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The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce (1906)

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Ambrose Bierce's" Devil's Dictionary" is one of the most cynical and sardonic books ever published. Released during the Gilded Age, it takes aim with its definitions at politicians, financiers and hypocrites of all types. His definitions are memorable and as telling today as they were 100 years ago. For example, Bierce defines a cynic as "A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be" or diplomacy as "the patriotic art of lying for one's country" of finance as "the art or science of managing revenues and resources for the best advantage of the manager."

I had originally read this and his "Parenticide Club" many years ago and was delighted to find them as freely available e-books. The Devil's Dictionary is an ideal book for reading on a Kindle. The Highlighter feature of the Kindle allows you to easily mark the quotes you want to remember and the built-in (normal) dictionary allows you to look up some of Bierce's more obscure words. That said, the formatting of the e-book version I read was less than perfect. ( )
  M_Clark | Feb 28, 2016 |
By turns satirical, biting, vicious, nihilistic, racist, misogynistic, and downright mean. Exhausting on the whole I confess to not reading most of the poems, which I did not find amusing at all. ( )
  jen.e.moore | Jan 30, 2016 |
It is a common fault to think that pessimism makes you witty, and seeing the badness in every possibility makes you wise. (Which is no joke for many people: the ones who spend upwards of 3/4 of the space allotted to solving social problems and so on explaining that solutions cannot and will not be found because they are impossible and improvements are curses in disguise: these are the darlings of the world of print.... And my, aren't they charming? They are lords even of humor, too!) Although I would hope that it is an uncommon fault to find alphabetical lists amusing.... Even if they do have the most hockey-pockey kind of poetry of unmelodic paperback philosophers and dime-discount political theorists living somewhere between a borrowed basement and the nice loft they've got lined up in tomorrow's world, with a view on the statue built for them on account of building the warp drive. Single is a circumstance; being that Uncle Scrooge man-virgin is a state of mind, albeit one possible of flouting circumstance: that's my take. And cynicism sticks to that like glue: even when that guy wants an iron statue of himself put in the middle of a battleship and a picture of it put in the library and the book club newsletter (o heroism most printable!), in the end he is that cynic crinkle-turning newspaper pages by the fire, probably mocking his wife to his grandson about her ignorance of crime statistics, political scandals, and obituaries. (And Thank God we need to dig up obscure factoids about the 1800s to understand this character type, thus freeing us of the obligation to understand the nature of the coarse elephant we rest our backs against as we read. And of course we read to dislodge the pride of the church mice crawling over ancient crumbling scrolls: that is why perhaps the most prominent subject matter is intellectual theorizing and obscure universitarian anecdotes and such.) Of course in real life he is always upset, although let him hide behind the printed page and it's the other guy who's combative: for not sharing his oppositions! (Perhaps he also is not humble! How arrogant to flout a master of narcissism, such as myself! Why, he's only looking out for himself-- con artists everywhere, I swear!-- because in the end he values nothing; he thinks that everything is bad, the devil! How I hate that in others! Oh, how I hate hypocrisy in others! In fact, right now, I will begin to make a list.... Hu.... "Hu" words-- oh, humorless! That's terrible! And humans: screw them, it's So unpleasant to be around them! And don't even get me started on the mystics, with their self-fulfilling prophecies!)

