User:BD2412/Ambrose Bierce, M-Q

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User:BD2412/Ambrose Bierce, A-F User:BD2412/Ambrose Bierce, G-L User:BD2412/Ambrose Bierce, R-Z

M[edit]

Magdelene

  • MAGDALENE, n. An inhabitant of Magdala. Popularly, a woman found out. This definition of the word has the authority of ignorance, Mary of Magdala being another person than the penitent woman mentioned by St. Luke. It has also the official sanction of the governments of Great Britain and the United States. In England the word is pronounced Maudlin, whence maudlin, adjective, unpleasantly sentimental. With their Maudlin for Magdalene, and their Bedlam for Bethlehem, the English may justly boast themselves the greatest of revisers.

Magnitude

  • MAGNITUDE, n. Size. Magnitude being purely relative, nothing is large and nothing small. If everything in the universe were increased in bulk one thousand diameters nothing would be any larger than it was before, but if one thing remain unchanged all the others would be larger than they had been. To an understanding familiar with the relativity of magnitude and distance the spaces and masses of the astronomer would be no more impressive than those of the microscopist. For anything we know to the contrary, the visible universe may be a small part of an atom, with its component ions, floating in the life-fluid (luminiferous ether) of some animal. Possibly the wee creatures peopling the corpuscles of our own blood are overcome with the proper emotion when contemplating the unthinkable distance from one of these to another.

Magpie

  • MAGPIE, n. A bird whose thievish disposition suggested to someone that it might be taught to talk.

Majesty

  • MAJESTY, n. The state and title of a king. Regarded with a just contempt by the Most Eminent Grand Masters, Grand Chancellors, Great Incohonees and Imperial Potentates of the ancient and honorable orders of republican America.

Malefactor

  • MALEFACTOR, n. The chief factor in the progress of the human race.

Mammalia

  • MAMMALIA, n.pl. A family of vertebrate animals whose females in a state of nature suckle their young, but when civilized and enlightened put them out to nurse, or use the bottle.

Material

  • MATERIAL, adj. Having an actual existence, as distinguished from an imaginary one. Important.

Mausoleum

  • MAUSOLEUM, n. The final and funniest folly of the rich.

Mayonnaise

  • MAYONNAISE, n. One of the sauces which serve the French in place of a state religion.

Meander

  • MEANDER, n. To proceed sinuously and aimlessly. The word is the ancient name of a river about one hundred and fifty miles south of Troy, which turned and twisted in the effort to get out of hearing when the Greeks and Trojans boasted of their prowess.

Medal

  • MEDAL, n. A small metal disk given as a reward for virtues, attainments or services more or less authentic. It is related of Bismark, who had been awarded a medal for gallantly rescuing a drowning person, that, being asked the meaning of the medal, he replied: "I save lives sometimes." And sometimes he didn't.

Meerschaum

  • MEERSCHAUM, n. (Literally, seafoam, and by many erroneously supposed to be made of it.) A fine white clay, which for convenience in coloring it brown is made into tobacco pipes and smoked by the workmen engaged in that industry. The purpose of coloring it has not been disclosed by the manufacturers.

Mendacious

  • MENDACIOUS, adj. Addicted to rhetoric.

Mesmerism

  • MESMERISM, n. Hypnotism before it wore good clothes, kept a carriage and asked Incredulity to dinner.

Metropolis

  • METROPOLIS, n. A stronghold of provincialism.

Mind

  • MIND, n. A mysterious form of matter secreted by the brain. Its chief activity consists in the endeavor to ascertain its own nature, the futility of the attempt being due to the fact that it has nothing but itself to know itself with. From the Latin 'mens', a fact unknown to that honest shoe-seller, who, observing that his learned competitor over the way had displayed the motto "'Mens conscia recti'," emblazoned his own front with the words "Men's, women's and children's conscia recti."

Mine

  • MINE, adj. Belonging to me if I can hold or seize it.

Minister

  • MINISTER, n. An agent of a higher power with a lower responsibility. In diplomacy and officer sent into a foreign country as the visible embodiment of his sovereign's hostility. His principal qualification is a degree of plausible inveracity next below that of an ambassador.

Miracle

  • MIRACLE, n. An act or event out of the order of nature and unaccountable, as beating a normal hand of four kings and an ace with four aces and a king.

Miscreant

  • MISCREANT, n. A person of the highest degree of unworth. Etymologically, the word means unbeliever, and its present signification may be regarded as theology's noblest contribution to the development of our language.

