Cynics Word Book-1-
The Devil's Dictionary, sometimes published under the title The Cynic's Word Book, by Ambrose Bierce, is a satirical book first published in 1906, followed by an expanded edition in 1911. It offers reinterpretations of terms in the English language which lampoon cant and political double-talk.

Literary TriviaEdit

The title of Harry Turtledove's The Victorious Opposition, book three of the American Empire trilogy from the Southern Victory series, is derived from The Devil's Dictionary. Manichaeism is defined as "The ancient Persian doctrine of an incessant warfare between Good and Evil. When Good gave up the fight, the Persians joined the victorious opposition."

The Devil's Dictionary in AtlantisEdit

During their Atlantean train trip from Hanover to Thetford, Athelstan Helms and James Walton were delayed by an accident ahead of them on the rail-line. Helms inquired of Walton, "Do you know how an Atlantean sage once defined an accident?" He then quoted "As an inevitable occurrence due to the actions of immutable natural laws." from the works of a Mr. Bierce.[1]

The Devil's Dictionary in In High PlacesEdit

The Devil's Dictionary was Jacob Klein's favorite book. He read and quoted from it often, so much so that his daughter, Annette, memorized many of its definitions.

When Annette was taken into slavery, she shared some of the book's wisdom with fellow slave Jacques. Jacques, a devout Christian, was leery of anything called The Devil's Wordbook (the closest translation Annette could manage), he soon understood that it was not literally a Satanic work, and appreciated the irony of the definitions Annette shared with him.

The Devil's Dictionary in Joe SteeleEdit

During the 1936 presidential election, journalist and Joe Steele-supporter Charlie Sullivan, used the definition of populist Ambrose Bierce created in The Devil's Dictionary to describe Steele's opponent Alf Landon: "A fossil patriot of the early agricultural period, found in the old red soapstone underlying Kansas; characterized by an uncommon spread of ear, which some naturalists contend gave him the power of flight, though Professors Morse and Whitney, pursuing independent lines of thought, have ingeniously pointed out that had he possessed it he would have gone elsewhere. In the picturesque speech of his period, some fragments of which have come down to us, he was known as 'The Matter with Kansas.'"

In short order, Landon was dubbed "the Matter with Kansas" by the Steele campaign. Landon unsuccessfully tried to turn the name around, claiming that if he were the Matter with Kansas, Steele was the matter with the whole country, but it didn't help. Landon lost in a landslide.[2]

The Devil's Dictionary in "The R-Strain"Edit

Rabbi Aaron Kaplan encountered a quote from the Devil's Dictionary which resonated with his dilemma in evaluating the R Strain.

The Devil's Dictionary in SupervolcanoEdit

When Jim Farrell used the word "aboriginal" during a conversation at the Trebor Mansion Inn, Rob Ferguson was amused and said that Farrell was the only person he had ever heard use the word in a sentence. Farrell replied that Ambrose Bierce defined aboriginals as "Persons of little worth found cumbering the soil of newly discovered country. They -" but was interrupted by Ferguson who continued with "- soon cease to cumber; they fertilize." Ferguson then explained he had found a copy of The Devil's Dictionary that his father owned at 15, read it, and had been warped ever since.[3]


  1. Atlantis and Other Places, pg. 408.
  2. Joe Steele, pgs. 134-136.
  3. Things Fall Apart, pg. 349, HC.