Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Devil's Dictionary: Brain (n.)

An apparatus with which we think that we think. In our civilization, and under our republican form of government, brain is so highly regarded that it is exempted from the cares of office.

This seems as good a time as any to retell one of my favorite jokes:

The Scarecrow and the Wizard are discussing the upcoming operation, and the Wizard asks, "So, what model of brain would you like?"

"There are different models?"

"Certainly -- at rather different prices. I'll knock twenty grand an ounce off out of gratitude for your services, of course."

"Well, what kind of brain would that twenty grand an ounce buy me?"

"Oh, for twenty grand an ounce, you get a very serviceable brain, very serviceable indeed -- you get a plumber's brain. Qualifies you to perform a valuable service to society and you make good money. Not at all a bad deal, is Brain of Plumber -- especially when you're getting it for free."

The Scarecrow, not wishing to seem ungrateful, chooses his words carefully. "It sounds very nice, but you know, I think I'd really rather get something along more intellectual lines. Just a personal preference, but there it, um, what else is there?"

"Well, you could always go for Brain of Neurosurgeon. Very high-quality stuff. Expensive, though -- even after the discount you'd be looking at a good thirty thousand per ounce."

"But it's the best, right? The top-of-the-line model."

The Wizard smiles mysteriously. "Oh, no, my friend. It's not the top of the line. Why don't you follow me?"

They walk together down the hall and suddenly the Wizard stops at a large set of double doors. At his push they swing soundlessly open, revealing a large dark room empty save for its shadows and a single pedestal in the very center of the room, spotlit, with a glass case on a lazy susan rotating slowly and everlastingly. And within the case...

"This," says the Wizard, "is the pride of my collection. For this brain you will pay not a penny less than $500,000 per ounce."

"My God!" gasps the Scarecrow. "But what manner of man can possibly have possessed a brain that could justify such a price?"

"What you see before you," says the Wizard, slowly and impressively, "is Brain of Congressman."

The Scarecrow's awe instantly is replaced by choked incredulity. "Brain of -- Congr- -- no, you're not serious...a Congressman's -- five hundred thousand...for a Cong-..." He stops to collect his thoughts, then demands, "But why is it so expensive?"

"Well," replies the Wizard cheerfully, "in the first place, it's never been used. And in the second place -- do you realize how many Congressmen you have to kill to get an ounce of brains?"


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