as a power plant’s exploding or an earthquake.
SUFFERNING, n. A waste unless you can get some government to pay for it.
SUFFRAGE, n. Expression of opinion by means of a ballot. The right of suffrage (which is held to be both a privilege and a duty) means, as commonly interpreted, the right to vote for the man of another man's choice, and is highly prized. Refusal to do so has the bad name of "incivism." The incivilian, however, cannot be properly arraigned for his crime, for there is no legitimate accuser. If the accuser is himself guilty he has no standing in the court of opinion; if not, he profits by the crime, for A's abstention from voting gives greater weight to the vote of B. By female suffrage is meant the right of a woman to vote as some man tells her to. It is based on female responsibility, which is somewhat limited. The woman most eager to jump out of her petticoat to assert her rights is first to jump back into it when threatened with a switching for misusing them.
SUNSET, n. Darkness’s prelude.
SUNSHINE, n. As one of Nature’s best no-cost pleasures, the best cure for many ails both physical and psychological.
SURVIVAL, n. All you need to do in the life awarded to you.
SUSTAIN, v. Survive economically.
SYCOPHANT, n. One who approaches Greatness on his belly so that he may not be commanded to turn and be kicked. He is sometimes an editor.
SYLLOGISM, n. A logical formula consisting of a major and a minor assumption and an inconsequent.
SYLPH, n. An immaterial but visible being that inhabited the air when the air was an element and before it was fatally polluted with factory smoke, sewer gas and similar products of civilization. Sylphs were allied to gnomes, nymphs and salamanders, which dwelt, respectively, in earth, water and fire, all now insalubrious. Sylphs, like fowls of the air, were male and female, to no purpose, apparently, for if they had progeny they must have nested in accessible places, none of the chicks having ever been seen.
SYMBOL, n. Something that is supposed to typify or stand for something else. Many symbols are mere "survivals"—things which having no longer any utility continue to exist because we have inherited the tendency to make them; as funereal urns carved on memorial monuments. They were once real urns holding the ashes of the dead.
SYMBOLIC, adj. Pertaining to symbols and the use and interpretation of symbols.
SYNCOPATION, n. Indigenous African-American rhythm that, since it can’t be annotated, most white American musicians and nearly all Europeans cannot do.
TAIL, n. The part of an animal's spine that has transcended its natural limitations to set up an independent existence in a world of its own. Excepting in its foetal state, Man is without a tail, a privation of which he attests a hereditary and uneasy consciousness by the coat-skirt of the male and the train of the female, and by a marked tendency to ornament that part of his attire where the tail should be, and indubitably once was. This tendency is most observable in the female of the species, in whom the ancestral sense is strong and persistent.
TAKE, v.t. To acquire, frequently by force but preferably by stealth.
TALK, v.t. To commit an indiscretion without temptation, from an impulse without purpose.
TARIFF, n. A scale of taxes on imports, designed to protect the domestic producer against the greed of his consumer.
TEACHERS, n. Best when generous and informative; worse when authoritarian.
TELEPHONE, n. An invention of the devil that undermines some of the advantages of making a disagreeable person keep his distance.
TELESCOPE, n. A device having a relation to
TENACITY, n. A certain quality of the human hand in its relation to the coin of the realm. It attains its highest development in the hand of authority and is considered a serviceable equipment for a career in politics
TESTS, n. None measure anything more than how well a testee did on that particular test at the time he took it, in spite of claims to be either definitive or predictive.
the eye similar to that of the telephone to the ear, enabling distant objects to plague us with a multitude of needless details. Luckily it is unprovided with a bell summoning us to the sacrifice.
THE GREAT GERMAN JOKEBOOK, n. A stapled typescript several pages “thick.”
THEOSOPHY, n. An ancient faith having all the certitude of religion and all the mystery of science. The modern Theosophist holds, with the Buddhists, that we live an incalculable number of times on this earth, in as many several bodies, because one life is not long enough for our complete spiritual development; that is, a single lifetime does not suffice for us to become as wise and good as we choose to wish to become.
There is no religion in the world that has any other basis than hearsay evidence. Revelation is hearsay evidence; that the Scriptures are the word of God we have only the testimony of men long dead whose identity is not clearly established and who are not known to have been sworn in any sense. Under the rules of evidence as they now exist in this country, no single assertion in the Bible has in its support any evidence admissible in a court of law. It cannot be proved that the battle of Blenheim ever was fought, that there was such as person as Julius Caesar, such an empire as Assyria.
