The Devil's Dictionary



10 thoughts on “The Devil's Dictionary

  1. says:

    goodreads, n Website designed to prevent people who enjoy books from finding time to read them.review, v.i. Demonstrate, through a short essay, appreciation for one s own wit.

  2. says:

    Ambrose Bierce was an American cynic A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be and wit The salt with which the American humorist spoils his intellectual cookery by leaving it out This, his most famous Conspicuously miserable and enduring work, started as a weekly newspaper column in 1881, was initially published in 1906 as The Cynic s Word Book , and then in 1911 as The Devil s Dictionary I think the earlier title isapt, though the final c Ambrose Bierce was an American cynic A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be and wit The salt with which the American humorist spoils his intellectual cookery by leaving it out This, his most famous Conspicuously miserable and enduring work, started as a weekly newspaper column in 1881, was initially published in 1906 as The Cynic s Word Book , and then in 1911 as The Devil s Dictionary I think the earlier title isapt, though the final choice was probablyprovocative at the time Bierce wasn t a lexicographer A pestilent fellow who, under the pretense of recording some particular stage in the development of a language, does what he can to arrest its growth, stiffen its flexibility and mechanize its methods , and this isn t a conventional dictionary A malevolent literary device for cramping the growth of a language and making it hard and inelastic Instead, he immodestly Having a strong sense of one s own merit, coupled with a feeble conception of worth in others describes it as a most useful work.You will find aphorisms Predigested wisdom aplenty, along with poems and quotes from other writers Many of the entries reflect his views on politics A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles The conduct of public affairs for private advantage , on religion A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable and lawyers One skilled in circumvention of the law The political ones are still remarkably relevant today There are also oddly prosaic words like kilt A costume sometimes worn by Scotchmen in America and Americans in Scotland and dentist A prestidigitator who, putting metal into your mouth, pulls coins out of your pocket and custard A detestable substance produced by a malevolent conspiracy of the hen, the cow and the cook Below, I ve listed a fewof my favourite quotations The act of repeating erroneously the words of another , but not all are quoted in full PoliticsVOTE, n The instrument and symbol of a freeman s power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country.ELECTOR, n One who enjoys the sacred privilege of voting for the man of another man s choice.CONSERVATIVE, n A statesman who is enamoured of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.OVERWORK, n A dangerous disorder affecting high public functionaries who want to go golfing fishing.DICTATOR, n The chief of a nation that prefers the pestilence of despotism to the plague of anarchy.PATRIOTISM, n In Dr Johnson s famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer I beg to submit that it is the first.INVASION, n The patriot s most approved method of attesting his love of his country.ReligionPRAY, v To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy.CHRISTIAN, n One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor One who follows the teachings of Christ in so far as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin.FAITH, n Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.The LawINNOCENCE, n The state or condition of a criminal whose counsel has fixed the jury.DICE, n Small polka dotted cubes of ivory, constructed like a lawyer to lie on any side, but commonly on the wrong one.JUDGE, n A person who is always interfering in disputes in which he has no personal interest An official whose functions, as a great legal luminary recently informed a body of local law students, very closely resemble those of God.OtherKANGAROO, n An unconventional kind of animal which in shape is farther than any other from being the square of its base It is assisted in jumping by its tail which makes very good soup.EDUCATION, n That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.EGOTIST, n A person of low taste,interested in himself than in me.ALONE, adj In bad company.CENSOR, n An officer of certain governments, employed to suppress the works of genius Among the Romans the censor was an inspector of public morals, but the public morals of modern nations will not bear inspection.LIBERTINE, n Literally a freedman hence, one who is in bondage to his passions.LIBERTY, n One of Imagination s most precious possessions.ACQUAINTANCE, n A person whom we know well enough to borrow from, but not well enough to lend to.LOVE, n A temporary insanity curable by marriage or by removal of the patient from the influences under which he incurred the disorder It is sometimes fatal, butfrequently to the physician than to the patient.WHITE, adj and n Black.ELOQUENCE, n 1 The art of orally persuading fools that white is the color that it appears to be.OPTIMIST, n A proponent of the doctrine that black is white.OPTIMISM, n The doctrine, or belief, that everything is beautiful, including what is ugly, everything good, especially the bad, and everything right that is wrong It is hereditary, but fortunately not contagious.BIRTH, n The first and direst of all disasters.CHILDHOOD, n The period of human life intermediate between the idiocy of infancy and the folly of youth two removes from the sin of manhood and three from the remorse of age.Source and ImitatorYou can access the whole thing here www.thedevilsdictionary.comIt is of its time, so a few of the definitions do not sit comfortably with modern sensibilities.There is also Rick Bayan s 1994 The Cynic s Dictionary, which I reviewed HERE