But oh, if he weren't so comfortable by the fire, he'd say it to your face, and he knows that he's the one who'd have the fast-punch insults, faster than you: those theatrical one-line tell-offs, ("Plebs suck!", *utilizes weapons dramatically, in $65 billion movie*), clinical proof of wit the way that wrenches are characteristic of mechanic's toolsheds and pessimism and turning positive turns inside out is of seriousness. So if he were more working-class, and less Shakespearean retired faculty guy sharing tipsy witty barbs whittled for ex-colleagues in need of theatrical tell-offs in their absence, almost like you get in a war opera or whatever, almost, then it would have been like: 'Ah, a blagguard is a little man with but small sense in his wee little head, sense which is only as straight as the logic of old Tom Kelly from the other side of the peat bog, and fists like his grandmother. Wasn't that good, Jim? I think that deserves another pint.' But of course it's more in the style of: 'Blackguard-- one whose intelligence is as real as division by zero, possible because of some vague yet droll political something.' Of course, these pseudo-popular sayings, (he mocks things, and is therefore "popular", but really it is about as popular as the Latin Dictionary Committee, and things which pompous fools pretend to care about, but which don't hold up well under non-pretentious inspection.... Although it is true that in its way it's just as crass!) wouldn't really hold up too well coming out of the mouth-- I mean, unless you write those clever, clever jokes from Star Trek and your friend does those clever example sentences in dictionaries, but you know what I mean. Maybe not even then. But in print (books compiled from newspaper columns, submissions to the technical society's peer-reviewed journal, cookbooks compiled from the recipes printed on cans and boxes, folklore or Nixon books copied from tape recorders, novels and memoirs gleaned from two years of journal entry records of poorly worded conversations.... It's a book! It's going in the Official Library of Captain Baroque.... We make something of it.... "This is how you corrupt someone at an early age by exposing them to grandiosity spiked with aggression, children." "WoH.".... Unless it doesn't live up to the grand dreams of snootery, which it often doesn't and occasionally, occasionally, doesn't even pretend to, as a few books, as a now and then thing, fail to conform to the general defaulting on the promises that the pretentious make of their learning, ("I don't want to do like he did, so full of pride and all alone": a couple sub-types of that, but), by sneaking a little simple realizing (as Utterly Simple as a Traffic jam.... I apologize for the pun.... But a few books are like that too, now and then), in by the back door way, past the great scholars sighing over the mighty catastrophes which benefit them by being so uncommon in a base way, and so unlike the melody men who are almost like the beauties people tell themselves are only unremarkable in their excellence.... Or even the pleasant yet sometimes unremarkable conversation that passes between them), but print, so weighty and unsecret a thing, (people pretend to love the Druids for their Celtic Celtiness, but they wouldn't keep a secret out of print to stop certain things from happening if.... If nationalists started living on Planet Earth), and especially that book informed by bookishness, that book about books, the dictionary textbook wordbook, lived-in-more-gubernatorial procedure-than-you book, died-in-nastier-mud-than-you book, more-gilded-cover, more-unpictorial-text-than-you book, got-a-nastier-story-than-you book, got-a-more-cynical-line-than-you-book, has-more-ugly-abstractions-than-you book, has-more-mannish-boys-and-girls-than-you book, am-a-more-dictionary-resume-pompous-statue-bookish-book book, more-and-more-impersonal-the-deeper-you-go-in book, more-distant-the-longer-you-talk-to-him book, *then*, since pompous cynicism in a line of "wit", words that mean only "I hate you", since negativity cast like a great net to catch all things, is the camouflage you don in collegeland before you fight your way through the book buildings in your mind: this sort of thing blends in like snow on snow. After all, pessimism is the meat that feeds the disembodied mind, and even the cynic has to live for something, or not live for whatever after a specified technique, (like a monk!), or who knows, or cares. God knows you need to have a reason to hate the song and the dance, (peasants beneath a tree, or dresses around a piano trio), and what people do in their homes when they are not dying in their minds on foreign fields of battle, for the salvation of human freedom.... God knows the surly don't love joy, and like the contentment which follows a good healthy joy even less. Don't those ignorant ones know they need something to shake a stick at? (Stop dancing! Get off my lawn! Dammit, I'm trying to read!....) Are they so callous, so thoughtless to the greater need, as to take that away? Take that away from me? My good old complaint and my angry nerves! Why, how could they! (Why, then the bourgeois would overtake us!)

