A. The first letter in every properly constructed alphabet. It is the first natural utterance of the human vocal organs, and is variously sounded, according to the pleasure and convenience of the speaker. In logic, A asserts and B denies. Assertions being proverbially untrue, the presumption would be in favor of B's innocence were it not that denials are notoriously false. In grammar, A is called the indefinite article, probably because, denoting a definite number, it is so obviously a numeral adjective.
ABACOT, n. A cap of state wrought into the shape of two crowns, formerly worn by kings. Very pretty monarchs had it made in the form of three crowns.
ABACTOR, n. One who steals a whole herd of cattle, as distinguished from the inferior actor who steals one animal at a time — a superior stock actor, as it were.
ABACUS, n. In architecture, the upper part of a column, upon which, in all good architecture, sits the thoughtful stork pondering unutterable things.
ABADA, n. An African animal having three horns, two on the head and one on the nape of the neck by which to hang up the carcass after the head has been removed. In those varieties that are not hunted by man, this third horn is imperfectly developed or wholly wanting.
ABADDON, n. [1.] A certain person who is much in society, but whom one does not meet. A bad one. [2.] The Adversary of Souls, considered under one of his many charming aspects.
ABANDON, v.t. [1.] To correct an erring friend or admonish a needy one. Of women the word abandoned is used in the sense of indiscreet. [2.] To confer the advantage of being rid of you. To recant.
Thank heaven, I have abandoned the follies of youth for those of age.
—Chauncey Depew
ABASEMENT, n. A decent and customary mental attitude in the presence of wealth or power. Peculiarly appropriate in an employee when addressing an employer.
ABATIS, n. [1.] Rubbish in front of a fort, to prevent the rubbish outside from molesting the rubbish inside. [2.] Embarrassing circumstances placed outside a fort in order to augment the coy reluctance of the enemy.
ABATTOIR, n. A place where cattle slaughter kine. It is commonly placed at some distance from the haunts of our species, in order that they who devour the flesh may not be shocked by the sight of the blood.
ABAT-VOIX, n. A sounding brass above a tinkling cymbal.
ABBA, n. A father who has made a vow not to be a husband.
ABBESS, n. A female father.
ABDERIAN, n. Abderian laughter is idle and senseless laughter; so called because Democritus, an idle and senseless philosopher, is said to have been born at Abdera, whence the word was hardly worth importing.
ABDEST, n. The Mohammedan ceremony of inspiring water through the nose before expiring prayer from the stomach.
ABDICATION, n. [1.] An act whereby a sovereign attests his sense of the high temperature of the throne.
Poor Isabella's Dead, whose abdication
Set all tongues wagging in the Spanish nation.
For that performance 'twere unfair to scold her:
She wisely left a throne too hot to hold her.
To History she'll be no royal riddle —
Merely a plain parched pea that jumped the griddle.

[2.] The surrender of a crown for a cowl, in order to compile the shin-bones and toe-nails of saints. The voluntary renunciation of that of which one has previously been deprived by force. The giving up of a throne for the purpose of enjoying the discomfiture of a successor. For these several definitions we are indebted to Spanish history.
ABDOMEN, n. [1.] The temple of the god Stomach, in whose worship, with sacrificial rights, all true men engage. From women this ancient faith commands but a stammering assent. They sometimes minister at the altar in a half-hearted and ineffective way, but true reverence for the one deity that men really adore they know not. If woman had a free hand in the world's marketing the race would become graminivorous. [2.] A shrine enclosing the object.
ABDUCTION, n. [1.] In law, a crime; in morals, a punishment. [2.] A species of invitation without persuasion. See KIDNAP.
"You act as if you were given," said she,
"To abduction — but pray do not kidnap me."
"Oh, well," said that bold and impenitent chap,
"You're the kind of kid I should like to nap."
ABELIANS, n. A religious sect of Africa who practiced the virtues of Abel. They were unfortunate in flourishing contemporaneously with the Cainians, and are now extinct.
ABERRATION, n. Any deviation in another from one's own habit of thought, not sufficient in itself to constitute insanity.
ABET, v.t. To encourage in crime, as to aid poverty with pennies.
ABHORRENCE, n. One of the degrees of disapproval due to what is imperfectly understood.