These 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 human knowledge.
Thomas Jefferson, n. A legendary American claimed to be the founder of the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, and, posthumously even, the Boy Scouts.
THREATENED RETALIATION, n. The principal means for keeping peace between large countries since the end of WWII.
TIGHTS, n. A stage habiliment designed to reinforce the general acclamation of the press agent with a particular publicity. Public attention was once somewhat diverted from this garment to Miss Lillian Russell's refusal to wear it, and many were the conjectures as to her motive, the guess of Miss Pauline Hall showing a particularly high order of ingenuity and sustained reflection. It was Miss Hall's belief that nature had not endowed Miss Russell with beautiful legs. This theory was impossible of acceptance by the male understanding, but the conception of a faulty female leg was of so prodigious originality as to rank among the most brilliant feats of philosophical speculation! It is strange that in all the controversy regarding Miss Russell's aversion to tights no one seems to have thought to ascribe it to what was known among the ancients as "modesty." The nature of that sentiment is now imperfectly understood, and possibly incapable of exposition with the vocabulary that remains to us. The study of lost arts has, however, been recently revived and some of the arts themselves recovered. This is an epoch of renaissances, and there is ground for hope that the primitive "blush" may be dragged from its hiding-place amongst the tombs of antiquity and hissed on to the stage.
TIME: All that is bestowed on you in life, to utilize as optimally as you can.
TODAY, n. All that lies between yesterday and tomorrow
TOMB, n. The House of Indifference. Tombs are now by common consent invested with a certain sanctity, but when they have been long tenanted it is considered no sin to break them open and rifle them, the famous Egyptologist, Dr. Huggyns, explaining that a tomb may be innocently "glened" as soon as its occupant is done "smellynge," the soul being then all exhaled.
TOPE, v. To tipple, booze, swill, soak, guzzle, lush, bib, or swig. In the individual, toping is regarded with disesteem, but toping nations are in the forefront of civilization and power. When pitted against the hard-drinking Christians the abstemious Mahometans go down like grass before the scythe. In India one hundred thousand beef-eating and brandy-and-soda guzzling Britons hold in subjection two hundred and fifty million vegetarian abstainers of the same Aryan race. With what an easy grace the whisky-loving American pushed the temperate Spaniard out of his possessions! From the time when the Berserkers ravaged all the coasts of western Europe and lay drunk in every conquered port it has been the same way: everywhere the nations that drink too much are observed to fight rather well and not too righteously.
TOUCH TYPING, n. If reading was the most useful competence developed in elementary school, this was the best result from high school, especially in America, because in the age of the home computer touch typing is advantageous nearly every time the machine is opened.
TREE, n. A tall vegetable intended by nature to serve as a penal apparatus, though through a miscarriage of justice most trees bear only a negligible fruit, or none at all. When naturally fruited, the tree is a beneficent agency of civilization and an important factor in public morals. In the stern West and the sensitive South its fruit (white and black respectively) though not eaten, is agreeable to the public taste and, though not exported, profitable to the general welfare.
TRIAL, n. A formal inquiry designed to prove and put upon record the blameless characters of judges, advocates, and jurors. In order to effect this purpose it is necessary to supply a contrast in the person of one who is called the defendant, the prisoner, or the accused. If the contrast is made sufficiently clear this person is made to undergo such an affliction as will give the virtuous gentlemen a comfortable sense of their immunity, added to that of their worth. In our day the accused is usually a human being, or a socialist, but in mediaeval times, animals, fishes, reptiles and insects were brought to trial. A beast that had taken human life, or practiced sorcery, was duly arrested, tried and, if condemned, put to death by the public executioner.
TRICHINOSIS, n. The pig's reply to proponents of porcophagy.
TRINITY, n. In the multiplex theism of certain Christian churches, three entirely distinct deities consistent with only one. Subordinate deities of the polytheistic faith, such as devils and angels, are not dowered with the power of combination, and must urge individually their claims to adoration and propitiation. The Trinity is one of the most sublime mysteries of our holy religion. In rejecting it because it is incomprehensible, Unitarians betray their inadequate sense of theological fundamentals. In religion we believe only what we do not understand, except in the instance of an intelligible doctrine that contradicts an incomprehensible one. In that case we believe the former as a part of the latter.
TRUCE, n. Friendship.
TRUST, n. Extended to those you need not contract, which many fail to do much too often.
