Friday, January 20, 2012

The Devil's Dictionary

The Devil’s Dictionary, by Ambrose Bierce, is a pseudo reference book, a series of satirical definitions first published about a hundred years ago.

Bierce, also known for the short story "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," was a writer, editor, and journalist. The Devil's Dictionary first appeared as occasional items in the newspaper. In book form, it was originally called The Cynic's Word Book. Bierce is said to have preferred the title by which we know it today.

I've had a lot of pleasure over the years from The Devil's Dictionary. Many of its definitions are quite amusing; in some cases, rather profound.

I present, for your reading pleasure, an arbitrary selection of these definitions.

From The Devil's Dictionary...

Absurdity, n. A statement or belief manifestly inconsistent with one’s own opinion.

Adage, n. Boned wisdom for weak teeth.

Admiration, n. Our polite recognition of another’s resemblance to ourselves.

Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.

Destiny, n. A tyrant’s authority for crime and a fool’s excuse for failure.

Egotist, n. A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me.

Future, n. That period of time in which our affairs prosper, our friends are true and our happiness is assured.

Koran, n. A book which the Modammedans foolishly believe to have been written by divine inspiration, but which Christians know to be a wicked imposture, contradictory to the Holy Scriptures.

Lawyer, n. One skilled in circumvention of the law.

Lickspittle, n. A useful functionary, not infrequently found editing a newspaper.

Money, n. A blessing that is of no advantage to us excepting when we part with it.

Plagiarism, n. A literary coincidence compounded of a discreditable priority and an honorable subsequence.

Please, v. To lay the foundation for a superstructure of imposition.

Politeness, n. The most acceptable hypocricy.

Politics, n.  A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.

Satan, n. One of the Creator’s lamentable mistakes.

Scriptures, n. The sacred books of our holy religion, as distinguished from the false and profane writings on which all other faiths are based.

Success, n. The one unpardonable sin against one’s fellows.

Truth, n. An ingenious compound of desirability and appearance.

1 comment:

  1. The Devil's dictionary was started in a regular newspaper in 1881, and was ongoing in a desultory way at extensive durations until 1906.