The Cynic’s Word Book A – D

Posted in Library of Congress, The English Language, Undogegorized by chamblee54 on September 24, 2021

What follows are selections from The Devil’s Dictionary, by Ambrose Bierce. TDD began as a newspaper column, and was later published as The Cynic’s Word Book. TDD is in the public domain. TDD is a dictionary, going from A to Z. Today’s selection covers A to D. More selections are available. E – G Pictures today are from The Library of Congress.

ABDICATION, n. An act whereby a sovereign attests his sense of the high temperature of the throne.
Poor Isabella’s Dead, whose abdication, Set all tongues wagging in the Spanish nation.
For that performance ’twere unfair to scold her: She wisely left a throne too hot to hold her.
To History she’ll be no royal riddle—Merely a plain parched pea that jumped the griddle.

ABRIDGE, v.t. To shorten. When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for people to abridge their king, a decent respect for the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. Oliver Cromwell

ABSTAINER, n. A weak person who yields to the temptation of denying himself a pleasure.
A total abstainer is one who abstains from everything but abstention,
and especially from inactivity in the affairs of others.
Said a man to a crapulent youth: “I thought You a total abstainer, my son.”
“So I am, so I am,” said the scapegrace caught— “But not, sir, a bigoted one.”

ABSURDITY, n. A statement or belief manifestly inconsistent with one’s own opinion.

ALLIANCE, n. 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.

AMBIDEXTROUS, adj. Able to pick with equal skill a right-hand pocket or a left.

APHORISM, n. Predigested wisdom.
The flabby wine-skin of his brain, Yields to some pathologic strain,
And voids from its unstored abysm, The driblet of an aphorism.

APOLOGIZE, v.i. To lay the foundation for a future offence.

BACCHUS, n. A convenient deity invented by the ancients as an excuse for getting drunk.
Is public worship, then, a sin, That for devotions paid to Bacchus
The lictors dare to run us in, And resolutely thump and whack us?

BATH, n. A kind of mystic ceremony substituted for religious worship,
with what spiritual efficacy has not been determined.
The man who taketh a steam bath He loseth all the skin he hath,
And, for he’s boiled a brilliant red, Thinketh to cleanliness he’s wed,
Forgetting that his lungs he’s soiling With dirty vapors of the boiling. Richard Gwow

BLANK-VERSE, n. Unrhymed iambic pentameters—the most difficult kind of English verse to write acceptably; a kind, therefore, much affected by those who cannot acceptably write any kind.

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

CANNIBAL, n. A gastronome of the old school who preserves the simple tastes and adheres to the natural diet of the pre-pork period.

CARTESIAN, adj. Relating to Descartes, a famous philosopher, author of the celebrated dictum, Cogito ergo sum—whereby he was pleased to suppose he demonstrated the reality of human existence. The dictum might be improved, however, thus: Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum— “I think that I think, therefore I think that I am.”

CAT, n. A soft, indestructible automaton provided by nature,
to be kicked when things go wrong in the domestic circle.
This is a dog, This is a cat. This is a frog, This is a rat. Run, dog, mew, cat. Jump, frog, gnaw, rat.

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.

CHRISTIAN, n. 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.

CIRCUS, n. A place where horses, ponies and elephants
are permitted to see men, women and children acting the fool.

CLERGYMAN, n. A man who undertakes the management of our spiritual affairs
as a method of bettering his temporal ones.

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

CONSERVATIVE, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils,
as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.

DEAD, adj. Done with the work of breathing; done, With all the world; the mad race run
Through to the end; the golden goal, Attained and found to be a hole! Squatol Johnes

DECALOGUE, n. A series of commandments, ten in number—just enough to permit an intelligent selection for observance, but not enough to embarrass the choice. Following is the revised edition of the Decalogue, calculated for this meridian.
Thou shalt no God but me adore: ‘Twere too expensive to have more.
No images nor idols make, For Robert Ingersoll to break.
Take not God’s name in vain; select, A time when it will have effect.
Work not on Sabbath days at all, But go to see the teams play ball.
Honor thy parents. That creates, For life insurance lower rates.
Kill not, abet not those who kill; Thou shalt not pay thy butcher’s bill.
Kiss not thy neighbor’s wife, unless, Thine own thy neighbor doth caress
Don’t steal; thou’lt never thus compete, Successfully in business. Cheat.
Bear not false witness—that is low— But “hear ’tis rumored so and so.”
Covet thou naught that thou hast not, By hook or crook, or somehow, got.

DEFAME, v.t. To lie about another. To tell the truth about another.

DELIBERATION, n. The act of examining one’s bread to determine which side it is buttered on.

DENTIST, n. A prestidigitator who, putting metal into your mouth, pulls coins out of your pocket.

DESTINY, n. A tyrant’s authority for crime and fool’s excuse for failure.

DIAGNOSIS, n. A physician’s forecast of the disease by the patient’s pulse and purse.

DIE, n. The singular of “dice.” We seldom hear the word, because there is a prohibitory proverb, “Never say die.” At long intervals, however, some one says: “The die is cast,” which is not true, for it is cut. The word is found in an immortal couplet by that eminent poet and domestic economist, Senator Depew: A cube of cheese no larger than a die, May bait the trap to catch a nibbling mie.

DIPLOMACY, n. The patriotic art of lying for one’s country.

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