TRUST, n. In American politics, a large corporation composed in greater part of thrifty working men, widows of small means, orphans in the care of guardians, and the courts, with many similar malefactors and public enemies.
Truth, n. A salable commodity, as some truth sells better than other truth.
TRUTH, n. An ingenious compound of desirability and appearance. Discovery of truth is the sole purpose of philosophy, which is the most ancient occupation of the human mind and has a fair prospect of existing with increasing activity to the end of time.
TRUTHFUL, adj. Dumb and illiterate.
TURKEY, n. A large bird whose flesh when eaten on certain religious anniversaries has the peculiar property of attesting piety and gratitude. Incidentally, it is pretty good eating.
TURNTABLE, n. A mechanical prerequisite to amplified sound.
TWICE, adv. Once too often.
TYPE, n. Pestilent bits of metal suspected of destroying civilization and enlightenment, despite their obvious agency in this incomparable dictionary.
UBIQUITY, n. The gift or power of being in all places at one time, but not in all places at all times, which is omnipresence, an attribute of God and the luminiferous ether only. This important distinction between ubiquity and omnipresence was not clear to the mediaeval Church and there was much bloodshed about it
UGLINESS, n. A gift of the gods to certain women, entailing virtue without humility.
ULTIMATUM, n. In diplomacy, a last demand before resorting to concessions.
UNDERLING, n. Whomever overlings push over with impunity.
UNDERSTANDING, n. A cerebral secretion that enables one having it to know a house from a horse by the roof on the house. Its nature and laws have been exhaustively expounded by Locke, who rode a house, and Kant, who lived in a horse.
UNEMPLOYMENT, n. The ultimate social goal not only for myself but everyone.
UNIVERSALIST, n. One who forgoes the advantage of a Hell for persons of another faith.
UP, n. Down’s observe or inversion or misdirection—pick one?
UPHEAVAL, n. Would be opposite of downheaval if the latter word existed.
UPPER WEST SIDE, n. An area of Manhattan plagued by such intellectual diseases as smug ignorance, vulgarities, and a claim, believed only by its denizens, that they constitute a cultural 1% who can look with disdain upon the larger world that couldn’t care less.
UPPITY, adj. A quality developed by underlings unawares of their socially assigned place.
UPSTAGE, v. t. Self-aggrandizement, possible only in certain circumstances.
URBANITY, n. The kind of civility that urban observers ascribe to dwellers in all cities but New York.
UXORIOUSNESS, n. A perverted affection that has strayed to one's own wife.
VALLEYS, n. Where the sun naps during cloudless daytimes.
VALOR, n. A soldierly compound of vanity, duty, and a gambler's hope.
VANITY, n. The tribute of a fool to the worth of the nearest ass.
VANQUISHED, adj. Defeated, perhaps in print only.
VIDEO, n. An archaic technology used by many but very well by only a few.
VIRTUES, n.pl. Certain abstentions.
VITUPERATION, n. Saite, as understood by dunces and all such as suffer from an impediment in their wit.
VOODOO, n. Invisible forces recognized by only a few who think they know what others don’t; they might.
VOTE, n. The instrument and symbol of a freeman's power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country.
VULGARITY, n. Foul behavior or speech by people unaware that they are foul.
W (double U) has, of all the letters in our alphabet, the only cumbrous name, the names of the others being monosyllabic.
Wall Street, n. A lane with a history of illustrating the strengths and weaknesses of capitalism.
WALL STREET, n. A symbol for sin for every devil to rebuke. That Wall Street is a den of thieves is a belief that serves every unsuccessful thief in place of a hope in Heaven.
WAR, n. A by-product of the arts of peace. The most menacing political condition, especially for militaries, is a period of international amity. Throughout history the greatest waste of lives and money.
WAS, v. Is past.
WASH OUT, v. To clean thoroughly; n, a glorious disappointment.
WASTE, n. Haste’s likely issue.
WEATHER, n. The climate of the hour. A permanent topic of conversation among persons whom it does not interest, but who have inherited the tendency to chatter about it from naked arboreal ancestors whom it keenly concerned. The setting up official weather bureaus and their maintenance in mendacity prove that even governments are accessible to suasion by the rude forefathers of the jungle.
WEDDING, n. A ceremony at which two persons undertake to become one, one undertakes to become nothing, and nothing undertakes to become supportable.