ABIDE, v.i. To treat with merited indifference the landlord's notification that he has let his house to a party willing to pay.
ABILITY, n. [1.] The natural equipment to accomplish some small part of the meaner ambitions distinguishing able men from dead ones. In the last analysis ability is commonly found to consist mainly in a high degree of solemnity. Perhaps, however, this impressive quality is rightly appraised; it is no easy task to be solemn. [2.] That rare quality of mind to which monuments are erected by posterity above the bones of paupers.
ABJECT, adj. Innocent of income; without estate; devoid of good clothing.
ABJECTLY, adv. In the manner of a poor but honest person.
ABJURE, v.t. To take the preliminary step toward resumption.
ABLATIVE, adj. A certain case of Latin nouns. The ablative absolute is an ancient form of grammatical error much admired by modern scholars.
ABNEGATION, n. Renunciation of unprofitable pleasures or painful gains.
ABNORMAL, adj. Not conforming to standard. In matters of thought and conduct, to be independent is to be abnormal, to be abnormal is to be detested. Wherefore the lexicographer adviseth a striving toward a straiter resemblance to the Average Man than he hath to himself. Whoso attaineth thereto shall have peace, the prospect of death and the hope of Hell.
ABOMINABLE, adj. The quality of another's opinions.
ABORIGINES, n. [1.] Persons of little worth found cumbering the soil of a newly discovered country. They soon cease to cumber; they fertilize. [2.] Considerate persons who will not trouble the lexicographer of the future to describe them.
By Abracadabra we signify
An infinite number of things.
'Tis the answer to What? and How? and Why?
And Whence? and Whither? — a word whereby
The Truth (with the comfort it brings)
Is open to all who grope in night,
Crying for Wisdom's holy light.

Whether the word is a verb or a noun
Is knowledge beyond my reach.
I only know that 'tis handed down.
From sage to sage,
From age to age —
An immortal part of speech!

Of an ancient man the tale is told
That he lived to be ten centuries old,
In a cave on a mountain side.
(True, he finally died.)
The fame of his wisdom filled the land,
For his head was bald, and you'll understand
His beard was long and white
And his eyes uncommonly bright.

Philosophers gathered from far and near
To sit at his feet and hear and hear,
Though he never was heard
To utter a word
"Abracadabra, abracadab,
Abracada, abracad,
Abraca, abrac, abra, ab!"
'Twas all he had,
'Twas all they wanted to hear, and each
Made copious notes of the mystical speech,
Which they published next —
A trickle of text
In a meadow of commentary.
Mighty big books were these,
In number, as leaves of trees;
In learning, remarkable — very!

He's dead,
As I said,
And the books of the sages have perished,
But his wisdom is sacredly cherished.
In Abracadabra it solemnly rings,
Like an ancient bell that forever swings.
O, I love to hear
That word make clear
Humanity's General Sense of Things.
—Jamrach Holobom
ABRIDGE, v.t. To shorten.
When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for a people to abridge their king, a decent respect for the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
—Oliver Cromwell
ABRIDGEMENT, n. A brief summary of some person's literary work, in which those parts that tell against the convictions of the abridger are omitted for want of space.
ABROAD, adj. At war with savages and idiots. To be a Frenchman abroad is to be miserable; to be an American abroad is to make others miserable.
ABRUPT, adj. Sudden, without ceremony, like the arrival of a cannon-shot and the departure of the soldier whose interests are most affected by it. Dr. Samuel Johnson beautifully said of another author's ideas that they were "concatenated without abruption."
ABRUPTION, n. Dr. Johnson said of a certain work that the ideas were "concatenated without abruption." In deference to that great authority we have given the word a place.
ABSCOND, v.i. [1.] To "move in a mysterious way," commonly with the property of another.
Spring beckons! All things to the call respond;
The trees are leaving and cashiers abscond.
—Phela Orm

[2.] To be unexpectedly called away to the bedside of a dying relative and miss the return train.
ABSENCE, n. That which "makes the heart grow fonder" — of absence. Absence of mind is the cerebral condition essential to success in popular preaching. It is sometimes termed lack of sense.
ABSENT, adj. [1] Peculiarly exposed to the tooth of detraction; vilified; hopelessly in the wrong; superseded in the consideration and affection of another.
