[The Well-Dressed] Devil's Dictionary?


Advanced Member
Perhaps someone should write a 'Devil's Dictionary' of fashion. The style of Mr Bierce lends itself well to such a topic. Selections from his own dictionary (ca 1911) are below.

If you could write an entry in such a 'sartorial' Devil's Dictionary, what would it be?

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

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.

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 themselves are sane. For
illustration, this present (and illustrious) lexicographer is no
firmer in the faith of his own sanity than is any inmate of any
madhouse in the land; yet for aught he knows to the contrary, instead
of the lofty occupation that seems to him to be engaging his powers he
may really be beating his hands against the window bars of an asylum
and declaring himself Noah Webster, to the innocent delight of many
thoughtless spectators.

MAGNET, n. Something acted upon by magnetism.

OBSOLETE, adj. No longer used by the timid. Said chiefly of words.
A word which some lexicographer has marked obsolete is ever thereafter
an object of dread and loathing to the fool writer, but if it is a
good word and has no exact modern equivalent equally good, it is good
enough for the good writer. Indeed, a writer's attitude toward
"obsolete" words is as true a measure of his literary ability as
anything except the character of his work. A dictionary of obsolete
and obsolescent words would not only be singularly rich in strong and
sweet parts of speech; it would add large possessions to the
vocabulary of every competent writer who might not happen to be a
competent reader.

ONCE, adv. Enough.

PANTHEISM, n. The doctrine that everything is God, in
contradistinction to the doctrine that God is everything.

PEACE, n. In international affairs, a period of cheating between two
periods of fighting.

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

REPLICA, n. A reproduction of a work of art, by the artist that made
the original. It is so called to distinguish it from a "copy," which
is made by another artist. When the two are made with equal skill the
replica is the more valuable, for it is supposed to be more beautiful
than it looks.

TAIL, n. The part of an animal's spine that has transcended its
natural limitations to set up an independent existence in a world of
its own. Excepting in its foetal state, Man is without a tail, a
privation of which he attests an hereditary and uneasy consciousness
by the coat-skirt of the male and the train of the female, and by a
marked tendency to ornament that part of his attire where the tail
should be, and indubitably once was. This tendency is most observable
in the female of the species, in whom the ancestral sense is strong
and persistent. The tailed men described by Lord Monboddo are now
generally regarded as a product of an imagination unusually
susceptible to influences generated in the golden age of our pithecan

TALK, v.t. To commit an indiscretion without temptation, from an
impulse without purpose.

VALOR, n. A soldierly compound of vanity, duty and the gambler's
"Why have you halted?" roared the commander of a division and
Chickamauga, who had ordered a charge; "move forward, sir, at once."
"General," said the commander of the delinquent brigade, "I am
persuaded that any further display of valor by my troops will bring
them into collision with the enemy."

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. The setting up official weather
bureaus and their maintenance in mendacity prove that even governments
are accessible to suasion by the rude forefathers of the jungle.

and of course!

FASHION, n. A despot whom the wise ridicule and obey.

A king there was who lost an eye
In some excess of passion;
And straight his courtiers all did try
To follow the new fashion.

Each dropped one eyelid when before
The throne he ventured, thinking
'Twould please the king. That monarch swore
He'd slay them all for winking.

What should they do? They were not hot
To hazard such disaster;
They dared not close an eye -- dared not
See better than their master.

Seeing them lacrymose and glum,
A leech consoled the weepers:
He spread small rags with liquid gum
And covered half their peepers.

The court all wore the stuff, the flame
Of royal anger dying.
That's how court-plaster got its name
Unless I'm greatly lying.

[:I] well?