B – the Devil’s Dictionary

Here’s some more viciousness from Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary.  In many of these entries, for every word’s accepted and surface meaning there is an underlying or shadow meaning.  Two faces.  The revealed meaning is acceptable and scrubbed and would, I assume, belong in the dictionary of a more sanctified being, like an Angel perhaps.  It’s the lurking, unrevealed meaning that is devilish and sinister.

For instance, beauty is charm on the surface, but terror below.  A benefactor is beneficient and even magnanimous in public, but stingy for the gratitude he feels is his rightful due underneath it all.  In public life a boundary is a line; in private it is the manifestation of the politics of neighboring populations given to delusion and self-aggrandizement.

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A – the devil’s dictionary

Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary is the rock bottom of cynicism and irony.  And this is just the A’s!  It purports to describe hell but we recognize it right away as our lives here and now among the quick.  Our most sacred qualities are unceremoniously toppled and made rag tag and treacherous.  Every motivation is duplicitous, each shining character quality fully avaricious. Nothing is as it seems; there is a dark, blanketing shadow of motivation behind every relationship and action.  Corruption has achieved its apotheosis.  You get the picture.

Some of the A’s from the dictionary:

ABILITY, n. The natural equipment to accomplish some small part of the meaner ambitions distinguishing able men from dead ones. In the last analysis ability is commonly found to consist mainly in a high degree of solemnity. Perhaps, however, this impressive quality is rightly appraised; it is no easy task to be solemn. Continue reading