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The Devil’s Dictionary – “F”

Posted by eGZact on October 26, 2007

FAIRY, n. A creature, variously fashioned and endowed, that formerly

inhabited the meadows and forests. It was nocturnal in its habits,

and somewhat addicted to dancing and the theft of children. The

fairies are now believed by naturalist to be extinct, though a

clergyman of the Church of England saw three near Colchester as lately

as 1855, while passing through a park after dining with the lord of

the manor. The sight greatly staggered him, and he was so affected

that his account of it was incoherent. In the year 1807 a troop of

fairies visited a wood near Aix and carried off the daughter of a

peasant, who had been seen to enter it with a bundle of clothing. The

son of a wealthy _bourgeois_ disappeared about the same time, but

afterward returned. He had seen the abduction been in pursuit of the

fairies. Justinian Gaux, a writer of the fourteenth century, avers

that so great is the fairies’ power of transformation that he saw one

change itself into two opposing armies and fight a battle with great

slaughter, and that the next day, after it had resumed its original

shape and gone away, there were seven hundred bodies of the slain

which the villagers had to bury. He does not say if any of the

wounded recovered. In the time of Henry III, of England, a law was

made which prescribed the death penalty for “Kyllynge, wowndynge, or

mamynge” a fairy, and it was universally respected.

FAITH, n. Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks

without knowledge, of things without parallel.

FAMOUS, adj. Conspicuously miserable.

Done to a turn on the iron, behold

Him who to be famous aspired.

Content? Well, his grill has a plating of gold,

And his twistings are greatly admired.

Hassan Brubuddy

FASHION, n. A despot whom the wise ridicule and obey.

A king there was who lost an eye

In some excess of passion;

And straight his courtiers all did try

To follow the new fashion.

Each dropped one eyelid when before

The throne he ventured, thinking

‘Twould please the king. That monarch swore

He’d slay them all for winking.

What should they do? They were not hot

To hazard such disaster;

They dared not close an eye — dared not

See better than their master.

Seeing them lacrymose and glum,

A leech consoled the weepers:

He spread small rags with liquid gum

And covered half their peepers.

The court all wore the stuff, the flame

Of royal anger dying.

That’s how court-plaster got its name

Unless I’m greatly lying.

Naramy Oof

FEAST, n. A festival. A religious celebration usually signalized by

gluttony and drunkenness, frequently in honor of some holy person

distinguished for abstemiousness. In the Roman Catholic Church

feasts are “movable” and “immovable,” but the celebrants are uniformly

immovable until they are full. In their earliest development these

entertainments took the form of feasts for the dead; such were held by

the Greeks, under the name _Nemeseia_, by the Aztecs and Peruvians,

as in modern times they are popular with the Chinese; though it is

believed that the ancient dead, like the modern, were light eaters.

Among the many feasts of the Romans was the _Novemdiale_, which was

held, according to Livy, whenever stones fell from heaven.

FELON, n. A person of greater enterprise than discretion, who in

embracing an opportunity has formed an unfortunate attachment.

FEMALE, n. One of the opposing, or unfair, sex.

The Maker, at Creation’s birth,

With living things had stocked the earth.

From elephants to bats and snails,

They all were good, for all were males.

But when the Devil came and saw

He said: “By Thine eternal law

Of growth, maturity, decay,

These all must quickly pass away

And leave untenanted the earth

Unless Thou dost establish birth” —

Then tucked his head beneath his wing

To laugh — he had no sleeve — the thing

With deviltry did so accord,

That he’d suggested to the Lord.

The Master pondered this advice,

Then shook and threw the fateful dice

Wherewith all matters here below

Are ordered, and observed the throw;

Then bent His head in awful state,

Confirming the decree of Fate.

From every part of earth anew

The conscious dust consenting flew,

While rivers from their courses rolled

To make it plastic for the mould.

Enough collected (but no more,

For niggard Nature hoards her store)

He kneaded it to flexible clay,

While Nick unseen threw some away.

And then the various forms He cast,

Gross organs first and finer last;

No one at once evolved, but all

By even touches grew and small

Degrees advanced, till, shade by shade,

To match all living things He’d made

Females, complete in all their parts

Except (His clay gave out) the hearts.

