If name of Ambrose Bierce seems vaguely familiar its probably on account of his having famously disappeared without a trace, possibly in Mexico. Like that other famous disparu, D.B.Cooper, he most likely died in a ditch someplace, I think.

He wrote a book originally titled “the Cynic’s Word Book” in 1881, but which, for reasons he explains in the preface, was published as “The Devil’s Dictionary.” In the preface he addresses the book to “enlightened souls who prefer dry wines to sweet, sense to sentiment, wit to humor and clean English to slang.”

A sampling:

PATRIOTISM, n. Combustible rubbish read to the torch of any one ambitious to illuminate his name.

In Dr. Johnson’s famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer I beg to submit that it is the first.

LITIGANT, n. A person about to give up his skin for the hope of retaining his bones.

IMPIETY, n. Your irreverence toward my deity.

IMPUNITY, n. Wealth.

RESIDENT, adj. Unable to leave.

SACRED, adj. Dedicated to some religious purpose; having a divine character; inspiring solemn thoughts or emotions; as, the Dalai Lama of Thibet; the Moogum of M’bwango; the temple of Apes in Ceylon; the Cow in India; the Crocodile, the Cat and the Onion of ancient Egypt; the Mufti of Moosh; the hair of the dog that bit Noah, etc.

PRESIDENCY, n. The greased pig in the field game of American politics.

PRAY, v. To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy.