The Devil's Dictionary
is a consonant that we get from the Greeks, but it can be traced away back
beyond them to the Cerathians, a small commercial nation inhabiting the
peninsula of Smero. In their tongue it was called Klatch, which means
"destroyed." The form of the letter was originally precisely that
of our H, but the erudite Dr. Snedeker explains that it was altered to its
present shape to commemorate the destruction of the great temple of Jarute
by an earthquake, circa 730 B.C. This building was famous for the
two lofty columns of its portico, one of which was broken in half by the
catastrophe, the other remaining intact. As the earlier form of the letter
is supposed to have been suggested by these pillars, so, it is thought by
the great antiquary, its later was adopted as a simple and natural -- not
to say touching -- means of keeping the calamity ever in the national memory.
It is not known if the name of the letter was altered as an additional mnemonic,
or if the name was always Klatch and the destruction one of nature's
pums. As each theory seems probable enough, I see no objection to believing
both -- and Dr. Snedeker arrayed himself on that side of the question.
He willed away his whole estate,
KILL, v.t. To create a vacancy without nominating a successor.
KILT, n. A costume sometimes worn by Scotchmen in America and Americans in Scotland.
KINDNESS, n. A brief preface to ten volumes of exaction.
KING, n. A male person commonly known in America as a "crowned head," although he never wears a crown and has usually no head to speak of.
A king, in times long, long gone by,
"The reason, Sire, that you would thrive,"
KING'S EVIL, n. A malady that was formerly cured by the touch of the sovereign, but has now to be treated by the physicians. Thus 'the most pious Edward" of England used to lay his royal hand upon the ailing subjects and make them whole --
a crowd of wretched souls
as the "Doctor" in Macbeth hath it. This useful property of the royal hand could, it appears, be transmitted along with other crown properties; for according to "Malcolm,"
But the gift somewhere dropped out of the line of succession: the later sovereigns of England have not been tactual healers, and the disease once honored with the name "king's evil" now bears the humbler one of "scrofula," from scrofa, a sow. The date and author of the following epigram are known only to the author of this dictionary, but it is old enough to show that the jest about Scotland's national disorder is not a thing of yesterday.
Ye Kynge his evill in me laye,
The superstition that maladies can be cured by royal taction is dead, but like many a departed conviction it has left a monument of custom to keep its memory green. The practice of forming a line and shaking the President's hand had no other origin, and when that great dignitary bestows his healing salutation on
strangely visited people,
he and his patients are handing along an extinguished torch which once was kindled at the altar-fire of a faith long held by all classes of men. It is a beautiful and edifying "survival" -- one which brings the sainted past close home in our "business and bosoms."
KISS, n. A word invented by the poets as a rhyme for "bliss." It is supposed to signify, in a general way, some kind of rite or ceremony appertaining to a good understanding; but the manner of its performance is unknown to this lexicographer.
KLEPTOMANIAC, n. A rich thief.
Once a warrior gentle of birth,
KORAN, n. A book which the Mohammedans foolishly believe to have been written by divine inspiration, but which Christians know to be a wicked imposture, contradictory to the Holy Scriptures.