The Devil’s Dictionary: Populist and Pray

A young Ambrose Bierce

A young Ambrose Bierce

In our continuing quest to revisit a classic, or even a curiosity from the past and see how relevant it is, we continue with The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce. Originally published in newspaper installments from 1881 until 1906. You might be surprised how current many of the entries are.

For example, here is a definition for the words Populist and Pray. The Old definition is Bierce’s. The New definition is, in many cases, an update. Sometimes little change is needed. Sometimes more. 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
POPULIST, n. A fossil patriot of the early agricultural period, found in the old red soapstone underlying Kansas; characterized by an uncommon spread of ear, which some naturalists contend gave him the power of flight, though Professors Morse and
Whitney, pursuing independent lines of thought, have ingeniously pointed out that had he possessed it he would have gone elsewhere. In the picturesque speech of his period, some fragments of which have come down to us, he was known as “The Matter with Kansas.”

PRAY, n. To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy.

NEW DEFINITION
POPULIST, n. A fossil patriot of the post-industrial period, found in the faulty towers, broken university, and failed airline (to name a few endeavors) of ignorance plus arrogance added to money; characterized by an uncommon spread of hair, which some naturalists contend could be a species in its own right, if only they had time to closely exam it. In the picturesque speech of his period, some fragments of which have come down to us, he was known as “The Huuge Mouth from Manhattan.”

PRAY, n. 1) What the other candidates claimed they did after God told them to run for the highest office in the land, which they all failed at famously. 2) To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a certain party petitioning, though confessedly unworthy, that their Populist decides to either drop dead or drop out. 3) What you do when here the populist of this party speak. 4) What politicians do in lieu of doing any real work to solve a problem, such as after a mass shooting when politicians say, “Our prayers and our hearts go out to the victims of this tragedy,” begging the question: is it the tragedy of the event or the tragedy of your inaction for which you are praying?

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Filed under 2016, Devil's Dictionary

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