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The Devil’s Dictionary – “D”

Posted by eGZact on October 25, 2007

DAMN, v. A word formerly much used by the Paphlagonians, the meaning

of which is lost. By the learned Dr. Dolabelly Gak it is believed to

have been a term of satisfaction, implying the highest possible degree

of mental tranquillity. Professor Groke, on the contrary, thinks it

expressed an emotion of tumultuous delight, because it so frequently

occurs in combination with the word _jod_ or _god_, meaning “joy.” It

would be with great diffidence that I should advance an opinion

conflicting with that of either of these formidable authorities.

DANCE, v.i. To leap about to the sound of tittering music, preferably

with arms about your neighbor’s wife or daughter. There are many

kinds of dances, but all those requiring the participation of the two

sexes have two characteristics in common: they are conspicuously

innocent, and warmly loved by the vicious.


A savage beast which, when it sleeps,

Man girds at and despises,

But takes himself away by leaps

And bounds when it arises.

Ambat Delaso

DARING, n. One of the most conspicuous qualities of a man in


DATARY, n. A high ecclesiastic official of the Roman Catholic Church,

whose important function is to brand the Pope’s bulls with the words

_Datum Romae_. He enjoys a princely revenue and the friendship of


DAWN, n. The time when men of reason go to bed. Certain old men

prefer to rise at about that time, taking a cold bath and a long walk

with an empty stomach, and otherwise mortifying the flesh. They then

point with pride to these practices as the cause of their sturdy

health and ripe years; the truth being that they are hearty and old,

not because of their habits, but in spite of them. The reason we find

only robust persons doing this thing is that it has killed all the

others who have tried it.

DAY, n. A period of twenty-four hours, mostly misspent. This period

is divided into two parts, the day proper and the night, or day

improper — the former devoted to sins of business, the latter

consecrated to the other sort. These two kinds of social activity


DEAD, adj.

Done with the work of breathing; done

With all the world; the mad race run

Though to the end; the golden goal

Attained and found to be a hole!

Squatol Johnes

DEBAUCHEE, n. One who has so earnestly pursued pleasure that he has

had the misfortune to overtake it.

DEBT, n. An ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slave-


As, pent in an aquarium, the troutlet

Swims round and round his tank to find an outlet,

Pressing his nose against the glass that holds him,

Nor ever sees the prison that enfolds him;

So the poor debtor, seeing naught around him,

Yet feels the narrow limits that impound him,

Grieves at his debt and studies to evade it,

And finds at last he might as well have paid it.

Barlow S. Vode

DECALOGUE, n. A series of commandments, ten in number — just enough

to permit an intelligent selection for observance, but not enough to

embarrass the choice. Following is the revised edition of the

Decalogue, calculated for this meridian.

Thou shalt no God but me adore:

‘Twere too expensive to have more.

No images nor idols make

For Robert Ingersoll to break.

Take not God’s name in vain; select

A time when it will have effect.

Work not on Sabbath days at all,

But go to see the teams play ball.

Honor thy parents. That creates

For life insurance lower rates.

Kill not, abet not those who kill;

Thou shalt not pay thy butcher’s bill.

Kiss not thy neighbor’s wife, unless

Thine own thy neighbor doth caress

Don’t steal; thou’lt never thus compete

Successfully in business. Cheat.

Bear not false witness — that is low —

But “hear ’tis rumored so and so.”

Cover thou naught that thou hast not

By hook or crook, or somehow, got.


DECIDE, v.i. To succumb to the preponderance of one set of influences

over another set.

A leaf was riven from a tree,

“I mean to fall to earth,” said he.

The west wind, rising, made him veer.

“Eastward,” said he, “I now shall steer.”

The east wind rose with greater force.

Said he: “‘Twere wise to change my course.”

With equal power they contend.

He said: “My judgment I suspend.”

Down died the winds; the leaf, elate,

Cried: “I’ve decided to fall straight.”

“First thoughts are best?” That’s not the moral;

Just choose your own and we’ll not quarrel.

Howe’er your choice may chance to fall,

You’ll have no hand in it at all.


DEFAME, v.t. To lie about another. To tell the truth about another.

DEFENCELESS, adj. Unable to attack.

DEGENERATE, adj. Less conspicuously admirable than one’s ancestors.

The contemporaries of Homer were striking examples of degeneracy; it

required ten of them to raise a rock or a riot that one of the heroes

of the Trojan war could have raised with ease. Homer never tires of

sneering at “men who live in these degenerate days,” which is perhaps

why they suffered him to beg his bread — a marked instance of

returning good for evil, by the way, for if they had forbidden him he

would certainly have starved.

