Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce was an American satirist, editorialist, journalist, and short story writer. He wrote the short story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” and compiled the satirical The Devil’s Dictionary. Born June 24, 1842, in Ohio, died 1914 in Mexico.
Here’s how Bierce defined some things:
Acquaintance: A person whom we know well enough to borrow from, but not well enough to lend to.
Alliance – in international politics: The union of two thieves who have their hands so deeply inserted in each other’s pockets that they cannot separately plunder a third.
Apologize: is to lay the foundation for a future offense.
Belladonna: In Italian a beautiful lady; in English a deadly poison. A striking example of the essential identity of the two tongues.
Brain: An apparatus with which we think we think.
Cabbage: A familiar kitchen-garden vegetable about as large and wise as a man’s head.
Cynic: A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be.
Debt: An ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slavedriver.
Doubt: Who never doubted, never half believed. Where doubt is, there truth is – it is her shadow.
Faith: Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.
Fidelity: A virtue peculiar to those who are about to be betrayed.
Fork: An instrument used chiefly for the purpose of putting dead animals into the mouth.
Friendless: Having no favors to bestow. Destitute of fortune. Addicted to utterance of truth and common sense.
Genius: To know without having learned; to draw just conclusions from unknown premises; to discern the soul of things.
Historian: A broad-gauge gossip.
Homicide – There are four kinds: felonious, excusable, justifiable, and praiseworthy.
Impartial: Unable to perceive any promise of personal advantage from espousing either side of a controversy.
Incompatibility: In matrimony a similarity of tastes, particularly the taste for domination.
Insurance: An ingenious modern game of chance in which the player is permitted to enjoy the comfortable conviction that he is beating the man who keeps the table.
Jealous: Unduly concerned about the preservation of that which can be lost only if not worth keeping.
Knowledge: The small part of ignorance that we arrange and classify we give the name of knowledge.
Learning: The kind of ignorance distinguishing the studious.
Liberty: One of imagination’s most precious possessions.
Logic: The art of thinking and reasoning in strict accordance with the limitations and incapacities of the human misunderstanding.
Love: A temporary insanity curable by marriage.
Mad: Affected with a high degree of intellectual independence.
Majority Rule: We submit to the majority because we have to. But we are not compelled to call our attitude of subjection a posture of respect.
Marriage: The state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress, and two slaves, making in all, two.
Meekness: Uncommon patience in planning a revenge that is worth while.
Middle of the Road: We know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get run over.
Ocean: A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made for man – who has no gills.
Optimism: The doctrine or belief that everything is beautiful, including what is ugly.
Patience: A minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue.
Philosophy: A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.
Politeness: The most acceptable hypocrisy.
Politics: A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.
Prescription: A physician’s guess at what will best prolong the situation with least harm to the patient.
Present: That part of eternity dividing the domain of disappointment from the realm of hope.
Religion: A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.
Revolution: In politics, an abrupt change in the form of misgovernment.
Sabbath: A weekly festival having its origin in the fact that God made the world in six days and was arrested on the seventh.
Skepticism: It is evident that skepticism, while it makes no actual change in man, always makes him feel better.
Trial: A formal inquiry designed to prove and put upon record the blameless characters of judges, advocates and jurors.
Vote: The instrument and symbol of a freeman’s power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country.
War: What this country needs what every country needs occasionally is a good hard bloody war to revive the vice of patriotism on which its existence as a nation depends.