The New British Devil’s Dictionary
In 1867 Ambrose Bierce, American Civil War soldier, wit, and writer, began a satirical dictionary consisting of darkly humorous definitions. The lexicon was written over three decades as a series of installments for magazines and newspapers. Bierce’s observations were imitated for years before he gathered them into books, first as The Cynic’s Word Book in 1906, and then in a bigger version as The Devil’s Dictionary in 1911.
Here’s a typical example from the book; Politics; A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principals. The dictionary has been widely quoted, plagiarised, translated and imitated, earning a cult reputation. There was a ‘New Devil’s Dictionary’ by Rhoda Koenig a few years back which perfectly replicated Bierce’s sharp tone. The problem is that in such an endeavour you choose to be a modern replica or make it funny. There’s no English equivalent I can think of (although one should probably count Samuel Johnson) so perhaps we should crowdsource one.
So, as an interactive activity, I could start us off and you can feel free to add to it whenever the thought strikes you.
London – An entire world condensed into a single city, and all of it standing on your northbound Oxford Circus tube platform.
West End Theatre – A place where seventy year-old audiences pay to see sixty year-old shows.
Brexit – A separation fantasy supported by all those who are against other countries doing the same thing.
England – The only country in the world where climate change is awaited with excitement.
Estate agent – Someone who advertises a flat using a photo of the balcony, hoping you won’t notice that the 2nd bedroom is 10 feet long.
You get the idea. Over to you.