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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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PILLORY, n. A mechanical device for inflicting personal distinction – prototype of the modern newspaper conducted by persons of austere virtues and blameless lives.

PIRACY, n. Commerce without its folly-swaddles, just as God made it.

PITIFUL, adj. The state of an enemy of opponent after an imaginary encounter with oneself.

PITY, n. A failing sense of exemption, inspired by contrast.

PLAGIARISM, n. A literary coincidence compounded of a discreditable priority and an honorable subsequence.

PLAGIARIZE, v. To take the thought or style of another writer whom one has never, never read.

PLAGUE, n. In ancient times a general punishment of the innocent for admonition of their ruler, as in the familiar instance of Pharaoh the Immune. The plague as we of to-day have the happiness to know it is merely Nature's fortuitous manifestation of her purposeless objectionableness.

PLAN, v. t. To bother about the best method of accomplishing an accidental result.

PLATITUDE, n. The fundamental element and special glory of popular literature. A thought that snores in words that smoke. The wisdom of a million fools in the diction of a dullard. A fossil sentiment in artificial rock. A moral without the fable. All that is mortal of a departed truth. A demi-tasse of milk-and-mortality. The Pope's-nose of a featherless peacock. A jelly-fish withering on the shore of the sea of thought. The cackle surviving the egg. A desiccated epigram.

PLATONIC, adj. Pertaining to the philosophy of Socrates. Platonic Love is a fool's name for the affection between a disability and a frost.

PLAUDITS, n. Coins with which the populace pays those who tickle and devour it.

PLEASE, v. To lay the foundation for a superstructure of imposition.

PLEASURE, n. The least hateful form of dejection.

PLEBEIAN, n. An ancient Roman who in the blood of his country stained nothing but his hands. Distinguished from the Patrician, who was a saturated solution.

PLEBISCITE, n. A popular vote to ascertain the will of the sovereign.

PLENIPOTENTIARY, adj. Having full power. A Minister Plenipotentiary is a diplomatist possessing absolute authority on condition that he never exert it.

PLEONASM, n. An army of words escorting a corporal of thought.

PLOW, n. An implement that cries aloud for hands accustomed to the pen.

PLUNDER, v. To take the property of another without observing the decent and customary reticences of theft. To effect a change of ownership with the candid concomitance of a brass band. To wrest the wealth of A from B and leave C lamenting a vanishing opportunity.

POCKET, n. The cradle of motive and the grave of conscience. In woman this organ is lacking; so she acts without motive, and her conscience, denied burial, remains ever alive, confessing the sins of others.

POETRY, n. A form of expression peculiar to the Land beyond the Magazines.

POKER, n. A game said to be played with cards for some purpose to this lexicographer unknown.

POLICE, n. An armed force for protection and participation.

POLITENESS, n. The most acceptable hypocrisy.

POLITICS, n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.

POLITICIAN, n. An eel in the fundamental mud upon which the superstructure of organized society is reared. When we wriggles he mistakes the agitation of his tail for the trembling of the edifice. As compared with the statesman, he suffers the disadvantage of being alive.

POLYGAMY, n. A house of atonement, or expiatory chapel, fitted with several stools of repentance, as distinguished from monogamy, which has but one.

POPULIST, n. A fossil patriot of the early agricultural period, found in the old red soapstone underlying Kansas; characterized by an uncommon spread of ear, which some naturalists contend gave him the power of flight, though Professors Morse and Whitney, pursuing independent lines of thought, have ingeniously pointed out that had he possessed it he would have gone elsewhere. In the picturesque speech of his period, some fragments of which have come down to us, he was known as "The Matter with Kansas."

PORTABLE, adj. Exposed to a mutable ownership through vicissitudes of possession.

His light estate, if neither he did make it
Nor yet its former guardian forsake it,
Is portable improperly, I take it.

Worgum Slupsky

PORTUGUESE, n. pl. A species of geese indigenous to Portugal. They are mostly without feathers and imperfectly edible, even when stuffed with garlic.

POSITIVE, adj. Mistaken at the top of one's voice.

POSITIVISM, n. A philosophy that denies our knowledge of the Real and affirms our ignorance of the Apparent. Its longest exponent is Comte, its broadest Mill and its thickest Spencer.


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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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