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The Devil’s Dictionary – “M”

Posted by eGZact on October 26, 2007

MACE, n. A staff of office signifying authority. Its form, that of a

heavy club, indicates its original purpose and use in dissuading from


MACHINATION, n. The method employed by one’s opponents in baffling

one’s open and honorable efforts to do the right thing.

So plain the advantages of machination

It constitutes a moral obligation,

And honest wolves who think upon’t with loathing

Feel bound to don the sheep’s deceptive clothing.

So prospers still the diplomatic art,

And Satan bows, with hand upon his heart.


MACROBIAN, n. One forgotten of the gods and living to a great age.

History is abundantly supplied with examples, from Methuselah to Old

Parr, but some notable instances of longevity are less well known. A

Calabrian peasant named Coloni, born in 1753, lived so long that he

had what he considered a glimpse of the dawn of universal peace.

Scanavius relates that he knew an archbishop who was so old that he

could remember a time when he did not deserve hanging. In 1566 a

linen draper of Bristol, England, declared that he had lived five

hundred years, and that in all that time he had never told a lie.

There are instances of longevity (_macrobiosis_) in our own country.

Senator Chauncey Depew is old enough to know better. The editor of

_The American_, a newspaper in New York City, has a memory that goes

back to the time when he was a rascal, but not to the fact. The

President of the United States was born so long ago that many of the

friends of his youth have risen to high political and military

preferment without the assistance of personal merit. The verses

following were written by a macrobian:

When I was young the world was fair

And amiable and sunny.

A brightness was in all the air,

In all the waters, honey.

The jokes were fine and funny,

The statesmen honest in their views,

And in their lives, as well,

And when you heard a bit of news

‘Twas true enough to tell.

Men were not ranting, shouting, reeking,

Nor women “generally speaking.”

The Summer then was long indeed:

It lasted one whole season!

The sparkling Winter gave no heed

When ordered by Unreason

To bring the early peas on.

Now, where the dickens is the sense

In calling that a year

Which does no more than just commence

Before the end is near?

When I was young the year extended

From month to month until it ended.

I know not why the world has changed

To something dark and dreary,

And everything is now arranged

To make a fellow weary.

The Weather Man — I fear he

Has much to do with it, for, sure,

The air is not the same:

It chokes you when it is impure,

When pure it makes you lame.

With windows closed you are asthmatic;

Open, neuralgic or sciatic.

Well, I suppose this new regime

Of dun degeneration

Seems eviler than it would seem

To a better observation,

And has for compensation

Some blessings in a deep disguise

Which mortal sight has failed

To pierce, although to angels’ eyes

They’re visible unveiled.

If Age is such a boon, good land!

He’s costumed by a master hand!

Venable Strigg

MAD, adj. Affected with a high degree of intellectual independence;

not conforming to standards of thought, speech and action derived by

the conformants from study of themselves; at odds with the majority;

in short, unusual. It is noteworthy that persons are pronounced mad

by officials destitute of evidence that themselves are sane. For

illustration, this present (and illustrious) lexicographer is no

firmer in the faith of his own sanity than is any inmate of any

madhouse in the land; yet for aught he knows to the contrary, instead

of the lofty occupation that seems to him to be engaging his powers he

may really be beating his hands against the window bars of an asylum

and declaring himself Noah Webster, to the innocent delight of many

thoughtless spectators.

MAGDALENE, n. An inhabitant of Magdala. Popularly, a woman found

out. This definition of the word has the authority of ignorance, Mary

of Magdala being another person than the penitent woman mentioned by

St. Luke. It has also the official sanction of the governments of

Great Britain and the United States. In England the word is

pronounced Maudlin, whence maudlin, adjective, unpleasantly

sentimental. With their Maudlin for Magdalene, and their Bedlam for

Bethlehem, the English may justly boast themselves the greatest of


MAGIC, n. An art of converting superstition into coin. There are

other arts serving the same high purpose, but the discreet

lexicographer does not name them.

