FAIRY, n. A creature, variously fashioned and endowed, that formerly
inhabited the meadows and forests. It was nocturnal in its habits,
and somewhat addicted to dancing and the theft of children. The
fairies are now believed by naturalist to be extinct, though a
clergyman of the Church of England saw three near Colchester as lately
as 1855, while passing through a park after dining with the lord of
the manor. The sight greatly staggered him, and he was so affected
that his account of it was incoherent. In the year 1807 a troop of
fairies visited a wood near Aix and carried off the daughter of a
peasant, who had been seen to enter it with a bundle of clothing. The
son of a wealthy bourgeois disappeared about the same time, but
afterward returned. He had seen the abduction been in pursuit of the
fairies. Justinian Gaux, a writer of the fourteenth century, avers
that so great is the fairies’ power of transformation that he saw one
change itself into two opposing armies and fight a battle with great
slaughter, and that the next day, after it had resumed its original
shape and gone away, there were seven hundred bodies of the slain
which the villagers had to bury. He does not say if any of the
wounded recovered. In the time of Henry III, of England, a law was
made which prescribed the death penalty for "Kyllynge, wowndynge, or
mamynge" a fairy, and it was universally respected.
FAITH, n. Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks
without knowledge, of things without parallel.
FAMOUS, adj. Conspicuously miserable.
Done to a turn on the iron, behold
Him who to be famous aspired.
Content? Well, his grill has a plating of gold,
And his twistings are greatly admired.
FASHION, n. A despot whom the wise ridicule and obey.
A king there was who lost an eye
In some excess of passion;
And straight his courtiers all did try
To follow the new fashion.
Each dropped one eyelid when before
The throne he ventured, thinking
‘Twould please the king. That monarch swore
He’d slay them all for winking.
What should they do? They were not hot
To hazard such disaster;
They dared not close an eye – dared not
See better than their master.
Seeing them lacrymose and glum,
A leech consoled the weepers:
He spread small rags with liquid gum
And covered half their peepers.
The court all wore the stuff, the flame
Of royal anger dying.
That’s how court-plaster got its name
Unless I’m greatly lying.
FEAST, n. A festival. A religious celebration usually signalized by
gluttony and drunkenness, frequently in honor of some holy person
distinguished for abstemiousness. In the Roman Catholic Church
feasts are "movable" and "immovable," but the celebrants are uniformly
immovable until they are full. In their earliest development these
entertainments took the form of feasts for the dead; such were held by
the Greeks, under the name Nemeseia, by the Aztecs and Peruvians,
as in modern times they are popular with the Chinese; though it is
believed that the ancient dead, like the modern, were light eaters.
Among the many feasts of the Romans was the Novemdiale, which was
held, according to Livy, whenever stones fell from heaven.
FELON, n. A person of greater enterprise than discretion, who in
embracing an opportunity has formed an unfortunate attachment.
FEMALE, n. One of the opposing, or unfair, sex.
The Maker, at Creation’s birth,
With living things had stocked the earth.
From elephants to bats and snails,
They all were good, for all were males.
But when the Devil came and saw
He said: "By Thine eternal law
Of growth, maturity, decay,
These all must quickly pass away
And leave untenanted the earth
Unless Thou dost establish birth" –
Then tucked his head beneath his wing
To laugh – he had no sleeve – the thing
With deviltry did so accord,
That he’d suggested to the Lord.
The Master pondered this advice,
Then shook and threw the fateful dice
Wherewith all matters here below
Are ordered, and observed the throw;
Then bent His head in awful state,
Confirming the decree of Fate.
From every part of earth anew
The conscious dust consenting flew,
While rivers from their courses rolled
To make it plastic for the mould.
Enough collected (but no more,
For niggard Nature hoards her store)
He kneaded it to flexible clay,
While Nick unseen threw some away.
And then the various forms He cast,
Gross organs first and finer last;
No one at once evolved, but all
By even touches grew and small
Degrees advanced, till, shade by shade,
To match all living things He’d made
Females, complete in all their parts
Except (His clay gave out) the hearts.
"No matter," Satan cried; "with speed
I’ll fetch the very hearts they need" –
So flew away and soon brought back
The number needed, in a sack.
