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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Josh Billings (Henry Wheeler Shaw) (1818–1885)

The Bizzy Body

From “Complete Works”

I DON’T mean the industrious man, intent, and constant in the way of duty, but he who, like a hen, tired ov setting, cums clucking oph from the nest in a grate hurry, and full ov sputter, az fat spilt on the fire; scratching a little here, and suddenly a little thare; chuck full ov small things, like a ritch cheeze; up and down the streets, wagging around evry boddy, like a lorst dorg; in and out like a long-tailed mouse; az full ov bizzness az a pissmire, just before a hard shower; more questions tew ask than a prosekuting attorney; az fat with pertikulars az an inditement for hog stealing; as knowing az a tin weathercock.

This breed ov folks do a small bizzness on a big capital, they alwus know all the sekrets within ten miles, that aint worth keeping, they are a bundle of faggot fakts, and kan tell which sow in the neighborhood haz got the most pigs, and what Squire Benson got for marrying hiz last couple.

All ov this iz the result ov not knowing how to use a few brains to advantage, if they only knew a little less they would be fools, and a little more would enable them to tend a fresh lettered gideboard, with credit to themselfs, and not confusion to the travelers.

The Bizzy Body iz az full ov leizure az a yearling heifer, hiz time (nor noboddy else’s) aint worth nothing to him, he will button hole an auctioneer on the block, or a minister in the pulpit, and wouldn’t hesitate tew stop a phuneral procession to ask what the corpse died of. They are az familiar with every boddy az a cockroach, but are no more use to you, az a friend, than a sucked orange.

Theze bizzy people are of awl genders—maskuline, feminine and nuter, and sumtimes are old maids, and then are az necessary in a community as dried herbs in the garret.

One bizzy old maid, who enjoys her vittles, and dont keep a lot ov tame kats for stiddy employment, is worth more than a daily paper; she iz better than the “Cook’s Own Book,” or a volume of household receipts, and works harder and makes more trips every day than a railroad hoss on the Third avenue cars.

The bizzybody iz generally az free from malice az a fly; he lights on you only for a roost, but iz always az unprofitable to know, or to hav ennything to do with, az a jewelry peddlar.

Thare are sum ov the bizzy folks who are like the hornets—never bizzy only with their stings. Theze are vipers, and are to be feared, not trifled with; but my bizzybody has no gaul in his liver; his whole karackter iz his face, and he iz as eazy to inventory az the baggage of a traveling colporter.

They are a cheerful, moderately virtuous, extremely patient, modestly impudent, ginger-pop set ov vagrants, who have got more leggs than brains, and whose really greatest sin iz not their waste ov facultys, but waste ov time. But time, to one ov theze fellows, flies as unconscious az it duz tew a tin watch in a toy shop window.

They are welcomed, not bekauze they are necessary, but bekauze they aint feared, and are soon dropt, like peanut shells, on the floor.

Thare iz no radikal cure for the bizzybody, no more than thare iz for the fleas in a long-haired dogg—if yu git rid ov the fleas yu hav got the dogg left, and if yu git rid ov the dogg yu hav got the fleas left, and so, whare are you?

Bizzyness and bissness are two diffrent things, altho they pronounce out loud similar.

But after all i don’t want tew git shut ov the Bizzy people; they are a noosanse for a small amount, but sumboddy haz got to be a noosance, and being aktive about nothing, and energetically lazy, iz no doubt a virtuous dodge, but iz 10 per cent better than counterfitting, or even the grand larceny bizziness. Thare iz one thing about them, they are seldum deceitful, they trade on a floating capital, and only deal in second-hand articles; they haint got the tallent to invent, they seldum lie, bekauze their bizziness don’t require it; thare iz stale truth enuff lieing around loose for their purpose.

Don’t trust them only with what you want to have scattered, they will find a ready market for every thing that a prudent man would hesitate tew offer, and they always suppoze they are learned, for they mistake rumors, skandals, and gossip for wisdum.

It iz a sad sight to see a whole life being swooped off for the glory of telling what good people don’t love to hear, and what viscious ones only value for the malice it contains. I should rather be the keeper ov a rat pit, or ketch kats for a shilling a head to feed an anaconda with.