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The Devil’s Dictionary – “G”

Posted by eGZact on October 26, 2007

GALLOWS, n. A stage for the performance of miracle plays, in which

the leading actor is translated to heaven. In this country the

gallows is chiefly remarkable for the number of persons who escape it.

Whether on the gallows high

Or where blood flows the reddest,

The noblest place for man to die —

Is where he died the deadest.

(Old play)

GARGOYLE, n. A rain-spout projecting from the eaves of mediaeval

buildings, commonly fashioned into a grotesque caricature of some

personal enemy of the architect or owner of the building. This was

especially the case in churches and ecclesiastical structures

generally, in which the gargoyles presented a perfect rogues’ gallery

of local heretics and controversialists. Sometimes when a new dean

and chapter were installed the old gargoyles were removed and others

substituted having a closer relation to the private animosities of the

new incumbents.

GARTHER, n. An elastic band intended to keep a woman from coming out

of her stockings and desolating the country.

GENEROUS, adj. Originally this word meant noble by birth and was

rightly applied to a great multitude of persons. It now means noble

by nature and is taking a bit of a rest.

GENEALOGY, n. An account of one’s descent from an ancestor who did

not particularly care to trace his own.

GENTEEL, adj. Refined, after the fashion of a gent.

Observe with care, my son, the distinction I reveal:

A gentleman is gentle and a gent genteel.

Heed not the definitions your “Unabridged” presents,

For dictionary makers are generally gents.


GEOGRAPHER, n. A chap who can tell you offhand the difference between

the outside of the world and the inside.

Habeam, geographer of wide reknown,

Native of Abu-Keber’s ancient town,

In passing thence along the river Zam

To the adjacent village of Xelam,

Bewildered by the multitude of roads,

Got lost, lived long on migratory toads,

Then from exposure miserably died,

And grateful travelers bewailed their guide.

Henry Haukhorn

GEOLOGY, n. The science of the earth’s crust — to which, doubtless,

will be added that of its interior whenever a man shall come up

garrulous out of a well. The geological formations of the globe

already noted are catalogued thus: The Primary, or lower one,

consists of rocks, bones or mired mules, gas-pipes, miners’ tools,

antique statues minus the nose, Spanish doubloons and ancestors. The

Secondary is largely made up of red worms and moles. The Tertiary

comprises railway tracks, patent pavements, grass, snakes, mouldy

boots, beer bottles, tomato cans, intoxicated citizens, garbage,

anarchists, snap-dogs and fools.

GHOST, n. The outward and visible sign of an inward fear.

He saw a ghost.

It occupied — that dismal thing! —

The path that he was following.

Before he’d time to stop and fly,

An earthquake trifled with the eye

That saw a ghost.

He fell as fall the early good;

Unmoved that awful vision stood.

The stars that danced before his ken

He wildly brushed away, and then

He saw a post.

Jared Macphester

Accounting for the uncommon behavior of ghosts, Heine mentions

somebody’s ingenious theory to the effect that they are as much

afraid of us as we of them. Not quite, if I may judge from such

tables of comparative speed as I am able to compile from memories of

my own experience.

There is one insuperable obstacle to a belief in ghosts. A ghost

never comes naked: he appears either in a winding-sheet or “in his

habit as he lived.” To believe in him, then, is to believe that not

only have the dead the power to make themselves visible after there is

nothing left of them, but that the same power inheres in textile

fabrics. Supposing the products of the loom to have this ability,

what object would they have in exercising it? And why does not the

apparition of a suit of clothes sometimes walk abroad without a ghost

in it? These be riddles of significance. They reach away down and

get a convulsive grip on the very tap-root of this flourishing faith.

