Ambrose Bierce and The Devil’s Dictionary

Ambrose Bierce is a figure worth of some attention. Whilst I haven’t yet delved into the details of his life, from the examples given below, you’ll see that he was a man possessed of a fearsome wit. Further, anyone who manages to shroud the circumstance of their own death in mystery, whilst in the company of Pancho Villa and in the vicinity of Chihuahua can be taken to be an interesting character.

I came back around to one of his more famous works, through the ever intriguing Drabblecast. This work is The Devil’s Dictionary and it is available in ever-convenient website format. In the website’s words:

Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary was a newspaper weekly first collected as a book in 1906. While the book represents diabolical appetites, and derides pretense, it should be noted that Bierce generally reserved his severest ridicule for those who benefit most from the status quo. It’s easy to imagine him a century later relying less on casual political incorrectness, to pay better tribute to those who couldn’t overindulge enough on the prosperity that took place.

So why am I telling you about all of this? Well here are some examples:

BACKBITE, v.t. To speak of a man as you find him when he can’t find you.

BAROMETERn. An ingenious instrument which indicates what kind of weather we are having.

CONGRATULATION, n. The civility of envy.

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

QUORUM, n. A sufficient number of members of a deliberative body to have their own way and their own way of having it. In the United States Senate a quorum consists of the chairman of the Committee on Finance and a messenger from the White House; in the House of Representatives, of the Speaker and the devil.

HERSpro. His.

TRUCEn. Friendship.

TYPEn. Pestilent bits of metal suspected of destroying civilization and enlightenment, despite their obvious agency in this incomparable dictionary.

Mr Bierce, I salute you. I’m off the read The Meaning of Liff again.

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