Anyway, you can pretty much tell what he takes in: all the common dross of the great disasters, the news of the belligerent kings and parliaments published abroad, and things you can talk about literally. (Even the story that most people have already half-listened to about Mr. Husband and Mrs. Wife, or the song about the fey evenings, are rather private by comparison.) And that's pretty common, of course, at least for the club and the (numerous) hangers-on (Girl Scouts, too, are wizards of finance, at least in the print on the side of the box, so where do you draw the line?), very typical, our heroic entrant into Bookmeisters' Best Books of Printed Words Collection: our bold cynic, who is of course pretty much like the others. In a way, he is blindingly typical. Everywhere intellectuals are cynical about this little thing, that little cubby-hole: now we have one who sits down and makes a careful list, A to Z, about all the things that there are to be cynical about! How uniquely.... boring. Well, that's worth something, isn't it. Here, have a twenty, keep the change: have a drink on me! He's a paperback writer! Doesn't like Joe Character, but he's a paperback writer! Has no silly smiles for lazy days, but he's a paperback writer! And that's the point, isn't it: even Herr Blagguard of the Suez, ABD of the DE Society, etc., sometimes comes to the point where even he no longer wishes to trudge on with maximum vigor in pursuit of the practicalities of the alien science of human improvement, or at least with maximum wooden intimidatoriness plan the rational means by which a man frightens his poorer relations. (The cynics are about to rescue us! Wait for it.... Wait for it.... Hey! Wait a minute....) ***And so, he does something a little different, and comes to find without realizing it that he has left himself no alternative to being negativistic.*** I suppose that's not surprising: sooner or later in life you make a choice of one kind or another, (you can bend back the date so far, but then eventually you can only suddenly jump into something totally different if you want to be nowhere, which isn't really quite the same as poking around with curiosity), and once you've made your choice, you've put your foot in. (And maybe you could be in before you realize, even: by the time you'd really like nothing else better, you're in even if you're out, even if you've not put the flower down in the flower bed yet.... Although maybe "more than" is a phrase of convenience, depending. You like the peace that rests on the hearth, so you don't care quite as much for the knave who puts the torch to it, lying about how good homes are knaves' traps: but on the other hand you do not quite honor E minor by carping about the awful C chord, not really, or make friends by dueling with the friend's friends: unless they are really bad, (are they friends?), in which case you might not want to have their affections anyway, since not much doesn't touch at all, and some ways of, setting yourself apart from things, in a way, are not good at all. "Such is good for trees, but am I a tree? No, these are not branches; these are not leaves. Tomorrow I will run from the forest, and never return!" (Said the Tree). It's not as though you took the friendship off of somebody's head, like a flower crown, and transferred it to somebody else-- accomplishing *negatively*-- like you can chuck about a rock or an apple or something: not even unique, 'sui generis' relationships are like that, in my opinion. You don't do good because you did bad: I mean you don't treat the friend of a friend like a freak as your excuse for treating the friend herself.... More or less like a freak. Certainly not the order of nature that you honor, in sincerity and in truth. A grim man's excuse, you know, is not really a sufficient condition for happiness: this is not a correct understanding but.... (A philosopher, a real one, I suppose, might call it "The Anti...." The Anti-Santa Claus, no?) Well, but how do you describe what is not. A tree starts like this and it becomes something else; if that's not what happens, then maybe it's not a tree. But, to come to it, to just burn the cropland, and to say to the forest, 'Rejoice!'.... No. An excuse is not a purpose: actually when you think of it like points, it becomes as though it were a game, like tennis: My double fault is indeed your gain, (excellent return game), since it is, after all, only a game we play, so you rejoice. It is not.... ":Serious", is not the right word. But here I will admit to a tangent, although I do not have the option of being the lexicographic dictionary man, who thinks to hide himself, but, yes, more central to the case of Herr Nihilist is that sooner or later you always come to a decision in your mind, that you put in with someone, either one or the other, even if it is not a person, (statistics is literal; life is not)-- but what you value in your life is like your partner of life, which holds you like the person would hold you in the pool or wherever: either you are like the one for whom it is a good thing, these days and nights, (I am very clever so I've heard that the ancient Chinaman called it "the ten thousand things"), or else you are the one for whom it is like your prison, with more or less nothing there: and once you've made your choice, that holds you, and you do not have that choice to make anymore.) You can go on and on yo fulfill points two and three, but you really probably don't turn back the pages past a certain point. Once you've made your choice, for better or worse, you really no longer have that "choice", which really implies a sort of quality of waiting or something. Anyway, he went in to what he made, our good friend Bazarov the Chump, (I'm sorry, 'chumpnik', or something: I wish I could because of the Soviet marriage bloc, but I can't, and I suppose that would require yet another dictionary, {not that you actually learn Latin from the Pope: not if you're normal, at least.... Did you know that in the Middle Ages intellectuals were not.... Ah, well, nevermind: Och, aye. Did they speak Latin in the old days, Dad? Aye, son, they did. They spoke Latin in the boarding schools an such. Dad, why did the dog die? It was his time, Francis.}, Diktionar Synowovno, or something, haha: Linguistics, either very practical.... Or, not. I fall under: Or Not), and this book was the sort of thing it yielded for Captain Negativity in terms of enjoyment and ultimate satisfactoriness, which I suppose would be what you do when you have no strict requirements: no words to look up for spelling and alliteration and so on, no actually-humorless discussions of what is bad being required of you now, nothing but the fruit of wisdom which you choose freely like a mighty Druid with a long beard and knowledge of trees and mathematics.... or maybe you're just in it for the purposes of having a nice pool of badness to lie in at night when you're tired and have nowhere to go, and nothing to do but sit up at night and reflect on your many misfortunes, (if only the blight had come on the tea instead of the potato! Och, but then there'd a holiday for George the Dragon-slayer instead of Patrick the Snake-Banisher.... 'Tisn't an easy thing to drive a snake out of our climate, is it, lad? 'Tis, Dad.) and the nasty opinions you have of the one who was good at dancing. So, that's the big payoff-- the benefit of the conversion, if you will: you can go sit in that stew of misery-thoughts.... For fun.... Things I hate that start with the letter....

