Extracts from the Cynic’s Wordbook – Part VII – the letter S

Also see letters P, M, K, C, J and R.

  1. Sabbath – noun An unknown quantity in San Francisco social life.
  2. Sacerdotalist – noun One who holds the belief that a clergyman is a priest.
  3. Sacred – noun Dedicated to some religious purpose; having a divine character; as the Dalai Lama of Tibet; the Moogum of M’bwango; the Cow in India; the hair of the dog that bit Noah, etc.
  4. Saint – noun A dead sinner, revised and edited.
  5. Sanity – noun The state of mind that immediately precedes and follows murder. Continue reading

Extracts from the Cynic’s Wordbook – Part VI – the letter R

Previous entries: P, M, K, C, J. Notice I have listed double the number of extracts under this letter. This is simply because these are some of the finest in the whole book by Bierce. A little bonus for you to chew and occasionally swallow and digest. Read on:

  1. Recruit – noun A person distinguishable from a civilian by his uniform and a soldier from his gait.
  2. Reform – noun A campaign transparency, which is laid aside as soon as it has served its purpose; a thing that mostly satisfies reformers as opposed to reformation.
  3. Relations - noun, plural People that you call on, or that call on you, according to whether they are rich or poor.
  4. Remarkable – adjective The manner in which that fool Jones gets on, when we, who are so much more talented, are left out in the cold.
  5. Remote – adjective The day when merit will be in more demand than money.
  6. Removable – adjective An official who hasn’t any influence at headquarters.
  7. Rent – noun An outrage imposed by blood-sucking vampires on virtuous sons of toil.
  8. Republic – noun A form of government in which equal justice is administered to all who can afford to pay for it.
  9. Resident – noun Unable to leave.
  10. Resign – verb A good thing to do when you are going to be kicked out.
  11. Revelation – noun Learning late in life that you are a fool.
  12. Revenge – noun Sending your girl’s love letter to a rival after he has married her.
  13. Reverence – noun The spiritual attitude of a man to a god and a dog to man.
  14. Revolver – noun An argument used by temporary maniacs.
  15. Riddle – noun Who elects our rulers?
  16. Right – noun A cipher which has no value unless the numeral Might is placed before it.
  17. Riot – noun A farce, which in Europe becomes a drama; a popular entertainment given to the military by innocent bystanders.
  18. Robber – noun Vulgar name for one who is successful in obtaining the property of others.
  19. Rose – noun Same thing as a skunk.
  20. Rude – noun Reminding an old lady of the good times you had forty years ago.

Extracts from the Cynic’s Wordbook – Part V – the letter J

You have been with me through entries under the letters P, M, K, and C. Today, we shall read through J.

  1. J – is a consonant in English, but some nations use it as a vowel–than which nothing could be more absurd. Its original form, which has been but slightly modified, was that of the tail of a subdued dog, and it was not a letter but a character, standing for a latin verb, jacere, ‘to throw,’ because when a stone is thrown at a dog the dog’s tail assumes that shape. This is the origin of the letter, as expounded by the renowned Dr Jocolpus Bumer, of the University of Belgrade, who established his conclusions on the subject in a work of three quarto volumes and committed suicide on being reminded that the j in the Roman alphabet had originally no curl.
  2. Jealous – adjective Unduly concerned about the preservation of that which can be lost only if not worth keeping.
  3. Jealousy – noun The seamy side of love.
  4. Jews-harp – noun An unmusical instrument, played by holding it fast with the teeth and trying to brush it away with the finger.
  5. Joss-sticks – noun Small sticks burned by the Chinese in their pagan tomfoolery, in imitation of certain sacred rites of our holy religion.
  6. Judge – noun A person who is always interfering in disputes in which he has no personal interest.
  7. Jurisprudence – noun The kind of prudence that keeps one inside the law.
  8. Jury – noun A number of persons appointed by a court to assist the attorneys in preventing the law from degenerating into justice.
  9. Justice – noun A commodity which is a more or less adulterated condition the State sells to the citizen as a reward for his allegiance, taxes and personal service.
  10. Jute – noun A plant grown in India, the fruit of which supplies nutritious diet to the directors of our State prison.

