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Ambrose Bierce (Writer)

Egotist, n. A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me.
Ambrose Bierce self
Idiot, n. A member of a large and powerful tribe whose influence in human affairs has always been dominant and controlling.
Ambrose Bierce power
Mark how my fame rings out from zone to zone: A thousand critics shouting: "He's unknown!"
Ambrose Bierce fame
The fact that boys are allowed to exist at all is evidence of remarkable Christian forbearance among men--were it not for a mawkish humanitarianism, coupled with imperfect digestive powers, we should devour our young, as Nature intended.
Ambrose Bierce power
Peyton Fahrquhar was dead; his body, with a broken neck, swung gently from side to side beneath the timbers of the Owl Creek bridge.
Ambrose Bierce body
True, more than a half of the green graves in the Grafton cemetery are marked "Unknown," and sometimes it occurs that one thinks of the contradiction involved in "honoring the memory" of him of whom no memory remains to honor; but the attempt seems to do no great harm to the living, even to the logical.
Ambrose Bierce time
This is a simple story of a battle; such a tale as may be told by a soldier who is no writer to a reader who is no soldier.
Ambrose Bierce writer
An army's bravest men are its cowards. The death which they would not meet at the hands of the enemy they will meet at the hands of their officers, with never a flinching.
Ambrose Bierce death
Hidden in hollows and behind clumps of rank brambles were large tents, dimly lighted with candles, but looking comfortable. The kind of comfort they supplied was indicated by pairs of men entering and reappearing, bearing litters; by low moans from within and by long rows of dead with covered faces outside. These tents were constantly receiving the wounded, yet were never full; they were continually ejecting the dead, yet were never empty. It was as if the helpless had been carried in and murdered, that they might not hamper those whose business it was to fall to-morrow.
Ambrose Bierce men
Riven and torn with cannon-shot, the trunks of the trees protruded bunches of splinters like hands, the fingers above the wound interlacing with those below.
Ambrose Bierce wit
First published for letters A-L as The Cynic's Word Book (1906)
Ambrose Bierce book
Ocean, n. A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made for man — who has no gills.
Ambrose Bierce world
, n. The chief of Grecian gods, adored by the Romans asand by the modern Americans as God, Gold, Mob and Dog. Some explorers who have touched upon the shores of America, and one who professes to have penetrated a considerable distance to the interior, have thought that these four names stand for as many distinct deities, but in his monumental work on Surviving Faiths, Frumpp insists that the natives are monotheists, each having no other god than himself, whom he worships under many sacred names.
Ambrose Bierce god
Absent, adj. Peculiarly exposed to the tooth of detraction; vilifed; hopelessly in the wrong; superseded in the consideration and affection of another. To men a man is but a mind. Who cares What face he carries or what form he wears? But woman's body is the woman. O, Stay thou, my sweetheart, and do never go, But heed the warning words the sage hath said: A woman absent is a woman dead.
Ambrose Bierce life
Abstainer, n. A weak person who yields to the temptation of denying himself a pleasure. A total abstainer is one who abstains from everything but abstention, and especially from inactivity in the affairs of others.
Ambrose Bierce self
Absurdity, n. A statement or belief manifestly inconsistent with one's own opinion.
Ambrose Bierce belief
Accord, n. Harmony.
Ambrose Bierce harmony
Accordion, n. An instrument in harmony with the sentiments of an assassin.
Ambrose Bierce time
Acquaintance, n. A person whom we know well enough to borrow from, but not well enough to lend to. A degree of friendship called slight when its object is poor or obscure, and intimate when he is rich or famous
Ambrose Bierce friendship
Admiration, n. Our polite recognition of another's resemblance to ourselves.
Ambrose Bierce
Advice, n. The smallest current coin.
Ambrose Bierce advice
Alone, adj. In bad company.
Ambrose Bierce bad
Amnesty, n. The state’s magnaminity to those offenders whom it would be too expensive to punish.
Ambrose Bierce end
Apologize, v. To lay the foundation for a future offense.
Ambrose Bierce future
Bacchus, n. A convenient deity invented by the ancients as an excuse for getting drunk.
Ambrose Bierce drunk
Back, n. That part of your friend which it is your privilege to contemplate in your adversity.
Ambrose Bierce art
Barometer, n. An ingenious instrument which indicates what kind of weather we are having.
Ambrose Bierce men
Birth, n. The first and direst of all disasters.
Ambrose Bierce birth
Bore, n. A person who talks when you wish him to listen.
Ambrose Bierce you
Boundary, n. In political geography, an imaginary line between two nations, separating the imaginary rights of one from the imaginary rights of the other.
