Category Archives: Humor

The Dastard’s Dictionary (Again)

Audiobook, n. A way to infuse wonderful literature with shots of long car trips, dishwashing duty, and ketchup stain removal.

Author, n. One whose name is printed on books that were drafted by some else. See writer.

Autobiography, n. A partially true book in which someone tells about his own adventures. See biography.

Biography, n. A partially true book in which someone tells about someone else’s misadventures.

Bookstore, n. A place where one goes to drink coffee.

Classic, n. A book one reads in class. People who read these books outside of class are attempting a form of self-mortification that will, in many cases, leave them with the temperament of Cormac McCarthy.

E-book, n. More real than a graphic novel, even when said graphic novel is in print format.

Historical fiction, n. 1. Novels that people used to read. 2. Social studies textbooks.

Horror, n. 1. A genre that exists because some humans associate fear with adrenaline and enjoy both. 2. The feeling that afflicts a normal person upon observing someone reading a classic outside school grounds.

Iambic pentameter, n. Often used as an incantation to frighten particularly annoying children.

Index, n. Highly valued by college students. Ignored by everyone else.

Poetry, n. The genre whose primary audience consists of its writers.

Prose, n. In college football, players are paid with free passing grades. In the prose, however, players are paid in money.

Rhyme, n. Poems with this quality will not be read by the editors of literary journals. Poems without it will not be read by anyone else.

Science fiction, n. 1. The geocentric theory. 2. A literary genre that is broader than the universe.

Table of contents, n. The library mending desk after all the damaged book covers have been removed.

Thickness, n. The presence of this quality makes a book useful to drop on burglars.

Writer, n. One who composes books for the sake of (other people’s) great fame and (his own) financial survival.

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Posted by on January 14, 2015 in Humor


The Dastard’s Dictionary: Biographical Section

Every good dictionary needs a biographical section (even if Ambrose Bierce left it out of his).

Alighieri, Dante. Author of The Divine Comedy. Discovered gravity before Isaac Newton, though neither of them was aware of the fact.

Austen, Jane. Author of Pride and Prejudice. Her intellect terrified people of her own day; her fans terrify people of this one.

Brontë, Charlotte or Emily or Anne or Patrick. Some of them were authors of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. To determine precisely which ones, consult an encyclopedia or an English professor.

Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan. Author of the Sherlock Holmes detective stories. Usually very good at writing bad fiction: the Sherlock stories were the exception. They have endured as a sign of the English public’s permanent shock.

Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Author of (rather odd) poetry; also a leading Transcendentalist. Believed to have inspired the “Where’s Waldo” books by remaining in a permanent state of confusion.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. Author of The Scarlet Letter. A remarkably happy and positive person when rendered unconscious.

Homer. Author of The Iliad and The Odyssey. There is doubt as to whether Homer really existed. But even if he did not, he managed to annoy Plato and therefore deserves our admiration.

Kafka, Franz. Author of “The Metamorphosis.” A strong opponent of smashing large bugs.

Lewis, C. S. Author of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Middle-named “Staples” by his parents, leading psychologists to conclude that naming your child after office supplies may cause him to go by his initials.

MacDonald, George. Author of Phantastes, Lilith, and a number of children’s fairy stories. According to C.S. Lewis, guilty of baptizing the imagination of innocent atheists.

Morris, William. Author of The Well at the World’s End. Otherwise known for his obsession with socialism and/or household furniture.

O’Connor, Flannery. Author of Wise Blood, The Violent Bear It Away, and assorted short stories which have been confusing innocent churchgoers for the past fifty years.

Poe, Edgar Allan. Best known for his horror stories. He wrote no novels—fortunately.

Shakespeare, William. Author of Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, and so on. Incurred the eternal wrath of J.R.R. Tolkien by suggesting that elves were small and funny.

Stoker, Bram. Author of Dracula. Indirectly responsible for the Twilight series, and as such deserves the eternal opprobrium of every civilized person.