And, you know, it's not actually television-popular, the dictionary, that is, the way that it's kinda billed as being, I don't know, down to earth? (Although it must have taken such a long time to write, or whatever.) But it's funny: it has a sort of plastic popularity, the sort propped up by scholarly institutions and the shared lies we like to believe. (The cynic saves, John Collegiate. Question thou this not.) I mean, people like Susan Charming and pretend they don't; people don't like Captain Greybeard and pretend they do. And it's funny because the fans of the $150 billion sci fi franchise Never Want To Be Popular, because they don't like what people like-- really, or things in general. ('Pleasantness: An illusory sensation.' ~Satan's Glossary.) But the moment something of theirs grosses big, (which never happens, because the Illuminati oppress them, like in that movie that was in every theatre for forty months), you Must go see Lord Greyface destroy the seven races of Planet Meyerbeer with his mind! And, ah, if you don't like that, let me be the first member of JS Bach Country Club and Archaeology Society to tell you, that you are very unusual.... Very quaint, or, something, I don't know. But I am very clever. Right. ("Everyone loves The Mind Emperor!!!!" The Napoleon of music.... Popular is bad; canon is good.... For Freedom!!!!.... I mean, everyone is stupid, and that's why.... *I* am not, and.... That's why Karl Marx and Immanuel Kant and.... And me: we have so much to believe, and to think about the world where only cynicism and objects exist, since everyone else is stupid, so we have to think twenty times more to make up for that, {and the decline of education since Aquinas died, since as all good secular progressives know, your first loyalty is to the international trans-logic-y cause of Snobbery}, which is why I can't waste my time with television and ideology and idealism, dammit.... Don't you know I'm a hero? I'm a heroic materialist, who know that idealism is false, all the time, and nothing is true, and it's all a waste: and I proved it and I'm a hero.... What, did you expect them Not to be heroes, these destroyers of the Earth? {You guys don't need specific directions from me all the time! Just go kill stuff that moves! Fascism forever, guys! We're gonna turn this into a franchise, I know we will, and get as rich as the eternal....} Wasn't the alternative to be humble or something? {The alternative to Death on the Steppes VII: Video Games Are Not Proto-Nazi....} Well, you know that's not going to happen, so.... Heroic cynic it is!.... {Dude, does everything have to be about the Nazis? Can't we talk about something nice and innocent, dude? There's a place where I can go to tell my secrets to.... Your argument makes so much sense because you want everything to be about wars and races, with Richard Wagner pride, and get more angry at OneDirection than Hitler. Nailed it, bro!} One size fits all! Modern shamans? Hop aboard! At least while I'm not looking, since everyone who has a grudge against everybody and fakes their way in life based on that, is kin, and Heaven knows the important thing is to be Better Than Emma Corrigan, the actual *female* girl, so.... Logic, eh. I think; why not think that only objects exist? I consider the immaterial; why not think that only bitterness is real?) I mean, I think it's hilarious that pop music is "corporate" because it grosses cash money: people like it, despite being ordered not to, despite the fact that on Monday Morning in Resume Incorporated's flagship office building, everybody loves classical music! ***It's really the stupidest thing***: I love waltzes, because I hate dancing! ("What's that you're reading, Emma Corrigan?" "Ah, something quite mannish and superior. {Greek slave computer program poverty simulator.} It's all part of my self-esteem!" Quite clever, these intellectuals. Not at all like trying to understand damaged monkey brains, understanding what sort of things they like (not liking).... Not, at, all.... (I hate judgment and stigma! Almost as much as I hate all married office workers; they are all bad compared to working-class truck drivers; I hate redneck truck drivers, they are all.... Remember Flaubert the French professional complainer guy? {I haven't read him, so I can only guess if he thought that New Englanders were genetically inferior to the British.... But I would bet. I would totally bet.} The important thing is technique: passion is for idiots; the bourgeois are worthless: all stilted and fake.... Ah, give me that old-time folklore, and leave the city behind! No! Peasants are like monkeys! It's practically in the dictionary! Yes.... The Cynic's Dictionary! The one that defines every single thing as being bad-- except maybe for hating everything.... Maybe. Gah! Those bastards only care about money! Damn cynics! I'm so glad I hate everything.... In a way, this is the Most Ordinary Book Ever Written.

