Ambrose Bierce was a celebrated journalist, storyteller and, above all, cynic. Bierce had a barbed wit, and he often used it to kick American culture square in the teeth. In 1911, he published The Devil’s Dictionary, a partial lexicon that sardonically redefines over 1000 words. Here are some of our favorites:
1. Academy, n. A modern school where football is taught.
2. Achievement, n. The death of endeavor and the birth of disgust.
3. Alone, adj. In bad company.
4. Beauty, n. The power by which a woman charms a lover and terrifies a husband.
5. Behavior, n. Conduct, as determined, not by principle, but by breeding.
6. Brain, n. An apparatus with which we think what we think. That which distinguishes the man who is content to be something from the man who wishes to do something.
7. Cabbage, n. A familiar kitchen-garden vegetable about as large and wise as a man’s head.
8. Cat, n. A soft, indestructible automaton provided by nature to be kicked when things go wrong in the domestic circle.
9. Childhood, n. The period of human life intermediate between the idiocy of infancy and the folly of youth—two removes from the sin of manhood and three from the remorse of age.
10. Circus, n. A place where horses, ponies and elephants are permitted to see men and women and children acting the fool.