  3. says:

    The Devil s Dictionary, Ambrose BierceThe Devil s Dictionary is a satirical dictionary written by American Civil War soldier, wit, and writer Ambrose Bierce consisting of common words followed by humorous and satirical definitions The lexicon was written over three decades as a series of installments for magazines and newspapers Bierce s witty definitions were imitated and plagiarized for years before he gathered them into books, first as The Cynic s Word Book in 1906 and then in acom The Devil s Dictionary, Ambrose BierceThe Devil s Dictionary is a satirical dictionary written by American Civil War soldier, wit, and writer Ambrose Bierce consisting of common words followed by humorous and satirical definitions The lexicon was written over three decades as a series of installments for magazines and newspapers Bierce s witty definitions were imitated and plagiarized for years before he gathered them into books, first as The Cynic s Word Book in 1906 and then in acomplete version as The Devil s Dictionary in 1911 2008 1385 250 9648637059 1386 20 1380 209 9646026966

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    For years now, I ve kept the following definition tacked to my cubicle wall EDITOR, n A person who combines the judicial functions of Minos, Rhadamanthus and Aeacus, but is placable with an obolus a severely virtuous censor, but so charitable withal that he tolerates the virtues of others and the vices of himself who flings about him the splintering lightning and sturdy thunders of admonition till he resembles a bunch of firecrackers petulantly uttering his mind at the tail of a dog then str For years now, I ve kept the following definition tacked to my cubicle wall EDITOR, n A person who combines the judicial functions of Minos, Rhadamanthus and Aeacus, but is placable with an obolus a severely virtuous censor, but so charitable withal that he tolerates the virtues of others and the vices of himself who flings about him the splintering lightning and sturdy thunders of admonition till he resembles a bunch of firecrackers petulantly uttering his mind at the tail of a dog then straightway murmurs a mild, melodious lay, soft as the cooing of a donkey intoning its prayer to the evening star Master of mysteries and lord of law, high pinnacled upon the throne of thought, his face suffused with the dim splendors of the Transfiguration, his legs intertwisted and his tongue a cheek, the editor spills his will along the paper and cuts it off in lengths to suit And at intervals from behind the veil of the temple is heard the voice of the foreman demanding three inches of wit and six lines of religious meditation, or bidding him turn off the wisdom and whack up some pathos.No wonder I ve still yet to win employee of the year.The illustrated Steadman edition is probably the only one worth owning in print, but why buy the book when you can look up all your favorite definitions right online

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    There may be none, outside of perhaps Rabelais, who may so decorously handle the refuse of the world The Devil s Dictionary is a guidebook for the mind of man, and perhaps a certain delicacy becomes necessary when exploring something so rude and unappealing There is perhaps no greater illustration that the answer of why do bad things happen to good people is because it is much funnier that way.