Misdemeanor

  • MISDEMEANOR, n. An infraction of the law having less dignity than a felony and constituting no claim to admittance into the best criminal society.

Miss

  • MISS, n. The title with which we brand unmarried women to indicate that they are in the market. Miss, Missis (Mrs.) and Mister (Mr.) are the three most distinctly disagreeable words in the language, in sound and sense. Two are corruptions of Mistress, the other of Master. In the general abolition of social titles in this our country they miraculously escaped to plague us. If we must have them let us be consistent and give one to the unmarried man. I venture to suggest Mush, abbreviated to Mh.

Monad

  • MONAD, n. The ultimate, indivisible unit of matter. (See 'Molecule'.) According to Leibnitz, as nearly as he seems willing to be understood, the monad has body without bulk, and mind without manifestation -- Leibnitz knows him by the innate power of considering. He has founded upon him a theory of the universe, which the creature bears without resentment, for the monad is a gentleman. Small as he is, the monad contains all the powers and possibilities needful to his evolution into a German philosopher of the first class -- altogether a very capable little fellow. He is not to be confounded with the microbe, or bacillus; by its inability to discern him, a good microscope shows him to be of an entirely distinct species.

Monday

  • MONDAY, n. In Christian countries, the day after the baseball game.

Money

  • MONEY, n. A blessing that is of no advantage to us excepting when we part with it. An evidence of culture and a passport to polite society. Supportable property.

Monkey

  • MONKEY, n. An arboreal animal which makes itself at home in genealogical trees.

Monsignor

  • MONSIGNOR, n. A high ecclesiastical title, of which the Founder of our religion overlooked the advantages.

Monument

  • MONUMENT, n. A structure intended to commemorate something which either needs no commemoration or cannot be commemorated.

Moral

  • MORAL, adj. Conforming to a local and mutable standard of right. Having the quality of general expediency.

Mouth

  • MOUTH, n. In man, the gateway to the soul; in woman, the outlet of the heart.

Mugwump

  • MUGWUMP, n. In politics one afflicted with self-respect and addicted to the vice of independence. A term of contempt.

Mulatto

  • MULATTO, n. A child of two races, ashamed of both.

Multitude

  • MULTITUDE, n. A crowd; the source of political wisdom and virtue. In a republic, the object of the statesman's adoration. "In a multitude of counsellors there is wisdom," saith the proverb. If many men of equal individual wisdom are wiser than any one of them, it must be that they acquire the excess of wisdom by the mere act of getting together. Whence comes it? Obviously from nowhere -- as well say that a range of mountains is higher than the single mountains composing it. A multitude is as wise as its wisest member if it obey him; if not, it is no wiser than its most foolish.

Mummy

  • MUMMY, n. An ancient Egyptian, formerly in universal use among modern civilized nations as medicine, and now engaged in supplying art with an excellent pigment. He is handy, too, in museums in gratifying the vulgar curiosity that serves to distinguish man from the lower animals.

Mustang

  • MUSTANG, n. An indocile horse of the western plains. In English society, the American wife of an English nobleman.

Myrmidon

  • MYRMIDON, n. A follower of Achilles -- particularly when he didn't lead.

Mythology

  • MYTHOLOGY, n. The body of a primitive people's beliefs concerning its origin, early history, heroes, deities and so forth, as distinguished from the true accounts which it invents later.

N[edit]

Nectar

  • NECTAR, n. A drink served at banquets of the Olympian deities. The secret of its preparation is lost, but the modern Kentuckians believe that they come pretty near to a knowledge of its chief ingredient.

Neighbor

  • NEIGHBOR, n. One whom we are commanded to love as ourselves, and who does all he knows how to make us disobedient.

Nepotism

  • NEPOTISM, n. Appointing your grandmother to office for the good of the party.

Newtonian

  • NEWTONIAN, adj. Pertaining to a philosophy of the universe invented by Newton, who discovered that an apple will fall to the ground, but was unable to say why. His successors and disciples have advanced so far as to be able to say when.

Nihilist

  • NIHILIST, n. A Russian who denies the existence of anything but Tolstoi. The leader of the school is Tolstoi.

Nirvana

  • NIRVANA, n. In the Buddhist religion, a state of pleasurable annihilation awarded to the wise, particularly to those wise enough to understand it.

Nobleman

  • NOBLEMAN, n. Nature's provision for wealthy American minds ambitious to incur social distinction and suffer high life.

