Tag Archives: Ambrose Bierce

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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The Devil’s Dictionary: Presidency and President

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 Presidency and President. 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
PRESIDENCY, n. The greased pig in the field game of American politics.

PRESIDENT, n. The leading figure in a small group of men of whom — and of whom only — it is positively known that immense numbers of their countrymen did not want any of them for President.

If that’s an honor surely ’tis a greater
To have been a simple and undamned spectator.
Behold in me a man of mark and note
Whom no elector e’er denied a vote! —
An undiscredited, unhooted gent
Who might, for all we know, be President
By acclimation. Cheer, ye varlets, cheer —
I’m passing with a wide and open ear!

—Jonathan Fomry

NEW DEFINITION
PRESIDENCY, n. The greased pig in the field game of American politics, captured all too often at the expense of money equal to the GDP (Gross Domestic Product, emphasis on Gross) of a small to medium-sized country.

PRESIDENT, n. The leading figure in a small group of men or women of whom — and of whom only — it is positively known that immense numbers of their countrymen did not want any of them for President.

As you now know, I will not go —
To leave would be insane.
I’ve run the race; this is my place
From Alaska down over to Maine.
For those who wish for less of this
I hear your sad, sad refrain.
But let me be clear, or perfectly clear:
I won, you lost, lame brain.
You’re stuck with me, from sea to sea
For four years or more sustained.
So get over it; crawl out of your pit,
Let your hopes seep down the drain.

—President Orpheus C. Kerr

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The Devil’s Dictionary: “Werewolf”

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.

A young Ambrose Bierce

A young Ambrose Bierce

For example, here is a definition for the word Werewolf. The Old definition is Bierce’s. The New definitions 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
Werewolf, n. A wolf that was once, or is sometimes, a man. All werewolves are of evil disposition, having assumed a bestial form to gratify a bestial appetite, but some, transformed by sorcery, are as humane and is consistent with an acquired taste for human flesh. Some Bavarian peasants having caught a wolf one evening, tied it to a post by the tail and went to bed. The next morning nothing was there! Greatly perplexed, they consulted the local priest, who told them that their captive was undoubtedly a werewolf and had resumed its human for during the night. “The next time that you take a wolf,” the good man said, “see that you chain it by the leg, and in the morning you will find a Lutheran.”.

NEW DEFINITION
Werewolf, n. A politician that was once, or is sometimes, a man (or woman). All werewolves are of evil disposition, having assumed a bestial form to gratify a bestial appetite, but some, transformed by sorcery, are as humane (or high-functioning sociopath) and is consistent with an acquired taste for human flesh. Some neighbors having caught a wolf one evening, tied it to a post by the tail and went to bed. The next morning nothing was there! Greatly perplexed, they consulted the local priest, who told them that their captive was undoubtedly a werewolf and had resumed its human for during the night. “The next time that you take a wolf,” the good man said, “see that you chain it by the leg, and in the morning you will find a ‘Christian’ politician.”

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The Devil’s Dictionary: “Un-American and Understanding”

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.

A young Ambrose Bierce

A young Ambrose Bierce

For example, here is a definition for the words Un-American and Understanding. The Old definitions are Bierce’s. The New definitions are, in many cases, updates. 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
Un-American, adj. Wicked, intolerable, heathenish.

Understanding, n. A cerebral secretion that enables one having it to know a house from a horse by the roof on the house. Its nature and laws have been exhaustively expounded by Locke, who rode a house, and Kant, who lived in a horse.

His understanding was so keen
That all things which he’d felt, heard, seen,
He could interpret without fail
If he was in or out of jail.
He wrote at Inspiration’s call
Deep disquisitions on them all,
Then, pent at last in an asylum,
Performed the service to compile ’em.
So great a writer, all men swore,
They never had not read before.
—Jorrock Wormley

NEW DEFINITION
Un-American, adj. Wicked, intolerable, heathenish.

Example, the rest of the world and the Democratic Party as defined by Faux News.

Example, anything the other politician stands for, even if it’s very much like what the accuser stands for.

Example, anything that requires understanding, or as one politician recently said, “big syllable words.”

Understanding, n. See Un-American.

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The Devil’s Dictionary: “Abscond”

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.

A young Ambrose Bierce

A young Ambrose Bierce

For example, here is a definition for the words Corporation and Congress. The Old definitions are Bierce’s. The New definition is 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

Abscond, v.i. To “move in a mysterious way,” commonly with the property of another.

Spring beckons! All things to the call respond;
The trees are leaving and cashiers abscond.

–Phela Orm

NEW DEFINITION

Abscond, v.i. To “move in a mysterious way,” commonly with the property of another, usually a lobbyist in order to the bidding of “the people” as conveyed by the lobbyist to the politician. The people in this case being the person, persons, or corporation that hired the lobbyist(s).

Elections beckon! All candidates to the lobbyists respond;
The people are leaving and the politicians abscond.
–d.e.b.

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New words to live by: “Biercism”

A young Ambrose Bierce

A young Ambrose Bierce

“Cynic. A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be.”
–Ambrose Bierce

Biercism, n. dry wit on par with that of Ambrose Bierce.

Old biercism (original): 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 ailments, 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.

Modern biercism: Love, n. a meeting of the mind and the loins, one hopes somewhere around the heart. A volatile mixture often given to displays of insanity, vitriol, and occasionally violence. The world seems turned upside down by love – and often is. You fall in love and fall out of love, but the violence appears to be less to the shins, knees, hands, arms, or back, and more to the internal organs.

[Editor’s note: one might consider this both a new word to live byand a Devil’s Dictionary entry all mashed up (or rolled up) into one. 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.

Click on Devil’s Dictionary in the tags below to bring up the other entries. Click on new word or new words below to see some other new words, such as congressed or obsurd or fogget or awfulizer. Words that should be in the modern lexicon, but aren’t … yet.]

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Filed under Ambrose Bierce, Devil's Dictionary, new word, New words to live by

The Devil’s Dictionary: “Academe, Academy, University”

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 are definitions for Academe and Academy. The Old definitions are Bierce’s. The New definitions are mine or somebody else contemporary. The new definitions can also be simply examples of The Devil’s Dictionary definitions. 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 DEFINITIONS:

ACADEME, n. An ancient school where morality and philosophy were taught.

ACADEMY, n. (from academe). A modern school where football is taught.

NEW DEFINITIONS:

ACADEME, n. An ancient school where morality and philosophy were taught. (No such place exists in America today.)

ACADEMY, n. (from academe). A modern school where football is taught.

UNIVERSITY, n. A very modern school where only football is taught. It is also often the moral and philosophical code of many of the students, alumni, and politicians of such institutions. Such universities belong to aggregations that go by acronyms such as SEC, Big Ten, ACC, etc. Such Universities also serve the One True Higher Authority: the ABS — the Almighty Buck Speaks. Like any true higher authority, often times what is enunciated by the ABS and what is heard by the Students, Alumni, and Politicians (SAPs) are a Babel of pontifications.

[Editor’s note: Bierce did not have a definition for University, such has football grown since his time. Also note, there are some Universities where basketball is substituted for football. ]

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