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The Devil’s Dictionary – “W”

Posted by eGZact on October 26, 2007

W (double U) has, of all the letters in our alphabet, the only

cumbrous name, the names of the others being monosyllabic. This

advantage of the Roman alphabet over the Grecian is the more valued

after audibly spelling out some simple Greek word, like

_epixoriambikos_. Still, it is now thought by the learned that other

agencies than the difference of the two alphabets may have been

concerned in the decline of “the glory that was Greece” and the rise

of “the grandeur that was Rome.” There can be no doubt, however, that

by simplifying the name of W (calling it “wow,” for example) our

civilization could be, if not promoted, at least better endured.

WALL STREET, n. A symbol for sin for every devil to rebuke. That

Wall Street is a den of thieves is a belief that serves every

unsuccessful thief in place of a hope in Heaven. Even the great and

good Andrew Carnegie has made his profession of faith in the matter.

Carnegie the dauntless has uttered his call

To battle: “The brokers are parasites all!”

Carnegie, Carnegie, you’ll never prevail;

Keep the wind of your slogan to belly your sail,

Go back to your isle of perpetual brume,

Silence your pibroch, doff tartan and plume:

Ben Lomond is calling his son from the fray —

Fly, fly from the region of Wall Street away!

While still you’re possessed of a single baubee

(I wish it were pledged to endowment of me)

‘Twere wise to retreat from the wars of finance

Lest its value decline ere your credit advance.

For a man ‘twixt a king of finance and the sea,

Carnegie, Carnegie, your tongue is too free!

Anonymus Bink

WAR, n. A by-product of the arts of peace. The most menacing

political condition is a period of international amity. The student

of history who has not been taught to expect the unexpected may justly

boast himself inaccessible to the light. “In time of peace prepare

for war” has a deeper meaning than is commonly discerned; it means,

not merely that all things earthly have an end — that change is the

one immutable and eternal law — but that the soil of peace is thickly

sown with the seeds of war and singularly suited to their germination

and growth. It was when Kubla Khan had decreed his “stately pleasure

dome” — when, that is to say, there were peace and fat feasting in

Xanadu — that he

heard from afar

Ancestral voices prophesying war.

One of the greatest of poets, Coleridge was one of the wisest of

men, and it was not for nothing that he read us this parable. Let us

have a little less of “hands across the sea,” and a little more of

that elemental distrust that is the security of nations. War loves to

come like a thief in the night; professions of eternal amity provide

the night.

WASHINGTONIAN, n. A Potomac tribesman who exchanged the privilege of

governing himself for the advantage of good government. In justice to

him it should be said that he did not want to.

They took away his vote and gave instead

The right, when he had earned, to _eat_ his bread.

In vain — he clamors for his “boss,” pour soul,

To come again and part him from his roll.

Offenbach Stutz

WEAKNESSES, Certain primal powers of Tyrant Woman wherewith she

holds dominion over the male of her species, binding him to the

service of her will and paralyzing his rebellious energies.

WEATHER, n. The climate of the hour. A permanent topic of

conversation among persons whom it does not interest, but who have

inherited the tendency to chatter about it from naked arboreal

ancestors whom it keenly concerned. The setting up official weather

bureaus and their maintenance in mendacity prove that even governments

are accessible to suasion by the rude forefathers of the jungle.

Once I dipt into the future far as human eye could see,

And I saw the Chief Forecaster, dead as any one can be —

Dead and damned and shut in Hades as a liar from his birth,

With a record of unreason seldom paralleled on earth.

While I looked he reared him solemnly, that incandescent youth,

From the coals that he’d preferred to the advantages of truth.

He cast his eyes about him and above him; then he wrote

On a slab of thin asbestos what I venture here to quote —

For I read it in the rose-light of the everlasting glow:

“Cloudy; variable winds, with local showers; cooler; snow.”

Halcyon Jones

WEDDING, n. A ceremony at which two persons undertake to become one,

one undertakes to become nothing, and nothing undertakes to become


WEREWOLF, n. A wolf that was once, or is sometimes, a man. All

werewolves are of evil disposition, having assumed a bestial form to

gratify a beastial appetite, but some, transformed by sorcery, are as

humane and is consistent with an acquired taste for human flesh.

Some Bavarian peasants having caught a wolf one evening, tied it

to a post by the tail and went to bed. The next morning nothing was

there! Greatly perplexed, they consulted the local priest, who told

them that their captive was undoubtedly a werewolf and had resumed its

human for during the night. “The next time that you take a wolf,” the

good man said, “see that you chain it by the leg, and in the morning

you will find a Lutheran.”

WHANGDEPOOTENAWAH, n. In the Ojibwa tongue, disaster; an unexpected

affliction that strikes hard.