Thoreau, Henry David. Author of Walden, a book-length explanation of how the author was able to live in the woods for two years because his mother did his laundry.

Tolkien, J.R.R. Author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Believed to be the reason for a rise in pacifism among literary critics, many of whom concluded that if Elvish resulted from long hours in the trenches, trenches must be banned.

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Posted by on November 25, 2014 in Humor


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If Homer Ordered a Coffee | Literary Starbucks

Ever wondered what would happen if Homer went to Starbucks? There may not be an app for that, but there is a Tumblr account–Literary Starbucks. It’s worth a look. Or, if you would prefer the Tumblr in a nutshell, try this article: “If Authors Ordered at Starbucks.”

Homer’s sample, from the Literary Starbucks site:


Homer goes up to the counter and asks if they have any wine dark teas. The barista goes in back to check. He doesn’t return for 20 years.

Even more remarkably, Tolkien’s is accurate and does not involve jokes about exaagerrated good vs. evil plots or short people:


Tolkien goes up to the counter and orders a Teavana Shaken Iced Blackberry Mojito Tea Lemonade. All of the hipsters inside the shop overhear and immediately go up and order the same thing. Tolkien is enraged and storms out, screaming that everyone misunderstood what he was trying to order.

(Suffice it to say that Tolkien was not a fan of many of his fans–though his critics often seem unaware of the fact.)

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Posted by on November 6, 2014 in Guest, Humor



The Dastard’s Dictionary: Literary Edition

For those familiar with Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary (an online version is located here), this is my attempt–librarian style.

1024px-Nouveau_Dictionnaire_Larousse_pageAdult, n. Someone under the delusion of having grown up. This delusion usually develops in conjunction with a teenage effort to extend one’s curfew.

Adult fiction, n. Adult fictions may be found in three categories–that the grass on the other side is greener, that money grows on trees, and that cats are nice creatures.

Book burning, n. 1. The enraged reader’s final recourse. 2. The enraged non-reader’s first recourse. 3. What some Divergent fans want to do to Allegiant.

Censorship, n. 1. Ship sent ahead of the fleet to locate torpedoes. 2. The humane alternative to book burning.

Contradiction, n. When the features of a situation are opposed to one another. Example: The librarian shelved The Brother’s Grimm in the children’s section.

Fantasy, n. 1. The reason people repeatedly vote in presidential elections. 2. The attempts of some authors to simultaneously show multiple layers of reality while rearranging aspects of reality. See contradiction.

Fiction, n. This word is imaginary.

Genre, n. The cell block in which similar books are imprisoned.

Graphic novel, n. Cheating.

Intellectual freedom, n. The right of six-year-olds to read things that only interest their elders.

Library, n. A place where one goes to steal DVDs. Libraries own printed books, which are not as worthwhile to steal, and some also have e-books, which cannot be stolen at all.

Mystery, n. A literary genre explicitly designed to confuse the reader. Psychologists have attempted to explain the value of truthfulness to mystery writers, but without success.

Nonfiction, n. Boring, with the exceptions of tell-all memoirs, which should also be destroyed, but for different reasons. See book burning.

Oxymoron, n. A contradiction in terms, as in the phrase “a serious work of fiction.”

Pleasure, n. 1. An excuse for reading poor fiction. 2. A reason for reading good fiction. See oxymoron.

Reading, n. This phenomenon is most commonly associated with one’s Facebook feed. Prolonged reading requires concentration, which may cause furrows to appear in the forehead, and is generally discouraged for cosmetic reasons.

Romance, n. The literary genre in which bad titles result in higher library circulation.

Thriller, n. Genre designed to increase adrenaline while one slouches on the sofa.

Western, n. A literary genre frequently written and read by people who have never ridden a horse. See wish fulfillment.

Wish fulfillment, n. Achievable by fairy godmother.

Young adult, n. An adolescent under the delusion that he is growing up, but ought to be treated as if he had grown up already. That this is strictly a delusion was made clear by the marketing of Twilight as young adult fiction.

