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The Devil’s Dictionary – “Z”

Posted by eGZact on October 26, 2007

ZANY, n. A popular character in old Italian plays, who imitated with

ludicrous incompetence the _buffone_, or clown, and was therefore the

ape of an ape; for the clown himself imitated the serious characters

of the play. The zany was progenitor to the specialist in humor, as

we to-day have the unhappiness to know him. In the zany we see an

example of creation; in the humorist, of transmission. Another

excellent specimen of the modern zany is the curate, who apes the

rector, who apes the bishop, who apes the archbishop, who apes the


ZANZIBARI, n. An inhabitant of the Sultanate of Zanzibar, off the

eastern coast of Africa. The Zanzibaris, a warlike people, are best

known in this country through a threatening diplomatic incident that

occurred a few years ago. The American consul at the capital occupied

a dwelling that faced the sea, with a sandy beach between. Greatly to

the scandal of this official’s family, and against repeated

remonstrances of the official himself, the people of the city

persisted in using the beach for bathing. One day a woman came down

to the edge of the water and was stooping to remove her attire (a pair

of sandals) when the consul, incensed beyond restraint, fired a charge

of bird-shot into the most conspicuous part of her person.

Unfortunately for the existing _entente cordiale_ between two great

nations, she was the Sultana.

ZEAL, n. A certain nervous disorder afflicting the young and

inexperienced. A passion that goeth before a sprawl.

When Zeal sought Gratitude for his reward

He went away exclaiming: “O my Lord!”

“What do you want?” the Lord asked, bending down.

“An ointment for my cracked and bleeding crown.”

Jum Coople

ZENITH, n. The point in the heavens directly overhead to a man

standing or a growing cabbage. A man in bed or a cabbage in the pot

is not considered as having a zenith, though from this view of the

matter there was once a considerably dissent among the learned, some

holding that the posture of the body was immaterial. These were

called Horizontalists, their opponents, Verticalists. The

Horizontalist heresy was finally extinguished by Xanobus, the

philosopher-king of Abara, a zealous Verticalist. Entering an

assembly of philosophers who were debating the matter, he cast a

severed human head at the feet of his opponents and asked them to

determine its zenith, explaining that its body was hanging by the

heels outside. Observing that it was the head of their leader, the

Horizontalists hastened to profess themselves converted to whatever

opinion the Crown might be pleased to hold, and Horizontalism took its

place among _fides defuncti_.

ZEUS, n. The chief of Grecian gods, adored by the Romans as Jupiter

and by the modern Americans as God, Gold, Mob and Dog. Some explorers

who have touched upon the shores of America, and one who professes to

have penetrated a considerable distance to the interior, have thought

that these four names stand for as many distinct deities, but in his

monumental work on Surviving Faiths, Frumpp insists that the natives

are monotheists, each having no other god than himself, whom he

worships under many sacred names.

ZIGZAG, v.t. To move forward uncertainly, from side to side, as one

carrying the white man’s burden. (From _zed_, _z_, and _jag_, an

Icelandic word of unknown meaning.)

He zedjagged so uncomen wyde

Thet non coude pas on eyder syde;

So, to com saufly thruh, I been

Constreynet for to doodge betwene.


ZOOLOGY, n. The science and history of the animal kingdom, including

its king, the House Fly (_Musca maledicta_). The father of Zoology

was Aristotle, as is universally conceded, but the name of its mother

has not come down to us. Two of the science’s most illustrious

expounders were Buffon and Oliver Goldsmith, from both of whom we

learn (_L’Histoire generale des animaux_ and _A History of Animated

Nature_) that the domestic cow sheds its horn every two years.

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