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    Hi, my name is Ambrose Bierce Chances are, you have never heard of me Or, if so, likely from my Devil s Dictionary, which I will quote in parentheses throughout this column I was once an idealistic youth I even believed in Santa Claus when I was a small child But when my mother told me the truth, I was very angry with her and am, to some extent, to this day I don t like when people lie to me and the world is full of liars I have spent my career as a journalist exposing liars and giving th Hi, my name is Ambrose Bierce Chances are, you have never heard of me Or, if so, likely from my Devil s Dictionary, which I will quote in parentheses throughout this column I was once an idealistic youth I even believed in Santa Claus when I was a small child But when my mother told me the truth, I was very angry with her and am, to some extent, to this day I don t like when people lie to me and the world is full of liars I have spent my career as a journalist exposing liars and giving them the rhetorical whipping they deserve.I have had an interesting life I am 71 years old and embarking on a new adventure I am headed to Mexico to report on the Revolution, now in its third or fourth year, and to join the forces of Pancho Villa I am in El Paso and will cross the border to Juarez In a hotel room in Laredo, I left a trunk of books and a manuscript that exposes that scoundrel William Randolph Hearst, for whom I published my Prattle column in the San Francisco Examiner and worked for other of his publications for 30 years.My Civil War stories you may have heard of or even read Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge were popular in their day Those stories are based on my harrowing experiences fighting at Shiloh, Chickamauga and getting wounded in the head at Kennesaw Mountain for the Union in the Indiana Infantry Regiment Later, I helped General Hazew map the far west When my promised promotion did not happen, I settled in San Francisco to pursue a career in journalism But the only job i could get was as a night watchman at the Treasury Mint Building I used my spare time to educate myself by methodically and voraciously reading history and classical literature And I kept writing and my freelance work was picked up by several San Francisco publications until I got hired by the News Letter where I published my Town Crier column before I moved to London with my wife, Molly, for a three year stint When I came back to San Francisco, I started a new column at the Argonaut, titled The Prattle, which would later carry over to several publications, including the San Francisco Examiner I called out hypocrites of all kinds, especially politicians, but also evangelicals who would throw rocks at the Chinese then go into church to praise Jesus Christian One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor I always defended the Chinese, as well as Jews, and the black man against racism, which brings me to the loathsome Denis Kearney who formed the Workingman s Party Though an immigrant himself, Irish, Kearney was hostile to immigrants not like himself, especially the Chinese They were his favorite scapegoat The Chinese worked on the most dangerous section of the railroad, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, that allowed the Central Pacific and Union Pacific to link in May 1869 in Utah as the first transcontinental railroad After this, the Chinese came to San Francisco to look for work Kearney s solution to the competition was to run the Chinese out of town But he went too far when his followers armed themselves to destroy the Chinese and overthrow the city government I regularly attacked that immortal ass, and though they got the bizarre Isaac Kalloch elected for mayor, their fall was just as swift as their rise For 20 years, I went after the Big Four, the Rail Rogues, led by that scoundrel Stealand Landford Particularly egregious was the Mussel Slough tragedy in the San Joaquin Valley Even worse was the Funding Bill that came before Congress that would cancel the Western railroads indebtedness to the federal government for land grants and loans Mr Hearst sent me to Washington, DC, to lead the newspaper attack there Rail baron Collis Huntington tried to bribe me on the steps of the Nation s capital He told me Name your price Every man has his price I shot back, in front of many witnesses, My price is 75 million to be handed to the Treasurer of the United States My efforts are credited with getting the bill defeated My writing career got started and developed during the period after the Civil War, what my colleague and rival, Mark Twain, called the Gilded Age, a time of rapid industrial and economic growth, but also the consolidation of wealth and power in the hands of a few I kept a human skull on my desk as a reminder of my mortality Some call me a cynic a blackguard whose faulty vision sees thing as they are and a misanthrope, and therefore abnormal In matters of thought and conduct, to be independent is to be abnormal, to be abnormal is to be detested Some call me Bitter Bierce I pack a revolver at all times, ever since Charles de Young, the owner of the San Francisco Chronicle, was shot dead by the mayor s son after the newspaper published a derogatory piece about the mayor But now, I confess I feel like a hack My journalism and stories will be forgotten in a generation, if that I have also been a bad family man, mostly absent from my wife Molly, who divorced me and died young, and my three children Some think Molly was a saint, but I have my own idea of what a saint is a dead sinner, revised and edited.Things went bad after we moved to San Rafael, a clime that the doctors thought would be better for my chronic asthma, and my mother in law, Mrs Daly moved in with us She was a most insufferable woman No wonder her wealthy husband lived the life of a reclusive in the mining camps I preferred to stay in the City than going home When I did go home, I expected the children to be clean, well mannered, and studious, but did nothing to help them in that regard I fear I was a bad example to the children, particularly to my older son, Day.My most colorful, productive, and sometimes annoying journalism association was with the newspaper publisher, William Randolph Hearst His father, George, grew up in a log cabin in Missouri After the death of his father, George headed for the Gold Rush in California, where he and his partners found gold, but also ran a general store, and raised livestock and did farming It was in 1859 when they heard of the Comstock Silver Lode in Nevada They took a stake in a silver mine and managed to pull out 38 tons of high grade ore and transport it to San Francisco to be smelted Their fortune was made George continued to expand his mining interests, including the Homestake gold mine in South Dakota, where I tried my luck, staying in the town of Deadwood, but with no success.Back in Missouri, George met Phoebethan 20 years his junior and they got married and moved to San Francisco where they had their only child, William George bought a ranch in San Simeon and financed a thoroughbred horse stable He bought the San Francisco Examiner as payment for a gambling debt After he died, Phoebe gave to many universities, especially University of California, Berkeley, where she became the first female regent George sent his reluctant son, William, to Harvard, where he got himself expelled When he returned to California, his father gave him the San Francisco Examiner as something to keep him occupied, Little did his father know how seriously his son would take it Only two weeks after he got the paper in February, 1897, Mr Hearst sailed across the Bay to seek me out in Oakland I encountered a tall, slender man with pale eyes and a diffident manner I am from the San Francisco Examiner, he explained in a voice like the fragrance of violets made audible, and backed a little away Oh, I said, You come from Mr Hearst Then that unearthly child lifted his blue eyes and cooed I am Mr Hearst Little did I know then that Mr Hearst would become the P.T Barnum of publishing, staging current events as much as reporting on them For example, he had one staff writer get himself committed to an insane asylum by jumping off a steamer in the middle of the San Francisco Bay and rave like a lunatic when the rescuers pulled him out After a month in the asylum, he emerged perfectly sane to write a harrowing account of his experience there Another reporter jumped off a ferry boat to test how long it would take to rescue him If he couldn t swim, he would have drowned Winifred Sweet, a redheaded former chorus girl dressed up as a homeless woman, faked a collapse, and was taken to a hospital for the poor where she was successively insulted, pawed, given a hot mustard emetic, and turned back out on to the street A front page expose in the Monarch of the Dailies as Hearst called the Examiner led to a staff shakeup at the hospital and a visit to the newsroom by the chief physician, threatening violence A burly colleague of Miss Sweet knocked him out cold It was not long before the Examiner circulation reached 300,000.Hearst wanted me to revive my Prattle column to help boost the circulation of the Examiner, which was then at 30,000 I was given complete editorial freedom and did not have to come into the office to write This kept me away from bores, people who talk when I wish them to listen When I did drop by from time to time, I always seemed to end up in a pub crawl with some of the other journalists to see who could hold their liquor best Not since drinking with Jack London did I find such even matches Most people know the story of William Randolph Hearst and his publishing empire, but I want to add this note about him personally He had not a friend in the world Nor does he merit one He is inaccessible to the conception of an unselfish attachment or a disinterested motive Perhaps he was aware that to befriend means to make an ingrate.Well, I better be off Mexico is calling If you hear of my being stood up against a Mexican stone wall and shot to rags please know that I think it s a pretty good way to depart this life It beats old age, disease, or falling down the cellar stairs To be a Gringo in Mexico ah, that is euthanasia

