- W -
W (double U) has, of all the letters in our alphabet, the only
cumbrous name, the names of the others being monosyllabic. This
advantage of the Roman alphabet over the Grecian is the more valued
after audibly spelling out some simple Greek word, like
epixoriambikos. Still, it is now thought by the learned that other
agencies than the difference of the two alphabets may have been
concerned in the decline of "the glory that was Greece" and the rise
of "the grandeur that was Rome." There can be no doubt, however, that
by simplifying the name of W (calling it "wow," for example) our
civilization could be, if not promoted, at least better endured.
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. Even the great and
good Andrew Carnegie has made his profession of faith in the matter.
Carnegie the dauntless has uttered his call
To battle: "The brokers are parasites all!"
Carnegie, Carnegie, you'll never prevail;
Keep the wind of your slogan to belly your sail,
Go back to your isle of perpetual brume,
Silence your pibroch, doff tartan and plume:
Ben Lomond is calling his son from the fray --
Fly, fly from the region of Wall Street away!
While still you're possessed of a single baubee
(I wish it were pledged to endowment of me)
'Twere wise to retreat from the wars of finance
Lest its value decline ere your credit advance.
For a man 'twixt a king of finance and the sea,
Carnegie, Carnegie, your tongue is too free!
n. A by-product of the arts of peace. The most menacing
political condition is a period of international amity. The student
of history who has not been taught to expect the unexpected may justly
boast himself inaccessible to the light. "In time of peace prepare
for war" has a deeper meaning than is commonly discerned; it means,
not merely that all things earthly have an end -- that change is the
one immutable and eternal law -- but that the soil of peace is thickly
sown with the seeds of war and singularly suited to their germination
and growth. It was when Kubla Khan had decreed his "stately pleasure
dome" -- when, that is to say, there were peace and fat feasting in
Xanadu -- that he heard from afar Ancestral voices prophesying war.
One of the greatest of poets, Coleridge was one of the wisest of
men, and it was not for nothing that he read us this parable. Let us
have a little less of "hands across the sea," and a little more of
that elemental distrust that is the security of nations. War loves to
come like a thief in the night; professions of eternal amity provide
n. A Potomac tribesman who exchanged the privilege of
governing himself for the advantage of good government. In justice to
him it should be said that he did not want to.
They took away his vote and gave instead
The right, when he had earned, to eat his bread.
In vain -- he clamors for his "boss," pour soul,
To come again and part him from his roll.
n.pl. Certain primal powers of Tyrant Woman wherewith she
holds dominion over the male of her species, binding him to the
service of her will and paralyzing his rebellious energies.
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.
Once I dipt into the future far as human eye could see,
And I saw the Chief Forecaster, dead as any one can
Dead and damned and shut in Hades as a liar from his
With a record of unreason seldom paralleled on earth.
While I looked he reared him solemnly, that incadescent
From the coals that he'd preferred to the advantages of
He cast his eyes about him and above him; then he wrote
On a slab of thin asbestos what I venture here to quote --
For I read it in the rose-light of the everlasting glow:
"Cloudy; variable winds, with local showers; cooler; snow."
n. A ceremony at which two persons undertake to become one,
one undertakes to become nothing, and nothing undertakes to become
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.
Some Bavarian peasants having caught a wolf one evening, tied it
to a post by the tail and went to bed. The next morning nothing was
there! Greatly perplexed, they consulted the local priest, who told
them that their captive was undoubtedly a werewolf and had resumed its
human for during the night. "The next time that you take a wolf," the
good man said, "see that you chain it by the leg, and in the morning
you will find a Lutheran."
n. In the Ojibwa tongue, disaster; an unexpected
affliction that strikes hard.
Should you ask me whence this laughter,
Whence this audible big-smiling,
With its labial extension,
With its maxillar distortion
And its diaphragmic rhythmus
Like the billowing of an ocean,
Like the shaking of a carpet,
I should answer, I should tell you:
From the great deeps of the spirit,
From the unplummeted abysmus
Of the soul this laughter welleth
As the fountain, the gug-guggle,
Like the river from the canon [sic],
To entoken and give warning
That my present mood is sunny.
Should you ask me further question --
Why the great deeps of the spirit,
Why the unplummeted abysmus
Of the soule extrudes this laughter,
This all audible big-smiling,
I should answer, I should tell you
With a white heart, tumpitumpy,
With a true tongue, honest Injun:
William Bryan, he has Caught It,
Caught the Whangdepootenawah!
Is't the sandhill crane, the shankank,
Standing in the marsh, the kneedeep,
Standing silent in the kneedeep
With his wing-tips crossed behind him
And his neck close-reefed before him,
With his bill, his william, buried
In the down upon his bosom,
With his head retracted inly,
While his shoulders overlook it?
Does the sandhill crane, the shankank,
Shiver grayly in the north wind,
Wishing he had died when little,
As the sparrow, the chipchip, does?
No 'tis not the Shankank standing,
Standing in the gray and dismal
Marsh, the gray and dismal kneedeep.
No, 'tis peerless William Bryan
Realizing that he's Caught It,
Caught the Whangdepootenawah!
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
adj. and n. Black.
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.
n. Fermented grape-juice known to the Women's Christian Union
as "liquor," sometimes as "rum." Wine, madam, is God's next best gift
n. The salt with which the American humorist spoils his
intellectual cookery by leaving it out.
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.
n. A sharp and clever remark, usually quoted, and seldom
noted; what the Philistine is pleased to call a "joke."
