The Devil’s Dictionary
By Ambrose Bierce
Public Domain Books
SABBATH, n. A weekly festival having its origin in the fact that God made the world in six days and was arrested on the seventh. Among the Jews observance of the day was enforced by a Commandment of which this is the Christian version: “Remember the seventh day to make thy neighbor keep it wholly.” To the Creator it seemed fit and expedient that the Sabbath should be the last day of the week, but the Early Fathers of the Church held other views. So great is the sanctity of the day that even where the Lord holds a doubtful and precarious jurisdiction over those who go down to (and down into) the sea it is reverently recognized, as is manifest in the following deep-water version of the Fourth Commandment:
Six days shalt thou labor and do all thou art able, And on the seventh holystone the deck and scrape the cable.
Decks are no longer holystoned, but the cable still supplies the captain with opportunity to attest a pious respect for the divine ordinance.
SACERDOTALIST, n. One who holds the belief that a clergyman is a priest. Denial of this momentous doctrine is the hardest challenge that is now flung into the teeth of the Episcopalian church by the Neo-Dictionarians.
SACRAMENT, n. A solemn religious ceremony to which several degrees of authority and significance are attached. Rome has seven sacraments, but the Protestant churches, being less prosperous, feel that they can afford only two, and these of inferior sanctity. Some of the smaller sects have no sacraments at all for which mean economy they will indubitable be damned.
SACRED, adj. Dedicated to some religious purpose; having a divine character; inspiring solemn thoughts or emotions; as, the Dalai Lama of Thibet; the Moogum of M’bwango; the temple of Apes in Ceylon; the Cow in India; the Crocodile, the Cat and the Onion of ancient Egypt; the Mufti of Moosh; the hair of the dog that bit Noah, etc.
All things are either sacred or profane. The former to ecclesiasts bring gain; The latter to the devil appertain.
SANDLOTTER, n. A vertebrate mammal holding the political views of Denis Kearney, a notorious demagogue of San Francisco, whose audiences gathered in the open spaces (sandlots) of the town. True to the traditions of his species, this leader of the proletariat was finally bought off by his law-and-order enemies, living prosperously silent and dying impenitently rich. But before his treason he imposed upon California a constitution that was a confection of sin in a diction of solecisms. The similarity between the words “sandlotter” and “sansculotte” is problematically significant, but indubitably suggestive.
SAFETY-CLUTCH, n. A mechanical device acting automatically to prevent the fall of an elevator, or cage, in case of an accident to the hoisting apparatus.
Once I seen a human ruin In an elevator-well, And his members was bestrewin’ All the place where he had fell.
And I says, apostrophisin’ That uncommon woful wreck: “Your position’s so surprisin’ That I tremble for your neck!”
Then that ruin, smilin’ sadly And impressive, up and spoke: “Well, I wouldn’t tremble badly, For it’s been a fortnight broke.”
Then, for further comprehension Of his attitude, he begs I will focus my attention On his various arms and legs
How they all are contumacious; Where they each, respective, lie; How one trotter proves ungracious, T’other one an alibi.
These particulars is mentioned For to show his dismal state, Which I wasn’t first intentioned To specifical relate.
None is worser to be dreaded That I ever have heard tell Than the gent’s who there was spreaded In that elevator-well.
Now this tale is allegoric It is figurative all, For the well is metaphoric And the feller didn’t fall.
I opine it isn’t moral For a writer-man to cheat, And despise to wear a laurel As was gotten by deceit.
For ’tis Politics intended By the elevator, mind, It will boost a person splendid If his talent is the kind.
Col. Bryan had the talent (For the busted man is him) And it shot him up right gallant Till his head begun to swim.
Then the rope it broke above him And he painful come to earth Where there’s nobody to love him For his detrimented worth.
Though he’s livin’ none would know him, Or at leastwise not as such. Moral of this woful poem: Frequent oil your safety-clutch.
SAINT, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. The Duchess of Orleans relates that the irreverent old calumniator, Marshal Villeroi, who in his youth had known St. Francis de Sales, said, on hearing him called saint: “I am delighted to hear that Monsieur de Sales is a saint. He was fond of saying indelicate things, and used to cheat at cards. In other respects he was a perfect gentleman, though a fool.”
