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The Devil’s Dictionary – “K”

Posted by eGZact on October 25, 2007

K is a consonant that we get from the Greeks, but it can be traced

away back beyond them to the Cerathians, a small commercial nation

inhabiting the peninsula of Smero. In their tongue it was called

_Klatch_, which means “destroyed.” The form of the letter was

originally precisely that of our H, but the erudite Dr. Snedeker

explains that it was altered to its present shape to commemorate the

destruction of the great temple of Jarute by an earthquake, _circa_

730 B.C. This building was famous for the two lofty columns of its

portico, one of which was broken in half by the catastrophe, the other

remaining intact. As the earlier form of the letter is supposed to

have been suggested by these pillars, so, it is thought by the great

antiquary, its later was adopted as a simple and natural — not to say

touching — means of keeping the calamity ever in the national memory.

It is not known if the name of the letter was altered as an additional

mnemonic, or if the name was always _Klatch_ and the destruction one

of nature’s puns. As each theory seems probable enough, I see no

objection to believing both — and Dr. Snedeker arrayed himself on

that side of the question.

KEEP, v.t.

He willed away his whole estate,

And then in death he fell asleep,

Murmuring: “Well, at any rate,

My name unblemished I shall keep.”

But when upon the tomb ’twas wrought

Whose was it? — for the dead keep naught.

Durang Gophel Arn

KILL, v.t. To create a vacancy without nominating a successor.

KILT, n. A costume sometimes worn by Scotchmen in America and

Americans in Scotland.

KINDNESS, n. A brief preface to ten volumes of exaction.

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.

A king, in times long, long gone by,

Said to his lazy jester:

“If I were you and you were I

My moments merrily would fly —

Nor care nor grief to pester.”

“The reason, Sire, that you would thrive,”

The fool said — “if you’ll hear it —

Is that of all the fools alive

Who own you for their sovereign, I’ve

The most forgiving spirit.”

Oogum Bem

KING’S EVIL, n. A malady that was formerly cured by the touch of the

sovereign, but has now to be treated by the physicians. Thus ‘the

most pious Edward” of England used to lay his royal hand upon the

ailing subjects and make them whole —

a crowd of wretched souls

That stay his cure: their malady convinces

The great essay of art; but at his touch,

Such sanctity hath Heaven given his hand,

They presently amend,

as the “Doctor” in _Macbeth_ hath it. This useful property of the

royal hand could, it appears, be transmitted along with other crown

properties; for according to “Malcolm,”

’tis spoken

To the succeeding royalty he leaves

The healing benediction.

But the gift somewhere dropped out of the line of succession: the

later sovereigns of England have not been tactual healers, and the

disease once honored with the name “king’s evil” now bears the humbler

one of “scrofula,” from _scrofa_, a sow. The date and author of the

following epigram are known only to the author of this dictionary, but

it is old enough to show that the jest about Scotland’s national

disorder is not a thing of yesterday.

Ye Kynge his evill in me laye,

Wh. he of Scottlande charmed awaye.

He layde his hand on mine and sayd:

“Be gone!” Ye ill no longer stayd.

But O ye wofull plyght in wh.

I’m now y-pight: I have ye itche!

The superstition that maladies can be cured by royal taction is

dead, but like many a departed conviction it has left a monument of

custom to keep its memory green. The practice of forming a line and

shaking the President’s hand had no other origin, and when that great

dignitary bestows his healing salutation on

strangely visited people,

All swoln and ulcerous, pitiful to the eye,

The mere despair of surgery,

he and his patients are handing along an extinguished torch which once

was kindled at the altar-fire of a faith long held by all classes of

men. It is a beautiful and edifying “survival” — one which brings

the sainted past close home in our “business and bosoms.”

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.

KNIGHT, n.

Once a warrior gentle of birth,

Then a person of civic worth,

Now a fellow to move our mirth.

Warrior, person, and fellow — no more:

We must knight our dogs to get any lower.

Brave Knights Kennelers then shall be,

Noble Knights of the Golden Flea,

Knights of the Order of St. Steboy,

Knights of St. Gorge and Sir Knights Jawy.

God speed the day when this knighting fad

Shall go to the dogs and the dogs go mad.

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.

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