DEGRADATION, n. One of the stages of moral and social progress from

private station to political preferment.

DEINOTHERIUM, n. An extinct pachyderm that flourished when the

Pterodactyl was in fashion. The latter was a native of Ireland, its

name being pronounced Terry Dactyl or Peter O’Dactyl, as the man

pronouncing it may chance to have heard it spoken or seen it printed.

DEJEUNER, n. The breakfast of an American who has been in Paris.

Variously pronounced.

DELEGATION, n. In American politics, an article of merchandise that

comes in sets.

DELIBERATION, n. The act of examining one’s bread to determine which

side it is buttered on.

DELUGE, n. A notable first experiment in baptism which washed away

the sins (and sinners) of the world.

DELUSION, n. The father of a most respectable family, comprising

Enthusiasm, Affection, Self-denial, Faith, Hope, Charity and many

other goodly sons and daughters.

All hail, Delusion! Were it not for thee

The world turned topsy-turvy we should see;

For Vice, respectable with cleanly fancies,

Would fly abandoned Virtue’s gross advances.

Mumfrey Mappel

DENTIST, n. A prestidigitator who, putting metal into your mouth,

pulls coins out of your pocket.

DEPENDENT, adj. Reliant upon another’s generosity for the support

which you are not in a position to exact from his fears.

DEPUTY, n. A male relative of an office-holder, or of his bondsman.

The deputy is commonly a beautiful young man, with a red necktie and

an intricate system of cobwebs extending from his nose to his desk.

When accidentally struck by the janitor’s broom, he gives off a cloud

of dust.

“Chief Deputy,” the Master cried,

“To-day the books are to be tried

By experts and accountants who

Have been commissioned to go through

Our office here, to see if we

Have stolen injudiciously.

Please have the proper entries made,

The proper balances displayed,

Conforming to the whole amount

Of cash on hand — which they will count.

I’ve long admired your punctual way —

Here at the break and close of day,

Confronting in your chair the crowd

Of business men, whose voices loud

And gestures violent you quell

By some mysterious, calm spell —

Some magic lurking in your look

That brings the noisiest to book

And spreads a holy and profound

Tranquillity o’er all around.

So orderly all’s done that they

Who came to draw remain to pay.

But now the time demands, at last,

That you employ your genius vast

In energies more active. Rise

And shake the lightnings from your eyes;

Inspire your underlings, and fling

Your spirit into everything!”

The Master’s hand here dealt a whack

Upon the Deputy’s bent back,

When straightway to the floor there fell

A shrunken globe, a rattling shell

A blackened, withered, eyeless head!

The man had been a twelvemonth dead.

Jamrach Holobom

DESTINY, n. A tyrant’s authority for crime and fool’s excuse for


DIAGNOSIS, n. A physician’s forecast of the disease by the patient’s

pulse and purse.

DIAPHRAGM, n. A muscular partition separating disorders of the chest

from disorders of the bowels.

DIARY, n. A daily record of that part of one’s life, which he can

relate to himself without blushing.

Hearst kept a diary wherein were writ

All that he had of wisdom and of wit.

So the Recording Angel, when Hearst died,

Erased all entries of his own and cried:

“I’ll judge you by your diary.” Said Hearst:

“Thank you; ’twill show you I am Saint the First” —

Straightway producing, jubilant and proud,

That record from a pocket in his shroud.

The Angel slowly turned the pages o’er,

Each stupid line of which he knew before,

Glooming and gleaming as by turns he hit

On Shallow sentiment and stolen wit;

Then gravely closed the book and gave it back.

“My friend, you’ve wandered from your proper track:

You’d never be content this side the tomb —

For big ideas Heaven has little room,

And Hell’s no latitude for making mirth,”

He said, and kicked the fellow back to earth.

“The Mad Philosopher”

DICTATOR, n. The chief of a nation that prefers the pestilence of

despotism to the plague of anarchy.

DICTIONARY, n. A malevolent literary device for cramping the growth

of a language and making it hard and inelastic. This dictionary,

however, is a most useful work.

DIE, n. The singular of “dice.” We seldom hear the word, because

there is a prohibitory proverb, “Never say die.” At long intervals,

however, some one says: “The die is cast,” which is not true, for it

is cut. The word is found in an immortal couplet by that eminent poet

and domestic economist, Senator Depew:

A cube of cheese no larger than a die

May bait the trap to catch a nibbling mie.

DIGESTION, n. The conversion of victuals into virtues. When the

process is imperfect, vices are evolved instead — a circumstance from

which that wicked writer, Dr. Jeremiah Blenn, infers that the ladies

are the greater sufferers from dyspepsia.

