The Jazz Webster

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The Jazz Webster  (1916) 
by Henry Louis Mencken
A satirical dictionary in the spirit of The Devil's Dictionary, published in 1916.

Actor. One handicapped more by a wooden leg than by a wooden head.

Adultery. Democracy applied to love.

Alimony. The ransom that the happy pay to the devil.

Anti-Vivisectionist. One who gags at a guinea-pig and swallows a baby.

Archbishop. A Christian ecclesiastic of a rank superior to that attained by Christ.

Argument. A means of persuasion. The agents of argumentation under a democracy, in the order of their potency, are (a) whiskey, (b) beer, (c) cigars, (d) tears.

Axiom. Something that everyone believes. When everyone begins to believe anything it ceases to be true. For example, the notion that the homeliest girl in the party is the safest.

Ballot Box. The altar of democracy. The cult served upon it is the worship of jackals by jackasses.

Brevity. The quality that makes cigarettes, speeches, love affairs and ocean voyages bearable.

Celebrity. One who is known to many persons he is glad he doesn't know.

Chautauqua. A place in which persons who are not worth talking to listen to that which is not worth hearing.

Christian. One who believes that God notes the fall of a sparrow and is shocked half to death by the fall of a Sunday-school superintendent; one who is willing to serve three Gods, but draws the line at one wife.

Christian Science. The theory that, since the sky rockets following a wallop in the eye are optical delusions, the wallop itself is a delusion and the eye another.

Church. A place in which gentlemen who have never been to Heaven brag about it to persons who will never get there.

Civilization. A concerted effort to remedy the blunders and check the practical joking of God.

Clergyman. A ticket speculator outside the gates of Heaven.

Conscience. The inner voice which warns us that someone is looking.

Confidence. The feeling that makes one believe a man, even when one knows that one would lie in his place.

Courtroom, A place where Jesus Christ and Judus Iscariot would be equals, with the betting odds in favor of Judas.

Creator. A comedian whose audience is afraid to laugh. Three proofs of His humor: democracy, hay fever, any fat woman.

Democracy. The theory that two thieves will steal less than one, and three less than two, and four less than three, and so on ad infinitum; the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

Epigram. A platitude with vine-leaves in its hair.

Eugenics. The theory that marriages should be made in the laboratory; the Wassermann test for love.

Evil. That which one believes of others. It is a sin to believe evil of others, but it is seldom a mistake.

Experience. A series of failures. Every failure teaches a man something, to wit, that he will probably fail again next time.

Fame. An embalmer trembling with stagefright.

Fine. A bribe paid by a rich man to escape the lawful penalty of his crime. In China such bribes are paid to the judge personally; in America they are paid to him as agent for the public. But it makes no difference to the men who pay them — nor to the men who can't pay them.

Firmness. A form of stupidity; proof of an inability to think the same thing out twice.

Friendship. A mutual belief in the same fallacies, mountebanks, hobgoblins and imbecilities.

Gentleman. One who never strikes a woman without provocation; one on whose word of honor the betting odds are at least 1 to 2.

Happiness. Peace after effort, the overcoming of difficulties, the feeling of security and well-being. The only really happy folk are married women and single men.

Hell. A place where the Ten Commandments have a police force behind them.

Historian. An unsuccessful novelist.

Honeymoon. The time during which the bride believes the bridegroom's word of honor.

Hope. A pathological belief in the occurrence of the impossible.

Humanitarian. One who would be sincerely sorry to see his neighbor's children devoured by wolves.

Husband. One who played safe and is now played safely. A No. 16 neck in a No. 15½ collar.

Hygiene. Bacteriology made moral; the theory that the Italian in the ditch should be jailed for spitting on his hands.

Idealist. One who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.

Immorality. The morality of those who are having a better time. You will never convince the average farmer's mare that the late Maud S. was not dreadfully immoral.

Immortality. The condition of a dead man who doesn't believe that he is dead.

Jealousy. The theory that some other fellow has just as little taste.

