The Devil’s Dictionary

Jason Zweig has a fantastic new website that include’s a “Devil’s Financial Dictionary,” you have to check it out. 

Zweig’s dictionary was (I think) inspired by one of the most fun little volumes every written, Ambrose Bierce’s “Devil’s Dictionary.” Here are a few of my favorite definitions from the original:

CONSERVATIVE, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.

CRITIC, n. A person who boasts himself hard to please because nobody tries to please him.

DESTINY, n. A tyrant’s authority for crime and fool’s excuse for failure.

EDUCATION, n. That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.

EXISTENCE, n. A transient, horrible, fantastic dream, Wherein is nothing yet all things do seem: From which we’re wakened by a friendly nudge Of our bedfellow Death, and cry: “O fudge!”

FAITH, n. Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.

FUTURE, n. That period of time in which our affairs prosper, our friends are true and our happiness is assured.

HABIT, n. A shackle for the free.

HAPPINESS, n. An agreeable sensation arising from contemplating the misery of another.

LAWYER, n. One skilled in circumvention of the law.

LECTURER, n. One with his hand in your pocket, his tongue in your ear and his faith in your patience.

LIFE, n. A spiritual pickle preserving the body from decay. We live in daily apprehension of its loss; yet when lost it is not missed. The question, “Is life worth living?” has been much discussed; particularly by those who think it is not, many of whom have written at great length in support of their view and by careful observance of the laws of health enjoyed for long terms of years the honors of successful controversy.

OCEAN, n. A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made for man—who has no gills.

PAST, n. That part of Eternity with some small fraction of which we have a slight and regrettable acquaintance. A moving line called the Present parts it from an imaginary period known as the Future. These two grand divisions of Eternity, of which the one is continually effacing the other, are entirely unlike. The one is dark with sorrow and disappointment, the other bright with prosperity and joy. The Past is the region of sobs, the Future is the realm of song. In the one crouches Memory, clad in sackcloth and ashes, mumbling penitential prayer; in the sunshine of the other Hope flies with a free wing, beckoning to temples of success and bowers of ease. Yet the Past is the Future of yesterday, the Future is the Past of to-morrow. They are one—the knowledge and the dream.

PHILOSOPHY, n. A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.

POLITICIAN, n. An eel in the fundamental mud upon which the superstructure of organized society is reared. When we wriggles he mistakes the agitation of his tail for the trembling of the edifice. As compared with the statesman, he suffers the disadvantage of being alive.

PRAY, v. To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy.

PRESIDENCY, n. The greased pig in the field game of American politics.

RATIONAL, adj. Devoid of all delusions save those of observation, experience and reflection.

REALITY, n. The dream of a mad philosopher. That which would remain in the cupel if one should assay a phantom. The nucleus of a vacuum.

RELIGION, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.

WEATHER, n. The climate of the hour. A permanent topic of conversation among persons whom it does not interest, but who have inherited the tendency to chatter about it from naked arboreal ancestors whom it keenly concerned.