DIPLOMACY, n. The patriotic art of lying for one’s country.

DISABUSE, v.t. The present your neighbor with another and better

error than the one which he has deemed it advantageous to embrace.

DISCRIMINATE, v.i. To note the particulars in which one person or

thing is, if possible, more objectionable than another.

DISCUSSION, n. A method of confirming others in their errors.

DISOBEDIENCE, n. The silver lining to the cloud of servitude.

DISOBEY, v.t. To celebrate with an appropriate ceremony the maturity

of a command.

His right to govern me is clear as day,

My duty manifest to disobey;

And if that fit observance e’er I shut

May I and duty be alike undone.

Israfel Brown

DISSEMBLE, v.i. To put a clean shirt upon the character.

Let us dissemble.


DISTANCE, n. The only thing that the rich are willing for the poor to

call theirs, and keep.

DISTRESS, n. A disease incurred by exposure to the prosperity of a


DIVINATION, n. The art of nosing out the occult. Divination is of as

many kinds as there are fruit-bearing varieties of the flowering dunce

and the early fool.

DOG, n. A kind of additional or subsidiary Deity designed to catch

the overflow and surplus of the world’s worship. This Divine Being in

some of his smaller and silkier incarnations takes, in the affection

of Woman, the place to which there is no human male aspirant. The Dog

is a survival — an anachronism. He toils not, neither does he spin,

yet Solomon in all his glory never lay upon a door-mat all day long,

sun-soaked and fly-fed and fat, while his master worked for the means

wherewith to purchase the idle wag of the Solomonic tail, seasoned

with a look of tolerant recognition.

DRAGOON, n. A soldier who combines dash and steadiness in so equal

measure that he makes his advances on foot and his retreats on


DRAMATIST, n. One who adapts plays from the French.

DRUIDS, n. Priests and ministers of an ancient Celtic religion which

did not disdain to employ the humble allurement of human sacrifice.

Very little is now known about the Druids and their faith. Pliny says

their religion, originating in Britain, spread eastward as far as

Persia. Caesar says those who desired to study its mysteries went to

Britain. Caesar himself went to Britain, but does not appear to have

obtained any high preferment in the Druidical Church, although his

talent for human sacrifice was considerable.

Druids performed their religious rites in groves, and knew nothing

of church mortgages and the season-ticket system of pew rents. They

were, in short, heathens and — as they were once complacently

catalogued by a distinguished prelate of the Church of England —


DUCK-BILL, n. Your account at your restaurant during the canvas-back


DUEL, n. A formal ceremony preliminary to the reconciliation of two

enemies. Great skill is necessary to its satisfactory observance; if

awkwardly performed the most unexpected and deplorable consequences

sometimes ensue. A long time ago a man lost his life in a duel.

That dueling’s a gentlemanly vice

I hold; and wish that it had been my lot

To live my life out in some favored spot —

Some country where it is considered nice

To split a rival like a fish, or slice

A husband like a spud, or with a shot

Bring down a debtor doubled in a knot

And ready to be put upon the ice.

Some miscreants there are, whom I do long

To shoot, to stab, or some such way reclaim

The scurvy rogues to better lives and manners,

I seem to see them now — a mighty throng.

It looks as if to challenge _me_ they came,

Jauntily marching with brass bands and banners!

Xamba Q. Dar

DULLARD, n. A member of the reigning dynasty in letters and life.

The Dullards came in with Adam, and being both numerous and sturdy

have overrun the habitable world. The secret of their power is their

insensibility to blows; tickle them with a bludgeon and they laugh

with a platitude. The Dullards came originally from Boeotia, whence

they were driven by stress of starvation, their dullness having

blighted the crops. For some centuries they infested Philistia, and

many of them are called Philistines to this day. In the turbulent

times of the Crusades they withdrew thence and gradually overspread

all Europe, occupying most of the high places in politics, art,

literature, science and theology. Since a detachment of Dullards came

over with the Pilgrims in the _Mayflower_ and made a favorable report

of the country, their increase by birth, immigration, and conversion

has been rapid and steady. According to the most trustworthy

statistics the number of adult Dullards in the United States is but

little short of thirty millions, including the statisticians. The

intellectual centre of the race is somewhere about Peoria, Illinois,

but the New England Dullard is the most shockingly moral.

DUTY, n. That which sternly impels us in the direction of profit,

along the line of desire.

Sir Lavender Portwine, in favor at court,

Was wroth at his master, who’d kissed Lady Port.

His anger provoked him to take the king’s head,

But duty prevailed, and he took the king’s bread,




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