EAT, v.i. To perform successively (and successfully) the functions of
mastication, humectation, and deglutition.
"I was in the drawing-room, enjoying my dinner," said Brillat-
Savarin, beginning an anecdote. "What!" interrupted Rochebriant;
"eating dinner in a drawing-room?" "I must beg you to observe,
monsieur," explained the great gastronome, "that I did not say I was
eating my dinner, but enjoying it. I had dined an hour before."
EAVESDROP, v.i. Secretly to overhear a catalogue of the crimes and
vices of another or yourself.
A lady with one of her ears applied
To an open keyhole heard, inside,
Two female gossips in converse free –
The subject engaging them was she.
"I think," said one, "and my husband thinks
That she’s a prying, inquisitive minx!"
As soon as no more of it she could hear
The lady, indignant, removed her ear.
"I will not stay," she said, with a pout,
"To hear my character lied about!"
ECCENTRICITY, n. A method of distinction so cheap that fools employ
it to accentuate their incapacity.
ECONOMY, n. Purchasing the barrel of whiskey that you do not need for
the price of the cow that you cannot afford.
EDIBLE, adj. Good to eat, and wholesome to digest, as a worm to a
toad, a toad to a snake, a snake to a pig, a pig to a man, and a man
to a worm.
EDITOR, n. A person who combines the judicial functions of Minos,
Rhadamanthus and Æacus, but is placable with an obolus; a severely
virtuous censor, but so charitable withal that he tolerates the
virtues of others and the vices of himself; who flings about him the
splintering lightning and sturdy thunders of admonition till he
resembles a bunch of firecrackers petulantly uttering his mind at the
tail of a dog; then straightway murmurs a mild, melodious lay, soft as
the cooing of a donkey intoning its prayer to the evening star.
Master of mysteries and lord of law, high-pinnacled upon the throne of
thought, his face suffused with the dim splendors of the
Transfiguration, his legs intertwisted and his tongue a-cheek, the
editor spills his will along the paper and cuts it off in lengths to
suit. And at intervals from behind the veil of the temple is heard
the voice of the foreman demanding three inches of wit and six lines
of religious meditation, or bidding him turn off the wisdom and whack
up some pathos.
O, the Lord of Law on the Throne of Thought,
A gilded impostor is he.
Of shreds and patches his robes are wrought,
His crown is brass,
Himself an ass,
And his power is fiddle-dee-dee.
Prankily, crankily prating of naught,
Silly old quilly old Monarch of Thought.
Public opinion’s camp-follower he,
Thundering, blundering, plundering free.
EDUCATION, n. That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the
foolish their lack of understanding.
EFFECT, n. The second of two phenomena which always occur together in
the same order. The first, called a Cause, is said to generate the
other – which is no more sensible than it would be for one who has
never seen a dog except in the pursuit of a rabbit to declare the
rabbit the cause of a dog.
EGOTIST, n. A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in
Megaceph, chosen to serve the State
In the halls of legislative debate,
One day with all his credentials came
To the capitol’s door and announced his name.
The doorkeeper looked, with a comical twist
Of the face, at the eminent egotist,
And said: "Go away, for we settle here
All manner of questions, knotty and queer,
And we cannot have, when the speaker demands
To be told how every member stands,
A man who to all things under the sky
Assents by eternally voting ‘I’."
EJECTION, n. An approved remedy for the disease of garrulity. It is
also much used in cases of extreme poverty.
ELECTOR, n. One who enjoys the sacred privilege of voting for the man
of another man’s choice.
ELECTRICITY, n. The power that causes all natural phenomena not known
to be caused by something else. It is the same thing as lightning,
and its famous attempt to strike Dr. Franklin is one of the most
picturesque incidents in that great and good man’s career. The memory
of Dr. Franklin is justly held in great reverence, particularly in
France, where a waxen effigy of him was recently on exhibition,
bearing the following touching account of his life and services to
"Monsieur Franqulin, inventor of electricity. This
illustrious savant, after having made several voyages around the
world, died on the Sandwich Islands and was devoured by savages,
of whom not a single fragment was ever recovered."
Electricity seems destined to play a most important part in the
arts and industries. The question of its economical application to
some purposes is still unsettled, but experiment has already proved
that it will propel a street car better than a gas jet and give more
light than a horse.
ELEGY, n. A composition in verse, in which, without employing any of
the methods of humor, the writer aims to produce in the reader’s mind
the dampest kind of dejection. The most famous English example begins
somewhat like this:
The cur foretells the knell of parting day;
The loafing herd winds slowly o’er the lea;
The wise man homeward plods; I only stay
To fiddle-faddle in a minor key.