That night earth range with sounds of strife –
Ten million males each had a wife;
That night sweet Peace her pinions spread
O’er Hell – ten million devils dead!
FIB, n. A lie that has not cut its teeth. An habitual liar’s nearest
approach to truth: the perigee of his eccentric orbit.
When David said: "All men are liars," Dave,
Himself a liar, fibbed like any thief.
Perhaps he thought to weaken disbelief
By proof that even himself was not a slave
To Truth; though I suspect the aged knave
Had been of all her servitors the chief
Had he but known a fig’s reluctant leaf
Is more than e’er she wore on land or wave.
No, David served not Naked Truth when he
Struck that sledge-hammer blow at all his race;
Nor did he hit the nail upon the head:
For reason shows that it could never be,
And the facts contradict him to his face.
Men are not liars all, for some are dead.
FICKLENESS, n. The iterated satiety of an enterprising affection.
FIDDLE, n. An instrument to tickle human ears by friction of a
horse’s tail on the entrails of a cat.
To Rome said Nero: "If to smoke you turn
I shall not cease to fiddle while you burn."
To Nero Rome replied: "Pray do your worst,
‘Tis my excuse that you were fiddling first."
FIDELITY, n. A virtue peculiar to those who are about to be betrayed.
FINANCE, n. The art or science of managing revenues and resources for
the best advantage of the manager. The pronunciation of this word
with the i long and the accent on the first syllable is one of
America’s most precious discoveries and possessions.
FLAG, n. A colored rag borne above troops and hoisted on forts and
ships. It appears to serve the same purpose as certain signs that one
sees and vacant lots in London – "Rubbish may be shot here."
FLESH, n. The Second Person of the secular Trinity.
FLOP, v. Suddenly to change one’s opinions and go over to another
party. The most notable flop on record was that of Saul of Tarsus,
who has been severely criticised as a turn-coat by some of our
FLY-SPECK, n. The prototype of punctuation. It is observed by
Garvinus that the systems of punctuation in use by the various
literary nations depended originally upon the social habits and
general diet of the flies infesting the several countries. These
creatures, which have always been distinguished for a neighborly and
companionable familiarity with authors, liberally or niggardly
embellish the manuscripts in process of growth under the pen,
according to their bodily habit, bringing out the sense of the work by
a species of interpretation superior to, and independent of, the
writer’s powers. The "old masters" of literature – that is to say,
the early writers whose work is so esteemed by later scribes and
critics in the same language – never punctuated at all, but worked
right along free-handed, without that abruption of the thought which
comes from the use of points. (We observe the same thing in children
to-day, whose usage in this particular is a striking and beautiful
instance of the law that the infancy of individuals reproduces the
methods and stages of development characterizing the infancy of
races.) In the work of these primitive scribes all the punctuation is
found, by the modern investigator with his optical instruments and
chemical tests, to have been inserted by the writers’ ingenious and
serviceable collaborator, the common house-fly – Musca maledicta.
In transcribing these ancient MSS, for the purpose of either making
the work their own or preserving what they naturally regard as divine
revelations, later writers reverently and accurately copy whatever
marks they find upon the papyrus or parchment, to the unspeakable
enhancement of the lucidity of the thought and value of the work.
Writers contemporary with the copyists naturally avail themselves of
the obvious advantages of these marks in their own work, and with such
assistance as the flies of their own household may be willing to
grant, frequently rival and sometimes surpass the older compositions,
in respect at least of punctuation, which is no small glory. Fully to
understand the important services that flies perform to literature it
is only necessary to lay a page of some popular novelist alongside a
saucer of cream-and-molasses in a sunny room and observe "how the wit
brightens and the style refines" in accurate proportion to the
duration of exposure.
FOLLY, n. That "gift and faculty divine" whose creative and
controlling energy inspires Man’s mind, guides his actions and adorns
Folly! although Erasmus praised thee once
In a thick volume, and all authors known,
If not thy glory yet thy power have shown,
Deign to take homage from thy son who hunts
Through all thy maze his brothers, fool and dunce,
To mend their lives and to sustain his own,
However feebly be his arrows thrown,
Howe’er each hide the flying weapons blunts.