Noise

  • NOISE, n. A stench in the ear. Undomesticated music. The chief product and authenticating sign of civilization.

Nominate

  • NOMINATE, v. To designate for the heaviest political assessment. To put forward a suitable person to incur the mudgobbling and deadcatting of the opposition.

Nominee

  • NOMINEE, n. A modest gentleman shrinking from the distinction of private life and diligently seeking the honorable obscurity of public office.

Nonsense

  • NONSENSE, n. The objections that are urged against this excellent dictionary.

Nose

  • NOSE, n. The extreme outpost of the face. From the circumstance that great conquerors have great noses, Getius, whose writings antedate the age of humor, calls the nose the organ of quell. It has been observed that one's nose is never so happy as when thrust into the affairs of others, from which some physiologists have drawn the inference that the nose is devoid of the sense of smell.

Notoriety

  • NOTORIETY, n. The fame of one's competitor for public honors. The kind of renown most accessible and acceptable to mediocrity. A Jacob's-ladder leading to the vaudeville stage, with angels ascending and descending.

Noumenon

  • NOUMENON, n. That which exists, as distinguished from that which merely seems to exist, the latter being a phenomenon. The noumenon is a bit difficult to locate; it can be apprehended only be a process of reasoning -- which is a phenomenon. Nevertheless, the discovery and exposition of noumena offer a rich field for what Lewes calls "the endless variety and excitement of philosophic thought." Hurrah (therefore) for the noumenon!

Novel

  • NOVEL, n. A short story padded. A species of composition bearing the same relation to literature that the panorama bears to art. As it is too long to be read at a sitting the impressions made by its successive parts are successively effaced, as in the panorama. Unity, totality of effect, is impossible; for besides the few pages last read all that is carried in mind is the mere plot of what has gone before. To the romance the novel is what photography is to painting. Its distinguishing principle, probability, corresponds to the literal actuality of the photograph and puts it distinctly into the category of reporting; whereas the free wing of the romancer enables him to mount to such altitudes of imagination as he may be fitted to attain; and the first three essentials of the literary art are imagination, imagination and imagination. The art of writing novels, such as it was, is long dead everywhere except in Russia, where it is new. Peace to its ashes -- some of which have a large sale.

November

  • NOVEMBER, n. The eleventh twelfth of a weariness.

O[edit]

Oath

  • OATH, n. In law, a solemn appeal to the Deity, made binding upon the conscience by a penalty for perjury.

Oblivion

  • OBLIVION, n. The state or condition in which the wicked cease from struggling and the dreary are at rest. Fame's eternal dumping ground. Cold storage for high hopes. A place where ambitious authors meet their works without pride and their betters without envy. A dormitory without an alarm clock.

Observatory

  • OBSERVATORY, n. A place where astronomers conjecture away the guesses of their predecessors.

Obsessed

  • OBSESSED, p.p. Vexed by an evil spirit, like the Gadarene swine and other critics. Obsession was once more common than it is now. Arasthus tells of a peasant who was occupied by a different devil for every day in the week, and on Sundays by two. They were frequently seen, always walking in his shadow, when he had one, but were finally driven away by the village notary, a holy man; but they took the peasant with them, for he vanished utterly. A devil thrown out of a woman by the Archbishop of Rheims ran through the trees, pursued by a hundred persons, until the open country was reached, where by a leap higher than a church spire he escaped into a bird. A chaplain in Cromwell's army exorcised a soldier's obsessing devil by throwing the soldier into the water, when the devil came to the surface. The soldier, unfortunately, did not.

Obsolete

  • OBSOLETE, adj. No longer used by the timid. Said chiefly of words. A word which some lexicographer has marked obsolete is ever thereafter an object of dread and loathing to the fool writer, but if it is a good word and has no exact modern equivalent equally good, it is good enough for the good writer. Indeed, a writer's attitude toward "obsolete" words is as true a measure of his literary ability as anything except the character of his work. A dictionary of obsolete and obsolescent words would not only be singularly rich in strong and sweet parts of speech; it would add large possessions to the vocabulary of every competent writer who might not happen to be a competent reader.

Obstinate

  • OBSTINATE, adj. Inaccessible to the truth as it is manifest in the splendor and stress of our advocacy. The popular type and exponent of obstinacy is the mule, a most intelligent animal.