Ambrose Bierce political
Brain, n. An apparatus with which we think that we think... In our civilization, and under our republican form of government, intelligence is so highly honored that it is rewarded by exemption from the cares of office.
Ambrose Bierce intelligence
Bride, n. A woman with a fine prospect of happiness behind her.
Ambrose Bierce happiness
Cabbage, n. A familiar kitchen-garden vegetable about as large and wise as a man's head.
Ambrose Bierce man
Callous, adj. Gifted with great fortitude to bear the evils afflicting another.
Ambrose Bierce evil
Cannon, n. An instrument employed in the rectification of national boundaries.
Ambrose Bierce men
Cartesian, adj. Relating to , a famous philosopher, author of the celebrated dictum, Cogito ergo sum -- whereby he was pleased to suppose he demonstrated the reality of human existence. The dictum might be improved, however, thus: Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum -- "I think that I think, therefore I think that I am;" as close an approach to certainty as any philosopher has yet made.
Ambrose Bierce art
Cat, n. A soft, indestructible automaton provided by nature to be kicked when things go wrong in the domestic circle.
Ambrose Bierce nature
Christian, n. One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor. One who follows the teachings of Christ so long as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin.
Ambrose Bierce life
Circus, n. A place where horses, ponies and elephants are permitted to see men, women and children acting the fool.
Ambrose Bierce women
Clarionet, n. An instrument of torture operated by a person with cotton in his ears. There are two instruments that are worse than a clarionet -- two clarionets.
Ambrose Bierce men
Congratulation, n. The civility of envy.
Ambrose Bierce envy
Conservative, n. A statesman enamored of existing evils, as opposed to a Liberal, who wants to replace them with others.
Ambrose Bierce evil
Corporation, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.
Ambrose Bierce responsibility
Cynic, n. A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be. Hence the custom among the Scythians of plucking out a cynic's eyes to improve his vision.
Ambrose Bierce vision
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.
Ambrose Bierce time
Defenceless, adj. Unable to attack.
Ambrose Bierce
Dictionary, n. A malevolent literary device for cramping the growth of a language and making it hard and inelastic. This dictionary, however, is a most useful work.
Ambrose Bierce work
Diplomacy, n. The patriotic art of lying for one's country.
Ambrose Bierce art
Education, n. That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.
Ambrose Bierce understanding
Electricity, n. The cause of all natural phenomena not known to be caused by something else. It is the same thing as lightning, and its famous attempt to strike Dr. Franklin is one of the most picturesque incidents in that great and good man's career.
Ambrose Bierce men
Erudition, n. Dust shaken out of a book into an empty skull.
Ambrose Bierce book
Faith, n. Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.
Ambrose Bierce knowledge
Freebooter, n. A conqueror in a small way of business, whose annexations lack of the sanctifying merit of magnitude.
Ambrose Bierce business
Freemasons, n. An order with secret rites, grotesque ceremonies and fantastic costumes, which, originating in the reign of , among working artisans of London, has been joined successively by the dead of past centuries in unbroken retrogression until now it embraces all the generations of man on the hither side ofand is drumming up distinguished recruits among the pre-Creational inhabitants of Chaos and Formless Void. The order was founded at different times by , , , , , , , and . Its emblems and symbols have been found in the Catacombs of Paris and Rome, on the stones of the Parthenon and the Chinese Great Wall, among the temples of Karnak and Palmyra and in the Egyptian Pyramids — always by a Freemason.
Ambrose Bierce success
Friendless, adj. Having no favors to bestow. Destitute of fortune. Addicted to utterance of truth and common sense.
Ambrose Bierce truth
Genealogy, n. An account of one's descent from an ancestor who did not particularly care to trace his own.
Ambrose Bierce art
Generous, adj. Originally this word meant noble by birth and was rightly applied to a great multitude of persons. It now means noble by nature and is taking a bit of a rest.
Ambrose Bierce nature
Happiness, n. An agreeable sensation arising from contemplating the misery of another.
Ambrose Bierce sin
Heaven, n. A place where the wicked cease from troubling you with talk of their personal affairs, and the good listen with attention while you expound your own.
Ambrose Bierce good
Helpmate, n. A wife, or bitter half.
Ambrose Bierce wife
Hers, pron. His.
Ambrose Bierce
Idiot, n. A member of a large and powerful tribe whose influence in human affairs has always been dominant and controlling. The Idiot's activity is not confined to any special field of thought or action, but "pervades and regulates the whole." He has the last word in everything; his decision is unappealable. He sets the fashions and opinion of taste, dictates the limitations of speech and circumscribes conduct with a dead-line.
Ambrose Bierce power
Incompossible, adj. Unable to exist if something else exists. Two things are incompossible when the world of being has scope enough for one of them, but not enough for both — as 's poetry and God's mercy to man.
