The Devil's Dictionary, by Ambrose Bierce

C

CAABA, n.
A large stone presented by the archangel Gabriel to the patriarch Abraham, and preserved at Mecca. The patriarch had perhaps asked the archangel for bread.

CABBAGE, n.
A familiar kitchen- garden vegetable about as large and wise as a man's head. The cabbage is so called from Cabagius, a prince who on ascending the throne issued a decree appointing a High Council of Empire consisting of the members of his predecessor's Ministry and the cabbages in the royal garden. When any of his Majesty's measures of state policy miscarried conspicuously it was gravely announced that several members of the High Council had been beheaded, and his murmuring subjects were appeased.

CALAMITY, n.
A more than commonly plain and unmistakable reminder that the affairs of this life are not of our own ordering. Calamities are of two kinds: misfortune to ourselves, and good fortune to others.

CALLOUS, adj.
Gifted with great fortitude to bear the evils afflicting another. 

CALUMNUS, n.
A graduate of the School for Scandal.

CAMEL, n.
A quadruped (Splaypes humpidorsus) of great value to show business. There are two kinds of camels-- the camel proper and the camel improper. It is the latter that is always exhibited.

CANNIBAL, n.
A gastronome of the old school who preserves the simple tastes and adheres to the natural diet of the pre- pork period.

CANNON, n.
An instrument employed in the rectification of national boundaries.

CANONICALS, n.
The motley worn by Jesters of the Court of Heaven.

CAPITAL, n.
The seat of misgovernment. That which provides the fire, the pot, the dinner, the table and the knife and fork for the anarchist; the part of the repast that himself supplies is the disgrace before meat.

Capital Punishment, n.
a penalty regarding the justice and expediency of which many worthy persons-- including all the assassins-- entertain grave misgivings.

CARMELITE, n.
A mendicant friar of the order of Mount Carmel.

CARNIVOROUS, adj.
Addicted to the cruelty of devouring the timorous vegetarian, his heirs and assigns.

CARTESIAN, adj.
Relating to Descartes, 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.

CAT, n.
A soft, indestructible automaton provided by nature as consolation for when things go wrong in the domestic circle. 

CAVILER, n.
A critic of our own work.

CEMETERY, n.
An isolated suburban spot where mourners match lies, poets write at a target and stone- cutters spell for a wager. 

CENTAUR, n.
One of a race of persons who lived before the division of labor had been carried to such a pitch of differentiation, and who followed the primitive economic maxim, "Every man his own horse." The best of the lot was Chiron, who to the wisdom and virtues of the horse added the fleetness of man. 

CERBERUS, n.
The watch- dog of Hades, whose duty it was to guard the entrance-- against whom or what does not clearly appear; everybody, sooner or later, had to go there, and nobody wanted to carry off the entrance. 

CHILDHOOD, n.
The period of human life intermediate between the idiocy of infancy and the folly of youth-- two removes from the sin of manhood and three from the remorse of age.

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 in so far as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin.

CIRCUS, n.
A place where horses, ponies and elephants are permitted to see men, women and children acting the fool.

CLAIRVOYANT, n.
A person, commonly a woman, who has the power of seeing that which is invisible to her patron, namely, that he is a blockhead.

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.

CLERGYMAN, n.
A man who undertakes the management of our spiritual affairs as a method to better his temporal ones.

CLIO, n.
One of the nine Muses. Clio's function was to preside over history-- which she did with great dignity, many of the prominent citizens of Athens occupying seats on the platform, the meetings being addressed by Messrs. Xenophon, Herodotus and other popular speakers.

CLOCK, n.
A machine of great moral value to man, allaying his concern for the future by reminding him what a lot of time remains to him.

CLOSE- FISTED, adj.
Unduly desirous of keeping that which many meritorious persons wish to obtain. 

COENOBITE, n.
A man who piously shuts himself up to meditate upon the sin of wickedness; and to keep it fresh in his mind joins a brotherhood of awful examples.

COMFORT, n.
A state of mind produced by contemplation of a neighbor's uneasiness.

