During the 1870’s, French novelist Gustave Flaubert had a custom of creating humorous definitions for words. These were eventually published as a “Dictionary of Received Ideas”.
Here are some examples:
- Absinthe – Exceptionally violent poison: one glass and you’re a dead man. Journalists drink it while writing their articles. Has killed more soldiers than the Bedouins.
- Architects – All idiots; always forget to put staircases in houses.
- Omega – Second letter of the Greek alphabet.
- Waltz – Wax indignant about. A lascivious, impure dance that should only be danced by old ladies.
- Englishwomen – Express surprise that they can have pretty children.
- Old People – When discussing a flood, thunderstorm, etc., they cannot remember ever having seen a worse one.
- Sex – Word to avoid. Say instead, “Intimacy occurred…’.
Simultaneously, American Ambrose Bierce a columnist in the “San Francisco Newsletter” from 1869 onwards produced definitions titled “The Devil’s Dictionary.” These were later gathered into, “The Cynic’s Wordbook”.
Here are examples of his work:
- Conservative – A statesman who is passionate about existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.
- Cynic – A scoundrel whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be. Hence the custom among the Scythians of plucking out a cynic’s eyes to improve his vision.
- Egotist – A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me.
- Faith – Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.
- Lawyer – One skilled in circumvention of the law.
- Marriage – A household consisting of a master, a mistress, and two slaves, making in total, two.
Pretending to be a writer of similar calibre, I came up with my own “Diabolical Definitions”. Somewhat more colloquial and provincial. Enjoy!
- Phone – a device filled with apps to distract you from actually making calls.
- Taxi – a life threatening vehicle less concerned with transportation than disrupting orderly traffic flow.
- Radio – used by people who want to look elsewhere whilst being informed.
- Television – used by people who don’t want to do anything else while being misinformed.
- Public protector – an historic office used to protect the Constitution from abuse by government. Currently under reconstruction to reverse that process.
- President – historically a person of morality and honour leading their nation. Currently in USA and SA, the person best able to embarrass themselves and all citizens.
- Judiciary – a sacred fortress against chaos. Constantly under attack from dark forces of government.
- National Prosecuting Authority – a collective of legal minds and tools. Some being applied inappropriately.
- SARS – the body tasked with collection of state funds to be used by government without accountability to the funders.
- Springbok – an emblem previously used to designate the best rugby players in the country.
- Investor – a person to be completely ignored when formulating Presidential decisions.
- Constitution – a historic document like the Bible, intended to guide and protect life. Largely ignored by those in power.
- Social Media – a forum for conducting the trial of accused persons before they reach court.
Do you have some to add?