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Thread: The Devil's Dictionary

  1. #1
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    The Devil's Dictionary

    Contrary to what many people think on first glance, The Devil's Dictionary (a.k.a. The Cynic's Word Book) by Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?) has no affiliation with the devil or Satanism.
    I purchased this book years ago, introduced to me first by a former English instructor, but I still retrieve it now and then from my bookshelf for a few hearty pessimistic laughs. Additionally, I should also mention its availability on this site: http://www.online-literature.com/bie...ilsdictionary/
    Please, feel free to share some of your favorite "definitions." A few of mine:
    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.
    Forgetfulness, n. A gift of God bestowed upon debtors in compensation for their destitution of conscience.
    Future, n. That period of time in which our affairs prosper, our friends are true and our happiness is assured.
    Grave, n. A place in which the dead are laid to await the coming of the medical student.
    Circus, n. A place where horses, ponies and elephants are permitted to see men, women and children acting the fool.
    Birth, n. The first and direst of all disasters. As to the nature of it there appears to be no uniformity. Castor and Pollux were born from the egg. Pallas came out of a skull. Galatea was once a block of stone. Peresilis, who wrote in the tenth century, avers that he grew up out of the ground where a priest had spilled holy water. It is known that Arimaxus was derived from a hole in the earth, made by a stroke of lightning. Leucomedon was the son of a cavern in Mount Ætna, and I have myself seen a man come out of a wine cellar.
    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.
    Pedestrian, n. The variable (and audible) part of the roadway for an automobile.
    President, n. The leading figure in a small group of men of whom – and of whom only – it is positively known that immense numbers of their countrymen did not want any of them for President.
    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.

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    I love that book, though I doubt if it'll let me post one of my favorites...

  3. #3
    now then ;)
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    I had never seen this before. After a quick look this is one of my early favourites
    EGOTIST, n. A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me
    There once was a scotsman named Drew
    Who put too much wine in his stew
    He felt a bit drunk
    And fell off his bunk
    And landed smack into his shoe
    ~(C) Ms Niamh Anne King

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    Drama Queen Koa's Avatar
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    LOL that's brilliant!!! I had never heard of this, I had a look as well....

    PAINTING, n. The art of protecting flat surfaces from the weather and exposing them to the critic.
    PATIENCE, n. A minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue.
    MAD, adj. Affected with a high degree of intellectual independence; not conforming to standards of thought, speech and action derived by the conformants from study of themselves; at odds with the majority; in short, unusual. [...]
    dead on the inside, i've got nothing to prove
    keep me alive and give me something to lose

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    Blade Runner Beaumains's Avatar
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    While Ambrose is one of my favorite short story writers, I must confess that I had never read any of this either. These are a few of my favorites so far:

    MAJESTY, n. The state and title of a king. Regarded with a just contempt by the Most Eminent Grand Masters, Grand Chancellors, Great Incohonees and Imperial Potentates of the ancient and honorable orders of republican America.
    MEEKNESS, n. Uncommon patience in planning a revenge that is worth while.
    NECTAR, n. A drink served at banquets of the Olympian deities. The secret of its preparation is lost, but the modern Kentuckians believe that they come pretty near to a knowledge of its chief ingredient.
    NON-COMBATANT, n. A dead Quaker.
    OCEAN, n. A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made for man -- who has no gills.
    This stuff is great!
    Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever...

  6. #6
    Has anyone except me noticed the remarkable similarity between the humor of Bierce and Mark Twain? They were contemporary writers about the same age. I'm not saying they stole from each other -- maybe borrowed from or inspired are more amiable descriptions.

    Bierce was a little edgier, but Twain could be just as cynical about the same things (i.e. organized religion, social hypocrisy, politics, etc.) And both were hilariously funny. Brothers under the skin, at the very least.

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    Voice of Chaos & Anarchy
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    Quote Originally Posted by starrwriter
    Has anyone except me noticed the remarkable similarity between the humor of Bierce and Mark Twain? They were contemporary writers about the same age. I'm not saying they stole from each other -- maybe borrowed from or inspired are more amiable descriptions.

    Bierce was a little edgier, but Twain could be just as cynical about the same things (i.e. organized religion, social hypocrisy, politics, etc.) And both were hilariously funny. Brothers under the skin, at the very least.
    Yes, oher people have noticed. They were acquainted and had many common friends. Search for the two names together and you will find more things like the linked page.
    http://www.davidicke.net/tellthetrut...ianbierce.html

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    X (or) Y=X and Y=-X Jean-Baptiste's Avatar
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    Hey, I just found this book called "The Ambrose Bierce Satanic Reader," which is a compilation of his early journalistic endeavors. Very funny stuff, though I can't yet claim that it rivals the "Devil's Dictionary." If anyone is already familiar with this book, what do you like or dislike about it?
    These fragments I have shored against my ruins

    James Joyce, the pirate. Why don't you write books people can read? -Nora Barnacle

    Insupportable claim: Reading my stories will make you a better person. Do your best to prove me right. http://www.online-literature.com/for...ad.php?t=20367

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    Wow I ended up here after reading another thread,
    http://www.online-literature.com/for...ad.php?t=18682


    I had never heard about Devil's dictionary. The quotes mono shared are so much fun! I'll be running to the library tomorrow!
    "Everything between people is entangled, and nobody can be called neither entirely innocent nor entirely guilty." (Sabo's transl.)
    Mesa Selimovic, The Fortress

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    Registered User kelby_lake's Avatar
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    Bride: A woman with a great prospect of happiness behind her

  11. #11
    dum spiro, spero Nossa's Avatar
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    I never heard of it before!! It sounds like an amazing read. I'll see if I can find it anywhere...really funny though. The quotes you guys posted
    I'm the patron saint of the denial,
    With an angel face and a taste for suicidal.

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    Moderator Logos's Avatar
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    Forum » Rules » FAQ » Tags » Blogs » Groups » Quizzes » e-Texts »
    ◕‿◕ currently reading Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark, Bill Dedman (2013)

    "the dogs bark but the caravan moves on" --Arab proverb
    .


  13. #13
    Registered User kelby_lake's Avatar
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    I love the Devil's Dictionary! I originally picked it up when I was 13 because I thought it would be nice and shocking and satanic!

  14. #14
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    Lending Ethos

    At the university, for a period of over two years, I quoted Bierce in every paper on whatever subject. That still makes as much sense to me as the policy of professors, who abused Aristotle instead.

  15. #15
    Bibliomaniac Guinivere's Avatar
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    Here are two of my favourites...

    Un-American, adj. Wicked, intolerable, heathenish.
    Philosophy, n. A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.
    My lifelong love affair with books and reading continues unaffected by automation, computers, and all other forms of the twentieth-century gadgetry.

    People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading.
    Logan Pearsall Smith, 1931

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