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Devil's Dictionary

“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.” — Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary
Published August 5th, 2015
Ambrose Bierce’s last words were found in a letter he sent to an intimate friend in the winter of 1913. “As to me,” he wrote, “I leave here tomorrow for an unknown destination.” Then he disappeared in Mexico and was never heard from again.

A famed journalist and essayist of the late 19th century, Bierce was also one of America’s sharpest cynics. His legacy was entombed in The Devil’s Dictionary: a satirical lexicon originally published in 1906. The dictionary is a collection of comic definitions that he wrote over several decades as a columnist for the San Francisco News Letter and other publications.

As with all dictionaries, Bierce’s work was a comment on his own time, though some of the best Devil’s Dictionary entries are timeless:

APOLOGIZE, v. To lay the foundation for a future offence.

KILL, v. To create a vacancy without nominating a successor.

YEAR, n. A period of three hundred and sixty-five disappointments.
With a penchant for piercing aphorism, Bierce would have felt right at home on Twitter. (His nihilistic motto, “nothing matters,” has found new life there, at least among bitter writers such as this one.) If reviewed today, his dictionary would be considered a masterwork in trolling.

Over the past century, Bierce’s work has been extensively borrowed and reprinted. Many “unabridged” versions of his dictionary have been published. Following that tradition, we have updated The Devil’s Dictionary for an age that desperately needs it.

— T.C. Sottek, editor

Editor’s pick Tinder (n) : Unlike war, a method of both who is right and who is left.

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