All-Father Folly! be it mine to raise,
With lusty lung, here on his western strand
With all thine offspring thronged from every land,
Thyself inspiring me, the song of praise.
And if too weak, I’ll hire, to help me bawl,
Dick Watson Gilder, gravest of us all.
Aramis Loto Frope
FOOL, n. A person who pervades the domain of intellectual speculation
and diffuses himself through the channels of moral activity. He is
omnific, omniform, omnipercipient, omniscience, omnipotent. He it was
who invented letters, printing, the railroad, the steamboat, the
telegraph, the platitude and the circle of the sciences. He created
patriotism and taught the nations war – founded theology, philosophy,
law, medicine and Chicago. He established monarchical and republican
government. He is from everlasting to everlasting – such as
creation’s dawn beheld he fooleth now. In the morning of time he sang
upon primitive hills, and in the noonday of existence headed the
procession of being. His grandmotherly hand was warmly tucked-in the
set sun of civilization, and in the twilight he prepares Man’s evening
meal of milk-and-morality and turns down the covers of the universal
grave. And after the rest of us shall have retired for the night of
eternal oblivion he will sit up to write a history of human
"Force is but might," the teacher said –
"That definition’s just."
The boy said naught but through instead,
Remembering his pounded head:
"Force is not might but must!"
FOREFINGER, n. The finger commonly used in pointing out two
FOREORDINATION, n. This looks like an easy word to define, but when I
consider that pious and learned theologians have spent long lives in
explaining it, and written libraries to explain their explanations;
when I remember the nations have been divided and bloody battles
caused by the difference between foreordination and predestination,
and that millions of treasure have been expended in the effort to
prove and disprove its compatibility with freedom of the will and the
efficacy of prayer, praise, and a religious life, – recalling these
awful facts in the history of the word, I stand appalled before the
mighty problem of its signification, abase my spiritual eyes, fearing
to contemplate its portentous magnitude, reverently uncover and humbly
refer it to His Eminence Cardinal Gibbons and His Grace Bishop Potter.
FORGETFULNESS, n. A gift of God bestowed upon doctors in compensation
for their destitution of conscience.
FORK, n. An instrument used chiefly for the purpose of putting dead
animals into the mouth. Formerly the knife was employed for this
purpose, and by many worthy persons is still thought to have many
advantages over the other tool, which, however, they do not altogether
reject, but use to assist in charging the knife. The immunity of
these persons from swift and awful death is one of the most striking
proofs of God’s mercy to those that hate Him.
FORMA PAUPERIS. [Latin] In the character of a poor person – a
method by which a litigant without money for lawyers is considerately
permitted to lose his case.
When Adam long ago in Cupid’s awful court
(For Cupid ruled ere Adam was invented)
Sued for Eve’s favor, says an ancient law report,
He stood and pleaded unhabilimented.
"You sue in forma pauperis, I see," Eve cried;
"Actions can’t here be that way prosecuted."
So all poor Adam’s motions coldly were denied:
He went away – as he had come – nonsuited.
FRANKALMOIGNE, n. The tenure by which a religious corporation holds
lands on condition of praying for the soul of the donor. In mediaeval
times many of the wealthiest fraternities obtained their estates in
this simple and cheap manner, and once when Henry VIII of England sent
an officer to confiscate certain vast possessions which a fraternity
of monks held by frankalmoigne, "What!" said the Prior, "would you
master stay our benefactor’s soul in Purgatory?" "Ay," said the
officer, coldly, "an ye will not pray him thence for naught he must
e’en roast." "But look you, my son," persisted the good man, "this
act hath rank as robbery of God!" "Nay, nay, good father, my master
the king doth but deliver him from the manifold temptations of too
FREEBOOTER, n. A conqueror in a small way of business, whose
annexations lack of the sanctifying merit of magnitude.
FREEDOM, n. Exemption from the stress of authority in a beggarly half
dozen of restraint’s infinite multitude of methods. A political
condition that every nation supposes itself to enjoy in virtual
monopoly. Liberty. The distinction between freedom and liberty is
not accurately known; naturalists have never been able to find a
living specimen of either.