COMMENDATION, n.
The tribute that we pay to achievements that resembles, but do not equal, our own.

COMMERCE, n.
A kind of transaction in which A plunders from B the goods of C, and for compensation B picks the pocket of D of money belonging to E.

COMMONWEALTH, n.
An administrative entity operated by an incalculable multitude of political parasites, logically active but fortuitously efficient.

COMPROMISE, n.
Such an adjustment of conflicting interests as gives each adversary the satisfaction of thinking he has got what he ought not to have, and is deprived of nothing except what was justly his due.

COMPULSION, n.
The eloquence of power.

CONDOLE, v.i.
To show that bereavement is a smaller evil than sympathy.

CONFIDANT, CONFIDANTE, n.
One entrusted by A with the secrets of B, confided by him to C.

CONGRATULATION, n.
The civility of envy.

CONGRESS, n.
A body of men who meet to repeal laws.

CONNOISSEUR, n.
A specialist who knows everything about something and nothing about anything else.

CONSERVATIVE, n.
A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.

CONSOLATION, n.
The knowledge that a better man is more unfortunate than yourself.

CONSUL, n.
In American politics, a person who having failed to secure an office from the people is given one by the Administration on condition that he leave the country.

CONSULT, v.i.
To seek another's disapproval of a course already decided on.

CONTEMPT, n.
The feeling of a prudent man for an enemy who is too formidable safely to be opposed.

CONTROVERSY, n.
A battle in which spittle or ink replaces the injurious cannon- ball and the inconsiderate bayonet.

CONVENT, n.
A place of retirement for woman who wish for leisure to meditate upon the vice of idleness.

CONVERSATION, n.
A fair for the display of the minor mental commodities, each exhibitor being too intent upon the arrangement of his own wares to observe those of his neighbor.

CORONATION, n.
The ceremony of investing a sovereign with the outward and visible signs of his divine right to be blown skyhigh with a dynamite bomb.

CORPORAL, n.
A man who occupies the lowest rung of the military ladder.

CORPORATION, n.
An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.

CORSAIR, n.
A politician of the seas.

COURT FOOL, n.
The plaintiff.

COWARD, n.
One who in a perilous emergency thinks with his legs.

CRAYFISH, n.
A small crustacean very much resembling the lobster, but less indigestible.

CREDITOR, n.
One of a tribe of savages dwelling beyond the Financial Straits and dreaded for their desolating incursions.

CREMONA, n.
A high- priced violin made in Connecticut.

CRITIC, n.
A person who boasts himself hard to please because nobody tries to please him.

CROSS, n.
An ancient religious symbol erroneously supposed to owe its significance to the most solemn event in the history of Christianity, but really antedating it by thousands of years. We have to- day the White Cross as a symbol of chastity, and the Red Cross as a badge of benevolent neutrality in war.

CUI BONO? [Latin]
What good would that do me?

CUNNING, n.
The faculty that distinguishes a weak animal or person from a strong one. It brings its possessor much mental satisfaction and great material adversity. An Italian proverb says: "The furrier gets the skins of more foxes than asses."

CUPID, n.
The so- called god of love. This bastard creation of a barbarous fancy was no doubt inflicted upon mythology for the sins of its deities. Of all unbeautiful and inappropriate conceptions this is the most reasonless and offensive. The notion of symbolizing sexual love by a semisexless babe, and comparing the pains of passion to the wounds of an arrow-- of introducing this pudgy homunculus into art grossly to materialize the subtle spirit and suggestion of the work-- this is eminently worthy of the age that, giving it birth, laid it on the doorstep of prosperity.

CURIOSITY, n.
An objectionable quality of the female mind. The desire to know whether or not a woman is cursed with curiosity is one of the most active and insatiable passions of the masculine soul.

CURSE, v.t.
Energetically to belabor with a verbal slap- stick. This is an operation which in literature, particularly in the drama, is commonly fatal to the victim. Nevertheless, the liability to a cursing is a risk that cuts but a small figure in fixing the rates of life insurance.

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.