Occasional

  • OCCASIONAL, adj. Afflicting us with greater or less frequency. That, however, is not the sense in which the word is used in the phrase "occasional verses," which are verses written for an "occasion," such as an anniversary, a celebration or other event. True, they afflict us a little worse than other sorts of verse, but their name has no reference to irregular recurrence.

Occident

  • OCCIDENT, n. The part of the world lying west (or east) of the Orient. It is largely inhabited by Christians, a powerful subtribe of the Hypocrites, whose principal industries are murder and cheating, which they are pleased to call "war" and "commerce." These, also, are the principal industries of the Orient.

Ocean

  • OCEAN, n. A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made for man -- who has no gills.

Offensive

  • OFFENSIVE, adj. Generating disagreeable emotions or sensations, as the advance of an army against its enemy.

"Were the enemy's tactics offensive?" the king asked. "I should say so!" replied the unsuccessful general. "The blackguard wouldn't come out of his works!"

Old

  • OLD, adj. In that stage of usefulness which is not inconsistent with general inefficiency, as an 'old man'. Discredited by lapse of time and offensive to the popular taste, as an 'old' book.

Olympian

  • OLYMPIAN, adj. Relating to a mountain in Thessaly, once inhabited by gods, now a repository of yellowing newspapers, beer bottles and mutilated sardine cans, attesting the presence of the tourist and his appetite.

Omen

  • OMEN, n. A sign that something will happen if nothing happens.

Opera

  • OPERA, n. A play representing life in another world, whose inhabitants have no speech but song, no motions but gestures and no postures but attitudes. All acting is simulation, and the word 'simulation' is from 'simia', an ape; but in opera the actor takes for his model 'Simia audibilis' (or 'Pithecanthropos stentor') -- the ape that howls.

Opiate

  • OPIATE, n. An unlocked door in the prison of Identity. It leads into the jail yard.

Opportunity

  • OPPORTUNITY, n. A favorable occasion for grasping a disappointment.

Oppose

  • OPPOSE, v. To assist with obstructions and objections.

Opposition

  • OPPOSITION, n. In politics the party that prevents the Government from running amuck by hamstringing it.

Optimism

  • OPTIMISM, n. The doctrine, or belief, that everything is beautiful, including what is ugly, everything good, especially the bad, and everything right that is wrong. It is held with greatest tenacity by those most accustomed to the mischance of falling into adversity, and is most acceptably expounded with the grin that apes a smile. Being a blind faith, it is inaccessible to the light of disproof -- an intellectual disorder, yielding to no treatment but death. It is hereditary, but fortunately not contagious.

Optimist

  • OPTIMIST, n. A proponent of the doctrine that black is white.
A pessimist applied to God for relief.
"Ah, you wish me to restore your hope and cheerfulness," said God.
"No," replied the petitioner, "I wish you to create something that would justify them."
"The world is all created," said God, "but you have overlooked something -- the mortality of the optimist."

Orphan

  • ORPHAN, n. A living person whom death has deprived of the power of filial ingratitude -- a privation appealing with a particular eloquence to all that is sympathetic in human nature. When young the orphan is commonly sent to an asylum, where by careful cultivation of its rudimentary sense of locality it is taught to know its place. It is then instructed in the arts of dependence and servitude and eventually turned loose to prey upon the world as a bootblack or scullery maid.

Orthodox

  • ORTHODOX, n. An ox wearing the popular religious joke.

Orthography

  • ORTHOGRAPHY, n. The science of spelling by the eye instead of the ear. Advocated with more heat than light by the outmates of every asylum for the insane. They have had to concede a few things since the time of Chaucer, but are none the less hot in defence of those to be conceded hereafter.

Ostrich

  • OSTRICH, n. A large bird to which (for its sins, doubtless) nature has denied that hinder toe in which so many pious naturalists have seen a conspicuous evidence of design. The absence of a good working pair of wings is no defect, for, as has been ingeniously pointed out, the ostrich does not fly.

Outcome

  • OUTCOME, n. A particular type of disappointment. By the kind of intelligence that sees in an exception a proof of the rule the wisdom of an act is judged by the outcome, the result. This is immortal nonsense; the wisdom of an act is to be juded by the light that the doer had when he performed it.

Out-of-doors

  • OUT-OF-DOORS, n. That part of one's environment upon which no government has been able to collect taxes. Chiefly useful to inspire poets.

Ovation

  • OVATION, n. In ancient Rome, a definite, formal pageant in honor of one who had been disserviceable to the enemies of the nation. A lesser "triumph." In modern English the word is improperly used to signify any loose and spontaneous expression of popular homage to the hero of the hour and place.