  7. says:

    CYNIC, n A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be Hence the custom among the Scythians of plucking out a cynic s eyes to improve his vision A hundred years before Twitter and other social media, uber cynic and epic tough old guy Ambrose Bierce found a way to say everything he meant, ugly and in yer face prose but in a scholarly and artful way in the Devil s Dictionary SUCCESS, n The one unpardonable sin against one s fellows In literature, and part CYNIC, n A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be Hence the custom among the Scythians of plucking out a cynic s eyes to improve his vision A hundred years before Twitter and other social media, uber cynic and epic tough old guy Ambrose Bierce found a way to say everything he meant, ugly and in yer face prose but in a scholarly and artful way in the Devil s Dictionary SUCCESS, n The one unpardonable sin against one s fellows In literature, and particularly in poetry, the elements of success are exceedingly simple, and are admirably set forth in the following lines by the reverend Father Gassalasca Jape, entitled, for some mysterious reason, John A Joyce The bard who would prosper must carry a book, Do his thinking in prose and wearA crimson cravat, a far away look And a head of hexameter hair.Be thin in your thought and your body ll be fat If you wear your hair long you needn t your hat Begun in 1881, published in a weekly newspaper and then collected and published in 1906, Bierce took words and attributed to them a different kind of meaning one in which his cynicism is paraded out amongst the rest of us and his razor s edge intelligence is demonstrated in definition after definition LOVE, n A temporary insanity curable by marriage or by removal of the patient from the influences under which he incurred the disorder This disease, like caries and many other ailments, is prevalent only among civilized races living under artificial conditions barbarous nations breathing pure air and eating simple food enjoy immunity from its ravages It is sometimes fatal, butfrequently to the physician than to the patient Most notable for modern readers is the virtuosity of Bierce s designs Today we live in a world of terse headlines and hash tag wit, but it is beneficial to revisit Bierce and see a master of the language display a rapier jocularity SLANG, n The grunt of the human hog Pignoramus intolerabilis with an audible memory The speech of one who utters with his tongue what he thinks with his ear, and feels the pride of a creator in accomplishing the feat of a parrot A means under Providence of setting up as a wit without a capital of sense

  8. says:

    I know I know this is not a real dictionary, but I read the entries randomly, and sometimes I checked a word if there was an amusing definition when I was skimming reading this book That s why I put it as reference.I am tempted to put it on read shelf, but I admit I haven t read all of the definitions.