GHOUL, n. A demon addicted to the reprehensible habit of devouring

the dead. The existence of ghouls has been disputed by that class of

controversialists who are more concerned to deprive the world of

comforting beliefs than to give it anything good in their place. In

1640 Father Secchi saw one in a cemetery near Florence and frightened

it away with the sign of the cross. He describes it as gifted with

many heads an an uncommon allowance of limbs, and he saw it in more

than one place at a time. The good man was coming away from dinner at

the time and explains that if he had not been “heavy with eating” he

would have seized the demon at all hazards. Atholston relates that a

ghoul was caught by some sturdy peasants in a churchyard at Sudbury

and ducked in a horsepond. (He appears to think that so distinguished

a criminal should have been ducked in a tank of rosewater.) The water

turned at once to blood “and so contynues unto ys daye.” The pond has

since been bled with a ditch. As late as the beginning of the

fourteenth century a ghoul was cornered in the crypt of the cathedral

at Amiens and the whole population surrounded the place. Twenty armed

men with a priest at their head, bearing a crucifix, entered and

captured the ghoul, which, thinking to escape by the stratagem, had

transformed itself to the semblance of a well known citizen, but was

nevertheless hanged, drawn and quartered in the midst of hideous

popular orgies. The citizen whose shape the demon had assumed was so

affected by the sinister occurrence that he never again showed himself

in Amiens and his fate remains a mystery.

GLUTTON, n. A person who escapes the evils of moderation by

committing dyspepsia.

GNOME, n. In North-European mythology, a dwarfish imp inhabiting the

interior parts of the earth and having special custody of mineral

treasures. Bjorsen, who died in 1765, says gnomes were common enough

in the southern parts of Sweden in his boyhood, and he frequently saw

them scampering on the hills in the evening twilight. Ludwig

Binkerhoof saw three as recently as 1792, in the Black Forest, and

Sneddeker avers that in 1803 they drove a party of miners out of a

Silesian mine. Basing our computations upon data supplied by these

statements, we find that the gnomes were probably extinct as early as


GNOSTICS, n. A sect of philosophers who tried to engineer a fusion

between the early Christians and the Platonists. The former would not

go into the caucus and the combination failed, greatly to the chagrin

of the fusion managers.

GNU, n. An animal of South Africa, which in its domesticated state

resembles a horse, a buffalo and a stag. In its wild condition it is

something like a thunderbolt, an earthquake and a cyclone.

A hunter from Kew caught a distant view

Of a peacefully meditative gnu,

And he said: “I’ll pursue, and my hands imbrue

In its blood at a closer interview.”

But that beast did ensue and the hunter it threw

O’er the top of a palm that adjacent grew;

And he said as he flew: “It is well I withdrew

Ere, losing my temper, I wickedly slew

That really meritorious gnu.”

Jarn Leffer

GOOD, adj. Sensible, madam, to the worth of this present writer.

Alive, sir, to the advantages of letting him alone.

GOOSE, n. A bird that supplies quills for writing. These, by some

occult process of nature, are penetrated and suffused with various

degrees of the bird’s intellectual energies and emotional character,

so that when inked and drawn mechanically across paper by a person

called an “author,” there results a very fair and accurate transcript

of the fowl’s thought and feeling. The difference in geese, as

discovered by this ingenious method, is considerable: many are found

to have only trivial and insignificant powers, but some are seen to be

very great geese indeed.


The Gorgon was a maiden bold

Who turned to stone the Greeks of old

That looked upon her awful brow.

We dig them out of ruins now,

And swear that workmanship so bad

Proves all the ancient sculptors mad.

GOUT, n. A physician’s name for the rheumatism of a rich patient.

GRACES, n. Three beautiful goddesses, Aglaia, Thalia and Euphrosyne,

who attended upon Venus, serving without salary. They were at no

expense for board and clothing, for they ate nothing to speak of and

dressed according to the weather, wearing whatever breeze happened to

be blowing.

GRAMMAR, n. A system of pitfalls thoughtfully prepared for the feet

for the self-made man, along the path by which he advances to



Hail noble fruit! — by Homer sung,

Anacreon and Khayyam;

Thy praise is ever on the tongue

Of better men than I am.

The lyre in my hand has never swept,

The song I cannot offer:

My humbler service pray accept —

I’ll help to kill the scoffer.

The water-drinkers and the cranks

Who load their skins with liquor —

I’ll gladly bear their belly-tanks

And tap them with my sticker.

Fill up, fill up, for wisdom cools

When e’er we let the wine rest.

Here’s death to Prohibition’s fools,

And every kind of vine-pest!

Jamrach Holobom

GRAPESHOT, n. An argument which the future is preparing in answer to

the demands of American Socialism.