Overeat

Overwork

  • OVERWORK, n. A dangerous disorder affecting high public functionaries who want to go fishing.

Owe

  • OWE, v. To have (and to hold) a debt. The word formerly signified not indebtedness, but possession; it meant "own," and in the minds of debtors there is still a good deal of confusion between assets and liabilities.

Oyster

  • OYSTER, n. A slimy, gobby shellfish which civilization gives men the hardihood to eat without removing its entrails! The shells are sometimes given to the poor.

P[edit]

Painting

  • PAINTING, n. The art of protecting flat surfaces from the weather and exposing them to the critic. Formerly, painting and sculpture were combined in the same work: the ancients painted their statues. The only present alliance between the two arts is that the modern painter chisels his patrons.

Palace

  • PALACE, n. A fine and costly residence, particularly that of a great official. The residence of a high dignitary of the Christian Church is called a palace; that of the Founder of his religion was known as a field, or wayside. There is progress.

Palm

  • PALM, n. A species of tree having several varieties, of which the familiar "itching palm" ('Palma hominis') is most widely distributed and sedulously cultivated. This noble vegetable exudes a kind of invisible gum, which may be detected by applying to the bark a piece of gold or silver. The metal will adhere with remarkable tenacity. The fruit of the itching palm is so bitter and unsatisfying that a considerable percentage of it is sometimes given away in what are known as "benefactions."

Palmistry

  • PALMISTRY, n. The 947th method (according to Mimbleshaw's classification) of obtaining money by false pretences. It consists in "reading character" in the wrinkles made by closing the hand. The pretence is not altogether false; character can really be read very accurately in this way, for the wrinkles in every hand submitted plainly spell the word "dupe." The imposture consists in not reading it aloud.

Pandemonium

  • PANDEMONIUM, n. Literally, the Place of All the Demons. Most of them have escaped into politics and finance, and the place is now used as a lecture hall by the Audible Reformer. When disturbed by his voice the ancient echoes clamor appropriate responses most gratifying to his pride of distinction.

Pantheism

  • PANTHEISM, n. The doctrine that everything is God, in contradistinction to the doctrine that God is everything.

Pantomime

  • PANTOMIME, n. A play in which the story is told without violence to the language. The least disagreeable form of dramatic action.

Pardon

  • PARDON, v. To remit a penalty and restore to the life of crime. To add to the lure of crime the temptation of ingratitude.

Passport

  • PASSPORT, n. A document treacherously inflicted upon a citizen going abroad, exposing him as an alien and pointing him out for special reprobation and outrage.

Pastime

  • PASTIME, n. A device for promoting dejection. Gentle exercise for intellectual debility.

Patience

  • PATIENCE, n. A minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue.

Patriot

  • PATRIOT, n. One to whom the interests of a part seem superior to those of the whole. The dupe of statesmen and the tool of conquerors.

Patriotism

  • PATRIOTISM, n. Combustible rubbish ready to the torch of any one ambitious to illuminate his name. In Dr. Johnson's famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer I beg to submit that it is the first.

Peace

  • PEACE, n. In international affairs, a period of cheating between two periods of fighting.

Pedestrian

  • PEDESTRIAN, n. The variable (and audible) part of the roadway for an automobile.

Pedigree

  • PEDIGREE, n. The known part of the route from an arboreal ancestor

with a swim bladder to an urban descendant with a cigarette.

Penitent

  • PENITENT, adj. Undergoing or awaiting punishment.

Perfection

  • PERFECTION, n. An imaginary state of quality distinguished from the actual by an element known as excellence; an attribute of the critic. The editor of an English magazine having received a letter pointing out the erroneous nature of his views and style, and signed "Perfection," promptly wrote at the foot of the letter: "I don't agree with you," and mailed it to Matthew Arnold.

Peripatetic

  • PERIPATETIC, adj. Walking about. Relating to the philosophy of Aristotle, who, while expounding it, moved from place to place in order to avoid his pupil's objections. A needless precaution -- they knew no more of the matter than he.

Peroration

  • PERORATION, n. The explosion of an oratorical rocket. It dazzles, but to an observer having the wrong kind of nose its most conspicuous peculiarity is the smell of the several kinds of powder used in preparing it.

Pessismism

  • PESSIMISM, n. A philosophy forced upon the convictions of the observer by the disheartening prevalence of the optimist with his scarecrow hope and his unsightly smile.

