Tuesday, July 26, 2016


Ambrose Bierce
Ambrose Bierce's Devil's Dictionary, original title The Cynic's Word Book, (1906) was a source of considerable amusement when discovered by one of my friends. We were all in high school at the time. I have a somewhat worn paperback copy that hasn't been opened in years. In his sermon this week my pastor used a definition that I mistook as from that source: "A fanatic is one who redoubles his effort when he has forgotten his aim." That was from Santayana not Bierce. But it was the sort of thing Bierce could have written. I am happy to have discovered that Bierce's Dictionary is available online here and here in its entirety. (Note, "entirety" includes bigotries unfortunately common in the last century. Nor was Bierce a friend of religious belief.)
  • ABSURDITY, n. A statement or belief manifestly inconsistent with one's own opinion.
  • ADMIRATION, n. Our polite recognition of another's resemblance to ourselves.
  • APPLAUSE, n. The echo of a platitude.
  • BIGOT, n. One who is obstinately and zealously attached to an opinion that you do not entertain.
  • BORE, n. A person who talks when you wish him to listen.
  • BRUTE, n. See HUSBAND.
  • 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.
  • CONSERVATIVE, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.
  • EDUCATION, n. That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.
  • HISTORY, n. An account mostly false, of events mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers mostly knaves, and soldiers mostly fools.
  • HYPOCRITE, n. One who, professing virtues that he does not respect secures the advantage of seeming to be what he despises. ....

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