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= ROOT|Ambrose_Bierce|The_Devil_s_Dictionary-163.txt =

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The Internet Wiretap 1st Online Edition of




THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY
by
AMBROSE BIERCE



Entered by Aloysius of &tSftDotIotE
aloysius@west.darkside.com



AUTHOR'S PREFACE

_The Devil's Dictionary_ was begun in a weekly paper in 1881, and was
continued in a desultory way at long intervals until 1906.  In that
year a large part of it was published in covers with the title _The
Cynic's Word Book_, a name which the author had not the power to
reject or happiness to approve.  To quote the publishers of the
present work:

"This more reverent title had previously been forced upon him by
the religious scruples of the last newspaper in which a part of the
work had appeared, with the natural consequence that when it came out
in covers the country already had been flooded by its imitators with a
score of 'cynic' books -- _The Cynic's This_, _The Cynic's That_, and
_The Cynic's t'Other_.  Most of these books were merely stupid, though
some of them added the distinction of silliness.  Among them, they
brought the word 'cynic' into disfavor so deep that any book bearing
it was discredited in advance of publication."

Meantime, too, some of the enterprising humorists of the country
had helped themselves to such parts of the work as served their needs,
and many of its definitions, anecdotes, phrases and so forth, had
become more or less current in popular speech.  This explanation is
made, not with any pride of priority in trifles, but in simple denial
of possible charges of plagiarism, which is no trifle.  In merely
resuming his own the author hopes to be held guiltless by those to
whom the work is addressed -- enlightened souls who prefer dry wines
to sweet, sense to sentiment, wit to humor and clean English to slang.

A conspicuous, and it is hoped not unpleasant, feature of the book
is its abundant illustrative quotations from eminent poets, chief of
whom is that learned and ingenius cleric, Father Gassalasca Jape,
S.J., whose lines bear his initials.  To Father Jape's kindly
encouragement and assistance the author of the prose text is greatly
indebted.

A.B.




A



ABASEMENT, n.  A decent and customary mental attitude in the presence
of wealth of power.  Peculiarly appropriate in an employee when
addressing an employer.

ABATIS, n.  Rubbish in front of a fort, to prevent the rubbish outside
from molesting the rubbish inside.

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.

G.J.


ABDOMEN, n.  The temple of the god Stomach, in whose worship, with
sacrificial rights, all true men engage.  From women this ancient
faith commands but a stammering assent.  They sometimes minister at
the altar in a half-hearted and ineffective way, but true reverence
for the one deity that men really adore they know not.  If woman had a
free hand in the world's marketing the race would become
graminivorous.

ABILITY, n.  The natural equipment to accomplish some small part of
the meaner ambitions distinguishing able men from dead ones.  In the
last analysis ability is commonly found to consist mainly in a high
degree of solemnity.  Perhaps, however, this impressive quality is
rightly appraised; it is no easy task to be solemn.

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