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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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ORTHODOX, n. An ox wearing the popular religious joke.

ORTHOGRAPHY, n. The science of spelling by the eye instead of the ear. Advocated with more heat than light by the outmates of every asylum for the insane. They have had to concede a few things since the time of Chaucer, but are none the less hot in defence of those to be conceded hereafter.

A spelling reformer indicted
For fudge was before the court cicted.
The judge said: "Enough –
His candle we'll snough,
And his sepulchre shall not be whicted."

OSTRICH, n. A large bird to which (for its sins, doubtless) nature has denied that hinder toe in which so many pious naturalists have seen a conspicuous evidence of design. The absence of a good working pair of wings is no defect, for, as has been ingeniously pointed out, the ostrich does not fly.

OTHERWISE, adv. No better.

OUTCOME, n. A particular type of disappointment. By the kind of intelligence that sees in an exception a proof of the rule the wisdom of an act is judged by the outcome, the result. This is immortal nonsense; the wisdom of an act is to be judged by the light that the doer had when he performed it.

OUTDO, v. t. To make an enemy.

OUT-OF-DOORS, n. That part of one's environment upon which no government has been able to collect taxes. Chiefly useful to inspire poets.

I climbed to the top of a mountain one day
To see the sun setting in glory,
And I thought, as I looked at his vanishing ray,
Of a perfectly splendid story.

'Twas about an old man and the ass he bestrode
Till the strength of the beast was o'ertested;
Then the man would carry him miles on the road
Till Neddy was pretty well rested.

The moon rising solemnly over the crest
Of the hills to the east of my station
Displayed her broad disk to the darkening west
Like a visible new creation.

And I thought of a joke (and I laughed till I cried)
Of an idle young woman who tarried
About a church-door for a look at the bride,
Although 'twas herself that was married.

To poets all Nature is pregnant with grand
Ideas – with thought and emotion.
I pity the dunces who don't understand
The speech of earth, heaven and ocean.

Stromboli Smith

OVATION, n. n ancient Rome, a definite, formal pageant in honor of one who had been disserviceable to the enemies of the nation. A lesser "triumph." In modern English the word is improperly used to signify any loose and spontaneous expression of popular homage to the hero of the hour and place.

"I had an ovation!" the actor man said,
But I thought it uncommonly queer,
That people and critics by him had been led
By the ear.

The Latin lexicon makes his absurd
Assertion as plain as a peg;
In "ovum" we find the true root of the word.
It means egg.

Dudley Spink

OVEREAT, v. To dine.

Hail, Gastronome, Apostle of Excess,
Well skilled to overeat without distress!
Thy great invention, the unfatal feast,
Shows Man's superiority to Beast.

John Boop

OVERWORK, n. A dangerous disorder affecting high public functionaries who want to go fishing.

OWE, v. To have (and to hold) a debt. The word formerly signified not indebtedness, but possession; it meant "own," and in the minds of debtors there is still a good deal of confusion between assets and liabilities.

OYSTER, n. A slimy, gobby shellfish which civilization gives men the hardihood to eat without removing its entrails! The shells are sometimes given to the poor.


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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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