SALACITY, n. A certain literary quality frequently observed in popular novels, especially in those written by women and young girls, who give it another name and think that in introducing it they are occupying a neglected field of letters and reaping an overlooked harvest. If they have the misfortune to live long enough they are tormented with a desire to burn their sheaves.
SALAMANDER, n. Originally a reptile inhabiting fire; later, an anthropomorphous immortal, but still a pyrophile. Salamanders are now believed to be extinct, the last one of which we have an account having been seen in Carcassonne by the Abbe Belloc, who exorcised it with a bucket of holy water.
SARCOPHAGUS, n. Among the Greeks a coffin which being made of a certain kind of carnivorous stone, had the peculiar property of devouring the body placed in it. The sarcophagus known to modern obsequiographers is commonly a product of the carpenter’s art.
SATAN, n. One of the Creator’s lamentable mistakes, repented in sashcloth and axes. Being instated as an archangel, Satan made himself multifariously objectionable and was finally expelled from Heaven. Halfway in his descent he paused, bent his head in thought a moment and at last went back. “There is one favor that I should like to ask,” said he. “Name it." “Man, I understand, is about to be created. He will need laws." “What, wretch! you his appointed adversary, charged from the dawn of eternity with hatred of his soul you ask for the right to make his laws?" “Pardon; what I have to ask is that he be permitted to make them himself." It was so ordered.
SATIETY, n. The feeling that one has for the plate after he has eaten its contents, madam.
SATIRE, n. An obsolete kind of literary composition in which the vices and follies of the author’s enemies were expounded with imperfect tenderness. In this country satire never had more than a sickly and uncertain existence, for the soul of it is wit, wherein we are dolefully deficient, the humor that we mistake for it, like all humor, being tolerant and sympathetic. Moreover, although Americans are “endowed by their Creator” with abundant vice and folly, it is not generally known that these are reprehensible qualities, wherefore the satirist is popularly regarded as a soul-spirited knave, and his ever victim’s outcry for codefendants evokes a national assent.
Hail Satire! be thy praises ever sung In the dead language of a mummy’s tongue, For thou thyself art dead, and damned as well Thy spirit (usefully employed) in Hell. Had it been such as consecrates the Bible Thou hadst not perished by the law of libel.
SATYR, n. One of the few characters of the Grecian mythology accorded recognition in the Hebrew. (Leviticus, xvii, 7.) The satyr was at first a member of the dissolute community acknowledging a loose allegiance with Dionysius, but underwent many transformations and improvements. Not infrequently he is confounded with the faun, a later and decenter creation of the Romans, who was less like a man and more like a goat.
SAUCE, n. The one infallible sign of civilization and enlightenment. A people with no sauces has one thousand vices; a people with one sauce has only nine hundred and ninety-nine. For every sauce invented and accepted a vice is renounced and forgiven.
SAW, n. A trite popular saying, or proverb. (Figurative and colloquial.) So called because it makes its way into a wooden head. Following are examples of old saws fitted with new teeth.
A penny saved is a penny to squander.
A man is known by the company that he organizes. A bad workman quarrels with the man who calls him that.
A bird in the hand is worth what it will bring.
Better late than before anybody has invited you.
Example is better than following it.
Half a loaf is better than a whole one if there is much else.
Think twice before you speak to a friend in need.
What is worth doing is worth the trouble of asking somebody to do it.
Least said is soonest disavowed.
He laughs best who laughs least.
Speak of the Devil and he will hear about it.
Of two evils choose to be the least.
Strike while your employer has a big contract.
Where there’s a will there’s a won’t.
SCARABAEUS, n. The sacred beetle of the ancient Egyptians, allied to our familiar “tumble-bug.” It was supposed to symbolize immortality, the fact that God knew why giving it its peculiar sanctity. Its habit of incubating its eggs in a ball of ordure may also have commended it to the favor of the priesthood, and may some day assure it an equal reverence among ourselves. True, the American beetle is an inferior beetle, but the American priest is an inferior priest.
SCARABEE, n. The same as scarabaeus.
