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Devil's Dictionary: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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MAGPIE, n. A bird whose thievish disposition suggested to someone that it might be taught to talk.

MAIDEN, n. A young person of the unfair sex addicted to clewless conduct and views that madden to crime. The genus has a wide geographical distribution, being found wherever sought and deplored wherever found. The maiden is not altogether unpleasing to the eye, nor (without her piano and her views) insupportable to the ear, though in respect to comeliness distinctly inferior to the rainbow, and, with regard to the part of her that is audible, bleating out of the field by the canary – which, also, is more portable.

A lovelorn maiden she sat and sang –
This quaint, sweet song sang she;
"It's O for a youth with a football bang
And a muscle fair to see!
The Captain he
Of a team to be!
On the gridiron he shall shine,
A monarch by right divine,
And never to roast on it – me!"

Opoline Jones

MAJESTY, n. The state and title of a king. Regarded with a just contempt by the Most Eminent Grand Masters, Grand Chancellors, Great Incohonees and Imperial Potentates of the ancient and honorable orders of republican America.

MALE, n. 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.

MALEFACTOR, n. The chief factor in the progress of the human race.

MALTHUSIAN, adj. Pertaining to Malthus and his doctrines. Malthus believed in artificially limiting population, but found that it could not be done by talking. One of the most practical exponents of the Malthusian idea was Herod of Judea, though all the famous soldiers have been of the same way of thinking.

MAMMALIA, n. pl. A family of vertebrate animals whose females in a state of nature suckle their young, but when civilized and enlightened put them out to nurse, or use the bottle.

MAMMON, n. The god of the world's leading religion. The chief temple is in the holy city of New York.

He swore that all other religions were gammon,
And wore out his knees in the worship of Mammon.

Jared Oopf

MAN, n. An animal so lost in rapturous contemplation of what he thinks he is as to overlook what he indubitably ought to be. His chief occupation is extermination of other animals and his own species, which, however, multiplies with such insistent rapidity as to infest the whole habitable earth and Canada.

When the world was young and Man was new,
And everything was pleasant,
Distinctions Nature never drew
'Mongst kings and priest and peasant.
We're not that way at present,
Save here in this Republic, where
We have that old regime,
For all are kings, however bare
Their backs, howe'er extreme
Their hunger. And, indeed, each has a voice
To accept the tyrant of his party's choice.

A citizen who would not vote,
And, therefore, was detested,
Was one day with a tarry coat
(With feathers backed and breasted)
By patriots invested.
"It is your duty," cried the crowd,
"Your ballot true to cast
For the man o' your choice." He humbly bowed,
And explained his wicked past:
"That's what I very gladly would have done,
Dear patriots, but he has never run."

Apperton Duke

MANES, n. The immortal parts of dead Greeks and Romans. They were in a state of dull discomfort until the bodies from which they had exhaled were buried and burned; and they seem not to have been particularly happy afterward.

MANICHEISM, n. The ancient Persian doctrine of an incessant warfare between Good and Evil. When Good gave up the fight the Persians joined the victorious Opposition.

MANNA, n. A food miraculously given to the Israelites in the wilderness. When it was no longer supplied to them they settled down and tilled the soil, fertilizing it, as a rule, with the bodies of the original occupants.

MARRIAGE, n. The state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress and two slaves, making in all, two.

MARTYR, n. One who moves along the line of least reluctance to a desired death.

MATERIAL, adj. Having an actual existence, as distinguished from an imaginary one. Important.

Material things I know, or fell, or see;
All else is immaterial to me.

Jamrach Holobom

MAUSOLEUM, n. The final and funniest folly of the rich.

MAYONNAISE, n. One of the sauces which serve the French in place of a state religion.

ME, pro. The objectionable case of I. The personal pronoun in English has three cases, the dominative, the objectionable and the oppressive. Each is all three.

MEANDER, n. To proceed sinuously and aimlessly. The word is the ancient name of a river about one hundred and fifty miles south of Troy, which turned and twisted in the effort to get out of hearing when the Greeks and Trojans boasted of their prowess.

MEDAL, n. A small metal disk given as a reward for virtues, attainments or services more or less authentic.

It is related of Bismark, who had been awarded a medal for gallantly rescuing a drowning person, that, being asked the meaning of the medal, he replied: "I save lives sometimes." And sometimes he didn't.

MEDICINE, n. A stone flung down the Bowery to kill a dog in Broadway.

MEEKNESS, n. Uncommon patience in planning a revenge that is worth while.

M is for Moses,
Who slew the Egyptian.
As sweet as a rose is
The meekness of Moses.
No monument shows his
Post-mortem inscription,
But M is for Moses
Who slew the Egyptian.

The Biographical Alphabet


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The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce, online at Fun-With-Words.com.

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