To men a man is but a mind. Who cares
What face he carries or what form he wears?
But woman's body is the woman. O,
Stay thou, my sweetheart, and do never go,
But heed the warning words the sage hath said:
A woman absent is a woman dead.
—Jogo Tyree

[2.] Exposed to the attacks of friends and acquaintances; defamed; slandered.
ABSENTEE, n. A person with an income who has had the forethought to remove himself from the sphere of exaction.
ABSOLUTE, adj. [1.] Independent, irresponsible. An absolute monarchy is one in which the sovereign does as he pleases so long as he pleases the assassins. Not many absolute monarchies are left, most of them having been replaced by limited monarchies, where the sovereign's power for evil (and for good) is greatly curtailed, and by republics, which are governed by chance. [2.] In Philosophy existing without reference to anything, and for a purely selfish purpose. Absolute certainty is one of the possible degrees of probability. Absolute monarchy is a form of government in which the chief power is vested in a gentleman who is near his end.
ABSTAINER, n. A weak person who yields to the temptation of denying himself a pleasure. A total abstainer is one who abstains from everything but abstention, and especially from inactivity in the affairs of others.
Said a man to a crapulent youth: "I thought
You a total abstainer, my son."
"So I am, so I am," said the scapegrace caught —
"But not, sir, a bigoted one."
ABSTEMIOUS, adj. Thoughtfully deferential to one's overtaxed capacity.
ABSTRUSENESS, n. The bait of a bare hook.
ABSURDITY, n. [1.] A statement or belief manifestly inconsistent with one's own opinion. [2.] The argument of an opponent. A belief in which one has not had the misfortune to be instructed.
ABUNDANCE, n. A means, under Providence, of withholding alms from the destitute.
ABUSE, n. [1.] The goal of debate. Abuse of power is the exercise of authority in a manner unpleasant to ourselves. [2.] Unanswerable wit.
ACADEME, n. An ancient school where morality and philosophy were taught.
ACADEMY, n. (from ACADEME). [1.] A modern school where football is taught. [2.] Originally a grove in which philosophers sought a meaning in nature; now a school in which naturals seek a meaning in philosophy.
ACCEPT, v.t. In Courtship to reap the whirlwind after sowing the wind. To accept office is to take with decent reluctance the reward of immodest avidity. To accept a challenge is to become a sincere believer in the sanctity of human life.
ACCIDENT, n. An inevitable occurrence due to the action of immutable natural laws.
ACCLIMATED, pp. Secured against endemic diseases through having died of one.
ACCOMMODATE, v.t. To oblige; to lay the foundation of future exactions.
ACCOMPLICE, n. [1.] One associated with another in a crime, having guilty knowledge and complicity, as an attorney who defends a criminal, knowing him guilty. This view of the attorney's position in the matter has not hitherto commanded the assent of attorneys, no one having offered them a fee for assenting. [2.] Your partner in business.
ACCORD, n. Harmony.
ACCORDION, n. An instrument in harmony with the sentiments of an assassin.
ACCOUCHEUR, n. The devil's purveyor
ACCOUNTABILITY, n. The mother of caution.
"My accountability, bear in mind,"
Said the Grand Vizier: "Yes, yes,"
Said the Shah: "I do — 'tis the only kind
Of ability you possess."
—Joram Tate
ACCOUNTABLE, adj. Liable to an abatement of pleasure, profit or advantage; exposed to the peril of a penalty.
ACCURACY, n. A certain uninteresting quality carefully excluded from human statements.
ACCUSE, v.t. To affirm another's guilt or unworth; most commonly as a justification of ourselves for having wronged him.
ACCUSER, n. One's former friend; particularly the person for whom one has performed some friendly service.
ACE, n. The one-fourth part of the Hand of Fate.
ACELDAMA, n. A piece of real estate near Jerusalem, in which the broker, Judas Iscariot, invested the money he made by selling short and escaping a corner.
ACEPHALOUS, adj. In the surprising condition of the Crusader who absently pulled at his forelock some hours after a Saracen scimitar had, unconsciously to him, passed through his neck, as related by de Joinville.
ACERBITY, n. The quality which distinguishes the disposition of Deacon Fitch from a crabapple.
ACHE, v.i. To act like the tomb of a cucumber.