MAGNET, n. Something acted upon by magnetism.

MAGNETISM, n. Something acting upon a magnet.

The two definitions immediately foregoing are condensed from the

works of one thousand eminent scientists, who have illuminated the

subject with a great white light, to the inexpressible advancement of

human knowledge.

MAGNIFICENT, adj. Having a grandeur or splendor superior to that to

which the spectator is accustomed, as the ears of an ass, to a rabbit,

or the glory of a glowworm, to a maggot.

MAGNITUDE, n. Size. Magnitude being purely relative, nothing is

large and nothing small. If everything in the universe were increased

in bulk one thousand diameters nothing would be any larger than it was

before, but if one thing remain unchanged all the others would be

larger than they had been. To an understanding familiar with the

relativity of magnitude and distance the spaces and masses of the

astronomer would be no more impressive than those of the microscopist.

For anything we know to the contrary, the visible universe may be a

small part of an atom, with its component ions, floating in the life-

fluid (luminiferous ether) of some animal. Possibly the wee creatures

peopling the corpuscles of our own blood are overcome with the proper

emotion when contemplating the unthinkable distance from one of these

to another.

MAGPIE, n. A bird whose thievish disposition suggested to someone

that it might be taught to talk.

MAIDEN, n. A young person of the unfair sex addicted to clewless

conduct and views that madden to crime. The genus has a wide

geographical distribution, being found wherever sought and deplored

wherever found. The maiden is not altogether unpleasing to the eye,

nor (without her piano and her views) insupportable to the ear, though

in respect to comeliness distinctly inferior to the rainbow, and, with

regard to the part of her that is audible, bleating out of the field

by the canary — which, also, is more portable.

A lovelorn maiden she sat and sang —

This quaint, sweet song sang she;

“It’s O for a youth with a football bang

And a muscle fair to see!

The Captain he

Of a team to be!

On the gridiron he shall shine,

A monarch by right divine,

And never to roast on it — me!”

Opoline Jones

MAJESTY, n. The state and title of a king. Regarded with a just

contempt by the Most Eminent Grand Masters, Grand Chancellors, Great

Incohonees and Imperial Potentates of the ancient and honorable orders

of republican America.

MALE, n. A member of the unconsidered, or negligible sex. The male

of the human race is commonly known (to the female) as Mere Man. The

genus has two varieties: good providers and bad providers.

MALEFACTOR, n. The chief factor in the progress of the human race.

MALTHUSIAN, adj. Pertaining to Malthus and his doctrines. Malthus

believed in artificially limiting population, but found that it could

not be done by talking. One of the most practical exponents of the

Malthusian idea was Herod of Judea, though all the famous soldiers

have been of the same way of thinking.

MAMMALIA, A family of vertebrate animals whose females in a

state of nature suckle their young, but when civilized and enlightened

put them out to nurse, or use the bottle.

MAMMON, n. The god of the world’s leading religion. The chief temple

is in the holy city of New York.

He swore that all other religions were gammon,

And wore out his knees in the worship of Mammon.

Jared Oopf

MAN, n. An animal so lost in rapturous contemplation of what he

thinks he is as to overlook what he indubitably ought to be. His

chief occupation is extermination of other animals and his own

species, which, however, multiplies with such insistent rapidity as to

infest the whole habitable earth and Canada.

When the world was young and Man was new,

And everything was pleasant,

Distinctions Nature never drew

‘Mongst kings and priest and peasant.

We’re not that way at present,

Save here in this Republic, where

We have that old regime,

For all are kings, however bare

Their backs, howe’er extreme

Their hunger. And, indeed, each has a voice

To accept the tyrant of his party’s choice.

A citizen who would not vote,

And, therefore, was detested,

Was one day with a tarry coat

(With feathers backed and breasted)

By patriots invested.

“It is your duty,” cried the crowd,

“Your ballot true to cast

For the man o’ your choice.” He humbly bowed,

And explained his wicked past:

“That’s what I very gladly would have done,

Dear patriots, but he has never run.”

