Tony's Reviews > The Unabridged Devil's Dictionary

The Unabridged Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce
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Sep 05, 11

bookshelves: essays
Read in September, 2011

Bierce, Ambrose. THE DEVIL’S DICTIONARY. (1911). ****.
Bierce (1842-1913?) was born in Ohio and educated in Indiana. He was the tenth of thirteen children whose father gave all of them names starting with an “A”: In order of birth, they were Abigal, Amelia, Ann, Addison, Aurelius, Augustus, Almeda, Andrew, Albert, Ambrose, Arthur, Adelia, and Aurelia. When Civil War broke out, he enlisted in the Union Army’s 9th Indiana Infantry Regiment. 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. He is primarily known for his short stories – or “tales” – and for their precise use of language. 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. In 1913, he went to Mexico to report on Mexico’s revolution. He travelled with Villa’s army and ultimately disappeared without a trace after the battle of Tierra Bianca. This work was written over a long period (1881-1911) and was not issued as a single volume until 1911 – included as part of his “complete works.” It reminds one of Votaire’s dictionary, since all of the definitions are steeped in sarcasm. 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.
Alone, adj. In bad company.
Bacchus, n. A convenient deity invented by the ancients as an excuse for getting drunk.
Barometer, n. An ingenious instrument which indicates what kind of weather we are having.
Critic, n. A person who boasts himself hard to please because nobody tries to please him.
Dentist, n. A prestidigitator who, putting metal into your mouth, pulls co9ins out of your pocket.
Die, n. The singular of “dice.” We seldom hear the word because there is a prohimitory proverb, “Never say die.” At long interfals, however, some one says, “The die is cast,” which is not true, for it is cut...
Enough. This is a must read. Recommended.
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