For your edification and enjoyment, here are a few selected
daffynitions from Ambrose Bierce, " The Devil's Dictionary"
Published 1911, Neale Publishing Co.
Academe: An ancient school where morality and philosophy
Academy: A modern school where football is taught.
Accomplice: One associated with another in a crime, having guilty
knowledge and complicity, as an attorney who defends a
criminal, knowing him guilty. This view of the attorney's
position in the matter has not hitherto commanded the
assent of attorneys, no one having offered them a sufficient
fee for assenting.
Accountability: The mother of caution.
Accuse: To affirm another's guilt or unworth; most commonly as a
justification of ourselves for having wronged them.
Alderman: An ingenious criminal who covers his secret thieving
with a pretense of open marauding.
Alliance: In international politics, the union of two thieves who have
their hands so deeply inserted into each others' pockets that
they cannot separately plunder a third.
Back: That part of your friend which it is your privilege to
contemplate in your adversity.
Backbite: To speak of a man as you find him, when he can't
Bait: A preparation that renders the hook more palatable. The
best kind is beauty.
Beauty: That power by which a woman charms a lover and terrifies
Belldonna: In Italian, a beautiful lady. In English, a deadly
poison. A striking example of the essential identity of
the two tongues.
Bigot: One who is obstinately and zealously attached to an opinion
that you do not entertain.
Cannon: An instrument used in the rectification of national
Cat: A soft, indestructible automaton provided by nature to be
kicked when things go wrong in the domestic circle.
Childhood: 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.
Christian: One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely
inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of
his neighbor. One who follows the teachings of Christ in
so far as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin.
Corporation: An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit
without individual responsibility.
Day: A period of twenty-four hours, mostly misspent. This period
is divided into two parts; the day proper, and the night, or
day improper -- the former devoted to sins of business, and
the latter consecrated to the other sort. These two kinds of
social activity overlap.
Deluge: A notable first experiment in baptism which washed away
the sins (and sinners) of the world.
Diplomacy: The patriotic art of lying for one's country.
Education: That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the
fool their lack of understanding.
Egotist: A person of low taste, more interested in themselves
than in me.
Emotion: A prostrating disease caused by the determination of the
heart to the head. It is sometimes accompanied by a copious
discharge of hydrated chloride of sodium from the eyes.
Eulogy: Praise of a person who has either the advantages of wealth
and power, or the consideration to be dead.
Female: One of the opposing, or unfair, sex.
Fidelity: A vice peculiar to those who are about to be betrayed.
Forefinger: The finger commonly used in pointing out two malefactors.
Gallows: A stage for the performance of miracle plays, in which
the leading actor is transported to heaven. In this country,
the gallows is chiefly remarkable for the number of persons
who escape it.
Guillotine: A machine which makes the Frenchman shrug his
shoulders with good reason.
Hand: A singular instrument worn at the end of a human arm and
commonly thrust into somebody's pocket.
Happiness: An agreeable sensation arising from contemplating
the misery of another.
Hatred: A sentiment appropriate to the occasion of another's
Helpmate: A wife, or bitter half.
Incompatibility: In matrimony a similarity of tastes, particularly
the taste for domination.
Influence: In politics, a visionary 'quo' given in return for a
Intimacy: A relation into which fools are providentially drawn
for their mutual destruction.
Joss-sticks: Small sticks burned by the Chinese in their pagan
tomfoolery, in imitation of certain sacred rites of our
Justice: A commodity which (in a more or less adulterated condition)
the State sells to the citizen as a reward for his allegiance,
taxes, and personal service.
Labor: One of the processes by which A acquires property for B.
Language: The music with which we charm the serpents guarding
Lap: One of the most important organs of the female system; an
admirable provision of nature for the repose of infancy,
but chiefly used in rural festivities to support plates
of cold chicken and the heads of adult males. The male of
our species has a rudimentary lap, imperfectly developed and
in no way contributing to the animal's substantial welfare.
Lawyer: One skilled in the circumvention of the law.
Lead: A heavy blue-grey mineral most useful in imparting a sense
of responsibility to those who love not wisely but other
Legacy: A gift from one who is legging it out of this vale of tears.
Liar: A lawyer with a roving commission.
Liberty: One of Imagination's most precious posessions.
Litigation: A machine which you go into as a pig and come out of as
Liver: A large red organ thoughtfully provided by nature to be
Love: A temporary insanity curable either by marriage or by
removal of the patient from the influences under which
he incurred the disorder... It is sometimes fatal, but
more frequently to the physician than the patient.
Luminary: One who throws light on a subject; as a reporter, by
not writing about it.
Mace: A staff of office signifying authority. Its form, that of a
heavy club, indicates its original purpose and use in
dissuading from dissent.
Machination: The method employed by one's opponents in baffling
one's open and honorable efforts to do the right thing.
Magpie: A bird whose thievish disposition has suggested to some
that it might be taught to talk.
