Pertinent and Impertinent

H.L. Mencken

The Smart Set/August 1913


From Euckenism, and from women who leave everything to your honor; from men with waists, and from the Book of Revelation ; from clear soups, and from the sacerdotal melodramas of Charles Rann Kennedy; from the college spirit, and from B flat clarinets; from bungalows, and from German cooking; from converted actors, and from actors; from sulphate of quinine, and from pediculi; from virtuous chorus girls, and from over-affectionate wives; from the lascivious arpeggios of Arnold Schoenberg, and from Boston baked beans; from chivalry, and from laparotomy; from the prehensile piety of the Hon. William Jennings Bryan, and from the comic supplement of Harper’s Magazine; from women who say “I’m surprised!” and from those who actually are surprised; from sabotage, and from trained nurses—good Lord, deliver us!


Eugenics —The theory that marriages should be made in the laboratory; the Wassermann test for love.


More Worsts:

The worst loser—The Confederate States of America.

The worst sport —Snoring.

The worst nuisance—Cabs.

The worst town —Boston.

The worst hobby —Whiskers.

The worst joke—Marriage.

The worst vice—Reading the New York Evening Post.

The worst wurst—Cervelaiwurst.


Punishments That Fit the Crimes:


Bryan. Twins.


The Homeopaths —The medical Shuberts.

Proposals for an Eleventh Commandment:

  1. Thou shalt not get caught with the goods.
  2. Thou shalt not tell on a lady.
  3. Thou shalt not cheat, nor beef, nor cry for mercy.
  4. Thou shalt not blush.


The Ethics of a Gentleman:

  1. Play all games according to their rules.
  2. If you are licked, shut up.


Historic conundrum of Roy McCardell: Do married men make the best husbands? Amendment of the eugenists: Do husbands make the best fathers?


Surgeon: one who discovers the family doctor’s error in diagnosis—and takes the blame for it; also one who takes the patient’s watch, chain and underwear.


All women, soon or late, are jealous of their daughters; all men, soon or late, are envious of their sons.


Soul Mates in Hades:

Mrs. Eddy—Cagliostro.

P.T. Barnum—Sarah Bernhardt.

Mrs. Pankhurst—Jesse James.

Anthony Comstock—Lady Godiva.

Elinor Glyn—Tom Jones.

William Winter—Hannah More.


A Progressive is one who believes the common people are honest and intelligent ; a reactionary is one who knows that they are not.


Tenor—One who commits musical sabotage.


Christian Science and the coroner: the initiative and referendum.


Pensioner —A kept patriot.


American —One who believes that George Washington never told a lie, that a dark cigar is always a strong one, that lotteries are immoral, that Charles Klein is a great dramatist, that the night air is poisonous, that a horsehair put into a bottle of water will turn into a snake, that champagne is the best of all wines, that it snowed every Christmas down to fifteen years ago, that a blood hound never makes a mistake, that all Frenchmen are adulterers, that the jokes in Punch are never funny, that the Mohammedans are heathens, that a sudden shock may cause the hair to turn gray overnight, that a cat has nine lives, that “The Holy City” is a musical classic, that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, that maternal longings cause birthmarks, that Chili is less civilized than Ohio, that preaching is a learned profession, that swearing is forbidden by the Bible, that the Ibsen plays are obscene, that newspaper reporters carry notebooks, that whiskey is good for snakebite, that surgeons kill patients for the sheer pleasure of it, that every girl who falls has been seduced, that the music of Richard Wagner is all played fortissimo and by cornets, that the Masonic Order goes back to the days of King Solomon and that all women who smoke cigarettes go further.


The devil: a man with a woman’s soul.


Prohibition —The theory that the best way to combat a vice is to make it more vicious.


“Good” Woman —A union worker.

“Bad” Woman—A scab.


Misogynist—A man who hates women as much as women hate one another.


Never swear to women or by women; swear at ’em.


Every man is his own hell.