Apperton Duke

MANES, n. The immortal parts of dead Greeks and Romans. They were in

a state of dull discomfort until the bodies from which they had

exhaled were buried and burned; and they seem not to have been

particularly happy afterward.

MANICHEISM, n. The ancient Persian doctrine of an incessant warfare

between Good and Evil. When Good gave up the fight the Persians

joined the victorious Opposition.

MANNA, n. A food miraculously given to the Israelites in the

wilderness. When it was no longer supplied to them they settled

down and tilled the soil, fertilizing it, as a rule, with the bodies

of the original occupants.

MARRIAGE, n. The state or condition of a community consisting of a

master, a mistress and two slaves, making in all, two.

MARTYR, n. One who moves along the line of least reluctance to a

desired death.

MATERIAL, adj. Having an actual existence, as distinguished from an

imaginary one. Important.

Material things I know, or fell, or see;

All else is immaterial to me.

Jamrach Holobom

MAUSOLEUM, n. The final and funniest folly of the rich.

MAYONNAISE, n. One of the sauces which serve the French in place of a

state religion.

ME, pro. The objectionable case of I. The personal pronoun in

English has three cases, the dominative, the objectionable and the

oppressive. Each is all three.

MEANDER, n. To proceed sinuously and aimlessly. The word is the

ancient name of a river about one hundred and fifty miles south of

Troy, which turned and twisted in the effort to get out of hearing

when the Greeks and Trojans boasted of their prowess.

MEDAL, n. A small metal disk given as a reward for virtues,

attainments or services more or less authentic.

It is related of Bismark, who had been awarded a medal for

gallantly rescuing a drowning person, that, being asked the meaning of

the medal, he replied: “I save lives sometimes.” And sometimes he


MEDICINE, n. A stone flung down the Bowery to kill a dog in Broadway.

MEEKNESS, n. Uncommon patience in planning a revenge that is worth


M is for Moses,

Who slew the Egyptian.

As sweet as a rose is

The meekness of Moses.

No monument shows his

Post-mortem inscription,

But M is for Moses

Who slew the Egyptian.

_The Biographical Alphabet_

MEERSCHAUM, n. (Literally, seafoam, and by many erroneously supposed

to be made of it.) A fine white clay, which for convenience in

coloring it brown is made into tobacco pipes and smoked by the workmen

engaged in that industry. The purpose of coloring it has not been

disclosed by the manufacturers.

There was a youth (you’ve heard before,

This woeful tale, may be),

Who bought a meerschaum pipe and swore

That color it would he!

He shut himself from the world away,

Nor any soul he saw.

He smoke by night, he smoked by day,

As hard as he could draw.

His dog died moaning in the wrath

Of winds that blew aloof;

The weeds were in the gravel path,

The owl was on the roof.

“He’s gone afar, he’ll come no more,”

The neighbors sadly say.

And so they batter in the door

To take his goods away.

Dead, pipe in mouth, the youngster lay,

Nut-brown in face and limb.

“That pipe’s a lovely white,” they say,

“But it has colored him!”

The moral there’s small need to sing —

‘Tis plain as day to you:

Don’t play your game on any thing

That is a gamester too.

Martin Bulstrode

MENDACIOUS, adj. Addicted to rhetoric.

MERCHANT, n. One engaged in a commercial pursuit. A commercial

pursuit is one in which the thing pursued is a dollar.

MERCY, n. An attribute beloved of detected offenders.

MESMERISM, n. Hypnotism before it wore good clothes, kept a carriage

and asked Incredulity to dinner.

METROPOLIS, n. A stronghold of provincialism.

MILLENNIUM, n. The period of a thousand years when the lid is to be

screwed down, with all reformers on the under side.

MIND, n. A mysterious form of matter secreted by the brain. Its

chief activity consists in the endeavor to ascertain its own nature,

the futility of the attempt being due to the fact that it has nothing

but itself to know itself with. From the Latin _mens_, a fact unknown

to that honest shoe-seller, who, observing that his learned competitor

over the way had displayed the motto “_Mens conscia recti_,”

emblazoned his own front with the words “Men’s, women’s and children’s

conscia recti.”

