Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Devil’s Dictionary

The following are excerpts from The Devil’s Dictionary, a newspaper feature written by Ambrose Bierce in the late 1800s and published as a book in 1906. I quote it here with no changes to the original text.

ABSURDITY, n. A statement or belief manifestly inconsistent with one's own opinion.

DEPRAVED – the moral condition of a gentleman who holds the opposite opinion.

FAITH – Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.

HEATHEN, n. A benighted creature who has the folly to worship something that he can see and feel.

IGNORAMUS, n. A person unacquainted with certain kinds of knowledge familiar to yourself, and having certain other kinds that you know nothing about.

IMMORAL, adj. Inexpedient. Whatever in the long run and with regard to the greater number of instances men find to be generally inexpedient comes to be considered wrong, wicked, immoral. If man's notions of right and wrong have any other basis than this of expediency; if they originated, or could have originated, in any other way; if actions have in themselves a moral character apart from, and nowise dependent on, their consequences — then all philosophy is a lie and reason a disorder of the mind.

IMPIETY – Your irreverence towards my deity.

INFIDEL, n. In New York, one who does not believe in the Christian religion; in Constantinople, one who does. A kind of scoundrel imperfectly reverent of, and niggardly contributory to, divines, ecclesiastics, popes, parsons, canons, monks, mollahs, voodoos, presbyters, hierophants, prelates, obeah-men, abbes, nuns, missionaries, exhorters, deacons, friars, hadjis, high-priests, muezzins, brahmins, medicine-men, confessors, eminences, elders, primates, prebendaries, pilgrims, prophets, imaums, beneficiaries, clerks, vicars-choral, archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, preachers, padres, abbotesses, caloyers, palmers, curates, patriarchs, bonezs, santons, beadsmen, canonesses, residentiaries, diocesans, deans, subdeans, rural deans, abdals, charm-sellers, archdeacons, hierarchs, class-leaders, incumbents, capitulars, sheiks, talapoins, postulants, scribes, gooroos, precentors, beadles, fakeers, sextons, reverences, revivalists, cenobites, perpetual curates, chaplains, mudjoes, readers, novices, vicars, pastors, rabbis, ulemas, lamas, sacristans, vergers, dervises, lectors, church wardens, cardinals, prioresses, suffragans, acolytes, rectors, cures, sophis, mutifs and pumpums.

KORAN, n. A book which the Mohammedans foolishly believe to have been written by divine inspiration, but which Christians know to be a wicked imposture, contradictory to the Holy Scriptures.

MYTHOLOGY – The body of a primitive’s people’s beliefs concerning its origins, early history, heroes, deities and so forth, as distinguished from the true accounts it invents later.

PANTHEISM, n. The doctrine that everything is God, in contradistinction to the doctrine that God is everything.

PAST, n. That part of Eternity with some small fraction of which we have a slight and regrettable acquaintance. A moving line called the Present parts it from an imaginary period known as the Future.

PRAY – To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner, confessedly unworthy.

SCRIPTURES, n. The sacred books of our holy religion, as distinguished from the false and profane writings on which all other faiths are based.

No comments:

Post a Comment