Philanthropist

  • PHILANTHROPIST, n. A rich (and usually bald) old gentleman who has trained himself to grin while his conscience is picking his pocket.

Philistine

  • PHILISTINE, n. One whose mind is the creature of its environment, following the fashion in thought, feeling and sentiment. He is sometimes learned, frequently prosperous, commonly clean and always solemn.

Philosophy

  • PHILOSOPHY, n. A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.

Phoenix

  • PHOENIX, n. The classical prototype of the modern "small hot bird."

Phonograph

  • PHONOGRAPH, n. An irritating toy that restores life to dead noises.

Photograph

  • PHOTOGRAPH, n. A picture painted by the sun without instruction in art. It is a little better than the work of an Apache, but not quite so good as that of a Cheyenne.

Phrenology

  • PHRENOLOGY, n. The science of picking the pocket through the scalp. It consists in locating and exploiting the organ that one is a dupe with.

Physician

  • PHYSICIAN, n. One upon whom we set our hopes when ill and our dogs when well.

Physiognomy

  • PHYSIOGNOMY, n. The art of determining the character of another by the resemblances and differences between his face and our own, which is the standard of excellence.

Piano

  • PIANO, n. A parlor utensil for subduing the impenitent visitor. It is operated by pressing the keys of the machine and the spirits of the audience.

Picture

  • PICTURE, n. A representation in two dimensions of something wearisome in three.

Piety

  • PIETY, n. Reverence for the Supreme Being, based upon His supposed resemblance to man.

Pig

  • PIG, n. An animal ('Porcus omnivorus') closely allied to the human race by the splendor and vivacity of its appetite, which, however, is inferior in scope, for it sticks at pig.

Pigmy

  • PIGMY, n. One of a tribe of very small men found by ancient travelers in many parts of the world, but by modern in Central Africa only. The Pigmies are so called to distinguish them from the bulkier Caucasians -- who are Hogmies.

Pilgrim

  • PILGRIM, n. A traveler that is taken seriously. A Pilgrim Father was one who, leaving Europe in 1620 because not permitted to sing psalms through his nose, followed it to Massachusetts, where he could personate God according to the dictates of his conscience.

Pillory

  • PILLORY, n. A mechanical device for inflicting personal distinction -- prototype of the modern newspaper conducted by persons of austere virtues and blameless lives.

Pitiful

  • PITIFUL, adj. The state of an enemy of opponent after an imaginary encounter with oneself.

Pity

  • PITY, n. A failing sense of exemption, inspired by contrast.

Plagiarism

  • PLAGIARISM, n. A literary coincidence compounded of a discreditable priority and an honorable subsequence.

Plagiarize

  • PLAGIARIZE, v. To take the thought or style of another writer whom one has never, never read.

Plague

  • PLAGUE, n. In ancient times a general punishment of the innocent for admonition of their ruler, as in the familiar instance of Pharaoh the Immune. The plague as we of to-day have the happiness to know it is merely Nature's fortuitous manifestation of her purposeless objectionableness.

Plan

  • PLAN, v.t. To bother about the best method of accomplishing an accidental result.

Platitude

  • PLATITUDE, n. The fundamental element and special glory of popular literature. A thought that snores in words that smoke. The wisdom of a million fools in the diction of a dullard. A fossil sentiment in artificial rock. A moral without the fable. All that is mortal of a departed truth. A demi-tasse of milk-and-mortality. The Pope's-nose of a featherless peacock. A jelly-fish withering on the shore of the sea of thought. The cackle surviving the egg. A desiccated epigram.

Platonic

  • PLATONIC, adj. Pertaining to the philosophy of Socrates. Platonic Love is a fool's name for the affection between a disability and a frost.

Plaudits

  • PLAUDITS, n. Coins with which the populace pays those who tickle and devour it.

Please

  • PLEASE, v. To lay the foundation for a superstructure of imposition.

Pleasure

  • PLEASURE, n. The least hateful form of dejection.

Plebian

  • PLEBEIAN, n. An ancient Roman who in the blood of his country stained nothing but his hands. Distinguished from the Patrician, who was a saturated solution.

Plebiscite

  • PLEBISCITE, n. A popular vote to ascertain the will of the sovereign.

Plenipotentiary

  • PLENIPOTENTIARY, adj. Having full power. A Minister Plenipotentiary is a diplomatist possessing absolute authority on condition that he never exert it.

Pleonash

  • PLEONASM, n. An army of words escorting a corporal of thought.