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Posted by on September 23, 2014 in Humor


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From a Person Who Writes in Books

A friend of mine who blogs (intermittently) at Laughter of Lowly Things offered a rebuttal to the grumpy book in my bedroom. An excerpt:

Dear Books Who Think Yourselves Ill-used Because People Write In Your Margins and Cover Pages,

Buck up. Think of all the graffiti that gets slapped on beautiful public buildings and natural wonders every day—now there’s a real offense.

Think about it: what is the true test of a book’s worth? Surely it is not clean, unmarked pages that make it sell for a little more on or Ebay. Isn’t it rather that the book should have become woven into the soul of a living human being?

Read the rest here.


Posted by on August 8, 2014 in Guest, Humor


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To People Who Write in Books


Note: I found this slipped under my door one morning. But since there is a bookcase near the door, I’m afraid that it didn’t slip under the door, and was slipped off the shelf instead by a badly treated copy of The Lord of the Rings. In which case I have at least one literate and very grumpy book in my bedroom. I’m borrowing my sister’s dagger. It’s not sharp, but a book wouldn’t know.

Dear poltroons, fiends, and knaves,

(and also some very nice people with poor study habits):

I write in defense of books—pure, clean, involiate. We realize that accidents happen. Little children want to read about Frodo, and they aren’t of an age to understand reprimands like Don’t read with dirty fingers and Don’t leave the book lying open for six weeks. We feel the pain of those mistakes, but we understand them. It is the adults who are the true problem.

My cousin lives in a library. It’s a hard life, but he tries to be understanding. His cover gets sticky, and the librarians are too busy to clean it off. His pages are torn, and there is nothing he can do. But he says the day that sticks out in his memory is the day a mature adult scrawled Frodo lives! across his title page.

Don’t get us wrong. We love to see people writing Frodo lives! on appropriate targets, like pigs, and bedspreads, and other people’s privacy fences. But writing in a book—a book!—is unconscionable.

We have feelings. We also have pages that are white where they aren’t black (or purple, red, orange, etc.). We would like to keep them that way.

Please, we beg of you. By all that you hold dear on this good earth—alarm clocks, styrofoam, and the little plastic microbeads that are currently poisoning fish in the Great Lakes—we charge to control yourselves. Restrain your pencil.

Better yet, burn it. There ought to be a pencil-burning occasion in revenge both for book-burnings and for all the damage we suffer when pencils are applied to our pages by people who ought to know better.

Many illustrious people have written in books. Some of them were monks. Those monks wrote notes in copies of the Bible. And since that time Bible scholars have been fighting tooth and nail about which words count as original text. People who write in books enjoy stirring up conflicts that can last for generations to come.

You may be thinking, “But I write in cursive. Nobody would confuse my pencil marks with actual text.” Try to remember that not everyone who wrote in books was a Gothic-scribbling monk. Vikings probably wrote in the books they stole, after they stripped all the gems off. And they probably wrote in the Viking equivalent of cursive. So by writing in books, you are joining with people of ill repute. (Or boring people–Alexander Pope wrote in books.) Also remember that there might be a dark age in the future. All elements of our culture will be forgotten. The archeologists of future generations might not know that you markings are not part of the original text. You could start a war.

You say, “Well, I want to stop writing in books, but it’s hard not to. I’ve developed a habit. What should I do?

First, try taking notes about the book somewhere other than in the book. That is the proper way to record ideas from a text, or your feelings about those ideas. Second, remember that there are nerve endings located within our pages. We feel pain when a pencil touches us. That pain leads to stress, which can lead to severe spinal injuries, which can lead to our untimely deaths. By writing in books, you may become guilty of bookslaughter. Third, bear in mind that we have feelings, including pride in our appearance. And many of you have bad handwriting.

If you ignore this warning, beware. You may have books in your house. And they never sleep.