He fell by his own hand Beneath the great oak tree. He’d traveled in a foreign land. He tried to make her understand The dance that’s called the Saraband, But he called it Scarabee. He had called it so through an afternoon, And she, the light of his harem if so might be, Had smiled and said naught. O the body was fair to see, All frosted there in the shine o’ the moon Dead for a Scarabee And a recollection that came too late. O Fate! They buried him where he lay, He sleeps awaiting the Day, In state, And two Possible Puns, moon-eyed and wan, Gloom over the grave and then move on. Dead for a Scarabee! Fernando Tapple
SCARIFICATION, n. A form of penance practised by the mediaeval pious. The rite was performed, sometimes with a knife, sometimes with a hot iron, but always, says Arsenius Asceticus, acceptably if the penitent spared himself no pain nor harmless disfigurement. Scarification, with other crude penances, has now been superseded by benefaction. The founding of a library or endowment of a university is said to yield to the penitent a sharper and more lasting pain than is conferred by the knife or iron, and is therefore a surer means of grace. There are, however, two grave objections to it as a penitential method: the good that it does and the taint of justice.
SCEPTER, n. A king’s staff of office, the sign and symbol of his authority. It was originally a mace with which the sovereign admonished his jester and vetoed ministerial measures by breaking the bones of their proponents.
SCIMETAR, n. A curved sword of exceeding keenness, in the conduct of which certain Orientals attain a surprising proficiency, as the incident here related will serve to show. The account is translated from the Japanese by Shusi Itama, a famous writer of the thirteenth century.
When the great Gichi-Kuktai was Mikado he condemned to decapitation Jijiji Ri, a high officer of the Court. Soon after the hour appointed for performance of the rite what was his Majesty’s surprise to see calmly approaching the throne the man who should have been at that time ten minutes dead! “Seventeen hundred impossible dragons!” shouted the enraged monarch. “Did I not sentence you to stand in the market-place and have your head struck off by the public executioner at three o’clock? And is it not now 3:10?" “Son of a thousand illustrious deities,” answered the condemned minister, “all that you say is so true that the truth is a lie in comparison. But your heavenly Majesty’s sunny and vitalizing wishes have been pestilently disregarded. With joy I ran and placed my unworthy body in the market-place. The executioner appeared with his bare scimetar, ostentatiously whirled it in air, and then, tapping me lightly upon the neck, strode away, pelted by the populace, with whom I was ever a favorite. I am come to pray for justice upon his own dishonorable and treasonous head." “To what regiment of executioners does the black-boweled caitiff belong?” asked the Mikado. “To the gallant Ninety-eight Hundred and Thirty-seventh I know the man. His name is Sakko-Samshi." “Let him be brought before me,” said the Mikado to an attendant, and a half-hour later the culprit stood in the Presence. “Thou bastard son of a three-legged hunchback without thumbs!” roared the sovereign “why didst thou but lightly tap the neck that it should have been thy pleasure to sever?" “Lord of Cranes of Cherry Blooms,” replied the executioner, unmoved, “command him to blow his nose with his fingers." Being commanded, Jijiji Ri laid hold of his nose and trumpeted like an elephant, all expecting to see the severed head flung violently from him. Nothing occurred: the performance prospered peacefully to the close, without incident. All eyes were now turned on the executioner, who had grown as white as the snows on the summit of Fujiama. His legs trembled and his breath came in gasps of terror. “Several kinds of spike-tailed brass lions!” he cried; “I am a ruined and disgraced swordsman! I struck the villain feebly because in flourishing the scimetar I had accidentally passed it through my own neck! Father of the Moon, I resign my office." So saying, he gasped his top-knot, lifted off his head, and advancing to the throne laid it humbly at the Mikado’s feet.
SCRAP-BOOK, n. A book that is commonly edited by a fool. Many persons of some small distinction compile scrap-books containing whatever they happen to read about themselves or employ others to collect. One of these egotists was addressed in the lines following, by Agamemnon Melancthon Peters:
Dear Frank, that scrap-book where you boast You keep a record true Of every kind of peppered roast That’s made of you;
Wherein you paste the printed gibes That revel round your name, Thinking the laughter of the scribes Attests your fame;
Where all the pictures you arrange That comic pencils trace Your funny figure and your strange Semitic face
Pray lend it me. Wit I have not, Nor art, but there I’ll list The daily drubbings you’d have got Had God a fist.