So yeah, that is the one thing that I can say about that, is that it's *familiar*: is that it's somehow easier to read and go through and process, than the sort of odd book where people lean towards cheerfulness.... {"Everywhere I go, the voices tell me that optimism is the truth!" "These voices.... These spirits.... Your medications haven't been working? You know that no one talks like that Steve. We have always lived in oppression. Mental torment is our home." Doctors aren't actually bad the way that paranoid people say; it's only the chemical knowledge that differs them from random people, not the spiritual deadness.... Voltaire was psycho, though. "This world belongs to Satan!" "The voices tell me of optimism!" "No such human voices speak, child. Demons possess you!".... "Damn church.... Teaches optimism.... I need a vacation." Lake of Fire Resorts: Where Optimism Reigns!....} Actually most books are peopled by the homicidally violent or at least the bitter and the alienated with desperately weak powers of emotional regulation.... Which is actually mostly the same thing. And actually the more literal something is, the more it is a literal description or even just a fancy of imagined events, the harder it is to turn that hard-literal sort of ABCD into something that can be bent (or un-bent?) into something not miserable, and the people who can make even somewhat literal tellings not misery and grief reports are really quite unusual: in the world of print, they are basically freaks. (If I were a scientist--"I was just guessing, at numbers and figures": the most intellectual bands talk about the limits of scientific delirium madness, and the others leave it unsaid--I suppose I'd call these happy souls evolution's freaks, or the mutants of progress, or something: in a good way, not an indie-band way, lol. (The Death Thrashers-- Loud Loud Loud, Indie #4, Billboard 200 #437.) Though of course people think that they are evolution's mutants just for being unreasonably difficult and maladjusted, such being terribly uncommon for our race, as every cynic will tell you. Even when the good people (*coughgirlscough*) are honored for their inescapable goodness which is not always understood, (that was a wonderful novel of manners.... my favorite part was the sword fight. there was no sword fight. oh, that was the Kung Fu movie I was multi-tasking with), it is that little hobgoblin whiner and calumniator and carper, even if he is no master of the forge of the mind, who is more like what people imagine honor and respect to be or to consist of, if you like. With a literal or even a semi-literal thing, you do not easily defeat or even put off for a little bit, the hobgoblin. (Although with something with elements sorta washed in that are strictly speaking not literal, not of definite meaning, the way that a look isn't a word, you can sharpen up or flatten out that hard literal bitterness until it is no longer the bloody default.) And what our fine little devil here got was all that dross of the mind--proudly claiming as his own that degeneracy which the theologian imagines is not *his* own-- that bloated mind driven by the proud heart to find its enemies under every rock and stone, pretty much without exception.

