Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ready for some satire?

The word “dictionary” generally brings to mind the idea of looking for an academic definition of a word or concept; however, this is not always the case. One famous dictionary, in particular, seeks not to define words per se, but to make us think about life in a very comic way: The Devil’s Dictionary.

The Devil’s Dictionary is the work of Ambrose Bierce, a journalist who, after running out of ideas, started writing comical or cynical definitions based on the entries of the Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary. He kept publishing these definitions as part of his columns in newspapers and magazines until he decided to compile them all in one book originally titled “Cynic's Word Book.” Throughout the years, Bierce added more and more definitions to this book and republished it in 1911 with the title “Devil’s Dictionary.”

But, let’s stop talking about this interesting book and let’s take a look at some of Bierce’s definitions that amazingly still feel very current:

Economy: purchasing the barrel of whisky that you do not need for the price of the cow that you cannot afford.

Friendship: a ship big enough to carry two in fair weather, but only one in foul.

Future: that period of time in which our affairs prosper, our friends are true and our happiness is assured.

Gymnast: a man who puts his brains into his muscles.

Patience: A minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue.

Tail: the part of an animal’s spine that has transcended its natural limitations to set up an independent existence in a world of its own.

Austin Public Library owns different editions of this dictionary and other works by Bierce that you can check out at any time:

Devil’s Dictionary. 1st Us edition

Unabridged Devil’s Dictionary

The Devil's advocate : an Ambrose Bierce reader

The collected writings of Ambrose Bierce

A sole survivor: bits of autobiography

You can also enjoy this book on line by clicking here

For more information on this interesting writer, you can visit the Ambrose Bierce Project.

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