ACHIEVEMENT, n. The death of endeavor and the birth of disgust.
ACKNOWLEDGE, v.t. To confess. Acknowledgment of one another's faults is the highest duty imposed by our love of truth.
ACORN, n. A small nut about which cluster the American patriot's hopes of a navy. It makes tyranny tremble.
ACQUAINTANCE, n. A person whom we know well enough to borrow from, but not well enough to lend to. A degree of friendship called slight when its object is poor or obscure, and intimate when he is rich or famous.
ACQUIT, v.t. To render judgment in a murder case in San Francisco
ACROBAT, n. (Gr. a, priv., and Eng. crow-bait, a lean creature.) A muscular, well-conditioned fellow. A man who breaks his back to fill his belly.
ACROSTIC, n. A severe trial to the feelings. Commonly inflicted by a fool.
ACTOR, n. One who peddles ready-made emotion, and who, despising us for the qualities upon which he feeds, is by us despised for the unwholesome character of his diet. See STICK.
ACTRESS, n. A woman whose good name is commonly tainted from being so much in our mouths.
ACTUALLY, adv. Perhaps; possibly.
ADAGE, n. [1.] Boned wisdom for weak teeth. [2.] A hoary-headed platitude that is kicked along the centuries until nothing is left of it but its clothes. A "saw" which has worn out its teeth on the human understanding.
ADAMANT, n. A mineral frequently found beneath a corset. Soluble in solicitate of gold.
ADAM'S APPLE, n. A protuberance on the throat of a man, thoughtfully provided by Nature to keep the rope in place.
ADDER, n. A species of snake. So called from its habit of adding funeral outlays to the other expenses of living.
ADDRESS, n. [1.] A formal discourse, usually delivered to a person who has something by a person who wants something that he has. [2.] The place at which one receives the delicate attentions of creditors.
ADHERENT, n. A follower who has not yet obtained all that he expects to get.
ADIPOSE, adj. Fat, ragged and saucy.
ADJUTANT, n. In military affairs, a bustling officer of inferior rank, whose function it is to divert attention from the commander.
ADMINISTRATION, n. An ingenious abstraction in politics, designed to receive the kicks and cuffs due to the premier or president. A man of straw, proof against bad-egging and dead-catting.
ADMIRABILITY, n. My kind of ability, as distinguished from your kind of ability.
ADMIRAL, n. That part of a war-ship which does the talking while the figure-head does the thinking.
ADMIRATION, n. Our polite recognition of another's resemblance to ourselves.
ADMONITION, n. Gentle reproof, as with a meat-axe. Friendly warning.
Consigned, by way of admonition,
His soul forever to perdition.
ADOLESCENT, adj. Recovering from boyhood.
ADONIS, n. A comely youth, remembered chiefly for his unkindness to Venus. He has been unjustly censured by those who forget that in his time goddesses were only ten cents a bunch.
ADORE, v.t. To venerate expectantly.
ADVICE, n. The smallest current coin.
"The man was in such deep distress,"
Said Tom, "that I could do no less
Than give him good advice." Said Jim:
"If less could have been done for him
I know you well enough, my son,
To know that's what you would have done."
—Jebel Jocordy
ÆSTHETICS, n. The most unpleasant ticks afflicting the race. Worse than woodticks.
AFFECTION, n. In morals, a sentiment; in medicine, a disease. To a young woman an affection of the heart means love; to a doctor it may mean fatty degeneration. The difference is one of nomenclature merely.
AFFECTIONATE, n. Addicted to being a nuisance. The most affectionate creature in the world is a wet dog.
AFFIANCED, pp. Fitted with an ankle-ring for the ball-and-chain.
AFFIRM, v.t. To declare with suspicious gravity when one is not compelled to wholly discredit himself with an oath.
AFFLICTION, n. An acclimatizing process preparing the soul for another and bitter world.
AFRAID, adj. Civilly willing that things should be other than they seem.
AFRICAN, n. A nigger that votes our way.
AGE, n. That period of life in which we compound for the vices that we still cherish by reviling those that we have no longer the enterprise to commit.
AGITATOR, n. A statesman who shakes the fruit trees of his neighbors — to dislodge the worms.
AGONY, n. A superior degree of bodily disgust. The corresponding mental condition is called "all broke up."
