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The Devil'S Dictionary By Ambrose Bierce

Topic: g-rated

THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY by AMBROSE BIERCE

The Internet Wiretap 1st Online Edition of...

Copyright 1911 by Albert and Charles Boni, Inc. A Public Domain Text, Copyright Expired

Released April 15 1993

Entered by Aloysius of &tSftDotIotE aloysius@west.darkside.com

PREFACE

_The Devil's Dictionary_ was begun in a weekly paper in 1881, and was continued in a desultory way at long intervals until 1906. In that year a large part of it was published in covers with the title _The Cynic's Word Book_, a name which the author had not the power to reject or happiness to approve..................

ACQUAINTANCE, n. A person whom we know well enough to borrow from, but not well enough to lend to. A degree of friendship called slight when its object is poor or obscure, and intimate when he is rich or famous.

ALLIANCE, n. In international politics, the union of two thieves who have their hands so deeply inserted in each other's pockets that they cannot separately plunder a third.

APOLOGIZE, v.i. To lay the foundation for a future offence.

BACKBITE, v.t. To speak of a man as you find him when he can't find you.

BAIT, n. A preparation that renders the hook more palatable. The best kind is beauty.

BORE, n. A person who talks when you wish him to listen.

CALAMITY, n. A more than commonly plain and unmistakable reminder that the affairs of this life are not of our own ordering. Calamities are of two kinds: misfortune to ourselves, and good fortune to others.

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.

CIRCUS, n. A place where horses, ponies and elephants are permitted to see men, women and children acting the fool.

CLAIRVOYANT, n. A person, commonly a woman, who has the power of seeing that which is invisible to her patron, namely, that he is a blockhead.

CLERGYMAN, n. A man who undertakes the management of our spiritual affairs as a method of better his temporal ones.

COMFORT, n. A state of mind produced by contemplation of a neighbor's uneasiness.

CONGRATULATION, n. The civility of envy.

CONSOLATION, n. The knowledge that a better man is more unfortunate than yourself.

CONTEMPT, n. The feeling of a prudent man for an enemy who is too formidable safely to be opposed.

COWARD, n. One who in a perilous emergency thinks with his legs.

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.

DEFENSELESS, adj. Unable to attack.

DELUSION, n. The father of a most respectable family, comprising Enthusiasm, Affection, Self-denial, Faith, Hope, Charity and many other goodly sons and daughters.

DELUGE, n. A notable first experiment in baptism which washed away the sins (and sinners) of the world.

DESTINY, n. A tyrant's authority for crime and fool's excuse for failure.

DICTIONARY, n. A malevolent literary device for cramping the growth of a language and making it hard and inelastic. This dictionary, however, is a most useful work.

DIPLOMACY, n. The patriotic art of lying for one's country.

DISTRESS, n. A disease incurred by exposure to the prosperity of a friend.

ECCENTRICITY, n. A method of distinction so cheap that fools employ it to accentuate their incapacity.

EDUCATION, n. That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.

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

EMOTION, n. A prostrating disease caused by a determination of the heart to the head. It is sometimes accompanied by a copious discharge of hydrated chloride of sodium from the eyes.

ERUDITION, n. Dust shaken out of a book into an empty skull.

EVANGELIST, n. A bearer of good tidings, particularly (in a religious sense) such as assure us of our own salvation and the damnation of our neighbors.

EXHORT, v.t. In religious affairs, to put the conscience of another upon the spit and roast it to a nut-brown discomfort.

EXISTENCE, n. A transient, horrible, fantastic dream, Wherein is nothing yet all things do seem: From which we're wakened by a friendly nudge Of our bedfellow Death, and cry: "O fudge!"

FIDELITY, n. A virtue peculiar to those who are about to be betrayed.

FRIENDLESS, adj. Having no favors to bestow. Destitute of fortune. Addicted to utterance of truth and common sense.

FRIENDSHIP, n. A ship big enough to carry two in fair weather, but only one in foul.

FUNERAL, n. A pageant whereby we attest our respect for the dead by enriching the undertaker, and strengthen our grief by an expenditure that deepens our groans and doubles our tears.

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

GENEROUS, adj. Originally this word meant noble by birth and was rightly applied to a great multitude of persons. It now means noble by nature and is taking a bit of a rest.

GRAVE, n. A place in which the dead are laid to await the coming of the medical student.

HAPPINESS, n. An agreeable sensation arising from contemplating the misery of another.

HOMICIDE, n. The slaying of one human being by another. There are four kinds of homicide: felonious, excusable, justifiable, and praiseworthy, but it makes no great difference to the person slain whether he fell by one kind or another -- the classification is for advantage of the lawyers.