Extracts from the Cynic’s Wordbook – Part IV – the letter C

Today is the day of the letter C. ’nuff said. Or maybe, ’nuff seen. Whatever that means. We’ve read through P, M and K. Read on.

  1. Cabbage – noun A familiar kitchen-garden vegetable about as large and wise as a man’s head.
  2. Calamity – noun A more than commonly plain and unmistakable reminder that the affairs of this life are not of our own ordering. Calamities are of two types: misfortune to ourselves and good fortune to others.
  3. Capital – noun The seat of misgovernment. That which provides the fire, the pot, the dinner, the table and the knife and fork for the anarchist.
  4. Censor – noun An officer of certain governments, employed to suppress the works of genius.
  5. Chemise – noun Don’t know what it means.
  6. Church – noun A place where the parson worships God and women worship the parson.
  7. Club – noun An association of men for purposes of drunkenness, gluttony, unholy hilarity, murder, sacrilege and the slandering of mothers, wives and sisters. For this definition I am indebted to several estimable ladies who have the best means of information, their husbands being members of several clubs.
  8. Comet – noun An excuse for being out late at night and going home drunk in the morning.
  9. Commerce – noun A kind of transaction in which A plunders from B the goods of C, and for compensation B picks the pocket of D of the money belonging to E.
  10. Confidant, confidante – noun One entrusted by A with the secrets of B,confided to him by C.

Extracts from the cynic’s wordbook – Part II – the letter M

~This post is dedicated to my own blog. For being there.~


In my last post I gave you ten of what I thought were the finest ‘Devil’s definitions’ of words in Bierce’s ‘The Devil’s Dictionary.’ Today, I shall outline some more, this time from the letter M. This is arguably the most entertaining of all letters in our English language–at least that which is present in the strange dictionary in question. Read on below:

  1. Madnoun Affected by a high degree of intellectual independence; not conforming to social standards of thought, speech and action derived by the conformants from study of themselves; at odds with the majority; in short, unusual.
  2. Malenoun A member of the unconsidered, or negligible, sex. The male of the human race is commonly known (to the female) as Mere Man. The genus has two varieties: good providers and bad providers.
  3. Menoun The objectionable case of I. The personal pronoun in English has three cases, the dominative, the objectionable and the oppressive. Each is all three. Continue reading

Extracts from the cynic’s wordbook – Part I – the letter P

~This post is dedicated to my good friend, Raghul Selvam, for failing to dissociate in lofty hours. He is still alive today.~


While Ambroce ‘Bitter’ Bierce himself rather fancied the name ‘The Devil’s Dictionary’ to ‘The Cynic’s Wordbook,’ I think the latter is equally good and thus decided to title this post as you now see it! One of the prized collections in my small home-library is an inconspicuous and unassuming little book that hardly catches anyone’s eye, titled–you guessed it–The Devil’s Dictionary. Bierce is perhaps the greatest figure in English satire I have come across and I take some pride in saying Bierce and I were both born on the same day; perhaps that explains the similar tastes!

PWhile many are aware of numerous sources where faux meanings are provided to real words, it is little known that this originated from Bierce’s masterpiece of a satire, The Devil’s Dictionary, a collection of his witty definitions of some of the more common words in the English language that he published over a huge period of time, from 1881 to 1906, in a certain weekly. There have been many–pardon me for saying lower standard–spin-offs of this and they surprisingly continue to this day. And while I have come across few who have actually read this work, I know many who haven’t; and it is for them that I have put down here the ten best definitions from Bierce’s book. In follow-up posts, I shall list some more. This one I have used to cover the letter P. Continue reading