MINE, adj. Belonging to me if I can hold or seize it.

MINISTER, n. An agent of a higher power with a lower responsibility.

In diplomacy and officer sent into a foreign country as the visible

embodiment of his sovereign’s hostility. His principal qualification

is a degree of plausible inveracity next below that of an ambassador.

MINOR, adj. Less objectionable.

MINSTREL, adj. Formerly a poet, singer or musician; now a nigger with

a color less than skin deep and a humor more than flesh and blood can


MIRACLE, n. An act or event out of the order of nature and

unaccountable, as beating a normal hand of four kings and an ace with

four aces and a king.

MISCREANT, n. A person of the highest degree of unworth.

Etymologically, the word means unbeliever, and its present

signification may be regarded as theology’s noblest contribution to

the development of our language.

MISDEMEANOR, n. An infraction of the law having less dignity than a

felony and constituting no claim to admittance into the best criminal


By misdemeanors he essays to climb

Into the aristocracy of crime.

O, woe was him! — with manner chill and grand

“Captains of industry” refused his hand,

“Kings of finance” denied him recognition

And “railway magnates” jeered his low condition.

He robbed a bank to make himself respected.

They still rebuffed him, for he was detected.

S.V. Hanipur

MISERICORDE, n. A dagger which in mediaeval warfare was used by the

foot soldier to remind an unhorsed knight that he was mortal.

MISFORTUNE, n. The kind of fortune that never misses.

MISS, n. The title with which we brand unmarried women to indicate

that they are in the market. Miss, Missis (Mrs.) and Mister (Mr.) are

the three most distinctly disagreeable words in the language, in sound

and sense. Two are corruptions of Mistress, the other of Master. In

the general abolition of social titles in this our country they

miraculously escaped to plague us. If we must have them let us be

consistent and give one to the unmarried man. I venture to suggest

Mush, abbreviated to Mh.

MOLECULE, n. The ultimate, indivisible unit of matter. It is

distinguished from the corpuscle, also the ultimate, indivisible unit

of matter, by a closer resemblance to the atom, also the ultimate,

indivisible unit of matter. Three great scientific theories of the

structure of the universe are the molecular, the corpuscular and the

atomic. A fourth affirms, with Haeckel, the condensation of

precipitation of matter from ether — whose existence is proved by the

condensation of precipitation. The present trend of scientific

thought is toward the theory of ions. The ion differs from the

molecule, the corpuscle and the atom in that it is an ion. A fifth

theory is held by idiots, but it is doubtful if they know any more

about the matter than the others.

MONAD, n. The ultimate, indivisible unit of matter. (See

_Molecule_.) According to Leibnitz, as nearly as he seems willing to

be understood, the monad has body without bulk, and mind without

manifestation — Leibnitz knows him by the innate power of

considering. He has founded upon him a theory of the universe, which

the creature bears without resentment, for the monad is a gentleman.

Small as he is, the monad contains all the powers and possibilities

needful to his evolution into a German philosopher of the first class

— altogether a very capable little fellow. He is not to be

confounded with the microbe, or bacillus; by its inability to discern

him, a good microscope shows him to be of an entirely distinct


MONARCH, n. A person engaged in reigning. Formerly the monarch

ruled, as the derivation of the word attests, and as many subjects

have had occasion to learn. In Russia and the Orient the monarch has

still a considerable influence in public affairs and in the

disposition of the human head, but in western Europe political

administration is mostly entrusted to his ministers, he being

somewhat preoccupied with reflections relating to the status of his

own head.


MONDAY, n. In Christian countries, the day after the baseball game.

MONEY, n. A blessing that is of no advantage to us excepting when we

part with it. An evidence of culture and a passport to polite

society. Supportable property.

MONKEY, n. An arboreal animal which makes itself at home in

genealogical trees.

