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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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RABBLE, n. In a republic, those who exercise a supreme authority tempered by fraudulent elections. The rabble is like the sacred Simurgh, of Arabian fable – omnipotent on condition that it do nothing. (The word is Aristocratese, and has no exact equivalent in our tongue, but means, as nearly as may be, "soaring swine.")

RACK, n. An argumentative implement formerly much used in persuading devotees of a false faith to embrace the living truth. As a call to the unconverted the rack never had any particular efficacy, and is now held in light popular esteem.

RANK, n. Relative elevation in the scale of human worth.

He held at court a rank so high
That other noblemen asked why.
"Because," 'twas answered, "others lack
His skill to scratch the royal back."

Aramis Jukes

RANSOM, n. The purchase of that which neither belongs to the seller, nor can belong to the buyer. The most unprofitable of investments.

RAPACITY, n. Providence without industry. The thrift of power.

RAREBIT, n. A Welsh rabbit, in the speech of the humorless, who point out that it is not a rabbit. To whom it may be solemnly explained that the comestible known as toad-in-a-hole is really not a toad, and that riz-de-veau a la financiere is not the smile of a calf prepared after the recipe of a she banker.

RASCAL, n. A fool considered under another aspect.

RASCALITY, n. Stupidity militant. The activity of a clouded intellect.

RASH, adj. Insensible to the value of our advice.

"Now lay your bet with mine, nor let
These gamblers take your cash."
"Nay, this child makes no bet." "Great snakes!
How can you be so rash?"

Bootle P. Gish

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

RATTLESNAKE, n. Our prostrate brother, Homo ventrambulans.

RAZOR, n. An instrument used by the Caucasian to enhance his beauty, by the Mongolian to make a guy of himself, and by the Afro-American to affirm his worth.

REACH, n. The radius of action of the human hand. The area within which it is possible (and customary) to gratify directly the propensity to provide.

This is a truth, as old as the hills,
That life and experience teach:
The poor man suffers that keenest of ills,
An impediment of his reach.

G. J.

READING, n. The general body of what one reads. In our country it consists, as a rule, of Indiana novels, short stories in "dialect" and humor in slang.

We know by one's reading
His learning and breeding;
By what draws his laughter
We know his Hereafter.
Read nothing, laugh never –
The Sphinx was less clever!

Jupiter Muke

RADICALISM, n. The conservatism of to-morrow injected into the affairs of to-day.

RADIUM, n. A mineral that gives off heat and stimulates the organ that a scientist is a fool with.

RAILROAD, n. The chief of many mechanical devices enabling us to get away from where we are to where we are no better off. For this purpose the railroad is held in highest favor by the optimist, for it permits him to make the transit with great expedition.

RAMSHACKLE, adj. Pertaining to a certain order of architecture, otherwise known as the Normal American. Most of the public buildings of the United States are of the Ramshackle order, though some of our earlier architects preferred the Ironic. Recent additions to the White House in Washington are Theo-Doric, the ecclesiastic order of the Dorians. They are exceedingly fine and cost one hundred dollars a brick.

REALISM, n. The art of depicting nature as it is seem by toads. The charm suffusing a landscape painted by a mole, or a story written by a measuring-worm.

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.

REALLY, adv. Apparently.

REAR, n. In American military matters, that exposed part of the army that is nearest to Congress.

REASON, v. i. To weight probabilities in the scales of desire.

REASON, n. Propensitate of prejudice.

REASONABLE, adj. Accessible to the infection of our own opinions. Hospitable to persuasion, dissuasion and evasion.

REBEL, n. A proponent of a new misrule who has failed to establish it.

RECOLLECT, v. To recall with additions something not previously known.

RECONCILIATION, n. A suspension of hostilities. An armed truce for the purpose of digging up the dead.

RECONSIDER, v. To seek a justification for a decision already made.

RECOUNT, n. In American politics, another throw of the dice, accorded to the player against whom they are loaded.

RECREATION, n. A particular kind of dejection to relieve a general fatigue.

RECRUIT, n. A person distinguishable from a civilian by his uniform and from a soldier by his gait.

Fresh from the farm or factory or street,
His marching, in pursuit or in retreat,
Were an impressive martial spectacle
Except for two impediments – his feet.

Thompson Johnson

RECTOR, n. In the Church of England, the Third Person of the parochial Trinity, the Curate and the Vicar being the other two.

REDEMPTION, n. Deliverance of sinners from the penalty of their sin, through their murder of the deity against whom they sinned. The doctrine of Redemption is the fundamental mystery of our holy religion, and whoso believeth in it shall not perish, but have everlasting life in which to try to understand it.

We must awake Man's spirit from his sin,
And take some special measure for redeeming it;
Though hard indeed the task to get it in
Among the angels any way but teaming it,
Or purify it otherwise than steaming it.
I'm awkward at Redemption – a beginner:
My method is to crucify the sinner.

Golgo Brone


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

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There are two versions of this book available. First, there is The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce, as originally published in 1911. This is identical to the online version on the Fun-With-Words.com website, with almost 1,000 entries.

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