The Devils Dictionary [with Biographical Introduction]


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Recent Forum Posts on Ambrose Bierce

Not since drinking with Jack London did I find such even matches. Most people know the story of William Randolph Hearst and his publishing empire, but I want to add this note about him personally: He had not a friend in the world. Nor does he merit one. He is inaccessible to the conception of an unselfish attachment or a disinterested motive. Perhaps he was aware that to befriend means to make an ingrate. Well, I better be off. It beats old age, disease, or falling down the cellar stairs. To be a Gringo in Mexico—ah, that is euthanasia! Sep 05, Tony rated it really liked it Shelves: The experiences he had participating in various battles, Bierce, Ambrose.

The experiences he had participating in various battles, including First Phillipi, Shiloh, and Kennesaw Mountain. After the war, he migrated to San Francisco and entered the field of journalism, primarily as a crime reporter. Most of his work is satirical in nature or borders on the supernatural, but is eminently readable today. His exact date of death is unknown. This edition was published by Library of America disregard the photo and is bolstered by copious notes.

I have the urge to quote extensively from the dictionary, but will keep it to just a few of the definitions. A convenient deity invented by the ancients as an excuse for getting drunk. An ingenious instrument which indicates what kind of weather we are having. A person who boasts himself hard to please because nobody tries to please him.

A prestidigitator who, putting metal into your mouth, pulls co9ins out of your pocket. This is a must read. This work is fantastic. It is not a starter kit for a demonic ritual or anything. It's a mock dictionary. Almost every word in it is defined in a sarcastic and delightful fashion. Some of my favourite are: A woman with a fine prospect of happiness behind her.

A warehouse of facts, with poet and liar in joint ownership. The March fool with an This work is fantastic. The March fool with another month added to his folly. An apparatus with which we think what we think. A period of three hundred and sixty-five disappointments. The finished product of which we are the raw material. This work is availabel at Project Guttenberg. Thumbing around this thing one finds tons of amusement. Some of it cuts pretty deep though, and cynicism floods every page. Nov 20, Vaishali rated it really liked it Shelves: A sarcastic compilation of definitions, published in If you cannot stomach sexist and racist jokes, proceed gingerly.

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The Devil's Dictionary - Wikipedia

Here are some cleaner hits: At war with savages and idiots. To be a Frenchman abroad is to be miserable; to be an American abroad is to make others miserable. The goal of debate. A certain uninteresting quality carefully excluded from human statements. The death of endeavor and the birth of disgust. A protuberance on the throat of a man, thoughtfully provided by Nature to keep the rope in place. My kind of ability, as distinguished from your kind of ability. Gentle reproof, as with a meat-axe. Destitute of hair from hereditary or accidental causes—never from age.

The condition of a man and woman who, pleasing to one another and objectionable to their friends, are anxious to propitiate society by becoming unendurable to each other. In political geography, an imaginary line between two nations, separating the imaginary rights of one from the imaginary rights of the other. A more than commonly plain and unmistakable reminder that the affairs of this life are not of our own ordering. Calamities are of two kinds: To make a saint out of a dead sinner. The capitalist of insects before he gets his start in life.

A literary trick whereby the writer who has nothing to say breaks it gently to the reader. A person who has made the customary choice between the two methods of being legally robbed. A place where the priest sits to forgive the big sins for the pleasure of hearing about the little ones. The civility of envy. The knowledge that a better man is more unfortunate than yourself.

An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility. A period of twenty-four hours, mostly misspent. The father of a most respectable family, comprising Enthusiasm, Affection, Self-denial, Faith, Hope, Charity and many other goodly sons and daughters. A charitable contribution to the support of a bank. To free the soul from the chains of illusion in order that the lash of truth may draw blood at a greater number of points. The only thing that the rich are willing from the poor to call theirs, and keep.

Purchasing the barrel of whisky that you do not need for the price of the cow that you cannot afford. To exchange the perils and inconveniences of a fixed residence for the security and comfort of travel. As bad as something else. The state or condition of mind which in the procession of human emotions is preceded by hope and followed by despair. One of my offenses, as distinguished from one of yours, the latter being crimes.