WEREWOLF, n. A wolf that was once, or is sometimes, a man. All werewolves are of evil disposition, having assumed a bestial form to gratify a beastial appetite, but some, transformed by sorcery, are as humane and is consistent with an acquired taste for human flesh.
WHANGDEPOOTENAWAH, n. In the Ojibwa tongue, disaster; an unexpected affliction that strikes hard.
WHAT, int. An inquisitive favored by foreigners who have learned American English, as distinct from the “pardon” favored by those who have learned from Brits and the “eh” favored by native Canadians.
WHEAT, n. A cereal from which a tolerably good whisky can with some difficulty be made, and which is used also for bread. The French are said to eat more bread per capita of population than any other people, which is natural, for only they know how to make the stuff palatable.
WIDOW, n. A pathetic figure that the Christian world has agreed to take humorously, although Christ's tenderness towards widows was one of the most marked features of his character.
WINE, n. Fermented grape-juice known to the Women's Christian Union as "liquor," sometimes as "rum." Wine, madam, is God's next best gift to man.
WIT, n. The salt with which the American humorist spoils his intellectual cookery by leaving it out.
WITCH, n. (1) Any ugly and repulsive old woman, in a wicked league with the devil. (2) A beautiful and attractive young woman, in wickedness a league beyond the devil.
WITTICISM, n. A sharp and clever remark, usually quoted, and seldom noted; what the Philistine is pleased to call a "joke.”
WOMEN, n. Venerated as both a sexual object and an esthetic object.
WORD-OF-MOUTH, adj. Beyond the hired “claque” in the opera house, this epitomizes authentically populist publicity.
WORSHIP, n. Homo Creator's testimony to the sound construction and fine finish of Deus Creatus. A popular form of abjection, having an element of pride.
WRATH, n. Anger of a superior quality and degree, appropriate to exalted characters and momentous occasions; as, "the wrath of God," "the day of wrath," etc. Amongst the ancients the wrath of kings was deemed sacred, for it could usually command the agency of some god for its fit manifestation, as could also that of a priest.
WRITING, n. An archaic technology used by many but very well by only a few.
X in our alphabet being a needless letter has an added invincibility to the attacks of the spelling reformers, and like them, will doubtless last as long as the language. X is the sacred symbol of ten dollars, and in such words as Xmas, Xn, etc., stands for Christ, not, as is popular supposed, because it represents a cross, but because the corresponding letter in the Greek alphabet is the initial of his name —Xristos. If it represented a cross it would stand for St. Andrew, who "testified" upon one of that shape. In the algebra of psychology x stands for Woman's mind.
YOUKNOW, int. A scarcely uncommon unemphatic explicative .
ZANY, n. A popular character in old Italian plays, who imitated with ludicrous incompetence the buffone, or clown, and was therefore the ape of an ape; for the clown himself imitated the serious characters of the play. The zany was progenitor to the specialist in humor, as we to-day have the unhappiness to know him. In the zany we see an example of creation; in the humorist, of transmission. Another excellent specimen of the modern zany is the curate, who apes the rector, who apes the bishop, who apes the archbishop, who apes the devil.
ZENITH, n. The point in the heavens directly overhead to a man standing or a growing cabbage. A man in bed or a cabbage in the pot is not considered as having a zenith, though from this view of the matter there was once a considerably dissent among the learned, some holding that the posture of the body was immaterial. These were called Horizontalists, their opponents, Verticalists. The Horizontalist heresy was finally extinguished by Xanobus, the philosopher-king of Abara, a zealous Verticalist. Entering an assembly of philosophers who were debating the matter, he cast a severed human head at the feet of his opponents and asked them to determine its zenith, explaining that its body was hanging by the heels outside. Observing that it was the head of their leader, the Horizontalists hastened to profess themselves converted to whatever opinion the Crown might be pleased to hold, and Horizontalism took its place among fides defuncti.
ZIGZAG, v.t. To move forward uncertainly, from side to side, as one carrying the white man's burden.
Individual entries on Richard Kostelanetz’s work in several fields appear in various editions of Readers Guide to Twentieth-Century Writers, Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature, Contemporary Poets, Contemporary Novelists, Postmodern Fiction, Webster's Dictionary of American Writers, The HarperCollins Reader’s Encyclopedia of American Literature, Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Directory of American Scholars, Who's Who in America, Who's Who in the World, Who's Who in American Art, NNDB.com, Wikipedia.com, and Britannica.com, among other distinguished directories. Otherwise, he survives in New York, where he was born, unemployed and thus overworked.
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