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Ambrose Bierce

Ambrose Bierce American satirist, critic, short story writer, editor and journalist. He is perhaps most famous for his serialized mock lexicon, The Devil's Dictionary, in which, over the years, he scathed American culture and accepted wisdom by pointing out alternate, more practical definitions for common words.
Found 1138 thoughts of Ambrose Bierce

Marriage is the state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress and two slaves, making in all, two.

Ambrose Bierce

The world has suffered more from the ravages of ill-advised marriages than from virginity.

Ambrose Bierce

We know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get run over.

Ambrose Bierce

Logic: The art of thinking and reasoning in strict accordance with the limitations and incapacities of the human misunderstanding.

Ambrose Bierce

Kindness is a brief preface to ten volumes of exaction.

Ambrose Bierce

WEDDING, n. A ceremony at which two persons undertake to become one, one undertakes to become nothing, and nothing undertakes to become supportable.

Ambrose Bierce

Perfection is an imaginary state of quality distinguished from the actual by an element known as excellence; an attribute of the critic.

Ambrose Bierce

Happiness: An agreeable sensation arising from contemplating the misery of another.

Ambrose Bierce

INDISCRETION, n. The guilt of woman.

Ambrose Bierce

ALLEGIANCE, n. This thing Allegiance, as I suppose, Is a ring fitted in the subject's nose, Whereby that organ is kept rightly pointed To smell the sweetness of the Lord's anointed. G.J.

Ambrose Bierce

RUM, n. Generically, fiery liquors that produce madness in total abstainers.

Ambrose Bierce

PANTOMIME, n. A play in which the story is told without violence to the language. The least disagreeable form of dramatic action.

Ambrose Bierce

OVEREAT, v. To dine. Hail, Gastronome, Apostle of Excess, Well skilled to overeat without distress! Thy great invention, the unfatal feast, Shows Man's superiority to Beast. John Boop

Ambrose Bierce

DAWN, n. The time when men of reason go to bed. Certain old men prefer to rise at about that time, taking a cold bath and a long walk with an empty stomach, and otherwise mortifying the flesh. They then point with pride to these practices as the cause of their sturdy health and ripe years; the truth being that they are hearty and old, not because of their habits, but in spite of them. The reason we find only robust persons doing this thing is that it has killed all the others who have tried it.

Ambrose Bierce

SIREN, n. One of several musical prodigies famous for a vain attempt to dissuade Odysseus from a life on the ocean wave. Figuratively, any lady of splendid promise, dissembled purpose and disappointing performance.

Ambrose Bierce

LOOKING-GLASS, n. A vitreous plane upon which to display a fleeting show for man's disillusion given. The King of Manchuria had a magic looking-glass, whereon whoso looked saw, not his own image, but only that of the king. A certain courtier who had long enjoyed the king's favor and was thereby enriched beyond any other subject of the realm, said to the king: "Give me, I pray, thy wonderful mirror, so that when absent out of thine august presence I may yet do homage before thy visible shadow, prostrating myself night and morning in the glory of thy benign countenance, as which nothing has so divine splendor, O Noonday Sun of the Universe!" Please with the speech, the king commanded that the mirror be conveyed to the courtier's palace; but after, having gone thither without apprisal, he found it in an apartment where was naught but idle lumber. And the mirror was dimmed with dust and overlaced with cobwebs. This so angered him that he fisted it hard, shattering the glass, and was sorely hurt. Enraged all the more by this mischance, he commanded that the ungrateful courtier be thrown into prison, and that the glass be repaired and taken back to his own palace; and this was done. But when the king looked again on the mirror he saw not his image as before, but only the figure of a crowned ass, having a bloody bandage on one of its hinder hooves -- as the artificers and all who had looked upon it had before discerned but feared to report. Taught wisdom and charity, the king restored his courtier to liberty, had the mirror set into the back of the throne and reigned many years with justice and humility; and one day when he fell asleep in death while on the throne, the whole court saw in the mirror the luminous figure of an angel, which remains to this day.

