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August 5, 2015 8:05 AM   Subscribe

The New Devil's Dictionary. These words don't mean what you thought they meant.
posted by mullacc (27 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

GIF (n.): Many prefer to pronounce this word “GIF,” instead the more controversial-sounding “GIF.”
posted by Wolof at 8:19 AM on August 5, 2015 [10 favorites]

The New Devil's Dictionary: An expression du jour for any later edition(s) of The Cynic's Word Book.
posted by Smart Dalek at 8:34 AM on August 5, 2015

Some of these are good, some are a bit meh. I think a Mefi Devil's Dictionary would be a worthwhile endeavour.

These 2 made me smile though:

"masturbate (v.): To repeatedly apply pressure to the left side of an apparatus while occasionally applying pressure to the right side. Stimulation of the center wheel may also be required."

"Microsoft (n.): (1) The creator of the version of Windows you love. (2) The creator of the version of Windows you hate."
posted by marienbad at 8:40 AM on August 5, 2015

"actually, (intr.): A disorder in the male genome that causes the vocal cords to spasm whenever a member of the opposite sex is speaking. "

I like it.
posted by nubs at 8:51 AM on August 5, 2015 [6 favorites]

quantum (n.): A canary that signifies the author has no idea what they are writing about.
posted by philip-random at 8:51 AM on August 5, 2015 [10 favorites]

Oof: Like (v.): To satisfy one's moral obligation to aid the less fortunate by doing nothing.
posted by Cash4Lead at 9:01 AM on August 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

The difficulty of replicating The Devil's Dictionary is that Bierce was not merely a partisan, but a true misanthrope; mocking a particular business or practice was less the point than unveiling the miserable depths of inescapable human folly. There is a difference between superficial snark and deep cynicism.

These entries tend to champion someone by default, as happens as early as the entries on "artist" or "Aereo;" that is not something you will find in Bierce's dictionary. If he were to mock the banning of Aereo, he'd also have mocked the desire to watch TV in the first place, or even the idea that defending Aereo is a hill worth dying on. And it misses one or Bierce's most potent techniques, the caustic euphemism, in favor of sniggering dysphemisms.And he also took a delight in satirizing the forms and rhetoric of lexicography itself. Bierce tended to assume his readers knew whereof he wrote, but his goal was not to flatter their politics.

I suspect more properly Biercean entries might read something like:
Aereo (n.): A device enabling the good, wise people of New York to waste their time more efficiently, and at their leisure. It being determined that inefficiently wasted time is more efficiently profitable, the device was discontinued amid the usual polite entreaties typical of our equally wise, good men of business.
artist (n.): 1. (vulgar) A merchant of the imagination, lately pressed into involuntary philanthropy; a poor person in whom hope and creativity constitute tacit consent to be robbed by the rich. 2. Conversely, one of a small priestly class employed to initiate the haute-bourgeoisie into certain arcane manners and customs of their class; in these gilt-edged times, artists in the second sense are professional shibboleth-designers.

As a comparison of the definitions reveals, the term is one of our few true contronyms; an artist in the second sense is often the antagonist of an artist in the first.
posted by kewb at 9:05 AM on August 5, 2015 [23 favorites]

mullacc (n): a cretin who posted a thing before someone with real knowledge had the opportunity.
posted by mullacc at 9:11 AM on August 5, 2015

calculator (n.): A tool primarily used by grade school students to simulate drug deals.

democracy (n.): A system in which you and a person who just wrote an outrageously racist internet comment containing several grammatical errors are indistinguishable.

I like this.
posted by leotrotsky at 9:15 AM on August 5, 2015

climate change (n.): a sinister conspiracy by liberal scientists to force the acknowledgement of facts upon an unwilling populace

bachelor's degree (n.): a piece of paper that is expensive to purchase and worthless to own

even (adv.): something which young white women cannot

hipster (n.): 1. a person who is younger, trendier, and skinnier than you; 2. a device for the mobile display of preposterous facial hair

too big to fail (adj.): an inoperable tumor of the economy
posted by dephlogisticated at 9:22 AM on August 5, 2015

I should add that I like the viewpoint of this dictionary a lot better than a viewpoint like Bierce's (even an updated Bierce). Some of my favorite entries from it:

author (n.): A small plant that requires little nourishment, but lots of trimming.

copyright (n.): To torture the imagination until it reveals where the money is hidden.

disrupt (v.): A legally sanctioned means of pillaging neighboring rivals until they are forlorn and penniless. This is viewed by capitalists as a major improvement over the original model, which saw the homes of the defeated burned to the ground and thus unable to generate rental income from new tenants.

law (n.): (1) A statement that predicts natural behavior. (2) A statement that precludes natural behavior.

posted by kewb at 9:26 AM on August 5, 2015

one night ambrose bierce saw, in a vision, that the new devil's dictionary would have an entry for an obvious pun based on the doge meme. that night he decided to take a suicidal trip to revolutionary mexico
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:28 AM on August 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

I like the Mars entry.


consciousness (n.): To supplant awareness of one’s surroundings with a less interesting object: one's self.
copyright (n.): To torture the imagination until it reveals where the money is hidden.
dating (n.): To receive unsolicited pornography.
larp (n.): To modulate the frightening prospect of human interaction by wearing costumes and carrying fake weapons.
Oscar (n.): To gild a groveler.

