Monday, December 12, 2005

The Devil's Dictionary

As noted previously, one of the reasons I started Kiko's House was to be able to scratch my various itches in public. That includes an abiding interest in slang, and we’re already two entries along in an ongoing series of posts on that topic.

Then there’s Ambrose Bierce’s marvelously funny “The Devil’s Dictionary,” which I will be quoting from as the mood strikes me.

Bierce (1842-1914) was a brilliant but underappreciated American author and journalist who had a long and tumultuous releationship with press baron William Randolph Hearst. He also was a misanthrope possibly without peer.

Curiously, Bierce did not define that word in his 1911 dictionary, but he did include the word below, which is an appropriate first entry in my “Devil’s Dictionary” series considering it’s what I was for many years and still am:


Noun. A person who defines the judicial functions of Minos, Rhadamanthus and Aeacus, but is placable with an obolus; a severely virtuous censor, but so charitable withal that he tolerates the virtues of others and the vices of himself, who flings about him the splintering lightning and sturdy thunder of admonition till he resembles a bunch of firecrackers petulantly uttering his mind at the tail of a dog; then straightaway murmers a mild, melodious lay soft as the cooing of a donkey intoning its prayer to the evening star. Master of mysteries and lord of law, high-pinnacled upon the throne of thought, his face suffused with the dim splendors of the Transfiguration, his legs intertwisted and his tongue a-cheek, the editor spills his will along the paper and cuts it off in lengths to suit. And at intervals from behind the veil of the temple is heard the voice of the foreman demanding three inches of wit and six lines of religious meditation, or bidding him turn off the wisdom and whack up some pathos.

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