GRAVE, n. A place in which the dead are laid to await the coming of

the medical student.

Beside a lonely grave I stood —

With brambles ’twas encumbered;

The winds were moaning in the wood,

Unheard by him who slumbered,

A rustic standing near, I said:

“He cannot hear it blowing!”

“‘Course not,” said he: “the feller’s dead —

He can’t hear nowt [sic] that’s going.”

“Too true,” I said; “alas, too true —

No sound his sense can quicken!”

“Well, mister, wot is that to you? —

The deadster ain’t a-kickin’.”

I knelt and prayed: “O Father, smile

On him, and mercy show him!”

That countryman looked on the while,

And said: “Ye didn’t know him.”

Pobeter Dunko

GRAVITATION, n. The tendency of all bodies to approach one another

with a strength proportion to the quantity of matter they contain —

the quantity of matter they contain being ascertained by the strength

of their tendency to approach one another. This is a lovely and

edifying illustration of how science, having made A the proof of B,

makes B the proof of A.

GREAT, adj.

“I’m great,” the Lion said — “I reign

The monarch of the wood and plain!”

The Elephant replied: “I’m great —

No quadruped can match my weight!”

“I’m great — no animal has half

So long a neck!” said the Giraffe.

“I’m great,” the Kangaroo said — “see

My femoral muscularity!”

The ‘Possum said: “I’m great — behold,

My tail is lithe and bald and cold!”

An Oyster fried was understood

To say: “I’m great because I’m good!”

Each reckons greatness to consist

In that in which he heads the list,

And Vierick thinks he tops his class

Because he is the greatest ass.

Arion Spurl Doke

GUILLOTINE, n. A machine which makes a Frenchman shrug his shoulders

with good reason.

In his great work on _Divergent Lines of Racial Evolution_, the

learned Professor Brayfugle argues from the prevalence of this gesture

— the shrug — among Frenchmen, that they are descended from turtles

and it is simply a survival of the habit of retracing the head inside

the shell. It is with reluctance that I differ with so eminent an

authority, but in my judgment (as more elaborately set forth and

enforced in my work entitled _Hereditary Emotions_ — lib. II, c. XI)

the shrug is a poor foundation upon which to build so important a

theory, for previously to the Revolution the gesture was unknown. I

have not a doubt that it is directly referable to the terror inspired

by the guillotine during the period of that instrument’s activity.

GUNPOWDER, n. An agency employed by civilized nations for the

settlement of disputes which might become troublesome if left

unadjusted. By most writers the invention of gunpowder is ascribed to

the Chinese, but not upon very convincing evidence. Milton says it

was invented by the devil to dispel angels with, and this opinion

seems to derive some support from the scarcity of angels. Moreover,

it has the hearty concurrence of the Hon. James Wilson, Secretary of


Secretary Wilson became interested in gunpowder through an event

that occurred on the Government experimental farm in the District of

Columbia. One day, several years ago, a rogue imperfectly reverent of

the Secretary’s profound attainments and personal character presented

him with a sack of gunpowder, representing it as the sed of the

_Flashawful flabbergastor_, a Patagonian cereal of great commercial

value, admirably adapted to this climate. The good Secretary was

instructed to spill it along in a furrow and afterward inhume it with

soil. This he at once proceeded to do, and had made a continuous line

of it all the way across a ten-acre field, when he was made to look

backward by a shout from the generous donor, who at once dropped a

lighted match into the furrow at the starting-point. Contact with the

earth had somewhat dampened the powder, but the startled functionary

saw himself pursued by a tall moving pillar of fire and smoke and

fierce evolution. He stood for a moment paralyzed and speechless,

then he recollected an engagement and, dropping all, absented himself

thence with such surprising celerity that to the eyes of spectators

along the route selected he appeared like a long, dim streak

prolonging itself with inconceivable rapidity through seven villages,

and audibly refusing to be comforted. “Great Scott! what is that?”

cried a surveyor’s chainman, shading his eyes and gazing at the fading

line of agriculturist which bisected his visible horizon. “That,”

said the surveyor, carelessly glancing at the phenomenon and again

centering his attention upon his instrument, “is the Meridian of



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