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Devil's Dictionary, The

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59687.  Tue Mar 14, 2006 8:35 am Reply with quote

Ambrose Bierce wrote the "Devil's Dictionary" (or The Cynic's Word Book, as it was originally named in the 25 years leading up to its publication in 1906. He intended it for
...enlightened souls who prefer dry wines to sweet, sense to sentiment, wit to humor and clean English to slang.

We can either give definitions and let the panel guess the words, or put up the words and let the panel make as good a definition 'in the style of...' as they can over the course of an episode.

DAWN, n. The time when men of reason go to bed.

DEBAUCHEE, n. One who has so earnestly pursued pleasure that he has had the misfortune to overtake it.

DENTIST, n. A prestidigitator who, putting metal into your mouth,
pulls coins out of your pocket.

DICTIONARY, n. A malevolent literary device for cramping the growth
of a language and making it hard and inelastic. [This dictionary,
however, is a most useful work.]

DISOBEDIENCE, n. The silver lining to the cloud of servitude.

DISTANCE, n. The only thing that the rich are willing for the poor to
call theirs, and keep.

DOG, n. A kind of additional or subsidiary Deity designed to catch
the overflow and surplus of the world's worship. This Divine Being in
some of his smaller and silkier incarnations takes, in the affection
of Woman, the place to which there is no human male aspirant.

DRAMATIST, n. One who adapts plays from the French.


Bierce also wrote an alternative take on the Ten Commandments called 'The Decalogue':
Thou shalt no God but me adore:
'Twere too expensive to have more.

No images nor idols make
For Robert Ingersoll* to break.

Take not God's name in vain: select
A time when it will have effect.

Work not on Sabbath days at all,
But go to see the teams play ball.

Honor thy parents. That creates
For life insurance lower rates.

Kill not, abet not those who kill;
Thou shalt not pay thy butcher's bill.

Kiss not thy neighbor's wife, unless
Thine own thy neighbor doth caress.

Don't steal; thou'lt never thus compete
Successfully in business. Cheat.

Bear not false witness--that is low--
But "hear 'tis rumored so and so."

Covet thou naught that thou hast not
By hook or crook, or somehow, got.

*Robert Ingersoll was an American politician and lecturer known for his adamant support of scientific and humanistic rationalism.

His dictionary quotes a few poets that Bierce uses to illustrate his definitions, including Father Gassalasca Jape, Xamba Q. Dar, Purzil Crofe and Romach Pute. They're all him, of course.

741367.  Wed Sep 08, 2010 4:33 pm Reply with quote

I wonder if Bierce was familiar with this...

Arthur Hugh Clough wrote:
The Latest Decalogue

Thou shalt have one God only; who
Would be at the expense of two?
No graven images may be
Worshipp'd, except the currency:
Swear not at all; for, for thy curse
Thine enemy is none the worse:
At church on Sunday to attend
Will serve to keep the world thy friend:
Honour thy parents; that is, all
From whom advancement may befall:
Thou shalt not kill; but need'st not strive
Officiously to keep alive:
Do not adultery commit;
Advantage rarely comes of it:
Thou shalt not steal; an empty feat,
When it's so lucrative to cheat:
Bear not false witness; let the lie
Have time on its own wings to fly:
Thou shalt not covet; but tradition
Approves all forms of competition.


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