NONSENSE, n. Objections
that are urged against this
excellent dictionary.





ADHERENT, n. A follower who has not yet obtained all that he expects to get.

ALLIANCE, n. In international politics, the union of two thieves with hands so deeply inserted in each others pockets that they cannot separately plunder a third.

APOLOGIZE, v. To lay the foundation for a future offense.

BORE, n. A person who talks when you wish him to listen.

COMFORT, n. A state of mind produced by contemplation of a neighbor's uneasiness.

PATIENCE, n. A minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue.

PEACE, n. In international affairs, a period of cheating between two periods of fighting.

POLITICS, n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles.

RECOUNT, n. In American politics, another throw of the dice, accorded to the player against whom they are loaded.

SELF-ESTEEM, n. An erroneous appraisement.

ULTIMATUM, n. In diplomacy, a last demand before resorting to concessions.

VOTE, n. A freeman's power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country.

WAR, n. A by-product of the arts of peace.

WHITE, adj. and n. Black.


In these cantankerous political times, how can one not adopt a cynic's view as the only sane filter on our world, a world "spinning" out of control with the divisive hyperbole of pundits and pols. In this dictionary from the late 1800's, Ambrose Bierce skewers far more than the world of politics but it is the political realm where Bierce's observations are astonishingly and depressingly relevant a century later.

                                                                      Richard Gingras

The Author's Preface:

The Devil's Dictionary was begun in a weekly paper in 1881, and was continued in a desultory way at long intervals until 1906. In that year a large part of it was published in covers with the title The Cynic's Word Book, a name which the author had not the power to reject or happiness to approve. To quote the publishers of the present work: "This more reverent title had previously been forced upon him by the religious scruples of the last newspaper in which a part of the work had appeared, with the natural consequence that when it came out in covers the country already had been flooded by its imitators with a score of 'cynic' books -- The Cynic's This, The Cynic's That, and The Cynic's Other. Most of these books were merely stupid, though some of them added the distinction of silliness. Among them, they brought the word "cynic" into disfavor so deep that any book bearing it was discredited in advance of publication. Meantime, too, some of the enterprising humorists of the country had helped themselves to such parts of the work as served their needs, and many of its definitions, anecdotes, phrases and so forth, had become more or less current in popular speech. This explanation is made, not with any pride of priority in trifles, but in simple denial of possible charges of plagiarism, which is no trifle. In merely resuming his own the author hopes to be held guiltless by those to whom the work is addressed -- enlightened souls who prefer dry wines to sweet, sense to sentiment, wit to humor and clean English to slang. A conspicuous, and it is hope not unpleasant, feature of the book is its abundant illustrative quotations from eminent poets, chief of whom is that learned and ingenius cleric, Father Gassalasca Jape, S.J., whose lines bear his initials. To Father Jape's kindly encouragement and assistance the author of the prose text is greatly indebted.

Ambrose Bierce

Copyright 1911 by Albert and Charles Boni, Inc. A Public Domain Text, Copyright Expired.
This edition presented by Richard Gingras, 2000. Comments & suggestions .