I'm really starting to like Mark Twain ^
If you like him, check out Ambrose Bierce and his Devil's Dictionary.
A few examples:
, n. Exemption from the stress of authority in a beggarly half dozen of restraint's infinite multitude of methods. A political condition that every nation supposes itself to enjoy in virtual monopoly. Liberty. The distinction between freedom and liberty is not accurately known; naturalists have never been able to find a living specimen of either. FRIENDLESS
, adj. Having no favors to bestow. Destitute of fortune. Addicted to utterance of truth and common sense. GENEROUS
, adj. Originally this word meant noble by birth and was rightly applied to a great multitude of persons. It now means noble by nature and is taking a bit of a rest. HAPPINESS
, n. An agreeable sensation arising from contemplating the misery of another.HASH
, x. There is no definition for this word—nobody knows what hash is. HIPPOGRIFF
, n. An animal (now extinct) which was half horse and half griffin. The griffin was itself a compound creature, half lion and half eagle. The hippogriff was actually, therefore, a one-quarter eagle, which is two dollars and fifty cents in gold. The study of zoology is full of surprises. HYPOCRITE
, n. One who, professing virtues that he does not respect secures the advantage of seeming to be what he despises.IGNORAMUS
, n. A person unacquainted with certain kinds of knowledge familiar to yourself, and having certain other kinds that you know nothing about. IMPUNITY
, n. Wealth. JUSTICE
, n. A commodity which is a more or less adulterated condition the State sells to the citizen as a reward for his allegiance, taxes and personal service. IMPARTIAL
, adj. Unable to perceive any promise of personal advantage from espousing either side of a controversy or adopting either of two conflicting opinions. LIBERTY
, n. One of Imagination's most precious possessions. ALLIANCE
, n. In international politics, the union of two thieves who have their hands so deeply inserted in each other's pockets that they cannot separately plunder a third.
Awesome stuff. First appearing in bits and pieces around 1887, and in complete book form in 1906, it's amazing how spot-on so much of it remains.
Bierce is also numbered among the finest of early horror and macabre fiction writers, taking his place with the likes of Arthur Machen and H.P. Lovecraft. A good deal of Ambrose Bierce can be found on Project Gutenberg. Author page is here