A religious celebration usually signalized by gluttony and drunkenness, frequently in honor of some holy person distinguished for abstemiousness. A virtue peculiar to those who are about to be betrayed. The life of commerce, the soul of religion, the bait of courtship and the basis of political power. A sentiment lying midway between a benefit received and a benefit expected.

A shackle for the free. A place where the wicked cease from troubling you with talk of their personal affairs, and the good listen with attention while you expound your own. An account mostly false, of events mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers mostly knaves, and soldiers mostly fools. The place of last resort — open all night. Having paid all taxes on household goods. A member of a large and powerful tribe whose influence in human affairs has always been dominant and controlling.

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A person unacquainted with certain kinds of knowledge familiar to yourself, and having certain other kinds that you know nothing about. Not as yet spotted by the police. Lucid intervals in a disordered life. One who throws light upon a subject; as an editor by not writing about it. The state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress, and two slaves, making in all, two. Uncommon patience in planning a revenge that is worthwhile. The kind of fortune that never misses. The end of night and dawn of dejection. The part of immortality that we know about.

The spore of insomnia, as distinguished from Conscience, the bacillus of the same disease. A philosophy forced upon the convictions of the observer by the disheartening prevalence of the optimist with his scarecrow hope and his unsightly smile. A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing. A representation in two dimensions of something wearisome in three. To carry on business candidly. That part of eternity dividing the domain of disappointment from the realm of hope.

To get the sense of something written, if it has any. Commonly, it has not. The savings of many in the hands of one. A religious or semi-religious ceremony fixed by law, preceptor, and customs with the essential oil of sincerity carefully squeezed out of it. The one infallible sign of civilization and enlightenment. The salt with which the American humorist spoils his intellectual cookery by leaving it out.

The general body of what one reads. In our country it consists, as a rule, of Indiana novels, short stories in "dialect" and humor in slang. To set your wisdom holding not a doubt of it, Although in truth there's neither bone nor skin to it At work upon a book, and so read out of it The qualities that you have first read into it.

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I have been procrastinating reviewing this book out of laziness n. Unwarranted repose of manner in a person of low degree. This book is simply a satirical-cynical parody of your standard 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. It is a fun read to just look-up common words and see what Bierce's smart-ass definition of it is. For instance since this site deals with books let's see another reading definition: A short story padded. A species of composition bearing the same relation to literature that the panorama bears to art.

As it is too long to be read at a sitting the impressions made by its successive parts are successively effaced, as in the panorama. Unity, totality of effect, is impossible; for besides the few pages last read all that is carried in mind is the mere plot of what has gone before. To the romance the novel is what photography is to painting.

Its distinguishing principle, probability, corresponds to the literal actuality of the photograph and puts it distinctly into the category of reporting; whereas the free wing of the romancer enables him to mount to such altitudes of imagination as he may be fitted to attain; and the first three essentials of the literary art are imagination, imagination and imagination. The art of writing novels, such as it was, is long dead everywhere except in Russia, where it is new.

Peace to its ashes -- some of which have a large sale. This was written in to understand the context. How about some definitions from the W's: A symbol for sin for every devil to rebuke. That Wall Street is a den of thieves is a belief that serves every unsuccessful thief in place of a hope in Heaven. A by-product of the arts of peace. A Potomac tribesman who exchanged the privilege of governing himself for the advantage of good government. In justice to him it should be said that he did not want to. This man was an oracle. The climate of the hour. A permanent topic of conversation among persons whom it does not interest, but who have inherited the tendency to chatter about it from naked arboreal ancestors whom it keenly concerned WITCH, n.

