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The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce

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This dictionary is over 100 years old and it is still very current and worth a look. It’s not a normal dictionary and  the definitions are often ironic or sarcastic. It will at least make you smile.

Ambrose Bierce was an American journalist and critic born in Ohio in 1842  who died in 1914 during a trip to Mexico. From the dictionary we have chosen some definitions to give you a taste of it.  You can download The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce, which you can find for little or nothing in ebooks format. 

Ambrose Bierce

AUSTRALIA, n. A country lying in the South Sea, whose industrial and commercial development has been unspeakably retarded by an unfortunate dispute among geographers as to whether it is a continent or an island.

DAY, n. A period of twenty-four hours, mostly misspent. This period is divided into two parts, the day proper and the night, or day improper—the former devoted to sins of business, the latter consecrated to the other sort. These two kinds of social activity overlap.

FEAST, n. A festival. A religious celebration usually signalized by gluttony and drunkenness, frequently in honor of some holy person distinguished for abstemiousness. In the Roman Catholic Church feasts are “movable” and “immovable,” but the celebrants are uniformly immovable until they are full. In their earliest development these entertainments took the form of feasts for the dead; such were held by the Greeks, under the name Nemeseia, by the Aztecs and Peruvians, as in modern times they are popular with the Chinese; though it is believed that the ancient dead, like the modern, were light eaters.

EMOTION, n. A prostrating disease caused by a determination of the heart to the head. It is sometimes accompanied by a copious discharge of hydrated chloride of sodium from the eyes.

INTERPRETER, n. One who enables two persons of different languages to understand each other by repeating to each what it would have been to the interpreter’s advantage for the other to have said.

ADMIRATION, n. Our polite recognition of another’s resemblance to ourselves.

BELLADONNA, n. In Italian a beautiful lady; in English a deadly poison. A striking example of the essential identity of the two tongues.

NOSE, n. The extreme outpost of the face. From the circumstance that great conquerors have great noses, Getius, whose writings antedate the age of humor, calls the nose the organ of quell. It has been observed that one’s nose is never so happy as when thrust into the affairs of others, from which some physiologists have drawn the inference that the nose is devoid of the sense of smell.

CHILDHOOD, n. The period of human life intermediate between the idiocy of infancy and the folly of youth—two removes from the sin of manhood and three from the remorse of age.

EDIBLE, adj. Good to eat, and wholesome to digest, as a worm to a toad, a toad to a snake, a snake to a pig, a pig to a man, and a man to a worm.

DANCE, v.i. To leap about to the sound of tittering music, preferably with arms about your neighbor’s wife or daughter. There are many kinds of dances, but all those requiring the participation of the two sexes have two characteristics in common: they are conspicuously innocent, and warmly loved by the vicious.

ABSURDITY, n. A statement or belief manifestly inconsistent with one’s own opinion.

DIE, n. The singular of “dice.” We seldom hear the word, because there is a prohibitory proverb, “Never say die.” At long intervals, however, some one says: “The die is cast,” which is not true, for it is cut.

AIR, n. A nutritious substance supplied by a bountiful Providence for the fattening of the poor.

Worked in many sectors including recruitment and marketing. Lucky to have found a soulmate who was then taken far too soon. No intention of moving on and definitely not moving to Thailand for the foreseeable future. Might move forward. Owned by a cat.

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The historic Kensington pub where Dickens and DH Lawrence used to drink

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A traditional pub in South Kensington, famous for being patronised by Charles Dickens (who lived on this street at number 11 for a while) and DH Lawrence.

Even now it is a pub that is often packed with people in the evening and you won’t always find a seat if you don’t eat. If you want to experience the atmosphere of a historic pub but without the crowds, you can do it in the afternoon when you will also find a seat.

Charles Dickens used to drink in this pub

The pub also offers food and has a garden for nice days or you could go downstairs where you can find tables to eat in an area not too crowded. To get there you have to find a side door. The menu is typical of a pub, but if you are passing through and want to have traditional fish & chips or a pie with a pint of beer, this is a great place to do it. It is not far from the museums of South Kensington so we are in an area where many tourists will be passing through.

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Book Emily Bronte The Complete Poems, Penguin Classics on Love, Loss and Sorrow

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Emily Jane Bronte did not write her poems for publication. They contained her private thoughts and emotions intended for herself alone. Charlotte discovered the poems and persuaded her to submit them for publication, in a book containing the work of all three Bronte sisters, using the male pseudonyms of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell.
 
Her poems make painful reading, reflecting the love, loss and sorrow she experienced in her young life. In one poem, Emily decides that life has passed her by and says she has no friends. “As friendless after eighteen years, As lone as on my natal day” Sadly her two elder sisters Maria and Elizabeth lay buried in the graveyard, which her bedroom overlooked.
 
They had died from tuberculosis after being sent away to school. Her mother was also buried there. Emily said that she hid these sad feelings well “With that sweet look and lively tone and bright eye shining all the day, They could not guess at midnight lone, How she would weep the time away.”
Emily never wanted to leave home and had to return from Belgium, where she went for tuition with Charlotte, due to homesickness. At the Rectory she busied herself with helping the family servant Tabby with housework, and walking on the Moors with her dog Keeper. Secretly there were the poems she was writing, which although she couldn’t know it, secured her a place in English Literature.
 
This was even before the publication of her novel Wuthering Heights in 1847. The poems were published in 1846, three years before her death, at the age of thirty in 1848.
Her love of the moors and her home is expressed in her poetry “The Bluebell is the sweetest flower, That waves in summer air” and But what on earth is half so dear, So longed for as the hearth of home”
 
Despite these deep attachments, Emily’s poems have dark undertones. She says “Sleep brings no rest to me, The shadows of the dead, My waking eyes may never see, Surround my bed” In the poem “The Philosopher” she longs for a sign  “Had I but seen his glorious eye ONCE light the clouds that wilder me, I ne’re had raised this cowards cry, To cease to think and cease to be” At this point Emily may have had suicidal ideation. She certainly longs for death to end her hidden sufferings and join the loved ones, who are buried, often deep in snow covered graves in the churchyard. Thankfully in the poem Remembrance, Emily seems to turn a corner and decides to go on with life, despite their loss, but still fears that loving memories will make life seem empty.  In the poem “No coward soul is mine” Emily resolutely declares her faith.
 
My own favourite poem is one in which Emily celebrates the power of memory:-
 
All hushed and still within the house
Without – all wind and driving rain
But something whispers to my mind
Through rain and through the wailing wind
Never Again
Never Again? Why not again? 
Memory has power 
As real as thine.
 

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A bookshop that sells books for the visually impaired opens in Paris

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Two French publishing houses have opened a specialized bookshop in Paris, in the Pantheon area, called the “Librairie des grands caractères”, a way to grant even the visually impaired the luxury of a walk among books.  And  the sensual pleasure of touching and breathing paper.

Customers are those who suffer from vision-related problems, due to disease or age and we are talking of over a million people in a country like France.

And these books are specialò the paper is made so as not to dazzle, the line spacing is studied, the contrast is never excessive, even and the character is not that of traditional books but an ad hoc one, called Luciole.

One more reason not to abandon reading on paper is, in the case of some totally or partially reversible eye diseases, its important rehabilitative power for sight.

Unfortunately the catalogue of books for visually impaired people is still very limited, it has only about 600 titles. 

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