“No matter,” Satan cried; “with speed

I’ll fetch the very hearts they need” —

So flew away and soon brought back

The number needed, in a sack.

That night earth range with sounds of strife —

Ten million males each had a wife;

That night sweet Peace her pinions spread

O’er Hell — ten million devils dead!


FIB, n. A lie that has not cut its teeth. An habitual liar’s nearest

approach to truth: the perigee of his eccentric orbit.

When David said: “All men are liars,” Dave,

Himself a liar, fibbed like any thief.

Perhaps he thought to weaken disbelief

By proof that even himself was not a slave

To Truth; though I suspect the aged knave

Had been of all her servitors the chief

Had he but known a fig’s reluctant leaf

Is more than e’er she wore on land or wave.

No, David served not Naked Truth when he

Struck that sledge-hammer blow at all his race;

Nor did he hit the nail upon the head:

For reason shows that it could never be,

And the facts contradict him to his face.

Men are not liars all, for some are dead.

Bartle Quinker

FICKLENESS, n. The iterated satiety of an enterprising affection.

FIDDLE, n. An instrument to tickle human ears by friction of a

horse’s tail on the entrails of a cat.

To Rome said Nero: “If to smoke you turn

I shall not cease to fiddle while you burn.”

To Nero Rome replied: “Pray do your worst,

‘Tis my excuse that you were fiddling first.”

Orm Pludge

FIDELITY, n. A virtue peculiar to those who are about to be betrayed.

FINANCE, n. The art or science of managing revenues and resources for

the best advantage of the manager. The pronunciation of this word

with the i long and the accent on the first syllable is one of

America’s most precious discoveries and possessions.

FLAG, n. A colored rag borne above troops and hoisted on forts and

ships. It appears to serve the same purpose as certain signs that one

sees and vacant lots in London — “Rubbish may be shot here.”

FLESH, n. The Second Person of the secular Trinity.

FLOP, v. Suddenly to change one’s opinions and go over to another

party. The most notable flop on record was that of Saul of Tarsus,

who has been severely criticised as a turn-coat by some of our

partisan journals.

FLY-SPECK, n. The prototype of punctuation. It is observed by

Garvinus that the systems of punctuation in use by the various

literary nations depended originally upon the social habits and

general diet of the flies infesting the several countries. These

creatures, which have always been distinguished for a neighborly and

companionable familiarity with authors, liberally or niggardly

embellish the manuscripts in process of growth under the pen,

according to their bodily habit, bringing out the sense of the work by

a species of interpretation superior to, and independent of, the

writer’s powers. The “old masters” of literature — that is to say,

the early writers whose work is so esteemed by later scribes and

critics in the same language — never punctuated at all, but worked

right along free-handed, without that abruption of the thought which

comes from the use of points. (We observe the same thing in children

to-day, whose usage in this particular is a striking and beautiful

instance of the law that the infancy of individuals reproduces the

methods and stages of development characterizing the infancy of

races.) In the work of these primitive scribes all the punctuation is

found, by the modern investigator with his optical instruments and

chemical tests, to have been inserted by the writers’ ingenious and

serviceable collaborator, the common house-fly — _Musca maledicta_.

In transcribing these ancient MSS, for the purpose of either making

the work their own or preserving what they naturally regard as divine

revelations, later writers reverently and accurately copy whatever

marks they find upon the papyrus or parchment, to the unspeakable

enhancement of the lucidity of the thought and value of the work.

Writers contemporary with the copyists naturally avail themselves of

the obvious advantages of these marks in their own work, and with such

assistance as the flies of their own household may be willing to

grant, frequently rival and sometimes surpass the older compositions,

in respect at least of punctuation, which is no small glory. Fully to

understand the important services that flies perform to literature it

is only necessary to lay a page of some popular novelist alongside a

saucer of cream-and-molasses in a sunny room and observe “how the wit

brightens and the style refines” in accurate proportion to the

duration of exposure.

FOLLY, n. That “gift and faculty divine” whose creative and

controlling energy inspires Man’s mind, guides his actions and adorns

his life.

Folly! although Erasmus praised thee once

In a thick volume, and all authors known,

If not thy glory yet thy power have shown,

Deign to take homage from thy son who hunts

Through all thy maze his brothers, fool and dunce,

To mend their lives and to sustain his own,

However feebly be his arrows thrown,

Howe’er each hide the flying weapons blunts.

