The Devil's Dictionary
is a consonant in English, but some nations use it as a vowel -- than which
nothing could be more absurd. Its original form, which has been but slightly
modified, was that of the tail of a subdued dog, and it was not a letter
but a character, standing for a Latin verb, jacere, "to throw,"
because when a stone is thrown at a dog the dog's tail assumes that shape.
This is the origin of the letter, as expounded by the renowned Dr. Jocolpus
Bumer, of the University of Belgrade, who established his conclusions on
the subject in a work of three quarto volumes and committed suicide on being
reminded that the j in the Roman alphabet had originally no curl.
JEALOUS, adj. Unduly concerned about the preservation of that which can be lost only if not worth keeping.
JESTER, n. An officer formerly attached to a king's household, whose business it was to amuse the court by ludicrous actions and utterances, the absurdity being attested by his motley costume. The king himself being attired with dignity, it took the world some centuries to discover that his own conduct and decrees were sufficiently ridiculous for the amusement not only of his court but of all mankind. The jester was commonly called a fool, but the poets and romancers have ever delighted to represent him as a singularly wise and witty person. In the circus of to-day the melancholy ghost of the court fool effects the dejection of humbler audiences with the same jests wherewith in life he gloomed the marble hall, panged the patrician sense of humor and tapped the tank of royal tears.
The widow-queen of Portugal
"Father," she said, "thine ear bend down --
"Daughter," the mimic priest replied,
"But since thy stubborn heart will be
She made the fool a duke, in hope
JEWS-HARP, n. An unmusical instrument, played by holding it fast with the teeth and trying to brush it away with the finger.
JOSS-STICKS, n. Small sticks burned by the Chinese in their pagan tomfoolery, in imitation of certain sacred rites of our holy religion.
JUSTICE, n. A commodity which is a more or less adulterated condition the State sells to the citizen as a reward for his allegiance, taxes and personal service.