Ambrose Bierce poetry
Infancy, n. The period of our lives when, according to , 'Heaven lies about us.' The world begins lying about us pretty soon afterward.
Ambrose Bierce war
In'ards, n. pl. The stomach, heart, soul, and other bowels.
Ambrose Bierce art
Insurrection, n. An unsuccessful revolution. Disaffection's failure to substitute misrule for bad government.
Ambrose Bierce success
Justice, n. A commodity which in a more or less adulterated condition the State sells to the citizen as a reward for his allegiance, taxes and personal service.
Ambrose Bierce war
Kilt, n. A costume sometimes worn by Scotchmen [] in America and Americans in Scotland.
Ambrose Bierce time
Land, n. A part of the earth's surface, considered as property. The theory that land is property subject to private ownership and control is the foundation of modern society, and is eminently worthy of the superstructure. Carried to its logical conclusion, it means that some have the right to prevent others from living; for the right to own implies the right exclusively to occupy; and in fact laws of trespass are enacted wherever property in land is recognized. It follows that if the whole area of terra firma is owned by A, B and C, there will be no place for D, E, F and G to be born, or, born as trespassers, to exist.
Ambrose Bierce art
Laughter, n. An interior convulsion, producing a distortion of the features and accompanied by inarticulate noises. It is infectious and, though intermittent, incurable.
Ambrose Bierce art
Learning, n. The kind of ignorance distinguishing the studious.
Ambrose Bierce ignorance
Liberty, n. One of imagination's most precious possessions.
Ambrose Bierce imagination
Logic, n. The art of thinking and reasoning in strict accordance with the limitations and incapacities of the human misunderstanding.
Ambrose Bierce art
Love, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage or by removal of the patient from the influences under which he incurred the disorder. This disease is prevalent only among civilized races living under artificial conditions; barbarous nations breathing pure air and eating simple food enjoy immunity from its ravages. It is sometimes fatal, but more frequently to the physician than to the patient.
Ambrose Bierce time
Mad, adj. Affected with a high degree of intellectual independence; not conforming to standards of thought, speech, and action derived by the conformants from study of themselves; at odds with the majority; in short, unusual. It is noteworthy that persons are pronounced mad by officials destitute of evidence that they themselves are sane.
Ambrose Bierce action
Marriage, n. The state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress and two slaves, making in all, two.
Ambrose Bierce age
Mayonnaise, n. One of the sauces that serve the French in place of a state religion.
Ambrose Bierce religion
Monday, n. In Christian countries, the day after the baseball game.
Ambrose Bierce day
Neighbor, n. One whom we are commanded to love as ourselves, and who does all he knows how to make us disobedient.
Ambrose Bierce love
Non-combatant, n. A dead Quaker.
Ambrose Bierce dead
Once, adj. Enough.
Ambrose Bierce
Opportunity, n. A favorable occasion for grasping a disappointment.
Ambrose Bierce men
Opposition, n. In politics the party that prevents the Government from running amok by hamstringing it.
Ambrose Bierce politics
Optimist, n. A proponent of the doctrine that black is white.
Ambrose Bierce
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.
Ambrose Bierce knowledge
Patience, n. A minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue.
Ambrose Bierce despair
Philosophy, n. A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.
Ambrose Bierce man
Pig, n. An animal (Porcus omnivorus) closely allied to the human race by the splendor and vivacity of its appetite, which, however, is inferior in scope, for it sticks at pig.
Ambrose Bierce man
Politeness , n. The most acceptable hypocrisy.
Ambrose Bierce hypocrisy
Politics, n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.
Ambrose Bierce age
Positive, adj. Mistaken at the top of one's voice.
Ambrose Bierce voice
Pray, v. To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy.
Ambrose Bierce universe
Prejudice, n. A vagrant opinion without visible means of support.
Ambrose Bierce wit
Quotation, n. The act of repeating erroneously the words of another. The words erroneously repeated.
Ambrose Bierce words
Rational, adj. Devoid of all delusions save those of observation, experience and reflection.
Ambrose Bierce experience
Religion, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.
Ambrose Bierce nature
Resign, v. To renounce an honor for an advantage. To renounce an advantage for a greater advantage.
Ambrose Bierce age
Revelation, n. A famous book in which St. John the Divine concealed all that he knew. The revealing is done by the commentators, who know nothing.
Ambrose Bierce men
Road, n. A strip of land along which one may pass from where it is too tiresome to be to where it is futile to go.
Ambrose Bierce
Sabbath, n. A weekly festival having its origin in the fact that God made the world in six days and was arrested on the seventh.
Ambrose Bierce world

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