827: The Foolish Dictionary by Gideon Wurdz

by Gerard


827: Wurdz, Gideon. The Foolish Dictionary. Boston: The Robinson, Luce Company, 1904. 150 pp.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 820: English and Old English literatures
  • 827: English humor and satire

In the same vein as Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary and other humorous compilations, Gideon Wurdz’s Foolish Dictionary is collection of witty definitions and word origins for the masses. Gideon Wurdz (read as “giddy on words”) is the pseudonym of Charles Wayland Towne, who wrote a few others like this, including Foolish Finance and Foolish Etiquette. His quick quips are pretty lame as far as modern humor goes, but many of the entries are good for a chuckle or two even if his faux etymologies are a bit strained. Of greater interest with this book was the experience of reading a volume that was over 100 years old and to see the marginalia and the illustrations of the day.

Here are a few excerpts from the dictionary for your perusal:

  • Diary: An honest autobiography; makes for a good keepsake but a bad give-away
  • Hotel: A place where a quest gives up good dollars for bad quarters
  • Sailor: A man who makes his living on water but doesn’t touch it once on shore
  • Tips: Wages we pay other people’s hired help

Included at the end are small pieces on the postal service, Greek mythology, and jabs at American holidays. It’s a quick book to rifle through and add a bit of old-timey lightness to your day. As an added bonus, it’s in the public domain so you can get it for free. If you’ve got a bit of time and a nostalgic bent, pick it up and have a good time.