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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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LABOR, n. One of the processes by which A acquires property for B.

LAND, n. A part of the earth's surface, considered as property. The theory that land is property subject to private ownership and control is the foundation of modern society, and is eminently worthy of the superstructure. Carried to its logical conclusion, it means that some have the right to prevent others from living; for the right to own implies the right exclusively to occupy; and in fact laws of trespass are enacted wherever property in land is recognized. It follows that if the whole area of terra firma is owned by A, B and C, there will be no place for D, E, F and G to be born, or, born as trespassers, to exist.

A life on the ocean wave,
A home on the rolling deep,
For the spark the nature gave
I have there the right to keep.

They give me the cat-o'-nine
Whenever I go ashore.
Then ho! for the flashing brine –
I'm a natural commodore!

Dodle

LANGUAGE, n. The music with which we charm the serpents guarding another's treasure.

LAOCOON, n. A famous piece of antique scripture representing a priest of that name and his two sons in the folds of two enormous serpents. The skill and diligence with which the old man and lads support the serpents and keep them up to their work have been justly regarded as one of the noblest artistic illustrations of the mastery of human intelligence over brute inertia.

LAP, n. One of the most important organs of the female system – an admirable provision of nature for the repose of infancy, but chiefly useful in rural festivities to support plates of cold chicken and heads of adult males. The male of our species has a rudimentary lap, imperfectly developed and in no way contributing to the animal's substantial welfare.

LAST, n. A shoemaker's implement, named by a frowning Providence as opportunity to the maker of puns.

Ah, punster, would my lot were cast,
Where the cobbler is unknown,
So that I might forget his last
And hear your own.

Gargo Repsky

LAUGHTER, n. An interior convulsion, producing a distortion of the features and accompanied by inarticulate noises. It is infectious and, though intermittent, incurable. Liability to attacks of laughter is one of the characteristics distinguishing man from the animals – these being not only inaccessible to the provocation of his example, but impregnable to the microbes having original jurisdiction in bestowal of the disease. Whether laughter could be imparted to animals by inoculation from the human patient is a question that has not been answered by experimentation. Dr. Meir Witchell holds that the infection character of laughter is due to the instantaneous fermentation of sputa diffused in a spray. From this peculiarity he names the disorder Convulsio spargens.

LAUREATE, adj. Crowned with leaves of the laurel. In England the Poet Laureate is an officer of the sovereign's court, acting as dancing skeleton at every royal feast and singing-mute at every royal funeral. Of all incumbents of that high office, Robert Southey had the most notable knack at drugging the Samson of public joy and cutting his hair to the quick; and he had an artistic color-sense which enabled him so to blacken a public grief as to give it the aspect of a national crime.

LAUREL, n. The laurus, a vegetable dedicated to Apollo, and formerly defoliated to wreathe the brows of victors and such poets as had influence at court. (Vide supra.)

LAW, n.

Once Law was sitting on the bench,
And Mercy knelt a-weeping.
"Clear out!" he cried, "disordered wench!
Nor come before me creeping.
Upon your knees if you appear,
'Tis plain your have no standing here."

Then Justice came. His Honor cried:
"Your status? – devil seize you!"
"Amica curiae," she replied –
"Friend of the court, so please you."
"Begone!" he shouted – "there's the door –
I never saw your face before!"

G. J.

LAWFUL, adj. Compatible with the will of a judge having jurisdiction.

LAWYER, n. One skilled in circumvention of the law.

LAZINESS, n. Unwarranted repose of manner in a person of low degree.

LEAD, n. A heavy blue-gray metal much used in giving stability to light lovers – particularly to those who love not wisely but other men's wives. Lead is also of great service as a counterpoise to an argument of such weight that it turns the scale of debate the wrong way. An interesting fact in the chemistry of international controversy is that at the point of contact of two patriotisms lead is precipitated in great quantities.

Hail, holy Lead! – of human feuds the great
And universal arbiter; endowed
With penetration to pierce any cloud
Fogging the field of controversial hate,
And with a sift, inevitable, straight,
Searching precision find the unavowed
But vital point. Thy judgment, when allowed
By the chirurgeon, settles the debate.
O useful metal! – were it not for thee
We'd grapple one another's ears alway:
But when we hear thee buzzing like a bee
We, like old Muhlenberg, "care not to stay."
And when the quick have run away like pellets
Jack Satan smelts the dead to make new bullets.

LEARNING, n. The kind of ignorance distinguishing the studious.

LECTURER, n. One with his hand in your pocket, his tongue in your ear and his faith in your patience.

LEGACY, n. A gift from one who is legging it out of this vale of tears.


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

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There are two versions of this book available. First, there is The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce, as originally published in 1911. This is identical to the online version on the Fun-With-Words.com website, with almost 1,000 entries.

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Extra material: 1,600 Citations
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