Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Devil's Dictionary

Just skimming through Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary, an amusing book of humor. Here are some definitions that caught my eye:

GENEALOGY, n. An account of one's descent from an ancestor who did not particularly care to trace his own.

HARBOR, n. A place where ships taking shelter from storms are exposed to the fury of the customs.

HEAVEN, n. A place where the wicked cease from troubling you with talk of their personal affairs, and the good listen with attention while you expound your own.

IMPENITENCE, n. A state of mind intermediate in point of time between sin and punishment.

INDIFFERENT, adj. Imperfectly sensible to distinctions among things.

RELIGION, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.

TARIFF, n. A scale of taxes on imports, designed to protect the domestic producer against the greed of his consumer.

I recommend skimming through it on your own, if you have the time.

Probably every person who ever read this book has desired to make a Devil’s Diction of their own. Here’s my attempt at a few definitions. I’ve tried to imitate Bierce’s cynical tone and formal style.

BACHELOR, n.: A man who after discovering that no woman desires to marry him, decides that no woman is good enough for him to marry.

CAT, n.: a small domesticated mammal which in exchange for its owner feeding, housing and pampering it permits the owner the privilege of feeding, housing and pampering it.

CEMETERY, n: A place where one stores one’s dead until they are further needed either for the purpose of a second coming of Christ or a zombie apocalypse.

DOUGHNUT, n.: a ring-shaped pastry mostly derided for its tendency to show a person’s preference for eating tasty food over being thin.

ELECTION, n.: the process of determining by popular vote which candidate’s campaign promises are more unrealistic

FENCE, n.: an extended obstruction which one uses to signal, by means of its height, the degree to which one desires that outsiders keep on the other side of it.

FLOWER, n.: the bloom of a plant, given as gift when a person is sick, dead, or about to be married.

HOPE. n.: the pleasurable belief that the future will be dissimilar to the past

IDIOT, n.: a person not of my beliefs and assumptions

IMBECILE, n.: an idiot of even less intelligence, primarily identified by their propensity to disagree with me pointedly and openly

IMMIGRANT: a person with the indecency to flatter one’s country by trying to live there indefinitely, mostly disliked for stealing from the native residents the jobs they don’t want to do.

OPINION, n.: a non-factual statement useful to others for classifying one as either an idiot or an imbecile (see above).

POEM, n.: a literary form which is either rhymed or unrhymed in metered or unmetered lines describing an emotion, thought, story or none of those three, and which is usually (mercifully) short.

UNIVERSITY, n.: a place where one earns a certificate to prove to prospective employers that one is a worthy employee by learning about things one’s employer cares nothing about.

UNREQUITED LOVE, n.: One’s irrational desire for a person who in return has made a very rational assessment of one’s own desirability.

WATCH n.: A portable time-keeping device by which one can tell whether one is late or early to the many important appointments one wished one didn’t have

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