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The Devil’s Dictionary – “N”

Posted by eGZact on October 26, 2007

NECTAR, n. A drink served at banquets of the Olympian deities. The

secret of its preparation is lost, but the modern Kentuckians believe

that they come pretty near to a knowledge of its chief ingredient.

Juno drank a cup of nectar,

But the draught did not affect her.

Juno drank a cup of rye —

Then she bad herself good-bye.


NEGRO, n. The _piece de resistance_ in the American political

problem. Representing him by the letter n, the Republicans begin to

build their equation thus: “Let n = the white man.” This, however,

appears to give an unsatisfactory solution.

NEIGHBOR, n. One whom we are commanded to love as ourselves, and who

does all he knows how to make us disobedient.

NEPOTISM, n. Appointing your grandmother to office for the good of

the party.

NEWTONIAN, adj. Pertaining to a philosophy of the universe invented

by Newton, who discovered that an apple will fall to the ground, but

was unable to say why. His successors and disciples have advanced so

far as to be able to say when.

NIHILIST, n. A Russian who denies the existence of anything but

Tolstoi. The leader of the school is Tolstoi.

NIRVANA, n. In the Buddhist religion, a state of pleasurable

annihilation awarded to the wise, particularly to those wise enough to

understand it.

NOBLEMAN, n. Nature’s provision for wealthy American minds ambitious

to incur social distinction and suffer high life.

NOISE, n. A stench in the ear. Undomesticated music. The chief

product and authenticating sign of civilization.

NOMINATE, v. To designate for the heaviest political assessment. To

put forward a suitable person to incur the mudgobbling and deadcatting

of the opposition.

NOMINEE, n. A modest gentleman shrinking from the distinction of

private life and diligently seeking the honorable obscurity of public


NON-COMBATANT, n. A dead Quaker.

NONSENSE, n. The objections that are urged against this excellent


NOSE, n. The extreme outpost of the face. From the circumstance that

great conquerors have great noses, Getius, whose writings antedate the

age of humor, calls the nose the organ of quell. It has been observed

that one’s nose is never so happy as when thrust into the affairs of

others, from which some physiologists have drawn the inference that

the nose is devoid of the sense of smell.

There’s a man with a Nose,

And wherever he goes

The people run from him and shout:

“No cotton have we

For our ears if so be

He blow that interminous snout!”

So the lawyers applied

For injunction. “Denied,”

Said the Judge: “the defendant prefixion,

Whate’er it portend,

Appears to transcend

The bounds of this court’s jurisdiction.”

Arpad Singiny

NOTORIETY, n. The fame of one’s competitor for public honors. The

kind of renown most accessible and acceptable to mediocrity. A

Jacob’s-ladder leading to the vaudeville stage, with angels ascending

and descending.

NOUMENON, n. That which exists, as distinguished from that which

merely seems to exist, the latter being a phenomenon. The noumenon is

a bit difficult to locate; it can be apprehended only be a process of

reasoning — which is a phenomenon. Nevertheless, the discovery and

exposition of noumena offer a rich field for what Lewes calls “the

endless variety and excitement of philosophic thought.” Hurrah

(therefore) for the noumenon!

NOVEL, n. A short story padded. A species of composition bearing the

same relation to literature that the panorama bears to art. As it is

too long to be read at a sitting the impressions made by its

successive parts are successively effaced, as in the panorama. Unity,

totality of effect, is impossible; for besides the few pages last read

all that is carried in mind is the mere plot of what has gone before.

To the romance the novel is what photography is to painting. Its

distinguishing principle, probability, corresponds to the literal

actuality of the photograph and puts it distinctly into the category

of reporting; whereas the free wing of the romancer enables him to

mount to such altitudes of imagination as he may be fitted to attain;

and the first three essentials of the literary art are imagination,

imagination and imagination. The art of writing novels, such as it

was, is long dead everywhere except in Russia, where it is new. Peace

to its ashes — some of which have a large sale.

NOVEMBER, n. The eleventh twelfth of a weariness.

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