The Devil's Dictionary (英語) オンデマンド (ペーパーバック) – 2006/5/2
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The Devil's Dictionary was begun in a weekly paper in 1881, and was continued in a desultory way at long intervals until 1906. In that year a large part of it was published in covers with the title The Cynic's Word Book, a name which the author had not the power to reject or happiness to approve. Meantime, too, some of the enterprising humorists of the country had helped themselves to such parts of the work as served their needs, and many of its definitions, anecdotes, phrases and so forth, had become more or less current in popular speech. This explanation is made, not with any pride of priority in trifles, but in simple denial of possible charges of plagiarism, which is no trifle. In merely resuming his own the author hopes to be held guiltless by those to whom the work is addressed -- enlightened souls who prefer dry wines to sweet, sense to sentiment, wit to humor and clean English to slang.
Let me give a few examples of the aforementioned narcissism:
ABSURDITY, n. A statement or belief manifestly inconsistent with one’s own opinion.
ACQUAINTENCE, n. A person whom one knows well enough to borrow from , but not well enough to lend to…
ADMIRATION, n. Our polite recognition of another’s resemblance to ourselves.
Not all of the definitions revolve around humanity’s narcissistic worldview. While subjects like politics, economics, and religion are widespread, the entries cover the wide range of subjects one might see in your regular dictionary. e.g.:
CLARIONET, n. An instrument of torture operated by a person with cotton in his ears. There are two instruments that are worse than a clarionet—two clarionets.
CORPORATION, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.
ECONOMY, n. Purchasing the barrel of whiskey that you do not need for the price of the cow that you cannot afford.
EDUCATION, n. That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.
LOVE, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage…
TELEPHONE, n. An invention of the devil which abrogates some of the advantages of making a disagreeable person keep his distance.
Despite being a work of the 19th century, Bierce held a more rational and scientific outlook than typical, and this can be seen in many definitions--some of which were probably considered outlandishly irreverent in the day. This helps to keep “The Devil’s Dictionary” relevant. e.g.:
FAITH, n. Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.
FEAST, n. A festival. A religious celebration usually signalized by gluttony and drunkenness, frequently in honor of some holy person distinguished for abstemiousness.
GHOST, n. The outward and visible sign of an inward fear.
MIND, n. A mysterious form of matter secreted by the brain. Its chief activity consists in the endeavor to ascertain its own nature…
MONKEY, n. An arboreal animal which makes itself at home in genealogical trees.
MULATTO, n. A child of two races, ashamed of both.
OCEAN, n. A body of water occupying two-thirds of a world made for man—who has no gills.
PRAY, n. To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy.
In addition to the definitions, there are many segments of verse or prose used to elaborate on the definitions. These excerpts are usually clever, humorous, or both. There are no graphics and so these snippets are the only use of examples and clarification provided. e.g.:
re: EPIGRAM: “In each human are a tiger, a pig, an ass, and a nightingale. Diversity of character is due to their unequal activity.”
I would highly recommend this book for those who like humor with language.
Robert A. Hall
Author: The Coming Collapse of the American Republic
Idiot -- A member of a large and powerful tribe whose influence in human affairs has always been dominant and controlling. The Idiot's activity is not confined to any special field of thought or action, but "pervades and regulates the whole." He has the last word in everything; his decision is unappealable. He sets the fashions and opinion of taste, dictates the limitations of speech and circumscribes conduct with a dead-line.
Required reading for anyone with a sense of humor.
He includes a lot of poetry written by poets I've never heard of. Sometimes, it's more interesting than other times, and i wonder if that's because this was authored more than a century ago. The fact that so many definitions are still current and amusing gives us a perspective on history - the fact that human nature hasn't changed, that politicians and preachers and businessmen were pretty much the same then as now. Is it fair to critique a book for how masterfully it enhances our understanding of human nature, even though that wasn't the author's avowed purpose?
This book can be incredibly boring at times, and brilliant at other times. If i were teaching college freshmen, though, I'd make this book required reading.