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  THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY byAMBROSE BIERCEAUTHOR'S PREFACE _The Devil's Dictionary_ was begun in a weekly paper in 1881, and wascontinued in a desultory way at long intervals until 1906. In thatyear a large part of it was published in covers with the title _TheCynic's Word Book_, a name which the author had not the power toreject or happiness to approve. To quote the publishers of the present work: This more reverent title had previously been forced upon him bythe religious scruples of the last newspaper in which a part of thework had appeared, with the natural consequence that when it came outin covers the country already had been flooded by its imitators with ascore of 'cynic' books -- _The Cynic's This_, _The Cynic's That_, and _The Cynic's t'Other_. Most of these books were merely stupid, thoughsome of them added the distinction of silliness. Among them, they brought the word 'cynic' into disfavor so deep that any book bearingit was discredited in advance of publication. Meantime, too, some of the enterprising humorists of the countryhad 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 ismade, not with any pride of priority in trifles, but in simple denialof possible charges of plagiarism, which is no trifle. In merelyresuming his own the author hopes to be held guiltless by those towhom the work is addressed -- enlightened souls who prefer dry winesto sweet, sense to sentiment, wit to humor and clean English to slang.A conspicuous, and it is hoped not unpleasant, feature of the book is its abundant illustrative quotations from eminent poets, chief of whom is that learned and ingenius cleric, Father Gassalasca Jape,S.J., whose lines bear his initials. To Father Jape's kindlyencouragement and assistance the author of the prose text is greatlyindebted.A.B.  AABASEMENT, n. A decent and customary mental attitude in the presenceof wealth of power. Peculiarly appropriate in an employee whenaddressing an employer.ABATIS, n. Rubbish in front of a fort, to prevent the rubbish outsidefrom molesting the rubbish inside.ABDICATION, n. An act whereby a sovereign attests his sense of thehigh temperature of the throne.Poor Isabella's Dead, whose abdicationSet all tongues wagging in the Spanish nation.For that performance 'twere unfair to scold her:She wisely left a throne too hot to hold her.To History she'll be no royal riddle --Merely a plain parched pea that jumped the griddle.G.J.ABDOMEN, n. The temple of the god Stomach, in whose worship, withsacrificial rights, all true men engage. From women this ancientfaith commands but a stammering assent. They sometimes minister atthe altar in a half-hearted and ineffective way, but true reverencefor the one deity that men really adore they know not. If woman had afree hand in the world's marketing the race would becomegraminivorous.ABILITY, n. The natural equipment to accomplish some small part of the meaner ambitions distinguishing able men from dead ones. In thelast analysis ability is commonly found to consist mainly in a highdegree of solemnity. Perhaps, however, this impressive quality isrightly appraised; it is no easy task to be solemn.ABNORMAL, adj. Not conforming to standard. In matters of thought andconduct, to be independent is to be abnormal, to be abnormal is to bedetested. Wherefore the lexicographer adviseth a striving toward thestraiter [sic] resemblance of the Average Man than he hath to himself.Whoso attaineth thereto shall have peace, the prospect of death andthe hope of Hell.  ABORIGINIES, n. Persons of little worth found cumbering the soil of anewly discovered country. They soon cease to cumber; they fertilize.ABRACADABRA.By _Abracadabra_ we signifyAn infinite number of things.'Tis the answer to What? and How? and Why?And Whence? and Whither? -- a word wherebyThe Truth (with the comfort it brings)Is open to all who grope in night,Crying for Wisdom's holy light.Whether the word is a verb or a nounIs knowledge beyond my reach.I only know that 'tis handed down.From sage to sage,From age to age --An immortal part of speech!Of an ancient man the tale is toldThat he lived to be ten centuries old,In a cave on a mountain side.(True, he finally died.)The fame of his wisdom filled the land,For his head was bald, and you'll understandHis beard was long and whiteAnd his eyes uncommonly bright.Philosophers gathered from far and near To sit at his feet and hear and hear,Though he never was heardTo utter a wordBut _Abracadabra, abracadab_,_Abracada, abracad_,_Abraca, abrac, abra, ab!_ 'Twas all he had,'Twas all they wanted to hear, and eachMade copious notes of the mystical speech,Which they published next --A trickle of textIn the meadow of commentary.Mighty big books were these,In a number, as leaves of trees;In learning, remarkably -- very!  He's dead,As I said,And the books of the sages have perished,But his wisdom is sacredly cherished.In _Abracadabra_ it solemnly rings,Like an ancient bell that forever swings.O, I love to hear That word make clear Humanity's General Sense of Things.Jamrach HolobomABRIDGE, v.t. To shorten.When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for people to abridge their king, a decent respect for the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impelthem to the separation.Oliver CromwellABRUPT, adj. Sudden, without ceremony, like the arrival of a cannon-shot and the departure of the soldier whose interests are mostaffected by it. Dr. Samuel Johnson beautifully said of another author's ideas that they were concatenated without abruption. ABSCOND, v.i. To move in a mysterious way, commonly with the property of another.Spring beckons! All things to the call respond;The trees are leaving and cashiers abscond.Phela OrmABSENT, adj. Peculiarly exposed to the tooth of detraction; vilified;hopelessly in the wrong; superseded in the consideration and affectionof another.To men a man is but a mind. Who caresWhat face he carries or what form he wears?But woman's body is the woman. O,Stay thou, my sweetheart, and do never go,But heed the warning words the sage hath said:
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