An animal usually living in the vicinity of Man, and having a
rudimentary susceptibility to domestication. It is credited by
many of the elder zoologists with a certain vestigial docility
acquired in a former state of seclusion, but naturalists of the
postsusananthony period, having no knowledge of the seclusion,
deny the virtue and declare that such as creation's dawn beheld,
it roareth now. The species is the most widely distributed of all
beasts of prey, infesting all habitable parts of the globe, from
Greeland's spicy mountains to India's moral strand. The popular
name (wolfman) is incorrect, for the creature is of the cat kind.
The woman is lithe and graceful in its movement, especially the
American variety (felis pugnans), is omnivorous and can be
taught not to talk.
- --Balthasar Pober
n. The finished product of which we are the raw
material. The contents of the Taj Mahal, the Tombeau Napoleon and the
Granitarium. Worms'-meat is usually outlasted by the structure that
houses it, but "this too must pass away." Probably the silliest work
in which a human being can engage is construction of a tomb for
himself. The solemn purpose cannot dignify, but only accentuates by
contrast the foreknown futility.
Ambitious fool! so mad to be a show!
How profitless the labor you bestow
Upon a dwelling whose magnificence
The tenant neither can admire nor know.
Build deep, build high, build massive as you can,
The wanton grass-roots will defeat the plan
By shouldering asunder all the stones
In what to you would be a moment's span.
Time to the dead so all unreckoned flies
That when your marble is all dust, arise,
If wakened, stretch your limbs and yawn --
You'll think you scarcely can have closed your eyes.
What though of all man's works your tomb alone
Should stand till Time himself be overthrown?
Would it advantage you to dwell therein
Forever as a stain upon a stone?
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.
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. The Greeks
before Troy were so harried by Apollo that they jumped out of the
frying-pan of the wrath of Cryses into the fire of the wrath of
Achilles, though Agamemnon, the sole offender, was neither fried nor
roasted. A similar noted immunity was that of David when he incurred
the wrath of Yahveh by numbering his people, seventy thousand of whom
paid the penalty with their lives. God is now Love, and a director of
the census performs his work without apprehension of disaster.
- X -
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. Words beginning with X are
Grecian and will not be defined in this standard English dictionary.
- Y -
n. In Europe, an American. In the Northern States of our
Union, a New Englander. In the Southern States the word is unknown.
n. A period of three hundred and sixty-five disappointments.
n. The infancy of youth, the youth of manhood, the entire
past of age.
But yesterday I should have thought me blest
To stand high-pinnacled upon the peak
Of middle life and look adown the bleak
And unfamiliar foreslope to the West,
Where solemn shadows all the land invest
And stilly voices, half-remembered, speak
Unfinished prophecy, and witch-fires freak
The haunted twilight of the Dark of Rest.
Yea, yesterday my soul was all aflame
To stay the shadow on the dial's face
At manhood's noonmark! Now, in God His name
I chide aloud the little interspace
Disparting me from Certitude, and fain
Would know the dream and vision ne'er again.
It is said that in his last illness the poet Arnegriff was
attended at different times by seven doctors.
n. An implement, madam, to whose Latin name, jugum, we owe
one of the most illuminating words in our language -- a word that
defines the matrimonial situation with precision, point and poignancy.
A thousand apologies for withholding it.
n. The Period of Possibility, when Archimedes finds a fulcrum,
Cassandra has a following and seven cities compete for the honor of
endowing a living Homer.
Youth is the true Saturnian Reign, the Golden Age on earth
again, when figs are grown on thistles, and pigs betailed with
whistles and, wearing silken bristles, live ever in clover, and
clows fly over, delivering milk at every door, and Justice never
is heard to snore, and every assassin is made a ghost and,
howling, is cast into Baltimost!
- --Polydore Smith
- Z -
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
n. An inhabitant of the Sultanate of Zanzibar, off the
eastern coast of Africa. The Zanzibaris, a warlike people, are best
known in this country through a threatening diplomatic incident that
occurred a few years ago. The American consul at the capital occupied
a dwelling that faced the sea, with a sandy beach between. Greatly to
the scandal of this official's family, and against repeated
remonstrances of the official himself, the people of the city
persisted in using the beach for bathing. One day a woman came down
to the edge of the water and was stooping to remove her attire (a pair
of sandals) when the consul, incensed beyond restraint, fired a charge
of bird-shot into the most conspicuous part of her person.
Unfortunately for the existing entente cordiale between two great
nations, she was the Sultana.
n. A certain nervous disorder afflicting the young and
inexperienced. A passion that goeth before a sprawl.
When Zeal sought Gratitude for his reward
He went away exclaiming: "O my Lord!"
"What do you want?" the Lord asked, bending down.
"An ointment for my cracked and bleeding crown."
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.
n. The chief of Grecian gods, adored by the Romans as Jupiter
and by the modern Americans as God, Gold, Mob and Dog. Some explorers
who have touched upon the shores of America, and one who professes to
have penetrated a considerable distance to the interior, have thought
that these four names stand for as many distinct deities, but in his
monumental work on Surviving Faiths, Frumpp insists that the natives
are monotheists, each having no other god than himself, whom he
worships under many sacred names.
v.t. To move forward uncertainly, from side to side, as one
carrying the white man's burden. (From zed, z, and jag, an
Icelandic word of unknown meaning.)
He zedjagged so uncomen wyde
Thet non coude pas on eyder syde;
So, to com saufly thruh, I been
Constreynet for to doodge betwene.
n. The science and history of the animal kingdom, including
its king, the House Fly (Musca maledicta). The father of Zoology
was Aristotle, as is universally conceded, but the name of its mother
has not come down to us. Two of the science's most illustrious
expounders were Buffon and Oliver Goldsmith, from both of whom we
learn (L'Histoire generale des animaux and A History of Animated
Nature) that the domestic cow sheds its horn every two years.