The above are verbs, not nouns, as defined.

Also, it needs an entry for pedant.
posted by tempestuoso at 10:06 AM on August 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

I once failed to bring the required reading to a class, and was directed to copy the Dictionary for a set period of time. "Which dictionary?" "Just go to the library and start copying!"
I got from "A" to "BELLADONNA" before I was found out.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:06 AM on August 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

pedant (n.): Someone who corrects you.
posted by Etrigan at 10:08 AM on August 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

irony (n.): a state of being inaccessible to employees of Vox Media when consciously intending to perform satire, yet automatically and instantly available to them when obtusely unaware they have missed most of the point of the original work they claim as their inspiration
posted by RogerB at 10:08 AM on August 5, 2015

Some of these are ok, but some are fantastic:

war on terror (n.): An attempt to extinguish a fire by dousing it with gasoline.
posted by Hactar at 10:19 AM on August 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

I doubt these really have the timelessness of the Ambrose Bierce version.
posted by Artw at 11:40 AM on August 5, 2015

American (n.): A demonym for a citizen of the United States that doubles as a threat to extend Manifest Destiny along the latitudinal axis.

I giggled.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:58 PM on August 5, 2015

As an Ambrose fan, I approve. I especially liked the Doge definition. Nice.

I have also made my own little Ambrosian dictionary years ago. I would share it with you now, but it's filed on a drive somewhere...
posted by ovvl at 6:05 PM on August 5, 2015

advertisement (n.):

it was blank, and I got confused for a second until I was like "no way..." and disabled my adblocker and lo and behold...

* slow claps *
posted by numaner at 6:54 PM on August 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

I largely agree with those of you that thinks this is more snark that actual Bierce cynicism, and that a MeFi devil's dictionary would be wonderful.
posted by numaner at 6:56 PM on August 5, 2015

One of my favorite semi-non-fiction books way back in the '80s was the now-out-of-print (and obviously out-of date) Devil's DP Dictionary, which in a new edition would probably define DP: (n) a designation for IT for the retired

Anyway, I looked up "new" Devil's Dictionaries on Amazon (because I remember seeing a couple before) and found
The Devil's Financial Dictionary
example: RUMOR, n. The Wall Street equivalent of a fact.
The Devil's Dictionary Of Wall Street
The Devil's Dictionary of Economics and Finance
Devil's Dictionary of Corporate Lingo (subtitled: From Corporate Angel to Corporate Zombie)
and A Devil's Dictionary of Business (by semi-remembered author Nicholas Von Hoffman)
Isn't it interesting so many have gone in that direction... or not.

But also, The Devil's Food Dictionary (subtitled: A Pioneering Culinary Reference Work Consisting Entirely of Lies)
(hey, I LIKE Devils Food Cake)

Old Trope (n.), an attempt to 'update' The Devil's Dictionary
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:03 PM on August 5, 2015

This gets an occasional smirk, but the balance is 'meh'. It's too dependent on a uniquely 2015, tech-centered sphere of existence.

But looking online now at Bierce's version -- my father, having already recommended the entire Mark Twain canon to me, pointed me towards the Devil's Dictionary at some point during high school -- I realize that my memory has cherry picked the most timeless, concise definitions from Bierce (e.g., impiety: your irreverence towards my deity). Bierce also had his period-specific themes (religion!!). There's plenty of stuff in there that would generate a 'meh' (or tl;dr) reaction me were it to have been presented to me via the internet.

I'll refine my critique of this piece: I'm still quite lukewarm on it, but a lot of that is due to the disingenuous aspect of presenting "guy(s) writing on internet" as an improvement/update to a genuine work of original literature.

But I can bite my tongue on all that and acknowledge the cleverness in these definitions. Keen and topical:

person: A male persona

persona: A female person
posted by Theophrastus Johnson at 11:02 PM on August 5, 2015

Whoever wrote this needs to look up the definitions of noun and verb again. I mean, "fan fiction (v.)"? Seriously?
posted by clorox at 12:52 AM on August 6, 2015

Also, red is not a good color choice for hyperlinks.
posted by clorox at 12:54 AM on August 6, 2015

Via MeFi's Own waxpancake and his linkyblog, "Greg Knauss was there first" (well, maybe not first, but definitely before this.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:48 AM on August 6, 2015

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