MONOSYLLABIC, adj. Composed of words of one syllable, for literary

babes who never tire of testifying their delight in the vapid compound

by appropriate googoogling. The words are commonly Saxon — that is

to say, words of a barbarous people destitute of ideas and incapable

of any but the most elementary sentiments and emotions.

The man who writes in Saxon

Is the man to use an ax on


MONSIGNOR, n. A high ecclesiastical title, of which the Founder of

our religion overlooked the advantages.

MONUMENT, n. A structure intended to commemorate something which

either needs no commemoration or cannot be commemorated.

The bones of Agammemnon are a show,

And ruined is his royal monument,

but Agammemnon’s fame suffers no diminution in consequence. The

monument custom has its _reductiones ad absurdum_ in monuments “to the

unknown dead” — that is to say, monuments to perpetuate the memory of

those who have left no memory.

MORAL, adj. Conforming to a local and mutable standard of right.

Having the quality of general expediency.

It is sayd there be a raunge of mountaynes in the Easte, on

one syde of the which certayn conducts are immorall, yet on the other

syde they are holden in good esteeme; wherebye the mountayneer is much

conveenyenced, for it is given to him to goe downe eyther way and act

as it shall suite his moode, withouten offence.

_Gooke’s Meditations_

MORE, adj. The comparative degree of too much.

MOUSE, n. An animal which strews its path with fainting women. As in

Rome Christians were thrown to the lions, so centuries earlier in

Otumwee, the most ancient and famous city of the world, female

heretics were thrown to the mice. Jakak-Zotp, the historian, the only

Otumwump whose writings have descended to us, says that these martyrs

met their death with little dignity and much exertion. He even

attempts to exculpate the mice (such is the malice of bigotry) by

declaring that the unfortunate women perished, some from exhaustion,

some of broken necks from falling over their own feet, and some from

lack of restoratives. The mice, he avers, enjoyed the pleasures of

the chase with composure. But if “Roman history is nine-tenths

lying,” we can hardly expect a smaller proportion of that rhetorical

figure in the annals of a people capable of so incredible cruelty to a

lovely women; for a hard heart has a false tongue.

MOUSQUETAIRE, n. A long glove covering a part of the arm. Worn in

New Jersey. But “mousquetaire” is a might poor way to spell


MOUTH, n. In man, the gateway to the soul; in woman, the outlet of

the heart.

MUGWUMP, n. In politics one afflicted with self-respect and addicted

to the vice of independence. A term of contempt.

MULATTO, n. A child of two races, ashamed of both.

MULTITUDE, n. A crowd; the source of political wisdom and virtue. In

a republic, the object of the statesman’s adoration. “In a multitude

of counsellors there is wisdom,” saith the proverb. If many men of

equal individual wisdom are wiser than any one of them, it must be

that they acquire the excess of wisdom by the mere act of getting

together. Whence comes it? Obviously from nowhere — as well say

that a range of mountains is higher than the single mountains

composing it. A multitude is as wise as its wisest member if it obey

him; if not, it is no wiser than its most foolish.

MUMMY, n. An ancient Egyptian, formerly in universal use among modern

civilized nations as medicine, and now engaged in supplying art with

an excellent pigment. He is handy, too, in museums in gratifying the

vulgar curiosity that serves to distinguish man from the lower


By means of the Mummy, mankind, it is said,

Attests to the gods its respect for the dead.

We plunder his tomb, be he sinner or saint,

Distil him for physic and grind him for paint,

Exhibit for money his poor, shrunken frame,

And with levity flock to the scene of the shame.

O, tell me, ye gods, for the use of my rhyme:

For respecting the dead what’s the limit of time?

Scopas Brune

MUSTANG, n. An indocile horse of the western plains. In English

society, the American wife of an English nobleman.

MYRMIDON, n. A follower of Achilles — particularly when he didn’t


MYTHOLOGY, n. The body of a primitive people’s beliefs concerning its

origin, early history, heroes, deities and so forth, as distinguished

from the true accounts which it invents later.

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