AGRARIAN, n. A politician who carries his real estate under his nails. A son of the soil who, like Æneas, carries his father on his person.
AIM, n. The task we set our wishes to.
"Cheer up! Have you no aim in life?"
She tenderly inquired.
"An aim? Well, no, I haven't, wife;
The fact is — I have fired."
AIR, n. A nutritious substance supplied by a bountiful Providence for the fattening of the poor.
ALBUM, n. An instrument of torture in which one's lady friends crucify him between two thieves.
ALCOHOL, n. (Arabic al kohl, a paint for the eyes.) The essential principle of all.
ALDERMAN, n. An ingenious criminal who covers his secret thieving with a pretence of open marauding.
ALIEN, n. An American sovereign in his probationary state.
ALL, n. Every single cent — except what you have kept out for yourself.
ALLAH, n. The Mahometan Supreme Being, as distinguished from the Christian, Jewish, and so forth.
Allah's good laws I faithfully have kept,
And ever for the sins of man have wept;
And sometimes kneeling in the temple I
Have reverently crossed my hands and slept.
—Junker Barlow
This thing Allegiance, as I suppose,
Is a ring fitted in the subject's nose,
Whereby that organ is kept rightly pointed
To smell the sweetness of the Lord's anointed.
ALLEGORY, n. A metaphor in three volumes and a tiger.
ALLIANCE, n. In international politics, the union of two thieves who have their hands so deeply inserted in each other's pocket that they cannot separately plunder a third.
ALLIGATOR, n. The crocodile of America, superior in every detail to the crocodile of the effete monarchies of the Old World. Herodotus says the Indus is, with one exception, the only river that produces crocodiles, but they appear to have gone West and grown up with the other rivers. From the notches on his back the alligator is called a sawrian.
ALONE, adj. In bad company.
In contact, lo! the flint and steel,
By spark and flame, the thought reveal
That he the metal, she the stone,
Had cherished secretly alone.
—Booley Fito
ALTAR, n. The place whereon the priest formerly raveled out the small intestine of the sacrificial victim for purposes of divination and cooked its flesh for the gods. The word is now seldom used, except with reference to the sacrifice of their liberty and peace by a male and a female fool.
They stood before the altar and supplied
The fire themselves in which their fat was fried.
In vain the sacrifice! — no god will claim
An offering burnt with an unholy flame.
—M.P. Nopput
AMATEUR, n. A public nuisance who mistakes taste for skill, and confounds his ambition with his ability.
AMATORY, adj. We should blush to murmur it.
AMAZON, n. One of an ancient race who do not appear to have been much concerned about woman's rights and the equality of the sexes. Their thoughtless habit of twisting the necks of the males has unfortunately resulted in the extinction of their kind.
AMBIDEXTROUS, adj. Able to pick with equal skill a right-hand pocket or a left.
AMBITION, n. An overmastering desire to be vilified by enemies while living and made ridiculous by friends when dead.
AMBROSIA, n. The diet of the gods — the modern peanut.
A MENSA ET THORO. (Latin, "from bed and board.") A term of the divorce courts, but more properly applied to a man who has been kicked out of his hotel.
AMNESTY, n. The state's magnanimity to those offenders whom it would be too expensive to punish.
ANIMAL, n. An organism which, requiring a great number of other animals for its sustenance, illustrates in a marked way the bounty of Providence in preserving the lives of his creatures.
ANIMALISM, n. The state and quality of human nature in which we flatter ourselves we resemble "the beasts that perish."
ANOINT, v.t. To grease a king or other great functionary already sufficiently slippery.
As sovereigns are anointed by the priesthood,
So pigs to lead the populace are greased good.
ANTAGONIST, n. The miserable scoundrel who won't let us.
ANTE-CHAMBER, n. An apartment in which one does penance in advance for the sin of asking for a postoffice.
ANTIPATHY, n. The sentiment inspired by one's friend's friend.
ANTIQUITY, n. A kind of leather, probably.
Beated and chopped with tanned antiquity.
APATHETIC, adj. Six weeks married.
APHORISM, n. Predigested wisdom.
The flabby wine-skin of his brain
Yields to some pathologic strain,
And voids from its unstored abysm
The driblet of an aphorism.
—"The Mad Philosopher," 1697
APOLOGIZE, v.i. To lay the foundation for a future offence.