Maiden: A young person of the unfair sex addicted to clueless
conduct and views that madden to crime. The genus has wide
geographical distribution, being found wherever sought and
deplored wherever found. The maiden is not altogether
unpleasing to the eye, nor (without her piano and her views)
insupportable to the ear, though in respect to comeliness
distinctly inferior to the rainbow, and, with regard to
the part of her that is audible, beaten out of the field by
the canary -- which, also, is more portable.
Male: A member of the unconsidered, or negligible, sex. The male
of the human race is commonly known (to the female) as
Mere Man. The genus has 2 varieties: Good Providers and
Malefactor: The chief factor in the progress of the human race.
Manicheism: The ancient Persian doctrine of an incessant warfare
between Good and Evil. When Good gave up the fight, the
Persians joined the victorious Opposition.
Marriage: The state or condition of a community consisting of
a master, a mistress, and two slaves, making (in all) two.
Me: The objectional case of "I". The personal pronoun in English
has three cases, the diminutive, the objectional, and the
oppressive. Each is in all three.
Meekness: Uncommon patience in planning a revenge that is worthwhile.
Mercy: An attribute beloved of detected offenders.
Mine: Belonging to me if I can hold or seize it.
Miracle: An act or event out of the order of nature and unaccountable,
as in beating a normal hand of four kings and an ace with
four aces and a king.
Misfortune: The kind of fortune that never misses.
Monday: In Christian countries, the day after the ball game.
Mouth: In man, the gateway to the soul; In woman, the outlet of
Noise: A stench in the ear. Undomesticated music. The chief
product and authenticating sign of civilization.
Occident: The part of the world lying west (or east) of the Orient.
It is largely inhabited by Christians, a powerful sub-tribe
of the Hypocrites, whose principal industries are murder
and cheating, which they are pleased to call "war" and
"commerce". These, also, are the principal industries of
Overeat: To dine.
Patience: A minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue.
Pedestrian: The variable (and audible) part of a roadway.
Piety: Reverence for the Supreme Being, based upon His
supposed resemblance to man.
Piracy: Commerce without its folly-swaddles, just as God made it.
Plebescite: A popular vote to ascertain the will of the sovereign.
Plunder: To take the property of another without the decent and
customary reticences of theft. To effect a change of
ownership with the candid concomitance of a brass band.
To wrest the wealth of A from B and leave C lamenting a
Pocket: The cradle of motive and the grave of conscience. In woman,
this organ is lacking; so she acts without motive, and her
conscience, denied burial, remains ever alive, confessing
the sins of others.
Politics: A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of
principles. The conduct of public affairs for private
Pray: To ask that the laws of the universe be nullified on
behalf of a single petitioner, admittedly unworthy.
Price: Value, plus a reasonable sum for the wear of conscience in
Non-Combatant: A dead Quaker.
Politeness: The most acceptable hypocrisy.
Prescription: A physician's guess at what will best prolong the
situation with least harm to the patient.
Proof: Evidence having a shade more of plausibility than of
unliklihood. The testimony of two credible witnesses as
opposed to that of only one.
Quorum: A sufficient number of members of a deliberative body to
have their own way and their own way of having it. In the
United States Senate a quorum consists of the chairman of the
Committee on Finance and a messenger from the White House;
in the House of Representatives, the Speaker and the devil.
Rabble: In a republic, those who hold supreme power tempered by
Rear: In American military affairs, that exposed part of the army
that is nearest to Congress.
Recollect: To recall with additions something not previously known.
Recount: In American politics, another throw of the dice, accorded
to the player against whom they are loaded.
Repartee: Prudent insult in retort. Practiced by gentlemen with
a constitutional aversion to violence, but a strong
disposition to offend.
Reporter: A writer who guesses his way to the truth and dispels
it with a tempest of words.
Responsibility: 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.
Retaliation: The natural rock upon which is reared the Temple
Riot: A popular entertainment given to the military by innocent
Rope: An obsolescent appliance for reminding assassins that they
too are mortal. It is put about the neck and remains in
place one's whole life long.
Russian: (1) A person with a Caucasian body and a Mongolian soul.
(2) A Tartar emetic.
Self-Esteem: An erroneous appraisal.
Tariff: A scale of taxes on imports, designed to protect the
domestic producer from the greed of his customer.
Urbanity: The kind of civility that urban observers ascribe to
dwellers in all cities but New York. Its commonest
expression is heard in the words "I beg your pardon",
and it is not inconsistent with disregard of the
rights of others.
Vote: The instrument and symbol of a freeman's power to make
a fool of himself and a wreck of his country.
Weaknesses: Certain primal powers of Tyrant Woman wherewith
she holds dominion over the male of the species,
binding him to the service of her will, and paralyzing
his rebellious energies.
Witch: (1) An 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.
Yoke: An implement to whose latin name "jugum" we owe one of
the most illuminating words in our language-- a word
that defines the matrimonial situation with precision,
point, and poignancy.
Zeal: A certain nervous disorder afflicing the young and
inexperienced. A passion that goeth before a sprawl.