Judge. An officer appointed to mislead, restrain, hynotize, cajole, seduce, browbeat, flabbergast and bamboozle a jury in such a manner that it will forget all the facts and give its decision to the best lawyer. The objection to judges is that they are seldom capable of a sound professional judgment of lawyers. The objection to lawyers is that the best are the worst.

Jury. A group of twelve men who, having lied to the judge about their hearing, health and business engagements, have failed to fool him.

Lawyer. One who protects us against robbers by taking away the temptation.

Liar, (a) One who pretends to be very £ood; (b) one who pretends to be very bad.

Love. The delusion that one woman differs from another.

Love-At-First-Sight. A labor-saving device.

Lover. An apprentice second husband; victim No. 2 in the larval stage.

Misogynist. A man who hates women as much as women hate one another.

Martyr. The husband of a woman with the martyr complex.

Morality. The theory that every human act must be either right or wrong, and that 99% of them are wrong.

Music-Lover. One who can tell you offhand how many sharps are in the key of C major.

Optimist. The sort of man who marries his sister's best friend.

Osteopath. One who argues that all human ills are caused by .the pressure of hard bone upon soft tissue. The proof of his theory is to be found in the heads of those who believe it.

Pastor. One employed by the wicked to prove to them by his example that virtue doesn't pay.

Patriotism. A variety of hallucination which, if it seized a bacteriologist in his laboratory, would cause him to report the streptococ- cus pyogenes to be as large as a Newfoundland dog, as intelligent as Socrates, as beautiful as Mont Blanc and as respectable as a Yale professor.

Pensioner. A kept patriot.

Platitude. An idea {a) that is admitted to be true by everyone, and (b) that is not true.

Politician. Any citizen with influence enough to get his old mother a job as chairwoman in the City Hall.

Popularity. The capacity for listening sympathetically when men boast of their wives and women complain of their husbands.

Posterity. The penalty of a faulty technique.

Progress. The process whereby the human race has got rid of whiskers, the vermiform appendix and God.

Prohibitionist. The sort of man one wouldn't care to drink with, even if he drank.

Psychologist. One who sticks pins into babies, and then makes a chart showing the ebb and flow of their yells.

Psychotherapy. The theory that the patient will probably get well anyhow, and is certainly a damned fool.

Quack. A physician who has decided to admit it.

Reformer. A hangman signing a petition against vivisection.

Remorse. Regret that one waited so long to do it.

Self-Respect. The secure feeling that no one, as yet, is suspicious.

Sob. A sound made by women, babies, tenors, fashionable clergymen, actors and drunken men.

Socialism. The theory that John Smith is better than his superiors.

Suicide. A belated acquiescence in the opinion of one's wife's relatives.

Sunday. A day given over by Americans to wishing that they themselves were dead and in Heaven, and that their neighbors were dead and in Hell.

Sunday School. A prison in which children do penance for the evil conscience of their parents.

Surgeon. One bribed heavily by the patient to take the blame for the family doctor's error in diagnosis.

Temptation. An irresistible force at work on a movable body.

Thanksgiving Day. A day devoted by persons with inflammatory rheumatism to thanking a loving Father that it is not hydrophobia.

Theology. An effort to explain the unknowable by putting it into terms of the not worth knowing.

Tombstone. An ugly reminder of one who has been forgotten.

Truth. Something somehow discreditable to someone.

University. A place for elevating sons above the social rank of their fathers. In the great American universities men are ranked as follows: i. Seducers; 2. Fullbacks; 3. Boozefighters; 4. Pitchers and Catchers; 5. Poker players; 6. Scholars; 7. Christians.

Verdict. The a priori opinion of that juror who smokes the worst cigars.

Vers Libre. A device for making poetry easier to write and harder to read.

Wart. Something that outlasts ten thousand kisses.

Wealth. Any income that is at least $100 more a year than the income of one's wife's sister's husband.

Wedding. A device for exciting envy in women and terror in men.

Wife. One who is sorry she did it, but would undoubtedly do it again.

Widower. One released on parole.

Woman. Before marriage, an agente provocateuse; after marriage, a gendarme.

Women's Club. A place in which the validity of a philosophy is judged by the hat of its prophetess.

Yacht Club. An asylum for landsmen who would rather die of drink than be seasick.