APOSTATE, n. A leech who, having penetrated the shell of a turtle only to find that the creature has long been dead, deems it expedient to form a new attachment to a fresh turtle.
APOTHECARY, n. The physician's accomplice, undertaker's benefactor and grave worm's provider.
When Jove sent blessings to all men that are,
And Mercury conveyed them in a jar,
That friend of tricksters introduced by stealth
Disease for the apothecary's health,
Whose gratitude impelled him to proclaim:
"My deadliest drug shall bear my patron's name!"
APPEAL, v.t. In law, to put the dice into the box for another throw.
APPETITE, n. An instinct thoughtfully implanted by Providence as a solution to the labor question.
APPLAUSE, n. The echo of a platitude.
APPLE, n. A fruit, for eating which the first man was justly turned out of Paradise. For, the first apple being a crabapple, the first man was an idiot for eating it.
APRIL FOOL, n. The March fool with another month added to his folly.
APRON, n. A piece of cloth worn in front to keep the clothes from soiling the hands.
She wore an apron ('tis a thing I loathe),
A dress beneath — a corset
á la mode.
No further seek her merits to disclothe,
Nor draw her frailties from their dread abode.
ARAB, n. A scourge created in order that the wicked may torture us by mispronouncing his tribal designation. For our sins they call it Ay-rab.
ARBITRATION, n. [1.] A modern device for promoting strife by substituting for an original dispute a score of inevitable disagreements as to the manner of submitting it for settlement. [2.] A patent medicine for allaying international heat, designed to supersede the old-school treatment of blood-letting. It makes the unsuccessful party to the dispute hate two or more nations instead of one — to the unspeakable advantage of peace.
ARCHBISHOP, n. An ecclesiastical dignitary one point holier than a bishop.
If I were a jolly archbishop,
On Fridays I'd eat all the fish up —
Salmon and flounders and smelts;
On other days everything else.
—Jodo Rem
ARCHITECT, n. One who drafts a plan of your house, and plans a draft of your money.
ARDOR, n. The quality that distinguishes love without knowledge.
ARENA, n. In politics, an imaginary rat-pit in which the statesman wrestles with his record.
ARGONAUT, n. An instrument of torture for violently unkinking the small intestine of that religious persecutor, the Pope. (Local.)
ARGUE, v.t. To tentatively consider with the tongue.
ARISTOCRACY, n. Government by the best men. (In this sense the word is obsolete; so is that kind of government.) Fellows that wear downy hats and clean shirts — guilty of education and suspected of bank accounts.
ARMOR, n. The kind of clothing worn by a man whose tailor is a blacksmith.
ARMY, n. A class of non-producers who defend the nation by devouring everything likely to tempt an enemy to invade.
ARRAYED, pp. Drawn up and given an orderly disposition, as a rioter hanged to a lamp-post.
ARREARS, n. (In deference to the feelings of a large and worthy class of our subscribers and advertisers, the definition of this word is withheld.)
ARREST, v.t. Formally to detain one accused of unusualness.
God made the world in six days and was arrested on the seventh.
—The Unauthorized Version
ARRESTED, pp. Caught criming without the money to satisfy the policeman.
ARSENIC, n. A kind of cosmetic greatly affected by the ladies, whom it greatly affects in turn.
"Eat arsenic? Yes, all you get,"
Consenting, he did speak up;
"'Tis better you should eat it, pet,
Than put it in my teacup."
—Joel Huck
ART, n. This word has no definition. Its origin is related as follows by the ingenious Father Gassalasca Jape, S.J.
One day a wag — what would the wretch be at? —
Shifted a letter of the cipher RAT,
And said it was a god's name! Straight arose
Fantastic priests and postulants (with shows,
And mysteries, and mummeries, and hymns,
And disputations dire that lamed their limbs)
To serve his temple and maintain the fires,
Expound the law, manipulate the wires.
Amazed, the populace the rites attend,
Believe whate'er they cannot comprehend,
And, inly edified to learn that two
Half-hairs joined so and so (as Art can do)
Have sweeter values and a grace more fit
Than Nature's hairs that never have been split,
Bring cates and wines for sacrificial feasts,
And sell their garments to support the priests.
