Redefining misanthropy for a fresh generation. Standard posts begin with a definition from Ambrose Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary followed by a modern adjustment. Miscellany on Wednesday and storytelling on Saturday.
2008 Update: A menber of the genus family Erinaceinae and mild descendant of the winged shrew (Erinye.) The hedgehog is the paragon of specialization, having found a bush under which to be an expert and eat bugs in the dark.
HOMEOPATHY, n. A school of medicine midway between Allopathy and Christian Science. To the last both the others are distinctly inferior, for Christian Science will cure imaginary diseases, and they can not.
2008 Update: An art of healing which assumes that water remembers and patients forget, two well-tested hypotheses. Homeopathy has been in decline since it was discovered that litigators have better memories than water or libertarians.
WEAKNESSES, n.pl. Certain primal powers of Tyrant Woman wherewith she holds dominion over the male of her species, binding him to the service of her will and paralyzing his rebellious energies.
2008 Update: The collection of insecurities, appetites, addictions, agitations, temptations, frustrations, aspirations and allegations that machines, demons and neighbors provoke to distract us from our obedience.
WORMS' MEAT, n. The finished product of which we are the raw material. The contents of the Taj Mahal, the Tombeau Napoleon and the Granitarium. Worms'-meat is usually outlasted by the structure that houses it, but "this too must pass away." Probably the silliest work in which a human being can engage is construction of a tomb for himself. The solemn purpose cannot dignify, but only accentuates by contrast the foreknown futility.
Ambitious fool! so mad to be a show! How profitless the labor you bestow Upon a dwelling whose magnificence The tenant neither can admire nor know.
Build deep, build high, build massive as you can, The wanton grass-roots will defeat the plan By shouldering asunder all the stones In what to you would be a moment's span.
Time to the dead so all unreckoned flies That when your marble is all dust, arise, If wakened, stretch your limbs and yawn — You'll think you scarcely can have closed your eyes.
What though of all man's works your tomb alone Should stand till Time himself be overthrown? Would it advantage you to dwell therein Forever as a stain upon a stone?
2008 Update: The substance assuring the fisherman of bait and the poet remorse, through which all men are productive.
WHEAT, n. A cereal from which a tolerably good whiskey can with some difficulty be made, and which is used also for bread. The French are said to eat more bread per capita of population than any other people, which is natural, for only they know how to make the stuff palatable.
2008 Update: A grass which, unsuited to the estate lawn and non-narcotic when smoked by the butler, found favor as a substitute among the Earth's needy for gravel.
SERIAL, n. A literary work, usually a story that is not true, creeping through several issues of a newspaper or magazine. Frequently appended to each installment is a "synopsis of preceding chapters" for those who have not read them, but a direr need is a synopsis of succeeding chapters for those who do not intend to read them. A synopsis of the entire work would be still better.
The late James F. Bowman was writing a serial tale for a weekly paper in collaboration with a genius whose name has not come down to us. They wrote, not jointly but alternately, Bowman supplying the installment for one week, his friend for the next, and so on, world without end, they hoped. Unfortunately they quarreled, and one Monday morning when Bowman read the paper to prepare himself for his task, he found his work cut out for him in a way to surprise and pain him. His collaborator had embarked every character of the narrative on a ship and sunk them all in the deepest part of the Atlantic.
2008 Update: A short story divided into digestible portions, e.g. The Unionville Chronicles, justice.
SYLPH, n. An immaterial but visible being that inhabited the air when the air was an element and before it was fatally polluted with factory smoke, sewer gas and similar products of civilization. Sylphs were allied to gnomes, nymphs and salamanders, which dwelt, respectively, in earth, water and fire, all now insalubrious. Sylphs, like fowls of the air, were male and female, to no purpose, apparently, for if they had progeny they must have nested in accessible places, none of the chicks having ever been seen.
2008 Update: An air spirit first imagined by Philippus Theophrastus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim aka Paracelsus née Phillip von Hohenheim, which is to say, a self-referential redundancy.
SABBATH, n. A weekly festival having its origin in the fact that God made the world in six days and was arrested on the seventh. Among the Jews observance of the day was enforced by a Commandment of which this is the Christian version: "Remember the seventh day to make thy neighbor keep it wholly." To the Creator it seemed fit and expedient that the Sabbath should be the last day of the week, but the Early Fathers of the Church held other views. So great is the sanctity of the day that even where the Lord holds a doubtful and precarious jurisdiction over those who go down to (and down into) the sea it is reverently recognized, as is manifest in the following deep-water version of the Fourth Commandment:
Six days shalt thou labor and do all thou art able, And on the seventh holystone the deck and scrape the cable.
Decks are no longer holystoned, but the cable still supplies the captain with opportunity to attest a pious respect for the divine ordinance.
2008 Update: The day on which, by holy writ, the long week's virtues become sin. Industry, charity and asceticism wane while indolence, gluttony and self-regard are celebrated. Clearly, a day set aside by providence to appreciate the nature of creation.