  9. says:

    Absolutely inspired Bierce s wit is a literary scalpel honed to a fineness that can slice exceptionalism at the molecular level Of a kind with the mighty Voltaire s Philosophical Dictionary, though featuring fewer multi paragraph cannonades of cutting, even cruel wit in lieu ofbroadly aimed and concisely barbed thrusts Finding myself stuck in a lengthy queue for the cashier when purchasing it along with a handful of other textual beauties scooped up second hand , I opened it to A a Absolutely inspired Bierce s wit is a literary scalpel honed to a fineness that can slice exceptionalism at the molecular level Of a kind with the mighty Voltaire s Philosophical Dictionary, though featuring fewer multi paragraph cannonades of cutting, even cruel wit in lieu ofbroadly aimed and concisely barbed thrusts Finding myself stuck in a lengthy queue for the cashier when purchasing it along with a handful of other textual beauties scooped up second hand , I opened it to A and began reading the entries Absurdity, n A statement of belief manifestly inconsistent with one s own opinion. and damned if I didn t drop my dutifully dour comportment to take on that of an addled adolescent, giggling and snorting and, once or twice, guffawing, causing the other enervated customers idling with their monstrous sprog within the line to eye me askance, trying to decide if I was inebriated, insouciant, or insane For some reason, the following particularly ignited the mirthful engines within to induce a bout of tittering that proved a struggle to bestill and left a singularly shit eating grin etched upon my features right up until I managed to make it out the door Academe, n An ancient school where morality and philosophy were taught Academy, n from academe A modern school where football is taught. Now, that dual entry does not represent Bierce at even half strength, yet it struck me immediately with its succinctly sprung sardonicism And The Devil s Dictionary is replete with gem after gem, an abundance of droll cynicism and mordant misanthropy that places mankind and the elaborately draped framework it has assembled for living squarely where the author deemed most appropriate down in the mud It s an elegant, piquant, aromatic mire, mind you but mud it be all the same

  10. says:

    The blurb of my copy sufficiently covers what to expect from this book Originally entitled The Cynic s Word Book, it is an irreverent word book of cynical and sardonic wit To provide however aaccurate expectation of the iconoclastic definitions and passages herein contained, here s Bierce s rendition of the Demagogue Thou shalt no God but me adore Twere too expensive to have .No images nor idols makeFor Robert Ingersoll to break.Take not God s name in vain selectA time when it The blurb of my copy sufficiently covers what to expect from this book Originally entitled The Cynic s Word Book, it is an irreverent word book of cynical and sardonic wit To provide however aaccurate expectation of the iconoclastic definitions and passages herein contained, here s Bierce s rendition of the Demagogue Thou shalt no God but me adore Twere too expensive to have .No images nor idols makeFor Robert Ingersoll to break.Take not God s name in vain selectA time when it will have effect.Work not on Sabbath days at all, But go see the teams play ball.Honour thy parents That createsfor life insurance lower rates.Kill not, abet not those who kill Thou shall not pay thy butcher s bill.Kiss not thy neighbor s wife, unlessThine own thy neighbor doth caress.Don t steal thou lt never thus competeSuccessfully in Cheat.Bear not false witnes that is low But hear tis rumoured so and so.Covet thou naught that thou hast not.By hook or crook, or somehow, got Bierce was nicknamed Bitter Bierce for his distinctive sardonic view of human life, he was further known for sporting his incomparably fitting motto ofNothing mattersHe disappeared without a trace in 1913 in an attempt to cover the Mexican Revolution This work of his was originally a newspaper publication, and then was published in book in 1906 This is well written and incomparably so, but I strongly recommend not to read this in one sitting but in a multitude of encounters, picking it up occasionally, letting his wit and humor slowly but intricately lull you away from a consummately unrivaled bad day at the office

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