A Very Resentful Volume


Posted by on August 4, 2014 in Humor


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How to Protect Christians from Intellectualism (in Ten Easy Steps)

Before I student taught, I was required to take a largely useless class called “Teaching Bible Principles.” (A Reformed friend quipped that classes with “Bible principles” in the name tended to be useless in general.) The class was taught by a good professor (poor man) who had been saddled with a textbook that nearly all the students hated. (Of the four history education majors in the class, three objected to the chapter on history.) The book also warned against the dangers of intellectualism. At the time I thought the warning ridiculous, since most of the people who would read the book were more in danger of ignorance. But it occurred to me that people concerned with the problem of intellectualism in the church could use some guidelines for combatting it. So here they are.

  1. Do not define the word “intellectual.” This one is perhaps the most important. Maybe you’re really upset about higher criticism of the Bible, but don’t simply say you have a problem with higher critics. “Intellectuals” is much broader and includes more. Never mind that some scholars don’t like to be identified as “intellectuals.” And never mind that most ethnomusicologists have no opinion on the date of the Exodus.
  2. Do not distinguish between a veneer of intellectualism and actual intellectualism. In some Christian circles, sounding “intellectual” is popular. This can be most easily accomplished by constantly quoting from C.S. Lewis’s simpler works. Never mind that being an actual scholar—as Lewis was—might involve some less-than-easy things, like reading through Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy. Make sure that people do not know the difference between the two.
  3. Avoid acknowledging that American culture is anti-intellectual already. The intellectuals that Americans are most likely to respect are scientists (especially those involved in medical research) and computer scientists (so teenage girls can listen to One Direction on ever-more-efficient devices). Intellectuals are partly to blame for the situation, since reaching out to the public is frowned on in some academic circles. But scholarship has never been America’s strongest point. It’s easy to criticize something that most people don’t like anyway.
  4. Warn against the dangers of intellectual pride. Although some intellectuals do get stuck up, pride doesn’t magically appear after you write that thesis on the Peloponnesian War. But don’t acknowledge this fact. Never mind that getting stuck up is a good way to ensure that all your future ideas are junk. Never mind that the more you know, the more you should realize you don’t know.
  5. Do not warn against the dangers of anti-intellectual pride. Yes, this exists. Some Christians are very cocky about the fact that they are not intellectuals. Being glad you’re not an intellectual when you never really liked school may seem pointless, but if you word things right, most people won’t notice.
  6. Do not acknowledge that the Bible includes many godly “intellectuals.” Their number includes Moses, Jesus, and Paul. They weren’t ivory tower intellectuals, so sometimes their scholarly knowledge gets overlooked. Make good use of this fact.
  7. Avoid understanding the intellectual ideas you dislike. You never know—understanding the ideas could be dangerous to your spiritual health. Misunderstanding things will keep you from becoming interested in them. It also will help you make fun of them.
  8. Make fun of intellectuals and their ideas. This works best if you don’t actually know any.
  9. Avoid meeting any orthodox Christian “intellectuals.” If you make fun of them enough, most will just avoid you. And if they are avoiding you, your assumptions about them will remain safe.
  10. Never, never let scholarly types warn against intellectualism. They actually know what they are talking about, which is obviously a weakness in opposing something so insidious.

Sarcasm aside? The Western academic world isn’t exactly healthy today, so it’s no wonder that many Christians have been turned off by it. But I’d like to offer two cautions: first, if you don’t enjoy academics, avoid intensively criticizing “intellectualism.” That’s like a miser trying to offer advice on overcoming greed. Instead of criticizing “intellectualism,” try reading a book and critiquing that instead. You might develop a little insight along the way.

Second, we live in a culture that values entertainment and instant gratification, not wisdom. Most Christians don’t struggle with being too academic. And the few who are of a more scholarly bent tend to suffer from “uprootedness,” to use Simone Weil’s terminology. Already feeling alienated from mainstream culture, these Christians desperately need the support that the church can provide. And learning to serve in community with other followers of Christ is one of the best correctives to intellectual pride available. But that won’t happen if you make “intellectual” Christians feel as though scholarship is somehow unholy.


Posted by on April 24, 2014 in Humor


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