Say what? Insights from the "Devil's Dictionary"
Ambrose Bierce (1842- circa 1914) was an American satirist best known for his Devil’s Dictionary. In it he sought to “improve” on Noah Webster’s famous work by providing definitions that weren’t so much devilish as cynical. And a cynic was, so Bierce defined him, “A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be. “
Now God says unbelievers are fools (Ps. 14:1) so it follows they shouldn’t be our go-to source for wisdom. That makes it all the funnier/that-much-more-embarrassing when an unbeliever sees something we’ve missed. It is, for example, quite a shock to the system when Bierce sees through the fundamental flaw in the conservative political position, noting that most who go by this label aren’t principled, but are simply “conserving” whatever it is the liberals pushed through in the years preceding! If even an agnostic – if even a blind man – can see through the folly of unprincipled conservatism, we Christians – who have been gifted God’s illuminating Word – really have no excuse for supporting it. This is a rebuke delivered via the mouth of a donkey.
What follows below are a few of the diamonds from Ambrose’s dictionary, sifted out from the dross.
Admiration: Our polite recognition of another’s resemblance to ourselves.
Christian: One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor.
Conservative: A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from a Liberal who wishes to replace them with others.
Education: That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.
Egotist: A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me.
Idleness: A model farm where the devil experiments with seeds of new sins and promotes the growth of staple vices.
Politics: A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.
Quotation: The act of repeating erroneously the words of another.
Radicalism: The conservatism of tomorrow injected into the affairs of today.
Referendum: law for submission of proposed legislation to a popular vote to learn the nonsensus of public opinion.
Tariff: A scale of taxes on imports, designed to protect the domestic producer against the greed of his consumer.
And finally, others have taken up Bierce's diabolical definitions. Two of these selections are often attributed to Bierce, but probably in error.
Atheism: The belief that man is god, a god who eventually and invariably takes incarnational shape in the form of the state – Douglas Wilson
Classic: A book which people praise but don't read. – Mark Twain
Lottery: A tax on people bad at math. – Ambrose Bierce?
Racist: Anyone winning an argument with a liberal.
Sweater: Garment worn by child when its mother is feeling chilly. – Ambrose Bierce?
Transgender: The application of blackface to gender issues. – Douglas Wilson
Articles, Entertainment, Humor, Satire
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The Triangle Curvature Inclusion Bill
A controversial bill to redefine triangles was presented in the British Parliament this past month. Debate was opened by the Culture Secretary, Valerie Brimble, who began by setting out the case for expanding what she sees as an oppressively restrictive definition. “Times change,” she began, “old customs and habits which may have served society well in the past need to be constantly reviewed. It is my contention that the traditional view of triangles, as having three straight sides, joining at three corners and forming three internal angles which aggregate to 180 degrees must urgently be reviewed. There is no reason why this configuration need remain, and a modern society ought not to be hidebound by antiquated customs.” Unusually for a Commons debate, she then whipped out a visual aid from under the dispatch box in order to demonstrate her proposals. Figure 1, she told a packed House, was an example of how triangles have been traditionally defined. FIG 1. She then went on to explain that this traditional definition of triangles could no longer be tolerated in a modern, diverse and inclusive society. “If we are to be a compassionate people, then we must include shapes that we’ve previously pushed to the margins.” She then sought to reassure some of her more traditionalist colleagues that what the government was proposing was merely a change to allow just one of the sides of the triangle to be redefined, to allow for the introduction of a wiggly line. Figure 2 was then presented to her fellow MPs, which depicted a “triangle” with this wiggly short side. FIG. 2 As she sat down after her opening remarks, Mrs. Brimble faced a barrage of criticism from opponents of the bill. It was pointed out to her that once you redefine triangles to include one wiggly line, it was only a matter of time until other self-interest groups demanded their right to add a second or even a third bendy line. Mrs. Brimble responded by reassuring the House that the government had no plans to allow any further redefinitions. “We are only, I repeat, only, legislating to allow either one of the two shorter lines to be redefined,” she said. “We are not, I repeat, we are not legislating for the redefinition of the hypotenuse.” However, this failed to satisfy her opponents who one by one got up to denounce the redefinition. One of the most vocal said this: “Can my Right Honourable friend tell the house this: once she has redefined the triangle to include a wiggly line, what reason can she give to those who then want to redefine it to include four straight lines, or multiple bendy lines, or even as many lines, bendy or otherwise, that they choose?” Not to be outdone by Mrs. Brimble, he then whipped out his own visual aid and showed the House what could well happen to the triangle if this legislation passes. FIG. 3 “Oh come off it,” scoffed a clearly exasperated Mrs. Brimble. “Don’t be ridiculous. They don’t look anything like triangles. Even a fool can see that.”...
