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Life Arts    H4'ed 3/11/12

The Devil's Dictionary; Revised and Updated

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Ambrose Bierce
Ambrose Bierce
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ce last produced a version of his masterwork, "The Devil's Dictionary," a century ago.   That compendium of satirical, cynical, and ridiculous definitions exposed the harsh, hidden truths behind the commonplace, genteel words of the English Language.

            Bierce's book, coming at the beginning of the age of mass marketing, was a vital corrective to the serial abuse of our mother tongue.   The century that followed was a linguistic riot.   It has gotten so bad that people feel compelled to say "do you know what I'm saying?" after attempting, and mostly failing, to say what they're saying.

            Ambrose Bierce is gone, but his great project lives on.   Herein, in no particular order, is my humble contribution to "The Devil's Dictionary: The Digital Years."

            Diva:   That personality resulting from the merger of inadequate talent with world-class attitude.   The fraudulent theft of attention caused by the outrageous behavior of a failed artist.

            Traditional:   Nostalgia repurposed as a weapon of argument.

            Natural:   Any product created by a technology old enough to be taken for granted.

            Foodie:   A person whose tastes are too refined for eating.

            Upscale:   Overpriced.   An item whose value is determined by its cost.

            Downscale:   Any tangible good or service utilized by those too poor or ignorant to feel the shame of doing so.

            Sustainable:   A process of work whereby one neither succeeds nor fails badly enough to stop.   An endless, if harmless, search for mediocre results that never ends.   Considered in some circles to be highly desirable, in others to be deeply detestable.   That is an example of a sustainable argument.

            Green:   A chant, devoid of meaning, used to signify one's purity.   When spoken about Mother Earth, green is the secular equivalent of "amen."   Also: An adjective attached to a product used to justify its elevated cost.

            Subversive:   The laziest of all possible ways to be hip.   Wearing mismatched socks is subversive, but only if done on purpose.

            Consultant:   When spoken of others, a personage whose specialty is purchased temporarily, for the purpose of covering one's back.   When spoken of oneself, unemployed.

            Peer pressure:   That circular reasoning that allows me to blame my poor decisions on you, while you blame your poor decisions on me.   Always works in the negative, as opposed to"

            Team player:   One who yields to peer pressure when conformity is positively required.

            Substance abuser:   A junkie with money.

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San Francisco based columnist, author, gym rat and novelist. My book, "The Confessions of a Catnip Junkie" is the best memoir ever written by a cat. Available on, or wherever fine literature is sold with no sales tax collected. For (more...)
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