Most of the book is like that; it doesn't take itself seriously and it dares you to take it seriously. All it serves is to make you laugh or smirk at a particular definition. I'm surprised this whole book isn't entered into the Goodreads quote section. One of the most surprising books I know -- by far the best book I've read sans preconceptions, or at least presuggestions, of greatness. Ambrose was one clever guy. Some purists might claim that the only measure of cleverness that counts is whether one avoids "disappearing into Mexico without a trace, especially for want of something better to do"; in the spirit of The Devil's Dictionary , let me reply to this contextomic litotes without any preciousness regarding the Madero revolut One of the most surprising books I know -- by far the best book I've read sans preconceptions, or at least presuggestions, of greatness.

Some purists might claim that the only measure of cleverness that counts is whether one avoids "disappearing into Mexico without a trace, especially for want of something better to do"; in the spirit of The Devil's Dictionary , let me reply to this contextomic litotes without any preciousness regarding the Madero revolution: The begging for death part is right on. A powerful neurotoxin brought to you by Dow TM. Element number 11, symbol Mg. Rumored as worse to have packed around and gushing from one's shredded asshole than sand, dysentery and a sepsis you can hear , like the roar of a thousand Yugos, or the sizzle of viscera under the harsh sun of Veracruz.

Looks like we are all out of it. Until then, better to be the gang than the bang. Anyway, funny book, good times. Oct 29, Ana-Maria Petre rated it really liked it. Ambrose Bierce is that funny, sardonic uncle who always disagrees with your father at family reunions. He's a highly intelligent person who probably knows they're the smartest in most rooms and laughs at the stupidity and hypocrisy of others, but subtly enough not to be understood by them. I must admit I loved this book.

I tend to be cynical myself at times, and so agree with Mr. I think cynics are bluntly honest with themselves, and their distrust of people relies in a high awareness of Ambrose Bierce is that funny, sardonic uncle who always disagrees with your father at family reunions.

The Devil's Dictionary: Summary & Quotes

I think cynics are bluntly honest with themselves, and their distrust of people relies in a high awareness of their own feelings and motives. And they are usually smart men. It is well-known that intelligent people have a keen sense of self-irony and sarcasm, because they see the truth in things which is not a happy truth. Laughing at it is the best weapon against madness. However, it's a depressing way to see the world, and it involves a certain blindness to the light.

People are bad, that's true. They are dishonest, deceitful, greedy and cruel. But people are also beautiful, and kind, and wise. It's kind of twisted to see the world in just one way, and although cynics claim to understand the truth, they only grasp half of it and close their eyes to the other.

I have not removed any starts for disagreeing with the book's philosophy. Bierce gets his point across well; as I said, he's a clever guy. There are some parts of this book that are outdated, though, and don't make much sense today, so I couldn't five-star it. I giggled, I guffawed, I snorted, and I laughed in turns. I smiled at some particularly insightful bits of satire. I nodded happily when Bierce's wit assaulted his peers or scored a palpable hit on an issue or a word I wanted to see skewered.

I wanted so badly to enjoy Bierce's classic more than I did, but for every entry I enjoyed there was another that made me bored I should mention, however, that there was nothing that I h I do recognize the genius of Ambrose Bierce 's The Devil's Dictionary. I wanted so badly to enjoy Bierce's classic more than I did, but for every entry I enjoyed there was another that made me bored I should mention, however, that there was nothing that I hated , and I found myself slogging through to the next definition rather than enjoying where I was at.

Bierce was particularly somnolent when he turned to humorous verse to flesh out his definitions. The man had a gift for prose, but he had no gift for poetry. His verse was, occasionally, funny -- I will concede that -- but much of it simply made me yawn. Some of this could be me, some of this could be the distance in time between Bierce and myself, but some of it must be Bierce too.

I recognize The Devil's Dictionary 's place as a classic, and it certainly deserves the title; I also think everyone should have a copy lying around to pick up and put down whenever they need something stimulating to read it could be the perfect toilet book, and I don't mean that in a bad way. But, sadly, my feelings about the book never surpassed contented enjoyment. Would you care to riposte, Mr. There is a land of pure delight, Beyond the Jordan's flood, Where saints, apparelled all in white, Fling back the critic's mud.