ELOQUENCE, n. The art of orally persuading fools that white is the
color that it appears to be. It includes the gift of making any color
ELYSIUM, n. An imaginary delightful country which the ancients
foolishly believed to be inhabited by the spirits of the good. This
ridiculous and mischievous fable was swept off the face of the earth
by the early Christians – may their souls be happy in Heaven!
EMANCIPATION, n. A bondman’s change from the tyranny of another to
the despotism of himself.
He was a slave: at word he went and came;
His iron collar cut him to the bone.
Then Liberty erased his owner’s name,
Tightened the rivets and inscribed his own.
EMBALM, v.i. To cheat vegetation by locking up the gases upon which
it feeds. By embalming their dead and thereby deranging the natural
balance between animal and vegetable life, the Egyptians made their
once fertile and populous country barren and incapable of supporting
more than a meagre crew. The modern metallic burial casket is a step
in the same direction, and many a dead man who ought now to be
ornamenting his neighbor’s lawn as a tree, or enriching his table as a
bunch of radishes, is doomed to a long inutility. We shall get him
after awhile if we are spared, but in the meantime the violet and rose
are languishing for a nibble at his glutoeus maximus.
EMOTION, n. A prostrating disease caused by a determination of the
heart to the head. It is sometimes accompanied by a copious discharge
of hydrated chloride of sodium from the eyes.
ENCOMIAST, n. A special (but not particular) kind of liar.
END, n. The position farthest removed on either hand from the
The man was perishing apace
Who played the tambourine;
The seal of death was on his face –
‘Twas pallid, for ’twas clean.
"This is the end," the sick man said
In faint and failing tones.
A moment later he was dead,
And Tambourine was Bones.
ENOUGH, pro. All there is in the world if you like it.
Enough is as good as a feast – for that matter
Enougher’s as good as a feast for the platter.
Arbely C. Strunk
ENTERTAINMENT, n. Any kind of amusement whose inroads stop short of
death by injection.
ENTHUSIASM, n. A distemper of youth, curable by small doses of
repentance in connection with outward applications of experience.
Byron, who recovered long enough to call it "entuzy-muzy," had a
relapse, which carried him off – to Missolonghi.
ENVELOPE, n. The coffin of a document; the scabbard of a bill; the
husk of a remittance; the bed-gown of a love-letter.
ENVY, n. Emulation adapted to the meanest capacity.
EPAULET, n. An ornamented badge, serving to distinguish a military
officer from the enemy – that is to say, from the officer of lower
rank to whom his death would give promotion.
EPICURE, n. An opponent of Epicurus, an abstemious philosopher who,
holding that pleasure should be the chief aim of man, wasted no time
in gratification from the senses.
EPIGRAM, n. A short, sharp saying in prose or verse, frequently
characterize by acidity or acerbity and sometimes by wisdom.
Following are some of the more notable epigrams of the learned and
ingenious Dr. Jamrach Holobom:
We know better the needs of ourselves than of others. To
serve oneself is economy of administration.
In each human heart are a tiger, a pig, an ass and a
nightingale. Diversity of character is due to their unequal
There are three sexes; males, females and girls.
Beauty in women and distinction in men are alike in this:
they seem to be the unthinking a kind of credibility.
Women in love are less ashamed than men. They have less to be
While your friend holds you affectionately by both your hands
you are safe, for you can watch both his.
EPITAPH, n. An inscription on a tomb, showing that virtues acquired
by death have a retroactive effect. Following is a touching example:
Here lie the bones of Parson Platt,
Wise, pious, humble and all that,
Who showed us life as all should live it;
Let that be said – and God forgive it!
ERUDITION, n. Dust shaken out of a book into an empty skull.
So wide his erudition’s mighty span,
He knew Creation’s origin and plan
And only came by accident to grief –
He thought, poor man, ’twas right to be a thief.
ESOTERIC, adj. Very particularly abstruse and consummately occult.
The ancient philosophies were of two kinds, – exoteric, those that
the philosophers themselves could partly understand, and esoteric,
those that nobody could understand. It is the latter that have most
profoundly affected modern thought and found greatest acceptance in
ETHNOLOGY, n. The science that treats of the various tribes of Man,
as robbers, thieves, swindlers, dunces, lunatics, idiots and
EUCHARIST, n. A sacred feast of the religious sect of Theophagi.
A dispute once unhappily arose among the members of this sect as
to what it was that they ate. In this controversy some five hundred
thousand have already been slain, and the question is still unsettled.
EULOGY, n. Praise of a person who has either the advantages of wealth
and power, or the consideration to be dead.