All-Father Folly! be it mine to raise,

With lusty lung, here on his western strand

With all thine offspring thronged from every land,

Thyself inspiring me, the song of praise.

And if too weak, I’ll hire, to help me bawl,

Dick Watson Gilder, gravest of us all.

Aramis Loto Frope

FOOL, n. A person who pervades the domain of intellectual speculation

and diffuses himself through the channels of moral activity. He is

omnific, omniform, omnipercipient, omniscience, omnipotent. He it was

who invented letters, printing, the railroad, the steamboat, the

telegraph, the platitude and the circle of the sciences. He created

patriotism and taught the nations war — founded theology, philosophy,

law, medicine and Chicago. He established monarchical and republican

government. He is from everlasting to everlasting — such as

creation’s dawn beheld he fooleth now. In the morning of time he sang

upon primitive hills, and in the noonday of existence headed the

procession of being. His grandmotherly hand was warmly tucked-in the

set sun of civilization, and in the twilight he prepares Man’s evening

meal of milk-and-morality and turns down the covers of the universal

grave. And after the rest of us shall have retired for the night of

eternal oblivion he will sit up to write a history of human



“Force is but might,” the teacher said —

“That definition’s just.”

The boy said naught but thought instead,

Remembering his pounded head:

“Force is not might but must!”

FOREFINGER, n. The finger commonly used in pointing out two


FOREORDINATION, n. This looks like an easy word to define, but when I

consider that pious and learned theologians have spent long lives in

explaining it, and written libraries to explain their explanations;

when I remember the nations have been divided and bloody battles

caused by the difference between foreordination and predestination,

and that millions of treasure have been expended in the effort to

prove and disprove its compatibility with freedom of the will and the

efficacy of prayer, praise, and a religious life, — recalling these

awful facts in the history of the word, I stand appalled before the

mighty problem of its signification, abase my spiritual eyes, fearing

to contemplate its portentous magnitude, reverently uncover and humbly

refer it to His Eminence Cardinal Gibbons and His Grace Bishop Potter.

FORGETFULNESS, n. A gift of God bestowed upon doctors in compensation

for their destitution of conscience.

FORK, n. An instrument used chiefly for the purpose of putting dead

animals into the mouth. Formerly the knife was employed for this

purpose, and by many worthy persons is still thought to have many

advantages over the other tool, which, however, they do not altogether

reject, but use to assist in charging the knife. The immunity of

these persons from swift and awful death is one of the most striking

proofs of God’s mercy to those that hate Him.

FORMA PAUPERIS. [Latin] In the character of a poor person — a

method by which a litigant without money for lawyers is considerately

permitted to lose his case.

When Adam long ago in Cupid’s awful court

(For Cupid ruled ere Adam was invented)

Sued for Eve’s favor, says an ancient law report,

He stood and pleaded unhabilimented.

“You sue _in forma pauperis_, I see,” Eve cried;

“Actions can’t here be that way prosecuted.”

So all poor Adam’s motions coldly were denied:

He went away — as he had come — nonsuited.


FRANKALMOIGNE, n. The tenure by which a religious corporation holds

lands on condition of praying for the soul of the donor. In mediaeval

times many of the wealthiest fraternities obtained their estates in

this simple and cheap manner, and once when Henry VIII of England sent

an officer to confiscate certain vast possessions which a fraternity

of monks held by frankalmoigne, “What!” said the Prior, “would you

master stay our benefactor’s soul in Purgatory?” “Ay,” said the

officer, coldly, “an ye will not pray him thence for naught he must

e’en roast.” “But look you, my son,” persisted the good man, “this

act hath rank as robbery of God!” “Nay, nay, good father, my master

the king doth but deliver him from the manifold temptations of too

great wealth.”

FREEBOOTER, n. A conqueror in a small way of business, whose

annexations lack of the sanctifying merit of magnitude.

FREEDOM, n. Exemption from the stress of authority in a beggarly half

dozen of restraint’s infinite multitude of methods. A political

condition that every nation supposes itself to enjoy in virtual

monopoly. Liberty. The distinction between freedom and liberty is

not accurately known; naturalists have never been able to find a

living specimen of either.