HYPOCRITE, n. One who professes virtues that he does not respect secures the advantage of seeming to be what he despises.

IDLENESS, n. A model farm where the devil experiments with seeds of new sins and promotes the growth of staple vices.

IGNORAMUS, n. A person unacquainted with certain kinds of knowledge familiar to yourself, and having certain other kinds that you know nothing about.

IMPARTIAL, adj. Unable to perceive any promise of personal advantage from espousing either side of a controversy or adopting either of two conflicting opinions.

KINDNESS, n. A brief preface to ten volumes of exaction.

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

LEARNING, n. The kind of ignorance distinguishing the studious.

LECTURER, n. One with his hand in your pocket, his tongue in your ear and his faith in your patience.

LITIGANT, n. A person about to give up his skin for the hope of retaining his bones.

LITIGATION, n. A machine which you go into as a pig and come out of as a sausage.

LONGEVITY, n. Uncommon extension of the fear of death.

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, but more frequently to the physician than to the patient.

MAGNIFICENT, adj. Having a grandeur or splendor superior to that to which the spectator is accustomed, as the ears of an ass, to a rabbit, or the glory of a glowworm, to a maggot.

MERCY, n. An attribute beloved of detected offenders.

MISDEMEANOR, n. An infraction of the law having less dignity than a felony and constituting no claim to admittance into the best criminal society.

MISS, n. The title with which we brand unmarried women to indicate that they are in the market.

NEPOTISM, n. Appointing your grandmother to office for the good of the party.

OPPORTUNITY, n. A favorable occasion for grasping a disappointment.

ORATORY, n. A conspiracy between speech and action to cheat the understanding. A tyranny tempered by stenography.

OWE, v. To have (and to hold) a debt. The word formerly signified not indebtedness, but possession; it meant "own," and in the minds of debtors there is still a good deal of confusion between assets and liabilities.

PAIN, n. An uncomfortable frame of mind that may have a physical basis in something that is being done to the body, or may be purely mental, caused by the good fortune of another.

PARDON, v. To remit a penalty and restore to the life of crime. To add to the lure of crime the temptation of ingratitude.

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

POLITENESS, n. The most acceptable hypocrisy.

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

PRAY, v. To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled on behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy.

PREROGATIVE, n. A sovereign's right to do wrong.

PRESCRIPTION, n. A physician's guess at what will best prolong the situation with least harm to the patient.

PRESENT, n. That part of eternity dividing the domain of disappointment from the realm of hope.

PRUDE, n. A bawd hiding behind the back of her demeanor.

RATIONAL, adj. Devoid of all delusions save those of observation, experience and reflection.

RECREATION, n. A particular kind of dejection to relieve a general fatigue.

RESOLUTE, adj. Obstinate in a course that we approve.

RESPONSIBILITY, n. A detachable burden easily shifted to the shoulders of God, Fate, Fortune, Luck or one's neighbor. In the days of astrology it was customary to unload it upon a star.

RITE, n. A religious or semi-religious ceremony fixed by law, precept or custom, with the essential oil of sincerity carefully squeezed out of it.

SACRED, adj. Dedicated to some religious purpose; having a divine character; inspiring solemn thoughts or emotions; as, the Dalai Lama of Tibet; the Moogum of M'bwango; the temple of Apes in Ceylon; the Cow in India; the Crocodile, the Cat and the Onion of ancient Egypt; the Mufti of Moosh; the hair of the dog that bit Noah, etc.

SAINT, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. The Duchess of Orleans relates that the irreverent old calumniator, Marshal Villeroi, who in his youth had known St. Francis de Sales, said, on hearing him called saint: "I am delighted to hear that Monsieur de Sales is a saint. He was fond of saying indelicate things, and used to cheat at cards. In other respects he was a perfect gentleman, though a fool."

SELF-EVIDENT, adj. Evident to one's self and to nobody else. SELFISH, adj. Devoid of consideration for the selfishness of others.

TELEPHONE, n. An invention of the devil which abrogates some of the advantages of making a disagreeable person keep his distance.

TELESCOPE, n. A device having a relation to the eye similar to that of the telephone to the ear, enabling distant objects to plague us with a multitude of needless details. Luckily it is unprovided with a bell summoning us to the sacrifice.

WITCH, n. (1) Any ugly and repulsive old woman, in a wicked league with the devil. (2) A beautiful and attractive young woman, in wickedness a league beyond the devil.

YEAR, n. A period of three hundred and sixty-five disappointments.


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