Ode to hurt...or why my tolerant nature can't stand your opinions
I’m hurting I am, and I want you to know, That the pain I am feeling, isn’t likely to go. I’m hurting I am, it’s your opinions you see, I just can’t accept them, I do not agree. D’you not pay attention, d’you not see the news? This post-modern world has no place for your views. They’re outdated, outmoded, outrageous no doubt, And lots, lots more words beginning with out. Reactionary, Dark Ages, Stone Age repression, And other assorted clichéd expressions. That’s what I think of your bigoted rants, Which contrast so starkly with my own tolerance. You’ve made me so angry, so hurt, even bitter, What can I do, but to go onto Twitter? Hashtag #BigotedIntolerantPhobe, Said something that hurt me, so I’m telling the globe. I’ll put it on Facebook, Instagram too, The world needs to know the pain caused by you. Pain that keeps giving and won’t find relief, For I simply can’t cope with a different belief. But being free-thinking, I’m perfectly fine, That others have thoughts that are different to mine. I must draw the line though, with views such as yours, Against which there really ought to be laws. Don’t get me wrong, I’m 100 percent, Committed to free speech and the right to dissent. But it’s Twenty-Nineteen and I can’t understand, Why opinions like yours still haven’t been banned. The law ought to treat them as Hate Crimes, it should, Then you’d have to keep them all up in your head, yes you would. And not only Hate Crimes, but Hurt Speech I say, On account of them really upsetting my day. Enough is enough, I’m really perturbed, My tolerant nature has been greatly disturbed. From now on I beg, keep your views well hid. Did I tell you they hurt me? Yes you hurt me, you did. Rob Slane is the author of A Christian and Unbeliever discuss Life, the Universe, and Everything. ...
Pro-life - Abortion, Satire
Why men are superior to women – a pro-life analogy
What follows is the text of a brochure that was delivered to more than 20,000 houses in Edmonton, Alberta during an election campaign about 15 years ago. It got a lot of people talking... and quite a number of them screaming. We'd assumed no one could possibly take the title seriously, but we were wrong, and many people did. But, strangely, when we explained that, rather than being an attack on women, this was actually a defense of the unborn, the screaming only got louder. **** This brochure is not about why all men are superior to all women – such a broad generalization is unscientific (as there are always the rare exceptions) and could even be viewed as sexist. No, in this brochure we are going to deal specifically with why Bob is superior to Susan. And in the process we will touch on why most men are superior to most women. Now, there are four differences that make Bob superior to Susan. First, Bob lives in Edmonton and Susan lives in Calgary. This makes Susan inferior for reasons that are so obvious they really don’t need explanation. Second, Bob, as a mature adult, is more developed than the prepubescent Susan. Since she is less developed she is clearly less human. Third, Bob is a healthy individual but Susan relies on a variety of medical devices to stay alive. She would die without her regular treatments and therefore does not rate as fully human. Finally, Bob is much bigger than the diminutive Susan. Since there is less of Susan obviously she is less human – subhuman even. And, of course, size is why most men are superior to most women since men are (aside from the rare exceptions) bigger than women. Four differences in all, and in each instance they make a compelling scientific case for Bob’s superiority… and also for male superiority in general. Right? You don’t agree? Good, because neither do we. And yet people point to these same four differences to argue that the unborn are somehow inferior and less human than those of us are already born. Location – the unborn do live in a different location than us. But so do Calgarians. Does the fact they live in a different location make them inferior, less human, and less worthy of protection? Of course not. Level of Development – the unborn are less developed than us but that again is no reason to think they are any less human. If it is, then the less developed Susan is also less of a person than the mature Bob. Viability – the argument is often made that the unborn aren’t human because they are dependent on their mothers – they aren’t viable on their own. But newborns are pretty dependent on their mothers as well. And Susan is also not viable on her own. Are we now allowed to kill anyone dependent on pacemakers, dialysis machines, insulin shots or the like? Obviously, viability doesn’t make someone more or less human. Size – the unborn are much smaller than us. Does that make them less human? If it does then the smaller Susan must also be less human than the bigger Bob. In Canada we’ve justified the killing of over 100,000 unborn children each year by pretending that their location, level of development, dependency, and size somehow make them less than human. But we know better than that. You know better than that. We’re standing up for the unborn. Won’t you? ----- A brilliant filmmaker used this article and brochure as the leap-off point for a short video. Check out Breanne Jansen's creation below. ...