Freedom, as every schoolboy knows,

Once shrieked as Kosciusko fell;

On every wind, indeed, that blows

I hear her yell.

She screams whenever monarchs meet,

And parliaments as well,

To bind the chains about her feet

And toll her knell.

And when the sovereign people cast

The votes they cannot spell,

Upon the pestilential blast

Her clamors swell.

For all to whom the power’s given

To sway or to compel,

Among themselves apportion Heaven

And give her Hell.

Blary O’Gary

FREEMASONS, n. An order with secret rites, grotesque ceremonies and

fantastic costumes, which, originating in the reign of Charles II,

among working artisans of London, has been joined successively by the

dead of past centuries in unbroken retrogression until now it embraces

all the generations of man on the hither side of Adam and is drumming

up distinguished recruits among the pre-Creational inhabitants of

Chaos and Formless Void. The order was founded at different times by

Charlemagne, Julius Caesar, Cyrus, Solomon, Zoroaster, Confucious,

Thothmes, and Buddha. Its emblems and symbols have been found in the

Catacombs of Paris and Rome, on the stones of the Parthenon and the

Chinese Great Wall, among the temples of Karnak and Palmyra and in the

Egyptian Pyramids — always by a Freemason.

FRIENDLESS, adj. Having no favors to bestow. Destitute of fortune.

Addicted to utterance of truth and common sense.

FRIENDSHIP, n. A ship big enough to carry two in fair weather, but

only one in foul.

The sea was calm and the sky was blue;

Merrily, merrily sailed we two.

(High barometer maketh glad.)

On the tipsy ship, with a dreadful shout,

The tempest descended and we fell out.

(O the walking is nasty bad!)

Armit Huff Bettle

FROG, n. A reptile with edible legs. The first mention of frogs in

profane literature is in Homer’s narrative of the war between them and

the mice. Skeptical persons have doubted Homer’s authorship of the

work, but the learned, ingenious and industrious Dr. Schliemann has

set the question forever at rest by uncovering the bones of the slain

frogs. One of the forms of moral suasion by which Pharaoh was

besought to favor the Israelities was a plague of frogs, but Pharaoh,

who liked them _fricasees_, remarked, with truly oriental stoicism,

that he could stand it as long as the frogs and the Jews could; so the

programme was changed. The frog is a diligent songster, having a good

voice but no ear. The libretto of his favorite opera, as written by

Aristophanes, is brief, simple and effective — “brekekex-koax”; the

music is apparently by that eminent composer, Richard Wagner. Horses

have a frog in each hoof — a thoughtful provision of nature, enabling

them to shine in a hurdle race.

FRYING-PAN, n. One part of the penal apparatus employed in that

punitive institution, a woman’s kitchen. The frying-pan was invented

by Calvin, and by him used in cooking span-long infants that had died

without baptism; and observing one day the horrible torment of a tramp

who had incautiously pulled a fried babe from the waste-dump and

devoured it, it occurred to the great divine to rob death of its

terrors by introducing the frying-pan into every household in Geneva.

Thence it spread to all corners of the world, and has been of

invaluable assistance in the propagation of his sombre faith. The

following lines (said to be from the pen of his Grace Bishop Potter)

seem to imply that the usefulness of this utensil is not limited to

this world; but as the consequences of its employment in this life

reach over into the life to come, so also itself may be found on the

other side, rewarding its devotees:

Old Nick was summoned to the skies.

Said Peter: “Your intentions

Are good, but you lack enterprise

Concerning new inventions.

“Now, broiling in an ancient plan

Of torment, but I hear it

Reported that the frying-pan

Sears best the wicked spirit.

“Go get one — fill it up with fat —

Fry sinners brown and good in’t.”

“I know a trick worth two o’ that,”

Said Nick — “I’ll cook their food in’t.”

FUNERAL, n. A pageant whereby we attest our respect for the dead by

enriching the undertaker, and strengthen our grief by an expenditure

that deepens our groans and doubles our tears.

The savage dies — they sacrifice a horse

To bear to happy hunting-grounds the corse.

Our friends expire — we make the money fly

In hope their souls will chase it to the sky.

Jex Wopley

FUTURE, n. That period of time in which our affairs prosper, our

friends are true and our happiness is assured.


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