Ambrose Bierce

DISOBEY, v.t. To celebrate with an appropriate ceremony the maturity of a command. His right to govern me is clear as day, My duty manifest to disobey; And if that fit observance e'er I shut May I and duty be alike undone. Israfel Brown

Ambrose Bierce

EXCESS, n. In morals, an indulgence that enforces by appropriate penalties the law of moderation. Hail, high Excess -- especially in wine, To thee in worship do I bend the knee Who preach abstemiousness unto me -- My skull thy pulpit, as my paunch thy shrine. Precept on precept, aye, and line on line, Could ne'er persuade so sweetly to agree With reason as thy touch, exact and free, Upon my forehead and along my spine. At thy command eschewing pleasure's cup, With the hot grape I warm no more my wit; When on thy stool of penitence I sit I'm quite converted, for I can't get up. Ungrateful he who afterward would falter To make new sacrifices at thine altar!

Ambrose Bierce

ENTERTAINMENT, n. Any kind of amusement whose inroads stop short of death by injection.

Ambrose Bierce

SHERIFF, n. In America the chief executive office of a country, whose most characteristic duties, in some of the Western and Southern States, are the catching and hanging of rogues. John Elmer Pettibone Cajee (I write of him with little glee) Was just as bad as he could be. 'Twas frequently remarked: "I swon! The sun has never looked upon So bad a man as Neighbor John." A sinner through and through, he had This added fault: it made him mad To know another man was bad. In such a case he thought it right To rise at any hour of night And quench that wicked person's light. Despite the town's entreaties, he Would hale him to the nearest tree And leave him swinging wide and free. Or sometimes, if the humor came, A luckless wight's reluctant frame Was given to the cheerful flame. While it was turning nice and brown, All unconcerned John met the frown Of that austere and righteous town. "How sad," his neighbors said, "that he So scornful of the law should be -- An anar c, h, i, s, t." (That is the way that they preferred To utter the abhorrent word, So strong the aversion that it stirred.) "Resolved," they said, continuing, "That Badman John must cease this thing Of having his unlawful fling. "Now, by these sacred relics" -- here Each man had out a souvenir Got at a lynching yesteryear -- "By these we swear he shall forsake His ways, nor cause our hearts to ache By sins of rope and torch and stake. "We'll tie his red right hand until He'll have small freedom to fulfil The mandates of his lawless will." So, in convention then and there, They named him Sheriff. The affair Was opened, it is said, with prayer. J. Milton Sloluck

Ambrose Bierce

CLERGYMAN, n. A man who undertakes the management of our spiritual affairs as a method of better his temporal ones.

Ambrose Bierce

LUNARIAN, n. An inhabitant of the moon, as distinguished from Lunatic, one whom the moon inhabits. The Lunarians have been described by Lucian, Locke and other observers, but without much agreement. For example, Bragellos avers their anatomical identity with Man, but Professor Newcomb says they are more like the hill tribes of Vermont.

Ambrose Bierce

TOMB, n. The House of Indifference. Tombs are now by common consent invested with a certain sanctity, but when they have been long tenanted it is considered no sin to break them open and rifle them, the famous Egyptologist, Dr. Huggyns, explaining that a tomb may be innocently "glened" as soon as its occupant is done "smellynge," the soul being then all exhaled. This reasonable view is now generally accepted by archaeologists, whereby the noble science of Curiosity has been greatly dignified.

Ambrose Bierce

Politics: "The conduct of public affairs for private advantage."

Ambrose Bierce

CURSE, v.t. Energetically to belabor with a verbal slap-stick. This is an operation which in literature, particularly in the drama, is commonly fatal to the victim. Nevertheless, the liability to a cursing is a risk that cuts but a small figure in fixing the rates of life insurance.

Ambrose Bierce
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