Quite often the first sentence or two properly understood would be sufficient, (Confucius or somebody from China was like, I tell Cheng Li the first bit, and he can finish the whole story by himself. Basically that's what he said), although there's often always a little bit more that could be said for a nice round completeness that isn't slanted or partial to the first leg of the thing, the first layer of explanation, which can't always be representative. But anyway, it's clear enough what you get from it: the product of years and years of negativity distilled into pithy little moron declarations about random alphabet subjects, all of which is billed as, you know, fun. Education is supposed to be, I don't know, intelligent, I suppose, but pure vice and failure could go on forever without yielding any benefit, in any endeavor. If a farmer grows a fruit and the bug gets one half and the pesticide poisons the other half, he could potentially do that a million times, and your body wouldn't be any better off for it-- not better, that is.

(I was assigned a very open-ended pick-any-topic-covered-by-scholar-journals, type of assignment, so I was brainstorming different possibilities, and just for giggles I typed in "intellectual arrogance": no results, of course. I could almost see the database's face cloud over in a look of mystifying confusion. What?.... Truly, I have never heard of this before!.... *No matter what they write about*, although, to be honest, that isn't broad-- Stop talking about something not related to abstractions or the legionaries! I'm the boss of this conversation!-- but no matter what they write about, for some, it is involuntary. It is involuntary. Maybe something is always involuntary: for the drinker it's his drink, for the fighter it's his fight, for the lover it's his love, and for the thinker it's that snide little remark that makes him imagine that he is something not born to woman.... But for him, that is involuntary.)

You can call it what you like-- fun, whatever you like-- but pouring poison over yourself isn't going to bring you the joyous life. It's basically a training for warding off joy, for not wanting or valuing it, which is really what pessimism is. And that, I do not recommend. "And I do not think that that fellow is getting anywhere with his science, no matter how many frogs he cuts open." I remember almost nothing of that old Russian novel, but that's the idea: "Either Herr Nihilist is very wrong, or I am very stupid. But how intimidating that pompous cynicism is!" To believe nothing, except that the strings are not a serious occupation for the grown man.... To free yourself from happiness: that I do not recommend. (You should know what kind of girl you'll get for that, as well, and it won't be a mistress of the dance. In the old days, she might have even treated her own first name as a sort of affliction. I am the partisan; I do not believe in the achievement. How *could* I believe? Don't you know what belief is? It's.... (barf words)....} Although, you know, you can't really explain it, or, I mean, not literally. After all, it's not like a dictionary, standing off objectively as it thinks it does, never quite choosing, or hoping not to, hoping not to hope.... It can never really show you how to use a word correctly. If you think about it, it can't.

But to conclude, I have to say that in addition to being contemptible cynicism, it's also just repetitive, random whining, (although I suppose boring whining is the bodily manifestation of the spirit of rejection, at least at the surface): birth, youth, age, and death are all bad, (Maya {Illusion} love, said George Harrison after Eric ran off with Pattie: but it's easy to be a cynic then-- it's easy to reject the land and the sea when the crops fail and the wheels of civilization get stuck between the wild past and the enlightened future: any tin-penny fool could hate everything when nothing's quite right.... Oh, I'm sorry, it takes philosophy and many years of carping about Peasant Joe the Pagan.... "You can talk to God and listen to the casual reply....".... Damn those heathens! I reject their world! I condemn it to fire; I escape it and patronize it; I hate it! Nothing is right!.... I wanted it better, so that means nothing is right! Hissy fit, hissy fit, bratty.... hissy fit! Ah, not that circumstances matter; only the mind matters, although, only objects are real, nothing immaterial, so.... ***When I'm confused, I just come back to this simple truth: Everything Sucks, And I'm Better Than You***.... Ah, but can't you just let that: Blow Away-- "Rained for a year till it dampened my heart.... I had almost forgot...." You forgot, but then you remembered.... First you forgot, but then you remembered.... Although before that! You hated everything and told me your daughters were devils), and so are, I don't know, dentists, language, pianos, and Russians. Absolutely whatever you like, really, since it is the cynic's faith that the things that are, are bad.... (One time I had about five minutes to look through this large university press compilation of letters, personal correspondence, throughout the ages, you know, ah, Bismarck, Saint Cowl, John Bob (not her real name), Freud-- I read a few lines of a Jane Austen letter; it was gently funny: "Bad Charles has gone away, but Good Charles came to tea." It was like reading about your sister, even if you don't have a sister....)