SCRIBBLER, n. A professional writer whose views are antagonistic to 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. In the British museum are preserved many ancient papers, mostly of a sacerdotal character, validated by necromantic pentagrams and other devices, frequently initial letters of words to conjure with; and in many instances these are attached in the same way that seals are appended now. As nearly every reasonless and apparently meaningless custom, rite or observance of modern times had origin in some remote utility, it is pleasing to note an example of ancient nonsense evolving in the process of ages into something really useful. Our word “sincere” is derived from sine cero, without wax, but the learned are not in agreement as to whether this refers to the absence of the cabalistic signs, or to that of the wax with which letters were formerly closed from public scrutiny. Either view of the matter will serve one in immediate need of an hypothesis. The initials L.S., commonly appended to signatures of legal documents, mean locum sigillis, the place of the seal, although the seal is no longer used an admirable example of conservatism distinguishing Man from the beasts that perish. The words locum sigillis are humbly suggested as a suitable motto for the Pribyloff Islands whenever they shall take their place as a sovereign State of the American Union.
SEINE, n. A kind of net for effecting an involuntary change of environment. For fish it is made strong and coarse, but women are more easily taken with a singularly delicate fabric weighted with small, cut stones.
The devil casting a seine of lace, (With precious stones ’twas weighted) Drew it into the landing place And its contents calculated.
All souls of women were in that sack A draft miraculous, precious! But ere he could throw it across his back They’d all escaped through the meshes.
Baruch de Loppis
SELF-ESTEEM, n. An erroneous appraisement.
SELF-EVIDENT, adj. Evident to one’s self and to nobody else.
SELFISH, adj. Devoid of consideration for the selfishness of others.
SENATE, n. A body of elderly gentlemen charged with high duties and 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 “synposis of preceding chapters” for those who have not read them, but a direr need is a synposis of succeeding chapters for those who do not intend to read them. A synposis of the entire work would be still better. The late James F. Bowman was writing a serial tale for a weekly paper in collaboration with a genius whose name has not come down to us. They wrote, not jointly but alternately, Bowman supplying the installment for one week, his friend for the next, and so on, world without end, they hoped. Unfortunately they quarreled, and one Monday morning when Bowman read the paper to prepare himself for his task, he found his work cut out for him in a way to surprise and pain him. His collaborator had embarked every character of the narrative on a ship and sunk them all in the deepest part of the Atlantic.
SEVERALTY, n. Separateness, as, lands in severalty, i.e., lands held individually, not in joint ownership. Certain tribes of Indians are believed now to be sufficiently civilized to have in severalty the lands that they have hitherto held as tribal organizations, and could not sell to the Whites for waxen beads and potato whiskey.
Lo! the poor Indian whose unsuited mind Saw death before, hell and the grave behind; Whom thrifty settler ne’er besought to stay His small belongings their appointed prey; Whom Dispossession, with alluring wile, Persuaded elsewhere every little while! His fire unquenched and his undying worm By “land in severalty” (charming term!) Are cooled and killed, respectively, at last, And he to his new holding anchored fast!
SHERIFF, n. In America the chief executive office of a country, whose most characteristic duties, in some of the Western and Southern States, are the catching and hanging of rogues.
John Elmer Pettibone Cajee (I write of him with little glee) Was just as bad as he could be.
’Twas frequently remarked: “I swon! The sun has never looked upon So bad a man as Neighbor John.”
A sinner through and through, he had This added fault: it made him mad To know another man was bad.
In such a case he thought it right To rise at any hour of night And quench that wicked person’s light.
Despite the town’s entreaties, he Would hale him to the nearest tree And leave him swinging wide and free.
Or sometimes, if the humor came, A luckless wight’s reluctant frame Was given to the cheerful flame.
While it was turning nice and brown, All unconcerned John met the frown Of that austere and righteous town.
“How sad,” his neighbors said, “that he So scornful of the law should be An anar c, h, i, s, t.”