ARTLESSNESS, n. A certain engaging quality to which women attain by long study and severe practice upon the admiring male, who is pleased to fancy it resembles the candid simplicity of his young.
ASBESTOS, n. An incombustible mineral substance which, woven into cloth, was formerly much used for making shrouds for the dead. It is no longer believed that the soul will be permitted to wear the body's cerements, and asbestine shrouds have gone out of fashion.
ASPERSE, v.t. Maliciously to ascribe to another vicious actions which one has not had the temptation and opportunity to commit.
ASS, n. A public singer with a good voice but no ear. In Virginia City, Nevada, he is called the Washoe Canary, in Dakota, the Senator, and everywhere the Donkey. The animal is widely and variously celebrated in the literature, art and religion of every age and country; no other so engages and fires the human imagination as this noble vertebrate. Indeed, it is doubted by some (Ramasilus, lib. II., De Clem., and C. Stantatus, De Temperamente) if it is not a god; and as such we know it was worshiped by the Etruscans, and, if we may believe Macrobius, by the Cupasians also. Of the only two animals admitted into the Mahometan Paradise along with the souls of men, the ass that carried Balaam is one, the dog of the Seven Sleepers the other. This is no small distinction. From what has been written about this beast might be compiled a library of great splendor and magnitude, rivaling that of the Shakspearean cult, and that which clusters about the Bible. It may be said, generally, that all literature is more or less Asinine.
"Hail, holy Ass!" the quiring angels sing;
"Priest of Unreason, and of Discords King!
Great co-Creator, let Thy glory shine:
God made all else; the Mule, the Mule is thine!"
ASTROLOGY, n. The science of making the dupe see stars. Astrology is by some held in high respect as the precursor of astronomy. Similarly, the nighthowling tomcat has a just claim to reverential consideration as precursor to the hurtling bootjack.
ATTORNEY, n. A person legally appointed to mismanage one's affairs which one has not himself the skill to rightly mismanage.
ATTRACTION, n. The influence which tends to establish neighborly relations among things. There are various kinds of attraction, but the attraction of gravity is the most celebrated. In a woman, however, it is distinctly inferior to the attraction of vivacity.
AUCTIONEER, n. The man who proclaims with a hammer that he has picked a pocket with his tongue.
AURICLE, n. The outlying provinces of the ear, as distinguished from the interior counties.
Dogmatic Dan, with more of ears than brain,
Was laying down the law to Mary Jane.
"You're famous for your oracles," she said.
A sudden anger dyed his cheeks with red;
He seized his hat. "My auricles!" said he—
"Madam, good-bye; you've seen the last of me!"
AUSTERE, adj. Having the quality of an antique virgin, or a legislator approached with a bribe by the side that he has been paid to oppose. The care that is taken to guard against confounding this word with "oyster" will be well rewarded.
AUSTRALIA, n. A country lying in the South Sea, whose industrial and commercial development has been unspeakably retarded by an unfortunate dispute among geographers as to whether it is a continent or an island.
AUTHENTIC, adj. Indubitably true — in somebody's opinion.
He ne'er discredited authentic news,
That tended to substantiate his views,
And never controverted an assertion
When true, if it was easy of perversion.
So frank was he that where he was unjust
He always would confess it when he must.
—"The Lawyer," 1750
AUTOCRAT, n. A dictatorial gentleman with no other restraint upon him than the hand of the assassin. The founder and patron of that great political institution, the dynamite bomb-shell system.
AVAUNT exc. dynamite bomb-shell system. "get out!"
AVENGE, v.t. In modern usage, to take satisfaction for an injury by cheating the inflictor.
AVERNUS, n. The lake by which the ancients entered the infernal regions. The fact that access to the infernal regions was obtained by a lake is believed by the learned Marcus Ansello Scrutator to have suggested the Christian rite of baptism by immersion. This, however, has been shown by Lactantius to be an error.
Facilis descensus Averni,
The poet remarks; and the sense
Of it is that when down-hill I turn I
Will get more of punches than pence.
—Jehal Dai Lupe
AWKWARD, adj. Charming in the natural and unaffected way of the sylvan damsel, unaccustomed to a train.
Awkward? you should have seen the pace
With which she left her seat,
And, gliding with peculiar grace,
Fell over her own feet.
—Book of Etiquette