Plow

  • PLOW, n. An implement that cries aloud for hands accustomed to the pen.

Plunder

  • PLUNDER, v. To take the property of another without observing the decent and customary reticences of theft. To effect a change of ownership with the candid concomitance of a brass band. To wrest the wealth of A from B and leave C lamenting a vanishing opportunity.

Pocket

  • POCKET, n. The cradle of motive and the grave of conscience. In woman this organ is lacking; so she acts without motive, and her conscience, denied burial, remains ever alive, confessing the sins of others.

Poetry

  • POETRY, n. A form of expression peculiar to the Land beyond the Magazines.

Poker

  • POKER, n. A game said to be played with cards for some purpose to this lexicographer unknown.

Polise

  • POLICE, n. An armed force for protection and participation.

Politics

  • POLITICS, n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.

Politician

  • POLITICIAN, n. An eel in the fundamental mud upon which the superstructure of organized society is reared. When we wriggles he mistakes the agitation of his tail for the trembling of the edifice. As compared with the statesman, he suffers the disadvantage of being alive.

Polygamy

  • POLYGAMY, n. A house of atonement, or expiatory chapel, fitted with several stools of repentance, as distinguished from monogamy, which has but one.

Populist

  • POPULIST, n. A fossil patriot of the early agricultural period, found in the old red soapstone underlying Kansas; characterized by an uncommon spread of ear, which some naturalists contend gave him the power of flight, though Professors Morse and Whitney, pursuing independent lines of thought, have ingeniously pointed out that had he possessed it he would have gone elsewhere. In the picturesque speech of his period, some fragments of which have come down to us, he was known as "The Matter with Kansas."

Portable

  • PORTABLE, adj. Exposed to a mutable ownership through vicissitudes of possession.

Portuguese

  • PORTUGUESE, n.pl. A species of geese indigenous to Portugal. They are mostly without feathers and imperfectly edible, even when stuffed with garlic.

Positive

  • POSITIVE, adj. Mistaken at the top of one's voice.

Positivism

  • POSITIVISM, n. A philosophy that denies our knowledge of the Real and affirms our ignorance of the Apparent. Its longest exponent is Comte, its broadest Mill and its thickest Spencer.

Posterity

  • POSTERITY, n. An appellate court which reverses the judgment of a popular author's contemporaries, the appellant being his obscure competitor.

Potable

  • POTABLE, n. Suitable for drinking. Water is said to be potable; indeed, some declare it our natural beverage, although even they find it palatable only when suffering from the recurrent disorder known as thirst, for which it is a medicine. Upon nothing has so great and diligent ingenuity been brought to bear in all ages and in all countries, except the most uncivilized, as upon the invention of substitutes for water. To hold that this general aversion to that liquid has no basis in the preservative instinct of the race is to be unscientific -- and without science we are as the snakes and toads.

Poverty

  • POVERTY, n. A file provided for the teeth of the rats of reform. The number of plans for its abolition equals that of the reformers who suffer from it, plus that of the philosophers who know nothing about it. Its victims are distinguished by possession of all the virtues and by their faith in leaders seeking to conduct them into a prosperity where they believe these to be unknown.

Pre-Adamite

  • PRE-ADAMITE, n. One of an experimental and apparently unsatisfactory race of antedated Creation and lived under conditions not easily conceived. Melsius believed them to have inhabited "the Void" and to have been something intermediate between fishes and birds. Little its known of them beyond the fact that they supplied Cain with a wife and theologians with a controversy.

Predestination

  • PREDESTINATION, n. The doctrine that all things occur according to programme. This doctrine should not be confused with that of foreordination, which means that all things are programmed, but does not affirm their occurrence, that being only an implication from other doctrines by which this is entailed. The difference is great enough to have deluged Christendom with ink, to say nothing of the gore. With the distinction of the two doctrines kept well in mind, and a reverent belief in both, one may hope to escape perdition if spared.

Predicament

  • PREDICAMENT, n. The wage of consistency.

Predilection

  • PREDILECTION, n. The preparatory stage of disillusion.

Pre-existence

  • PRE-EXISTENCE, n. An unnoted factor in creation.

Preference

  • PREFERENCE, n. A sentiment, or frame of mind, induced by the erroneous belief that one thing is better than another.

An ancient philosopher, expounding his conviction that life is no better than death, was asked by a disciple why, then, he did not die. "Because," he replied, "death is no better than life."