(That is the way that they preferred To utter the abhorrent word, So strong the aversion that it stirred.)
“Resolved,” they said, continuing, “That Badman John must cease this thing Of having his unlawful fling.
“Now, by these sacred relics” here Each man had out a souvenir Got at a lynching yesteryear
“By these we swear he shall forsake His ways, nor cause our hearts to ache By sins of rope and torch and stake.
“We’ll tie his red right hand until He’ll have small freedom to fulfil The mandates of his lawless will.”
So, in convention then and there, They named him Sheriff. The affair Was opened, it is said, with prayer.
J. Milton Sloluck
SIREN, n. One of several musical prodigies famous for a vain attempt to dissuade Odysseus from a life on the ocean wave. Figuratively, any lady of splendid promise, dissembled purpose and disappointing 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.
SMITHAREEN, n. A fragment, a decomponent part, a remain. The word is used variously, but in the following verse on a noted female reformer who opposed bicycle-riding by women because it “led them to the devil” it is seen at its best:
The wheels go round without a sound The maidens hold high revel; In sinful mood, insanely gay, True spinsters spin adown the way From duty to the devil! They laugh, they sing, and ting-a-ling! Their bells go all the morning; Their lanterns bright bestar the night Pedestrians a-warning. With lifted hands Miss Charlotte stands, Good-Lording and O-mying, Her rheumatism forgotten quite, Her fat with anger frying. She blocks the path that leads to wrath, Jack Satan’s power defying. The wheels go round without a sound The lights burn red and blue and green. What’s this that’s found upon the ground? Poor Charlotte Smith’s a smithareen!
John William Yope
SOPHISTRY, n. The controversial method of an opponent, distinguished from one’s own by superior insincerity and fooling. This method is that of the later Sophists, a Grecian sect of philosophers who began by teaching wisdom, prudence, science, art and, in brief, whatever men ought to know, but lost themselves in a maze of quibbles and a fog of words.
His bad opponent’s “facts” he sweeps away, And drags his sophistry to light of day; Then swears they’re pushed to madness who resort To falsehood of so desperate a sort. Not so; like sods upon a dead man’s breast, He lies most lightly who the least is pressed.
SORCERY, n. The ancient prototype and forerunner of political influence. It was, however, deemed less respectable and sometimes was punished by torture and death. Augustine Nicholas relates that a poor peasant who had been accused of sorcery was put to the torture to compel a confession. After enduring a few gentle agonies the suffering simpleton admitted his guilt, but naively asked his tormentors if it were not possible to be a sorcerer without knowing it.
SOUL, n. A spiritual entity concerning which there hath been brave disputation. Plato held that those souls which in a previous state of existence (antedating Athens) had obtained the clearest glimpses of eternal truth entered into the bodies of persons who became philosophers. Plato himself was a philosopher. The souls that had least contemplated divine truth animated the bodies of usurpers and despots. Dionysius I, who had threatened to decapitate the broad- browed philosopher, was a usurper and a despot. Plato, doubtless, was not the first to construct a system of philosophy that could be quoted against his enemies; certainly he was not the last. “Concerning the nature of the soul,” saith the renowned author of Diversiones Sanctorum, “there hath been hardly more argument than that of its place in the body. Mine own belief is that the soul hath her seat in the abdomen in which faith we may discern and interpret a truth hitherto unintelligible, namely that the glutton is of all men most devout. He is said in the Scripture to ’make a god of his belly’ why, then, should he not be pious, having ever his Deity with him to freshen his faith? Who so well as he can know the might and majesty that he shrines? Truly and soberly, the soul and the stomach are one Divine Entity; and such was the belief of Promasius, who nevertheless erred in denying it immortality. He had observed that its visible and material substance failed and decayed with the rest of the body after death, but of its immaterial essence he knew nothing. This is what we call the Appetite, and it survives the wreck and reek of mortality, to be rewarded or punished in another world, according to what it hath demanded in the flesh. The Appetite whose coarse clamoring was for the unwholesome viands of the general market and the public refectory shall be cast into eternal famine, whilst that which firmly through civilly insisted on ortolans, caviare, terrapin, anchovies, pates de foie gras and all such Christian comestibles shall flesh its spiritual tooth in the souls of them forever and ever, and wreak its divine thirst upon the immortal parts of the rarest and richest wines ever quaffed here below. Such is my religious faith, though I grieve to confess that neither His Holiness the Pope nor His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury (whom I equally and profoundly revere) will assent to its dissemination.”