And remember: Joe says it's Tuesday; Joe is unreliable; it's not Tuesday. (This. Is. Social Science!!!!)

I therefore issue my score, useful to me, after its arbitrary fashion....

(N.B. But upon which standard-issue nihilist text do I base my reasonings? Am I unaware that cynicism and pomposity are the fountains from which wisdom springs?)

(6/10) ( )
  fearless2012 | Apr 3, 2015 |
I've got the Folio edition, bookcased ( )
  AntonioGallo | Jun 8, 2014 |
Provided you have a pretty firm grounding in 19th century culture, The Devil's Dictionary is great fun--arguably one of the wittiest satires to come out of an entire generation. But it's not a book to read cover to cover. Keep it in your bathroom--or put it in your guest bedroom to help you weed out friends who don't have a sense of humor! ( )
  TheBentley | Apr 23, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
It is very selective in the words it lists, but is a true dictionary in that it gives definitions, occasional etymologies, and frequent illustrations, often invented by the author.... [There] is a long disquisition on King’s Evil, which is practically a history of the scrofula and its supposed treatment by royal touch, and gives an unexpectedly serious tone to the work. However, mostly the definitions are sardonic, curmudgeonly, world-weary, cynical, eccentric, unconventional, rational in a topsy-turvy way, thought-provoking and nearly always very comical.... Put in a thumb anywhere and it will come out with a juicy, refreshing plum, generally on the tart side, but always full of flavour and satisfying.

» Add other authors (60 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bierce, Ambroseprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Forster, PeterIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kington, MilesIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ulmanová, HanaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Abasement, n. A decent and customary mental attitude in the presence of wealth or power.
J is a consonant in English, but some nations use it as a vowel – than which nothing could be more absurd. Its original form, which has been but slightly modified, was that of the tail of a subdued dog, and it was not a letter but a character, standing for a Latin verb, jacere, ‘to throw’, because when a stone is thrown at a dog the dog’s tail assumes that shape. This is the origin of the letter, as expounded by the renowned Dr Jocol Bumer, of the University of Belgrade, who established his conclusions on the subject in a work of three quarto volumes and committed suicide on being reminded that the j in the Roman alphabet had originally no curl. So now we know.
Patriotism, n. Combustible rubbish ready to the torch of anyone ambitious to illuminate his name. In Dr Johnson’s famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the last refuge of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer I beg to submit that it is the first.
Kill, v.t. To create a vacancy without nominating a successor.
Kilt, n. A costume sometimes worn by Scotchmen in America
and Americans in Scotland.
Kiss, n. A word invented by the poets as a rhyme for ‘bliss’.
Last words
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Disambiguation notice
The Devil's Dictionary, The Enlarged Devil's Dictionary, and The Unabridged Devil's Dictionary are separate works. Please do not combine.
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Book description
The devil’s dictionary began life as a series of articles in a San
Francisco weekly paper, and first appeared, in book form as The
cynic’s word book. Since then it has been reprinted many times, as
well as constituting a volume in Bierce’s 12-volume Collected works
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0486275426, Paperback)

Over 1,000 barbed and brilliant definitions by the 19th-century journalist and satirist often called "the American Swift." Congratulations are "the civility of envy." A coward is "one who in an emergency thinks with his legs." A historian is a "broad-gauge gossip," more. H. L. Mencken called these "some of the most gorgeous witticisms in the English language."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:13 -0400)

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This unabridged edition is full of razor sharp wit and scathing aphorisms.Humour.

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