What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of a dictionary? Huge collection of never-to-be-used long/boring words and synonyms? Can a dictionary make you drop everything you are doing and engage you with its wit, humor and truth? That’s what, ‘The Devil’s dictionary’ by Ambrose Bierce did for me! Once I started reading the first page, I just couldn’t stop flipping the pages!!
Here is the collection of my favorite (Best of) twenty five words and their meanings, from this Devil’s dictionary.
1. Abstainer – A weak person who yields to the temptation of denying himself a pleasure.
2. Acquaintance – A person whom we know well enough to borrow from, but not well enough to lend to.
3. Admiration – Our polite recognition of another’s resemblance to ourselves.
4. Alliance – 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.
5. Apologize – To lay the foundation for a future offense.
6. Boundary – In political geography, an imaginary line between two nations separating the imaginary rights of one from the imaginary rights of the other.
7. Calamity – Calamities are of two types ~ Misfortune to ourselves and Good fortune to others.
8. Congratulation – The civility of envy.
9. Diagnosis – A physician’s forecast of the disease by the patient’s pulse and purse.
10. Dictionary – 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.
11. Discussion – A method of confirming others in their errors.
12. History – An account, mostly false; Of events, mostly unimportant.
13. Houseless – (What one becomes after) Having paid all taxes on household goods.
14. Impartial – Unable to perceive any promise of personal advantage from espousing either side of a controversy.
15. Incompatibility – In matrimony, a similarity of tastes, particularly the taste for domination.
16. Intimacy – A relation into which fools are providentially drawn for their mutual destruction.
17. Lawyer – One skilled in circumvention of the law.
18. Love – A temporary insanity curable by marriage or removal of the patient from the influence under which he incurred the disorder.
19. Man – His chief occupation is extermination of other animals and his own species, which however, multiplies with such insistent rapidity as to infest the whole habitable earth and Canada.
20. Peace – In international affairs, a period of cheating (in)between two periods of fighting.
21. Pitiful – The state of an enemy of opponent, after an imaginary encounter with oneself.
22. Plan – To bother about the best method of accomplishing an accidental result.
23. 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.
24. Revolution – In politics, an abrupt change in the form of misgovernment.
25. Self-evident – Evident to one’s self and to nobody else.
If you have a lot of time to kill or just don’t know what to do, the best thing might be to read the online version of this devil’s dictionary (It can also be downloaded). It might be difficult to skip even a single page 🙂