SPOOKER, n. A writer whose imagination concerns itself with supernatural phenomena, especially in the doings of spooks. One of the most illustrious spookers of our time is Mr. William D. Howells, who introduces a well-credentialed reader to as respectable and mannerly a company of spooks as one could wish to meet. To the terror that invests the chairman of a district school board, the Howells ghost adds something of the mystery enveloping a farmer from another township.
STORY, n. A narrative, commonly untrue. The truth of the stories here following has, however, not been successfully impeached.
One evening Mr. Rudolph Block, of New York, found himself seated at dinner alongside Mr. Percival Pollard, the distinguished critic. “Mr. Pollard,” said he, “my book, The Biography of a Dead Cow, is published anonymously, but you can hardly be ignorant of its authorship. Yet in reviewing it you speak of it as the work of the Idiot of the Century. Do you think that fair criticism?" “I am very sorry, sir,” replied the critic, amiably, “but it did not occur to me that you really might not wish the public to know who wrote it.”
Mr. W.C. Morrow, who used to live in San Jose, California, was addicted to writing ghost stories which made the reader feel as if a stream of lizards, fresh from the ice, were streaking it up his back and hiding in his hair. San Jose was at that time believed to be haunted by the visible spirit of a noted bandit named Vasquez, who had been hanged there. The town was not very well lighted, and it is putting it mildly to say that San Jose was reluctant to be out o’ nights. One particularly dark night two gentlemen were abroad in the loneliest spot within the city limits, talking loudly to keep up their courage, when they came upon Mr. J.J. Owen, a well-known journalist. “Why, Owen,” said one, “what brings you here on such a night as this? You told me that this is one of Vasquez’ favorite haunts! And you are a believer. Aren’t you afraid to be out?" “My dear fellow,” the journalist replied with a drear autumnal cadence in his speech, like the moan of a leaf-laden wind, “I am afraid to be in. I have one of Will Morrow’s stories in my pocket and I don’t dare to go where there is light enough to read it." Rear-Admiral Schley and Representative Charles F. Joy were standing near the Peace Monument, in Washington, discussing the question, Is success a failure? Mr. Joy suddenly broke off in the middle of an eloquent sentence, exclaiming: “Hello! I’ve heard that band before. Santlemann’s, I think." “I don’t hear any band,” said Schley. “Come to think, I don’t either,” said Joy; “but I see General Miles coming down the avenue, and that pageant always affects me in the same way as a brass band. One has to scrutinize one’s impressions pretty closely, or one will mistake their origin." While the Admiral was digesting this hasty meal of philosophy General Miles passed in review, a spectacle of impressive dignity. When the tail of the seeming procession had passed and the two observers had recovered from the transient blindness caused by its effulgence “He seems to be enjoying himself,” said the Admiral. “There is nothing,” assented Joy, thoughtfully, “that he enjoys one-half so well.”
The illustrious statesman, Champ Clark, once lived about a mile from the village of Jebigue, in Missouri. One day he rode into town on a favorite mule, and, hitching the beast on the sunny side of a street, in front of a saloon, he went inside in his character of teetotaler, to apprise the barkeeper that wine is a mocker. It was a dreadfully hot day. Pretty soon a neighbor came in and seeing Clark, said: “Champ, it is not right to leave that mule out there in the sun. He’ll roast, sure! he was smoking as I passed him." “O, he’s all right,” said Clark, lightly; “he’s an inveterate smoker." The neighbor took a lemonade, but shook his head and repeated that it was not right. He was a conspirator. There had been a fire the night before: a stable just around the corner had burned and a number of horses had put on their immortality, among them a young colt, which was roasted to a rich nut-brown. Some of the boys had turned Mr. Clark’s mule loose and substituted the mortal part of the colt. Presently another man entered the saloon. “For mercy’s sake!” he said, taking it with sugar, “do remove that mule, barkeeper: it smells." “Yes,” interposed Clark, “that animal has the best nose in Missouri. But if he doesn’t mind, you shouldn’t." In the course of human events Mr. Clark went out, and there, apparently, lay the incinerated and shrunken remains of his charger. The boys idd not have any fun out of Mr. Clarke, who looked at the body and, with the non-committal expression to which he owes so much of his political preferment, went away. But walking home late that night he saw his mule standing silent and solemn by the wayside in the misty moonlight. Mentioning the name of Helen Blazes with uncommon emphasis, Mr. Clark took the back track as hard as ever he could hook it, and passed the night in town.
