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Devil's Dictionary: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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APOLOGIZE, v. i. To lay the foundation for a future offence.

APOSTATE, n. A leech who, having penetrated the shell of a turtle only to find that the creature has long been dead, deems it expedient to form a new attachment to a fresh turtle.

APOTHECARY, n. The physician's accomplice, undertaker's benefactor and grave worm's provider.

When Jove sent blessings to all men that are,
And Mercury conveyed them in a jar,
That friend of tricksters introduced by stealth
Disease for the apothecary's health,
Whose gratitude impelled him to proclaim:
"My deadliest drug shall bear my patron's name!"

G. J.

APPEAL, v. t. In law, to put the dice into the box for another throw.

APPETITE, n. An instinct thoughtfully implanted by Providence as a solution to the labor question.

APPLAUSE, n. The echo of a platitude.

APRIL FOOL, n. The March fool with another month added to his folly.

ARCHBISHOP, n. An ecclesiastical dignitary one point holier than a bishop.

If I were a jolly archbishop,
On Fridays I'd eat all the fish up –
Salmon and flounders and smelts;
On other days everything else.

Jodo Rem

ARCHITECT, n. One who drafts a plan of your house, and plans a draft of your money.

ARDOR, n. The quality that distinguishes love without knowledge.

ARENA, n. In politics, an imaginary rat-pit in which the statesman wrestles with his record.

ARISTOCRACY, n. Government by the best men. (In this sense the word is obsolete; so is that kind of government.) Fellows that wear downy hats and clean shirts – guilty of education and suspected of bank accounts.

ARMOR, n. The kind of clothing worn by a man whose tailor is a blacksmith.

ARRAYED, pp. Drawn up and given an orderly disposition, as a rioter hanged to a lamppost.

ARREST, v. t. Formally to detain one accused of unusualness.

God made the world in six days and was arrested on the seventh.

The Unauthorized Version

ARSENIC, n. A kind of cosmetic greatly affected by the ladies, whom it greatly affects in turn.

"Eat arsenic? Yes, all you get,"
Consenting, he did speak up;
" 'Tis better you should eat it, pet,
Than put it in my teacup."

Joel Huck

ART, n. This word has no definition. Its origin is related as follows by the ingenious Father Gassalasca Jape, S.J.

One day a wag – what would the wretch be at? –
Shifted a letter of the cipher RAT,
And said it was a god's name! Straight arose
Fantastic priests and postulants (with shows,
And mysteries, and mummeries, and hymns,
And disputations dire that lamed their limbs)
To serve his temple and maintain the fires,
Expound the law, manipulate the wires.
Amazed, the populace that rites attend,
Believe whate'er they cannot comprehend,
And, inly edified to learn that two
Half-hairs joined so and so (as Art can do)
Have sweeter values and a grace more fit
Than Nature's hairs that never have been split,
Bring cates and wines for sacrificial feasts,
And sell their garments to support the priests.

ARTLESSNESS, n. A certain engaging quality to which women attain by long study and severe practice upon the admiring male, who is pleased to fancy it resembles the candid simplicity of his young.

ASPERSE, v. t. Maliciously to ascribe to another vicious actions which one has not had the temptation and opportunity to commit.

ASS, n. A public singer with a good voice but no ear. In Virginia City, Nevada, he is called the Washoe Canary, in Dakota, the Senator, and everywhere the Donkey. The animal is widely and variously celebrated in the literature, art and religion of every age and country; no other so engages and fires the human imagination as this noble vertebrate. Indeed, it is doubted by some (Ramasilus, lib. II., De Clem., and C. Stantatus, De Temperamente) if it is not a god; and as such we know it was worshiped by the Etruscans, and, if we may believe Macrobious, by the Cupasians also. Of the only two animals admitted into the Mahometan Paradise along with the souls of men, the ass that carried Balaam is one, the dog of the Seven Sleepers the other. This is no small distinction. From what has been written about this beast might be compiled a library of great splendor and magnitude, rivaling that of the Shakespearean cult, and that which clusters about the Bible. It may be said, generally, that all literature is more or less Asinine.

"Hail, holy Ass!" the quiring angels sing;
"Priest of Unreason, and of Discords King!"
Great co-Creator, let Thy glory shine:
God made all else, the Mule, the Mule is thine!"

G. J.

AUCTIONEER, n. The man who proclaims with a hammer that he has picked a pocket with his tongue.

AUSTRALIA, n. A country lying in the South Sea, whose industrial and commercial development has been unspeakably retarded by an unfortunate dispute among geographers as to whether it is a continent or an island.

AVERNUS, n. The lake by which the ancients entered the infernal regions. The fact that access to the infernal regions was obtained by a lake is believed by the learned Marcus Ansello Scrutator to have suggested the Christian rite of baptism by immersion. This, however, has been shown by Lactantius to be an error.

Facilis descensus Averni,
The poet remarks; and the sense
Of it is that when down-hill I turn I
Will get more of punches than pence.

Jehal Dai Lupe


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The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce, online at Fun-With-Words.com.

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