Based on a true story
"Um, excuse me?" I am kneeling next to a newly planted row of tomato starts and pulling weeds when I hear a woman's voice from over my bent shoulders. Several small businesses share the busy alley next to our back yard garden, and I assume the voice is speaking to someone else. I do not look up. With the back of my gardening glove I brush some loose hairs away from my eyes, and I continue weeding, tossing a few more invasive cheeseweed seedlings onto my growing pile. But then I hear the voice again, louder this time, "Hello? Miss? Excuse me." Because of the steady stream of foot, bicycle, and car traffic that passes by the garden each day it's not uncommon for passers-by to stop and say a kind word or two about the new raised beds or about how nicely our plants are coming along. "Oh, hi," I say, rising stiffly from my knees and turning to face the voice, "Sorry. I thought you were talking to someone else just now." I smile and wait for her to speak. She has stopped her vintage bicycle next to our bent chicken wire fence and rests her hands on her narrow hips. Her eyes are a blue so pale that I seem to be looking not at the eyes themselves but at two vacant holes in her head through which I can see the cloudless sky behind her. I reach over and grip the splintery handle of my shovel and lean my weight into it so that I can stretch my legs. I look at her expectantly. She does not smile back. After running her eyes over the whole garden plot, she finally says, “Well,” with a voice as crisp and sour and cool as the stalks of rhubarb growing behind me, "I just was riding by here and couldn't help noticing what you're doing, and I have to say that I am genuinely shocked. What, is with this heap of dead plants?" "Oh those?" I chuckle a little. "I'm not keeping those, actually. I'm just going to toss them in the compost when I'm done." "I figured you weren't planning on keeping those. And I’m appalled. That's why I stopped – it looks like you're killing them." "Yesss? Um, I guess I am," I respond with a nervous laugh-cough. "Take that!" I say, leaning sideways and yanking a young dandelion out of the carrot bed. I intend it to be a lighthearted joke, but it flops somewhere in the dust near the bicycle tires and dissolves into the gravel. The cyclist widens the pale blue holes in her head and tightens her lips. Clearly I am not making a new friend. After a long and uncomfortable pause, the words, "What in the world?" shoot toward me, and I resist the urge to duck. "How can you even call yourself a gardener? How can you treat plants this way?" I blink. I blink again, speechless, and tighten my grip on the shovel. "Well? Do you call yourself a gardener?" she demands. This is a relief, a question I can answer. "Oh, well, yes. An amateur, but yeah, I guess I'm a gardener." "Ha!" she says. I can taste something bitter on the back of my tongue as she opens her mouth to continue. "Correct me if I'm wrong here, gardener, but last time I checked, gardeners are people who love plants. Gardeners are people who nurture plants. So explain this!" She flings her hand toward my little pile of wilting dandelions and pigweed seedlings and then turns with raised eyebrows to scan the alleyway – as if she is trying to find somebody willing to join her in her triumphant outrage. "Well, this is actually an important part of caring for the vegetables I planted here." My voice has a bit of a nervous shake in it. I can't believe I'm having to defend my weed pile. "This is what nurturing a garden looks like." "Oh right. Then why are you brutalizing perfectly innocent seedlings? Seriously. Why do you hate plants so much?" "They're weeds, not good plants." I resist the urge to roll my eyes. "Says you. The difference between a so-called 'weed,'” she says, making scare quotes in the air with her fingers, “and a 'good' plant is just your opinion. You have no right to determine which plants should live and which should die. What do you have against them, anyway? What right can you possibly have to inflict your opinion on every other plant?" I stare at her for a moment, trying to weigh whether this is some kind of satire, some kind of practical joke. But her cold eyes are glaring so widely that I can see the whites completely encircling the blue. ”Well," I begin, "I have gardener's handbook that I can check whenever I'm not quite sure which kind of plant I'm looking at. But after a few years of seeing these things grow up, you get pretty good at identifying..." "What! You have this book, so now you're some kind of expert? Seriously? These things look just like all the other plants around here. They're really not that different. See that one? It’s not even touching the ones next to it. Not hurting a thing! And anyway, they're tiny. Look at them! Totally. Harmless. And if you just gave them a chance, you might actually learn to see the unique beauty in them!” "Actually, I..." "I am dead serious," she continues, "I cannot understand how any gardener could do...this." She broadly sweeps her arm toward the weed pile again. "If you really loved plants – if you were a real gardener – you would treat them with care and help them grow and appreciate them for what they are." She crosses her arms, satisfied in the irrefutability of her argument. Suppressing the chuckle that is trying to escape, I cough into my shoulder and glance around the alleyway, looking for a hidden camera. Maybe this is some kind of skit for reality television. But