General H.H. Wotherspoon, president of the Army War College, has a pet rib-nosed baboon, an animal of uncommon intelligence but imperfectly beautiful. Returning to his apartment one evening, the General was surprised and pained to find Adam (for so the creature is named, the general being a Darwinian) sitting up for him and wearing his master’s best uniform coat, epaulettes and all. “You confounded remote ancestor!” thundered the great strategist, “what do you mean by being out of bed after naps? and with my coat on!" Adam rose and with a reproachful look got down on all fours in the manner of his kind and, scuffling across the room to a table, returned with a visiting-card: General Barry had called and, judging by an empty champagne bottle and several cigar-stumps, had been hospitably entertained while waiting. The general apologized to his faithful progenitor and retired. The next day he met General Barry, who said: “Spoon, old man, when leaving you last evening I forgot to ask you about those excellent cigars. Where did you get them?" General Wotherspoon did not deign to reply, but walked away. “Pardon me, please,” said Barry, moving after him; “I was joking of course. Why, I knew it was not you before I had been in the room fifteen minutes.”
SUCCESS, n. The one unpardonable sin against one’s fellows. In literature, and particularly in poetry, the elements of success are exceedingly simple, and are admirably set forth in the following lines by the reverend Father Gassalasca Jape, entitled, for some mysterious reason, “John A. Joyce.”
The bard who would prosper must carry a book, Do his thinking in prose and wear A crimson cravat, a far-away look And a head of hexameter hair. Be thin in your thought and your body’ll be fat; If you wear your hair long you needn’t your hat.
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.
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.
As the lean leech, its victim found, is pleased To fix itself upon a part diseased Till, its black hide distended with bad blood, It drops to die of surfeit in the mud, So the base sycophant with joy descries His neighbor’s weak spot and his mouth applies, Gorges and prospers like the leech, although, Unlike that reptile, he will not let go. Gelasma, if it paid you to devote Your talent to the service of a goat, Showing by forceful logic that its beard Is more than Aaron’s fit to be revered; If to the task of honoring its smell Profit had prompted you, and love as well, The world would benefit at last by you And wealthy malefactors weep anew Your favor for a moment’s space denied And to the nobler object turned aside. Is’t not enough that thrifty millionaires Who loot in freight and spoliate in fares, Or, cursed with consciences that bid them fly To safer villainies of darker dye, Forswearing robbery and fain, instead, To steal (they call it “cornering”) our bread May see you groveling their boots to lick And begging for the favor of a kick? Still must you follow to the bitter end Your sycophantic disposition’s trend, And in your eagerness to please the rich Hunt hungry sinners to their final ditch? In Morgan’s praise you smite the sounding wire, And sing hosannas to great Havemeyher! What’s Satan done that him you should eschew? He too is reeking rich deducting you.
SYLLOGISM, n. A logical formula consisting of a major and a minor assumption and an inconsequent. (See LOGIC.)
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. We cannot stop making them, but we can give them a name that conceals our helplessness.
SYMBOLIC, adj. Pertaining to symbols and the use and interpretation of symbols.
They say ’tis conscience feels compunction; I hold that that’s the stomach’s function, For of the sinner I have noted That when he’s sinned he’s somewhat bloated, Or ill some other ghastly fashion Within that bowel of compassion. True, I believe the only sinner Is he that eats a shabby dinner. You know how Adam with good reason, For eating apples out of season, Was “cursed.” But that is all symbolic: The truth is, Adam had the colic.