And as he legs it through the skies, His pelt a sable hue, He sorrows sore to recognize The missiles that he threw. That verse isn't too bad ; Sep 12, Quiver rated it it was amazing Shelves: Having many times come across piercingly disquieting quotes from Bierce, I decided to read the dictionary itself, cantankerous literary warts and all.

Some of the references have aged better than others; some will be better understood by American readers. But what remains, distilled and universal, is dark, dark stuff. Bierce exhibits Dictionary, n. Bierce exhibits the blackest parts of the human soul—to the eventual chagrin of every reader. For no matter how much you're keen on cynical humour, no matter how much you chuckle at the first 65 definitions, the 66th for example, I'm not being precise here will make you cringe.

Perhaps there's a reason why abridged versions exist and why it would be best to take only an occasional sip from this particularly bitter fountain of wit. Here are some of my favourite definitions beginning with A. A weak person who yields to the temptation of denying himself a pleasure. The smallest current coin. A nutritious substance supplied by a bountiful Providence for the fattening of the poor.

A metaphor in three volumes and a tiger. To tentatively consider with the tongue. If you enjoyed that, this dictionary may be to your liking. However, you have been warned: This one has over pages, as compared to one budget edition with only pages. Wikipedia proclaims Ambrose Bierce an "American editorialist, journalist, short story writer, fabulist and satirist. This book is chock-full of mini-masterpieces of snark, arranged in parody-dictionary format, such as: The art of protecting flat surfaces from the weather and exposing them to the critic.

Strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. This book may not be for everybody, but to paraphrase Alice Longworth Roosevelt, if you like this sort of thing, come sit by me! Highly recommended for the arch wit and Americana as well. Alicia Riley So like a fun book. Sep 12, Able to pick with equal skill a right-hand pocket or a left. I have not read AGB in at least 35 years and I can still recite my favorite definitions The one I have most attempted to accept, if not exactly live by: A despot whom the wise ridicule and obey.

Sebbene non tutte le definizioni abbiano la stessa forza, alcune sono memorabili. Un dizionario scherzoso, che fa ridere, ma fa anche molto riflettere. Para mi una obra imprescindible. There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce was an American editorialist, journalist, short story writer, fabulist and satirist. The sardonic view of human nature that informed his work — along with his vehemence as a critic, with his motto "nothing matters" — earned him the ni Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce was an American editorialist, journalist, short story writer, fabulist and satirist.

The sardonic view of human nature that informed his work — along with his vehemence as a critic, with his motto "nothing matters" — earned him the nickname "Bitter Bierce. Bierce employed a distinctive style of writing, especially in his stories. This style often embraces an abrupt beginning, dark imagery, vague references to time, limited descriptions, the theme of war, and impossible events. Bierce disappeared in December He is believed to have traveled to Mexico to gain a firsthand perspective on that country's ongoing revolution.

Books by Ambrose Bierce. See All Goodreads Deals…. Trivia About The Unabridged De Quotes from The Unabridged De A temporary insanity curable by marriage. The act of repeating erroneously the words of another. Just a moment while we sign you in to your Goodreads account. Product details File Size: March 30, Sold by: Related Video Shorts 0 Upload your video. Share your thoughts with other customers. Write a customer review. Read reviews that mention devils dictionary ambrose bierce civil war bitter bierce sense of humor mark twain devils dictionary years ago evidence in what is told san francisco told by one who speaks even though without evidence without parallel knowledge of things belief without politically incorrect speaks without without knowledge great read.

There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later. Bernie Gourley Top Contributor: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase. Before it was compiled into a book, these entries were serialized in newspapers from to However, a great many of them are as amusing as ever. And lawyers and politicians continue to be fair game as the butt of a joke. Let me give a few examples of the aforementioned narcissism: While subjects like politics, economics, and religion are widespread, the entries cover the wide range of subjects one might see in your regular dictionary.