no, I see nothing. “That’s the thing,” I say. “You're missing the point. I love the plants that are supposed to be in the garden. I love these snap peas. I love the carrots. And if I love these plants, then I have to root out the invaders.” I point to a dandelion. "Look. This is total discrimination. Either you love plants or you don't. You are obviously a plant hater. You're hurting plants. There's the proof!" "But if I don't get rid of the bindweed, then it will get rid of my snap peas. I am not raising a garden in order to eat bindweed for dinner. You’re welcome to try some, however, if it would soothe your conscience.” Sarcasm is getting the better of me, and I can feel my suppressed smirk has surfaced. I can’t straighten it out quickly enough, so I look down at my dusty shoes and pretend to scratch an itch on the bridge of my nose. “I’m sorry,” she says, not sounding sorry in the least, “but I don't know why people like you take these things so simplistically. Not everything is so black and white. The concept of a 'weed' is just a social construct, and nobody needs to take sides here. There should be harmony among all plants—no! exceptions!” She pounds her handlebar to punctuate those last two words and then sighs. “Bindweed and snap peas can peacefully coexist." I look up at her pained expression and exhale slowly so as not to outright guffaw in her face. “Uhh, not really. Not without doing serious damage to the snap peas. Not without choking out the plants that are the whole point of this garden." "You have got to be kidding. You are a total weedaphobe! I knew it! You're afraid of bindweed! This is so unbelievable. You're acting out of irrational fear. I mean, look at these things. Look at how tiny and harmless those little bindweeds are." She leans her bicycle toward my tomato bed and points them out to me for my edification. “They have these beautiful white flowers. Beautiful! What are you afraid of?" "I'm not afraid of them. I just know what they will do if I let them grow unchecked. If I call myself a gardener at all, I will call a weed a weed and then I'll cast it into the outer darkness, so to speak.” "Ahhh, so then what about the ones over there?" She points to the opposite side of the alley where a small forest of thistles and dandelions have sprung up next to the neighbors’ dumpster. "You think you're going to get rid of all the so-called 'weeds' in the world? Think again. They are stronger and more resilient than you think." The laugh finally escapes, despite my best efforts. "Believe me. I am fully aware of how resilient they are. That's why I'm out here doing this again for the umpteenth time this summer. But I am certainly not trying to single-handedly take down every weed in the world. I'm not even trying to get rid of the ones next door. It's my garden I'm concerned about. I am focusing on the weeds right here because they are the ones I’m responsible for. I am focusing on the ones that are trying to take over my good plants." "Are you kidding me? 'Good plants'? These plants that you're killing had just as much right to be here as those peas do. In fact, I bet a lot of them were here first. But obviously you're too closed-minded to appreciate what they have to offer. Do you realize how useful and beautiful some of these plants can be? Look at this dandelion you've ruined. If you had just let it grow, it could produce lovely yellow flowers and friendly little fairy puffs! But ooooh. It's scaaary, isn't it? Can't let it grow freely, can you?" She snorts. "I guess you're afraid of flowers, too. Flowerphobe." I roll my eyes toward the sky. A redtail hawk is riding an updraft directly overhead, scoping out his lunch options. Then I turn my gaze back to the lady’s face and look hard through her sky-colored eyes. "This has nothing to do with fear. It has everything to do with wanting to take care of my peas. It has everything to do with loving my garden." "So pulling plants up by the roots. You call that love?" "Yes. I do." My nose is starting to itch for real now, so I rub at it with the back of my wrist. "Well. If that's what you call love, then I would not even want to imagine how you'd treat the things you hate. Look at how damaged those poor little plants are." I look. And I smile a broad, genuine smile. "Yes. Totally damaged. Isn't it great? And once they're all dead and rotted and decomposed in my compost heap? Then they will be given the opportunity to return to my garden. At that point they will be welcome. But not before." "Garden hater." She climbs back onto her bike. "Plantphobe." "Come back in a month or two, and I'll let you have a bite." She snorts again. "Oh really. Of what?" "Bindweed, if you like." She narrows her pale eyes and opens her mouth as if to respond, then closes it again and pushes off without a word. I listen to the crunch of gravel under her tires as I lean my shovel back against a T-post and return to my knees to take care of my tomato starts. The soil is warm between my fingers. Come July, there will be fruit. Hannah K. Grieser is the author "The Clouds Ye So Much Dread: Hard Times and the Kindness of God." She lives in Idaho where she designs graphics, photographs landscapes, dabbles in the garden, and (with her husband, Jayson) is raising five pig-farming, music-loving, baseball-playing sons—including one cancer survivor. She has also written for Relief Journal, Books & Culture, and Desiring God....
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