It is longer.

Prehistoric

  • PREHISTORIC, adj. Belonging to an early period and a museum. Antedating the art and practice of perpetuating falsehood.

Prejudice

  • PREJUDICE, n. A vagrant opinion without visible means of support.

Prelate

  • PRELATE, n. A church officer having a superior degree of holiness and a fat preferment. One of Heaven's aristocracy. A gentleman of God.

Prerogative

  • PREROGATIVE, n. A sovereign's right to do wrong.

Presbyterian

  • PRESBYTERIAN, n. One who holds the conviction that the government authorities of the Church should be called presbyters.

Prescription

  • PRESCRIPTION, n. A physician's guess at what will best prolong the situation with least harm to the patient.

Present

  • PRESENT, n. That part of eternity dividing the domain of disappointment from the realm of hope.

Presentable

  • PRESENTABLE, adj. Hideously appareled after the manner of the time and place.

In Boorioboola-Gha a man is presentable on occasions of ceremony if he have his abdomen painted a bright blue and wear a cow's tail; in New York he may, if it please him, omit the paint, but after sunset he must wear two tails made of the wool of a sheep and dyed black.

Preside

  • PRESIDE, v. To guide the action of a deliberative body to a desirable result. In Journalese, to perform upon a musical instrument; as, "He presided at the piccolo."

Presidency

  • PRESIDENCY, n. The greased pig in the field game of American politics.

President

  • PRESIDENT, n. The leading figure in a small group of men of whom -- and of whom only -- it is positively known that immense numbers of their countrymen did not want any of them for President.

Prevaricator

  • PREVARICATOR, n. A liar in the caterpillar estate.

Primate

  • PRIMATE, n. The head of a church, especially a State church supported by involuntary contributions. The Primate of England is the Archbishop of Canterbury, an amiable old gentleman, who occupies Lambeth Palace when living and Westminster Abbey when dead. He is commonly dead.

Private

  • PRIVATE, n. A military gentleman with a field-marshal's baton in his knapsack and an impediment in his hope.

Proboscis

  • PROBOSCIS, n. The rudimentary organ of an elephant which serves him in place of the knife-and-fork that Evolution has as yet denied him. For purposes of humor it is popularly called a trunk.

Projectile

  • PROJECTILE, n. The final arbiter in international disputes. Formerly these disputes were settled by physical contact of the disputants, with such simple arguments as the rudimentary logic of the times could supply -- the sword, the spear, and so forth. With the growth of prudence in military affairs the projectile came more and more into favor, and is now held in high esteem by the most courageous. Its capital defect is that it requires personal attendance at the point of propulsion.

Proof-reader

  • PROOF-READER, n. A malefactor who atones for making your writing nonsense by permitting the compositor to make it unintelligible.

Prospect

  • PROSPECT, n. An outlook, usually forbidding. An expectation, usually forbidden.

Providential

  • PROVIDENTIAL, adj. Unexpectedly and conspicuously beneficial to the person so describing it.

Prude

  • PRUDE, n. A bawd hiding behind the back of her demeanor.

Publish

  • PUBLISH, n. In literary affairs, to become the fundamental element in a cone of critics.

Push

  • PUSH, n. One of the two things mainly conducive to success, especially in politics. The other is Pull.

Pyrrhonism

  • PYRRHONISM, n. An ancient philosophy, named for its inventor. It consisted of an absolute disbelief in everything but Pyrrhonism. Its modern professors have added that.

Q[edit]

Quill

  • QUILL, n. An implement of torture yielded by a goose and commonly wielded by an ass. This use of the quill is now obsolete, but its modern equivalent, the steel pen, is wielded by the same everlasting Presence.

Quiver

  • QUIVER, n. A portable sheath in which the ancient statesman and the aboriginal lawyer carried their lighter arguments.

Quixotic

  • QUIXOTIC, adj. Absurdly chivalric, like Don Quixote. An insight into the beauty and excellence of this incomparable adjective is unhappily denied to him who has the misfortune to know that the gentleman's name is pronounced Ke-ho-tay.

Quorum

  • QUORUM, n. A sufficient number of members of a deliberative body to have their own way and their own way of having it. In the United States Senate a quorum consists of the chairman of the Committee on Finance and a messenger from the White House; in the House of Representatives, of the Speaker and the devil.

Quotient

  • QUOTIENT, n. A number showing how many times a sum of money belonging to one person is contained in the pocket of another -- usually about as many times as it can be got there.