The Devil’s Dictionary: Love and Marriage

Every now and then, it is good to revisit a classic, or even a curiosity from the past. The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce was originally published in newspaper installments from 1881 until 1906. You might be surprised how current many of the entries are.

For example, in this as Valentine’s Day approaches, here is a definition for the words Love and Marriage. The Old definitions are Bierce’s. The New definitions or comments are mine. From time to time, just as it was originally published, we will come back to The Devil’s Dictionary, for a look at it then and how it applies today. Click on Devil’s Dictionary in the tags below to bring up the other entries.

Old definition

Love, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage or by removal of the patient from the influences under which he incurred the disorder. This disease, like caries and many other aliments, is prevalent only among civilized races living under artificial conditions; barbarous nations breathing pure air and eating simple food enjoy immunity from its ravages. It is sometimes fatal, but more frequently to the physician than to the patient.

Marriage, n. The state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress, and two slaves, making all, two.

New definition

Love, n. A state of insanity cured by death, taxes, divorce, children, or being told you have to. Being told you can’t only encourages it. You know you are under its influence when money is no object, but the object of your affection is. When hope has replaced reason, and longing is just one more step on the way to ecstasy, then it is love.

But remember, love and libido come from the same Latin root: libet, meaning “that is pleasing.” If love would only stop there, it might be okay, but it often does not, heading, instead, into marriage.

Marriage, n. Terminal state of love. An institutional condition at which point that which was pleasing no longer is. Especially so when defined by the state, and enshrined with all the solemnity the government can bestow.



Filed under Ambrose Bierce, Devil's Dictionary, humor, love, marriage, satire, Uncategorized

4 responses to “The Devil’s Dictionary: Love and Marriage

  1. A graph plotting Happiness (on the vertical axis) and Time (on the horizontal axis) would resemble a bell urve. The apex point being the dividing line, the left section (ascending Happiness, being the region of Love); and the right section…well…

  2. no

    interesting ideas though contradicting the truth.

    • “Truth” is often a matter of interpretation. Sort of like what Mark Twain said about aging: It’s a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.

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