Should you ask me whence this laughter,

Whence this audible big-smiling,

With its labial extension,

With its maxillar distortion

And its diaphragmic rhythmus

Like the billowing of an ocean,

Like the shaking of a carpet,

I should answer, I should tell you:

From the great deeps of the spirit,

From the unplummeted abysmus

Of the soul this laughter welleth

As the fountain, the gug-guggle,

Like the river from the canon [sic],

To entoken and give warning

That my present mood is sunny.

Should you ask me further question —

Why the great deeps of the spirit,

Why the unplummeted abysmus

Of the soule extrudes this laughter,

This all audible big-smiling,

I should answer, I should tell you

With a white heart, tumpitumpy,

With a true tongue, honest Injun:

William Bryan, he has Caught It,

Caught the Whangdepootenawah!

Is’t the sandhill crane, the shankank,

Standing in the marsh, the kneedeep,

Standing silent in the kneedeep

With his wing-tips crossed behind him

And his neck close-reefed before him,

With his bill, his william, buried

In the down upon his bosom,

With his head retracted inly,

While his shoulders overlook it?

Does the sandhill crane, the shankank,

Shiver grayly in the north wind,

Wishing he had died when little,

As the sparrow, the chipchip, does?

No ’tis not the Shankank standing,

Standing in the gray and dismal

Marsh, the gray and dismal kneedeep.

No, ’tis peerless William Bryan

Realizing that he’s Caught It,

Caught the Whangdepootenawah!

WHEAT, n. A cereal from which a tolerably good whisky can with some

difficulty be made, and which is used also for bread. The French are

said to eat more bread _per capita_ of population than any other

people, which is natural, for only they know how to make the stuff


WHITE, adj. and n. Black.

WIDOW, n. A pathetic figure that the Christian world has agreed to

take humorously, although Christ’s tenderness towards widows was one

of the most marked features of his character.

WINE, n. Fermented grape-juice known to the Women’s Christian Union

as “liquor,” sometimes as “rum.” Wine, madam, is God’s next best gift

to man.

WIT, n. The salt with which the American humorist spoils his

intellectual cookery by leaving it out.

WITCH, n. (1) Any ugly and repulsive old woman, in a wicked league

with the devil. (2) A beautiful and attractive young woman, in

wickedness a league beyond the devil.

WITTICISM, n. A sharp and clever remark, usually quoted, and seldom

noted; what the Philistine is pleased to call a “joke.”


An animal usually living in the vicinity of Man, and having a

rudimentary susceptibility to domestication. It is credited by

many of the elder zoologists with a certain vestigial docility

acquired in a former state of seclusion, but naturalists of the

postsusananthony period, having no knowledge of the seclusion,

deny the virtue and declare that such as creation’s dawn beheld,

it roareth now. The species is the most widely distributed of all

beasts of prey, infesting all habitable parts of the globe, from

Greeland’s spicy mountains to India’s moral strand. The popular

name (wolfman) is incorrect, for the creature is of the cat kind.

The woman is lithe and graceful in its movement, especially the

American variety (_felis pugnans_), is omnivorous and can be

taught not to talk.

Balthasar Pober

WORMS’-MEAT, n. The finished product of which we are the raw

material. The contents of the Taj Mahal, the Tombeau Napoleon and the

Granitarium. Worms’-meat is usually outlasted by the structure that

houses it, but “this too must pass away.” Probably the silliest work

in which a human being can engage is construction of a tomb for

himself. The solemn purpose cannot dignify, but only accentuates by

contrast the foreknown futility.

Ambitious fool! so mad to be a show!

How profitless the labor you bestow

Upon a dwelling whose magnificence

The tenant neither can admire nor know.

Build deep, build high, build massive as you can,

The wanton grass-roots will defeat the plan

By shouldering asunder all the stones

In what to you would be a moment’s span.

Time to the dead so all unreckoned flies

That when your marble is all dust, arise,

If wakened, stretch your limbs and yawn —

You’ll think you scarcely can have closed your eyes.

What though of all man’s works your tomb alone

Should stand till Time himself be overthrown?

Would it advantage you to dwell therein

Forever as a stain upon a stone?

Joel Huck

WORSHIP, n. Homo Creator’s testimony to the sound construction and

fine finish of Deus Creatus. A popular form of abjection, having an

element of pride.

WRATH, n. Anger of a superior quality and degree, appropriate to

exalted characters and momentous occasions; as, “the wrath of God,”

“the day of wrath,” etc. Amongst the ancients the wrath of kings was

deemed sacred, for it could usually command the agency of some god for

its fit manifestation, as could also that of a priest. The Greeks

before Troy were so harried by Apollo that they jumped out of the

frying-pan of the wrath of Cryses into the fire of the wrath of

Achilles, though Agamemnon, the sole offender, was neither fried nor

roasted. A similar noted immunity was that of David when he incurred

the wrath of Yahveh by numbering his people, seventy thousand of whom

paid the penalty with their lives. God is now Love, and a director of

the census performs his work without apprehension of disaster.

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