EVANGELIST, n. A bearer of good tidings, particularly (in a religious
sense) such as assure us of our own salvation and the damnation of
EVERLASTING, adj. Lasting forever. It is with no small diffidence
that I venture to offer this brief and elementary definition, for I am
not unaware of the existence of a bulky volume by a sometime Bishop of
Worcester, entitled, A Partial Definition of the Word "Everlasting,"
as Used in the Authorized Version of the Holy Scriptures. His book
was once esteemed of great authority in the Anglican Church, and is
still, I understand, studied with pleasure to the mind and profit of
EXCEPTION, n. A thing which takes the liberty to differ from other
things of its class, as an honest man, a truthful woman, etc. "The
exception proves the rule" is an expression constantly upon the lips
of the ignorant, who parrot it from one another with never a thought
of its absurdity. In the Latin, "Exceptio probat regulam" means
that the exception tests the rule, puts it to the proof, not
confirms it. The malefactor who drew the meaning from this
excellent dictum and substituted a contrary one of his own exerted an
evil power which appears to be immortal.
EXCESS, n. In morals, an indulgence that enforces by appropriate
penalties the law of moderation.
Hail, high Excess – especially in wine,
To thee in worship do I bend the knee
Who preach abstemiousness unto me –
My skull thy pulpit, as my paunch thy shrine.
Precept on precept, aye, and line on line,
Could ne’er persuade so sweetly to agree
With reason as thy touch, exact and free,
Upon my forehead and along my spine.
At thy command eschewing pleasure’s cup,
With the hot grape I warm no more my wit;
When on thy stool of penitence I sit
I’m quite converted, for I can’t get up.
Ungrateful he who afterward would falter
To make new sacrifices at thine altar!
This "excommunication" is a word
In speech ecclesiastical oft heard,
And means the damning, with bell, book and candle,
Some sinner whose opinions are a scandal –
A rite permitting Satan to enslave him
Forever, and forbidding Christ to save him.
EXECUTIVE, n. An officer of the Government, whose duty it is to
enforce the wishes of the legislative power until such time as the
judicial department shall be pleased to pronounce them invalid and of
no effect. Following is an extract from an old book entitled, The
Lunarian Astonished – Pfeiffer & Co., Boston, 1803:
LUNARIAN: Then when your Congress has passed a law it goes
directly to the Supreme Court in order that it may at once be
known whether it is constitutional?
TERRESTRIAN: O no; it does not require the approval of the
Supreme Court until having perhaps been enforced for many
years somebody objects to its operation against himself – I
mean his client. The President, if he approves it, begins to
execute it at once.
LUNARIAN: Ah, the executive power is a part of the legislative.
Do your policemen also have to approve the local ordinances
that they enforce?
TERRESTRIAN: Not yet – at least not in their character of
constables. Generally speaking, though, all laws require the
approval of those whom they are intended to restrain.
LUNARIAN: I see. The death warrant is not valid until signed by
TERRESTRIAN: My friend, you put it too strongly; we are not so
LUNARIAN: But this system of maintaining an expensive judicial
machinery to pass upon the validity of laws only after they
have long been executed, and then only when brought before the
court by some private person – does it not cause great
TERRESTRIAN: It does.
LUNARIAN: Why then should not your laws, previously to being
executed, be validated, not by the signature of your
President, but by that of the Chief Justice of the Supreme
TERRESTRIAN: There is no precedent for any such course.
LUNARIAN: Precedent. What is that?
TERRESTRIAN: It has been defined by five hundred lawyers in three
volumes each. So how can any one know?
EXHORT, v.t. In religious affairs, to put the conscience of another
upon the spit and roast it to a nut-brown discomfort.
EXILE, n. One who serves his country by residing abroad, yet is not
An English sea-captain being asked if he had read "The Exile of
Erin," replied: "No, sir, but I should like to anchor on it." Years
afterwards, when he had been hanged as a pirate after a career of
unparalleled atrocities, the following memorandum was found in the
ship’s log that he had kept at the time of his reply:
Aug. 3d, 1842. Made a joke on the ex-Isle of Erin. Coldly
received. War with the whole world!
A transient, horrible, fantastic dream,
Wherein is nothing yet all things do seem:
From which we’re wakened by a friendly nudge
Of our bedfellow Death, and cry: "O fudge!"
EXPERIENCE, n. The wisdom that enables us to recognize as an
undesirable old acquaintance the folly that we have already embraced.
To one who, journeying through night and fog,
Is mired neck-deep in an unwholesome bog,
Experience, like the rising of the dawn,
Reveals the path that he should not have gone.
Joel Frad Bink
EXPOSTULATION, n. One of the many methods by which fools prefer to
lose their friends.
EXTINCTION, n. The raw material out of which theology created the