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

PRESIDENT, n. The leading figure in a small group of men of whom – and of whom only – it is positively known that immense numbers of their countrymen did not want any of them for President.

If that's an honor surely 'tis a greater
To have been a simple and undamned spectator.
Behold in me a man of mark and note
Whom no elector e'er denied a vote! –
An undiscredited, unhooted gent
Who might, for all we know, be President
By acclimation. Cheer, ye varlets, cheer –
I'm passing with a wide and open ear!

Jonathan Fomry

PREVARICATOR, n. A liar in the caterpillar estate.

PRICE, n. Value, plus a reasonable sum for the wear and tear of conscience in demanding it.

PRIMATE, n. The head of a church, especially a State church supported by involuntary contributions. The Primate of England is the Archbishop of Canterbury, an amiable old gentleman, who occupies Lambeth Palace when living and Westminster Abbey when dead. He is commonly dead.

PRISON, n. A place of punishments and rewards. The poet assures us that –

"Stone walls do not a prison make,"

but a combination of the stone wall, the political parasite and the moral instructor is no garden of sweets.

PRIVATE, n. A military gentleman with a field-marshal's baton in his knapsack and an impediment in his hope.

PROBOSCIS, n. The rudimentary organ of an elephant which serves him in place of the knife-and-fork that Evolution has as yet denied him. For purposes of humor it is popularly called a trunk.

Asked how he knew that an elephant was going on a journey, the illustrious Jo. Miller cast a reproachful look upon his tormentor, and answered, absently: "When it is ajar," and threw himself from a high promontory into the sea. Thus perished in his pride the most famous humorist of antiquity, leaving to mankind a heritage of woe! No successor worthy of the title has appeared, though Mr. Edward bok, of The Ladies' Home Journal, is much respected for the purity and sweetness of his personal character.

PROJECTILE, n. The final arbiter in international disputes. Formerly these disputes were settled by physical contact of the disputants, with such simple arguments as the rudimentary logic of the times could supply – the sword, the spear, and so forth. With the growth of prudence in military affairs the projectile came more and more into favor, and is now held in high esteem by the most courageous. Its capital defect is that it requires personal attendance at the point of propulsion.

PROOF, n. Evidence having a shade more of plausibility than of unlikelihood. The testimony of two credible witnesses as opposed to that of only one.

PROOF-READER, n. A malefactor who atones for making your writing nonsense by permitting the compositor to make it unintelligible.

PROPERTY, n. Any material thing, having no particular value, that may be held by A against the cupidity of B. Whatever gratifies the passion for possession in one and disappoints it in all others. The object of man's brief rapacity and long indifference.

PROPHECY, n. The art and practice of selling one's credibility for future delivery.

PROSPECT, n. An outlook, usually forbidding. An expectation, usually forbidden.

Blow, blow, ye spicy breezes –
O'er Ceylon blow your breath,
Where every prospect pleases,
Save only that of death.

Bishop Sheber

PROVIDENTIAL, adj. Unexpectedly and conspicuously beneficial to the person so describing it.

PRUDE, n. A bawd hiding behind the back of her demeanor.

PUBLISH, n. In literary affairs, to become the fundamental element in a cone of critics.

PUSH, n. One of the two things mainly conducive to success, especially in politics. The other is Pull.

PYRRHONISM, n. An ancient philosophy, named for its inventor. It consisted of an absolute disbelief in everything but Pyrrhonism. Its modern professors have added that.


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

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