Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Foolish Dictionary

Charles Wayland Towne - The Foolish Dictionary (1904)

Open Library direct link
Open Library main page
LibriVox page (audio)

Another audio version is available.

The Foolish Dictionary is a brief collection of humorous definitions from Charles Wayland Towne, a New York Times reporter who covered the Spanish-American War and traveled with Buffalo Bill.  His papers are in Harvard's Peabody Museum archives though they mainly relate to an unpublished biography of Peabody.  In 1914 he wrote The Altogether New Foolish Dictionary (not on Open Library but can be found on Google Books).

The book lacks the bite of Bierce, is jocularly sexist (women always have the last word, marriage is a battlefield - that sort of thing) and I doubt will make anybody actually laugh but can be mildly clever.

Some samples:

BREVITY - A desirable quality in a Fourth of July oration but not in the fireworks.

DUST - Mud with the juice squeezed out.

GUNPOWDER - A black substance much employed in marking the boundary lines of nations.

MARK - In German, twenty-three cents. In the United States, only Twain.

PAIN - A sensation experienced on receiving a Punch, particularly the London one.