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    skep·tic also scep·tic (skptk)
        1.One who instinctively or habitually doubts, questions, or disagrees with assertions or generally
            accepted conclusions.
        2.One inclined to skepticism in religious matters.
            a.often Skeptic An adherent of a school of skepticism.
            b.Skeptic A member of an ancient Greek school of skepticism, especially that of Pyrrho of
                Elis (360?-272? B.C.).

     [Latin Scepticus, disciple of Pyrrho of Elis, from Greek Skeptikos, from skeptesthai, to examine.
    See spek- in Indo-European Roots.]

    cyn·ic (snk)
       1.A person who believes all people are motivated by selfishness.
       2.A person whose outlook is scornfully and often habitually negative.
       3.Cynic A member of a sect of ancient Greek philosophers who believed virtue to be the only
          good and self-control to be the only means of achieving virtue.

    [Latin cynicus, Cynic philosopher, from Greek kunikos, from kun, kun-, dog. See kwon- in
    Indo-European Roots.]

Such are the real dictionary definitions of the stance which Ambrose Bierce adopted in considering the world.  Beginning in 1881 and continuing to 1906, he created a series of sardonic word definitions of his own.  Many of these were collected and published as The Cynic's Word Book, which he later protested was "a name which the author had not the power to reject or happiness to approve."  So in 1911, he pulled together a collection that was more to his own liking and called it The Devil's Dictionary.  The entries are a tad uneven in quality, but most are amusing and some are great.  Each reader will have his own favorites, some of mine are as follows :

    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

    ALLIANCE, n. In international politics, the union of two thieves who
    have their hands so deeply inserted in each other's pockets that they
    cannot separately plunder a third.

    BIGOT, n. One who is obstinately and zealously attached to an opinion
    that you do not entertain.

    BORE, n. A person who talks when you wish him to listen.

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

    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.

    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.

    DISCRIMINATE, v.i. To note the particulars in which one person or
    thing is, if possible, more objectionable than another.

    EDUCATION, n. That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the
    foolish their lack of understanding.

    FUTURE, n. That period of time in which our affairs prosper, our
    friends are true and our happiness is assured.

    HISTORY, n.  An account mostly false, of events mostly unimportant, which are brought about
    by rulers mostly knaves, and soldiers mostly fools.

    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.

    POLITICS, n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of
    principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.

And, my choice for the very best among them :

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

By all means, read it and pick out your own; you're sure to find a few that tickle your fancy.


Grade: (A)


See also:

Ambrose Bierce (2 books reviewed)
Reference Books
Book-related and General Links:
    -Ambrose Gwinett Bierce (1842-1914) (kirjasto)
    -ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA : "ambrose bierce"
    -ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA : bierce, ambrose
    -ETEXT : The Devil's Dictionary : Searchable Version (malacandra)
    -ETEXT : The Devil's Dictionary (Literature@SunSite)
    -ETEXT : The Devil's Dictionary (Erik Max Francis)
    -ETEXT : An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge  by  Ambrose Bierce
    -ETEXT : Killed At Resaca by  Ambrose Bierce
    -ETEXT : A Horseman in the Sky by Ambrose Bierce
    -ETEXT : Fantastic Fables by Ambrose Bierce Online Collection
    -ETEXTS : SELECTED POETRY OF AMBROSE BIERCE (1842-1914?) (Representative Poetry On-line, Department of English at the University of Toronto)
    -ETEXTS : Poems
    -ETEXT : Ambrose Bierce's stinging denunciation of Oscar Wilde (appeared in the March 31, 1882, edition of "The Wasp.")
    -ANNOTATED ETEXTS : Ambrose Bierce Books Central (Encyclopaedia of the Self)
    -The Ambrose Bierce Appreciation Society
    -Don Swaim's Ambrose Bierce Site
    -Ambrose Bierce Patron Saint of Satire
    -Ambrose Bierce  (1842-1914?) Alan Gullette
    -The San Antonio College LitWeb Ambrose Bierce Page
    -Literary Research Guide: Ambrose Bierce (1842 - 1914)
    -PAL: Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?)
    -Bierce, Ambrose (The Literary Gothic)
    -Ambrose Bierce (Spartacus)
    -Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?) (Blue Pete Biographies)
    -Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce (Masonic Biographies)
    -ESSAY : Forked Tongue : The Language of Serpent in the Enlarged Devil's Dictionary of Ambrose Bierce (Andrew Graham)
    -ESSAY : Murphy's Law : Ambrose Bierce (1999) (John Patrick Michael Murphy)
    -ESSAY : Ambrose Bierce, 1842-1914? (Stacey Ann Singletary,  Student, University of North Carolina at Pembroke)
    -ARCHIVES :  "ambrose bierce" (Find Articles)
    -REVIEW: of AMBROSE BIERCE Alone in Bad Company by Roy Morris Jr. (David S. Reynolds, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Ambrose Bierce: Alone in Bad Company by Roy Morris Jr. (Richard von Busack, MetroActive)
    -REVIEW : of Ambrose Bierce: Alone in Bad Company by Roy Morris Jr.  (Andrew Sargent, Book Wire)
    -REVIEW: of The Unwritten War: American Writers and the Civil War by Daniel Aaron Gone With the Wind (C. VANN WOODWARD, NY Review of Books)