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Devil's Dictionary: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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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.

There was a youth (you've heard before,
This woeful tale, may be),
Who bought a meerschaum pipe and swore
That color it would he!

He shut himself from the world away,
Nor any soul he saw.
He smoke by night, he smoked by day,
As hard as he could draw.

His dog died moaning in the wrath
Of winds that blew aloof;
The weeds were in the gravel path,
The owl was on the roof.

"He's gone afar, he'll come no more,"
The neighbors sadly say.
And so they batter in the door
To take his goods away.

Dead, pipe in mouth, the youngster lay,
Nut-brown in face and limb.
"That pipe's a lovely white," they say,
"But it has colored him!"

The moral there's small need to sing –
'Tis plain as day to you:
Don't play your game on any thing
That is a gamester too.

Martin Bulstrode

MENDACIOUS, adj. Addicted to rhetoric.

MERCHANT, n. One engaged in a commercial pursuit. A commercial pursuit is one in which the thing pursued is a dollar.

MERCY, n. An attribute beloved of detected offenders.

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

METROPOLIS, n. A stronghold of provincialism.

MILLENNIUM, n. The period of a thousand years when the lid is to be screwed down, with all reformers on the under side.

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

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.

MINOR, adj. Less objectionable.

MINSTREL, adj. Formerly a poet, singer or musician; now a nigger with a color less than skin deep and a humor more than flesh and blood can bear.

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

By misdemeanors he essays to climb
Into the aristocracy of crime.
O, woe was him! – with manner chill and grand
"Captains of industry" refused his hand,
"Kings of finance" denied him recognition
And "railway magnates" jeered his low condition.
He robbed a bank to make himself respected.
They still rebuffed him, for he was detected.

S. V. Hanipur

MISERICORDE, n. A dagger which in mediaeval warfare was used by the foot soldier to remind an unhorsed knight that he was mortal.

MISFORTUNE, n. The kind of fortune that never misses.

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.

MOLECULE, n. The ultimate, indivisible unit of matter. It is distinguished from the corpuscle, also the ultimate, indivisible unit of matter, by a closer resemblance to the atom, also the ultimate, indivisible unit of matter. Three great scientific theories of the structure of the universe are the molecular, the corpuscular and the atomic. A fourth affirms, with Haeckel, the condensation of precipitation of matter from ether – whose existence is proved by the condensation of precipitation. The present trend of scientific thought is toward the theory of ions. The ion differs from the molecule, the corpuscle and the atom in that it is an ion. A fifth theory is held by idiots, but it is doubtful if they know any more about the matter than the others.

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.


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The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce, online at Fun-With-Words.com.

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