Freedom, as every schoolboy knows,
Once shrieked as Kosciusko fell;
On every wind, indeed, that blows
I hear her yell.
She screams whenever monarchs meet,
And parliaments as well,
To bind the chains about her feet
And toll her knell.
And when the sovereign people cast
The votes they cannot spell,
Upon the pestilential blast
Her clamors swell.
For all to whom the power’s given
To sway or to compel,
Among themselves apportion Heaven
And give her Hell.
FREEMASONS, n. An order with secret rites, grotesque ceremonies and
fantastic costumes, which, originating in the reign of Charles II,
among working artisans of London, has been joined successively by the
dead of past centuries in unbroken retrogression until now it embraces
all the generations of man on the hither side of Adam and is drumming
up distinguished recruits among the pre-Creational inhabitants of
Chaos and Formless Void. The order was founded at different times by
Charlemagne, Julius Caesar, Cyrus, Solomon, Zoroaster, Confucious,
Thothmes, and Buddha. Its emblems and symbols have been found in the
Catacombs of Paris and Rome, on the stones of the Parthenon and the
Chinese Great Wall, among the temples of Karnak and Palmyra and in the
Egyptian Pyramids – always by a Freemason.
FRIENDLESS, adj. Having no favors to bestow. Destitute of fortune.
Addicted to utterance of truth and common sense.
FRIENDSHIP, n. A ship big enough to carry two in fair weather, but
only one in foul.
The sea was calm and the sky was blue;
Merrily, merrily sailed we two.
(High barometer maketh glad.)
On the tipsy ship, with a dreadful shout,
The tempest descended and we fell out.
(O the walking is nasty bad!)
Armit Huff Bettle
FROG, n. A reptile with edible legs. The first mention of frogs in
profane literature is in Homer’s narrative of the war between them and
the mice. Skeptical persons have doubted Homer’s authorship of the
work, but the learned, ingenious and industrious Dr. Schliemann has
set the question forever at rest by uncovering the bones of the slain
frogs. One of the forms of moral suasion by which Pharaoh was
besought to favor the Israelities was a plague of frogs, but Pharaoh,
who liked them fricasees, remarked, with truly oriental stoicism,
that he could stand it as long as the frogs and the Jews could; so the
programme was changed. The frog is a diligent songster, having a good
voice but no ear. The libretto of his favorite opera, as written by
Aristophanes, is brief, simple and effective – "brekekex-koax"; the
music is apparently by that eminent composer, Richard Wagner. Horses
have a frog in each hoof – a thoughtful provision of nature, enabling
them to shine in a hurdle race.
FRYING-PAN, n. One part of the penal apparatus employed in that
punitive institution, a woman’s kitchen. The frying-pan was invented
by Calvin, and by him used in cooking span-long infants that had died
without baptism; and observing one day the horrible torment of a tramp
who had incautiously pulled a fried babe from the waste-dump and
devoured it, it occurred to the great divine to rob death of its
terrors by introducing the frying-pan into every household in Geneva.
Thence it spread to all corners of the world, and has been of
invaluable assistance in the propagation of his sombre faith. The
following lines (said to be from the pen of his Grace Bishop Potter)
seem to imply that the usefulness of this utensil is not limited to
this world; but as the consequences of its employment in this life
reach over into the life to come, so also itself may be found on the
other side, rewarding its devotees:
Old Nick was summoned to the skies.
Said Peter: "Your intentions
Are good, but you lack enterprise
Concerning new inventions.
"Now, broiling in an ancient plan
Of torment, but I hear it
Reported that the frying-pan
Sears best the wicked spirit.
"Go get one – fill it up with fat –
Fry sinners brown and good in’t."
"I know a trick worth two o’ that,"
Said Nick – "I’ll cook their food in’t."
FUNERAL, n. A pageant whereby we attest our respect for the dead by
enriching the undertaker, and strengthen our grief by an expenditure
that deepens our groans and doubles our tears.
The savage dies – they sacrifice a horse
To bear to happy hunting-grounds the corse.
Our friends expire – we make the money fly
In hope their souls will chase it to the sky.
FUTURE, n. That period of time in which our affairs prosper, our
friends are true and our happiness is assured.