An instrument of torture operated by a person with cotton in his ears. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility. Purchasing the barrel of whiskey that you do not need for the price of the cow that you cannot afford. That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding. 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. Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.

A religious celebration usually signalized by gluttony and drunkenness, frequently in honor of some holy person distinguished for abstemiousness. The outward and visible sign of an inward fear. A mysterious form of matter secreted by the brain. An arboreal animal which makes itself at home in genealogical trees.

A child of two races, ashamed of both. 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.

Diversity of character is due to their unequal activity. While some of the entries are badly dated, others remain as true as the day they were written by the brilliantly cynical Bierce. 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 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.

Ambrose Bierce didn't write this dictionary. Instead, his definitions were filler for newspapers, later collected and published aw a dictionary. That's an importabt distinction, for he made no effort to write a complete dictionary, and he was writing in the context of current events that are no longer current. 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. This dictionary isn't for the faint of heart or for those easily offended. If you can get past that, you're in for a real treat. Ambrose "Bitter" Bierce has constructed a dictionary from a particularly nefarious point-of-view, and it is hilarious!

His word choices for his dictionary are clever and idiosyncratic, as are his uses of archaic words even in his own time , his actual neologisms, and his accompanying poetry for words, all written by different, mysterious pseudonyms. He completely dismisses the letter "X" and refuses to put down any word beginning with that letter. But it is his definitions for his words that make this little volume a classic.


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A typical definition of one of the words in this dictionary usually begins with a staggeringly trenchant one-liner that, in just a few words, is as funny and cutting as any political cartoon you could see in any paper or any routine delivered by a comedian. These one-liners are the real gems of the book; they will stick in your head and make you laugh, often laughing at yourself or some cherished notion of yours.

That Time Annie Oakley Offered to Put Together an All Female Sniper Team

That is truly great satire, and folks, that is hard to find anywhere. These lines are so pithy and clever that they are much more effective than an op-ed in any publication that drones on about some group or idea the journalist hates. Sometimes, you may have to read Bierce's definitions a few times to get the joke, but when you get it, it's always worth it. Some of these definitions are only pithy one-liners because to add anything more to them would be to try to improve on perfection.

But if you want more, sometimes Bierce gives it to you in a wry, brief description of the word's origins he has fun with etymologies, for sure and history. And many times he will then slide into some wise and funny poetry using the word. This style of writing suits all types of readers; if you are of the "I only read the first line and then check my cell phone" generation, you'll be plenty happy with the first part of the definition. If you are not of that generation and enjoy further reading, it's often there as an added bonus.

Another facet of the book that makes it stupendous to read even in our day is that Bierce shied away from talking about topical issues limited to his day in most cases and instead wrote definitions for humankind in general, and that makes this dictionary timeless. Humanity takes it in the shorts in this book, often in a sardonic yet funny way. And as with all truly great satire, the ones who take the punishment the most and hardest are the most powerful people in society or the ones who think they are the most powerful in society.

As a result, Bierce attacks with special bile politicians, financiers, bankers, titans of industry, and theologians. If you happen to be in one of these groups, chances are you may not like this book. In terms of hilarious and cutting satire from great American writers, I can think only of Twain who was as mean, funny, and wise all at the same time.

The Unabridged Devil's Dictionary

Bierce is an underappreciated writer. If you can get past that initial warning I gave you, please give this one a try. See all reviews. See all customer images. Most recent customer reviews.

The Devils Dictionary [with Biographical Introduction] The Devils Dictionary [with Biographical Introduction]
The Devils Dictionary [with Biographical Introduction] The Devils Dictionary [with Biographical Introduction]
The Devils Dictionary [with Biographical Introduction] The Devils Dictionary [with Biographical Introduction]
The Devils Dictionary [with Biographical Introduction] The Devils Dictionary [with Biographical Introduction]
The Devils Dictionary [with Biographical Introduction] The Devils Dictionary [with Biographical Introduction]
The Devils Dictionary [with Biographical Introduction] The Devils Dictionary [with Biographical Introduction]

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