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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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PERIPATETIC, adj. Walking about. Relating to the philosophy of Aristotle, who, while expounding it, moved from place to place in order to avoid his pupil's objections. A needless precaution – they knew no more of the matter than he.

PERORATION, n. The explosion of an oratorical rocket. It dazzles, but to an observer having the wrong kind of nose its most conspicuous peculiarity is the smell of the several kinds of powder used in preparing it.

PERSEVERANCE, n. A lowly virtue whereby mediocrity achieves an inglorious success.

"Persevere, persevere!" cry the homilists all,
Themselves, day and night, persevering to bawl.
"Remember the fable of tortoise and hare –
The one at the goal while the other is – where?"
Why, back there in Dreamland, renewing his lease
Of life, all his muscles preserving the peace,
The goal and the rival forgotten alike,
And the long fatigue of the needless hike.
His spirit a-squat in the grass and the dew
Of the dogless Land beyond the Stew,
He sleeps, like a saint in a holy place,
A winner of all that is good in a race.

Sukker Uffro

PESSIMISM, n. A philosophy forced upon the convictions of the observer by the disheartening prevalence of the optimist with his scarecrow hope and his unsightly smile.

PHILANTHROPIST, n. A rich (and usually bald) old gentleman who has trained himself to grin while his conscience is picking his pocket.

PHILISTINE, n. One whose mind is the creature of its environment, following the fashion in thought, feeling and sentiment. He is sometimes learned, frequently prosperous, commonly clean and always solemn.

PHILOSOPHY, n. A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.

PHOENIX, n. The classical prototype of the modern "small hot bird."

PHONOGRAPH, n. An irritating toy that restores life to dead noises.

PHOTOGRAPH, n. A picture painted by the sun without instruction in art. It is a little better than the work of an Apache, but not quite so good as that of a Cheyenne.

PHRENOLOGY, n. The science of picking the pocket through the scalp. It consists in locating and exploiting the organ that one is a dupe with.

PHYSICIAN, n. One upon whom we set our hopes when ill and our dogs when well.

PHYSIOGNOMY, n. The art of determining the character of another by the resemblances and differences between his face and our own, which is the standard of excellence.

"There is no art," says Shakespeare, foolish man,
"To read the mind's construction in the face."
The physiognomists his portrait scan,
And say: "How little wisdom here we trace!
He knew his face disclosed his mind and heart,
So, in his own defence, denied our art."

Lavatar Shunk

PIANO, n. A parlor utensil for subduing the impenitent visitor. It is operated by pressing the keys of the machine and the spirits of the audience.

PICKANINNY, n. The young of the Procyanthropos, or Americanus dominans. It is small, black and charged with political fatalities.

PICTURE, n. A representation in two dimensions of something wearisome in three.

"Behold great Daubert's picture here on view –
Taken from Life." If that description's true,
Grant, heavenly Powers, that I be taken, too.

Jali Hane

PIE, n. An advance agent of the reaper whose name is Indigestion.

Cold pie was highly esteemed by the remains. 

Rev. Dr. Mucker, 
in a funeral sermon over a British nobleman


Cold pie is a detestable
American comestible.
That's why I'm done – or undone –
So far from that dear London.

– (from the headstone of a British nobleman in Kalamazoo)


PIETY, n. Reverence for the Supreme Being, based upon His supposed resemblance to man.

The pig is taught by sermons and epistles
To think the God of Swine has snout and bristles.

Judibras

PIG, n. An animal (Porcus omnivorus) closely allied to the human race by the splendor and vivacity of its appetite, which, however, is inferior in scope, for it sticks at pig.

PIGMY, n. One of a tribe of very small men found by ancient travelers in many parts of the world, but by modern in Central Africa only. The Pigmies are so called to distinguish them from the bulkier Caucasians – who are Hogmies.

PILGRIM, n. A traveler that is taken seriously. A Pilgrim Father was one who, leaving Europe in 1620 because not permitted to sing psalms through his nose, followed it to Massachusetts, where he could personate God according to the dictates of his conscience.


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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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