Tag Archives: Ambrose Bierce

Marginalia, no.214

The devil is a citizen of every country, but only in our own are we in constant peril of an introduction to him. That is democracy.

~ Ambrose Bierce, Disintroductions

According to Bierce, we can blame the Declaration of Independence when we fall into casual acquaintance with persons we’d prefer not to know. For example, I once shook hands with the Angel of Death in a hospital elevator in Boise, Idaho. I was fifteen at the time but I recall that he was well-mannered and looked something like you might expect: ancient and bony, with a firm, cold grip. He was often at the hospital, he said, visiting friends. Bierce suggests a practice of disintroductions to remedy unfortunate meetings like this. If it could be arranged, I suppose a disintroduction to Death or the devil might be worth something. So long as we could be sure to stay strangers.

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Marginalia, no.121

SAUCE, n.  The infallible sign of civilization and enlightenment.  A people with no sauces has one thousand vices; a people with one sauce has only nine hundred and ninety-nine.  For every sauce invented and accepted a vice is renounced and forgiven.

~ Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

An illustration of the painful path to virtue: I came home last night and found my wife concocting a sauce of red chile peppers.  She had roasted them in the oven and the fumes filled the house.  I immediately began coughing.  There was a sharp pricking at the back of my throat.  The floodgates of eyes and nose were thrown wide and I fled to the bedroom until the air was clear.  The final result of her labors, however, was beyond tasty – it was another yard won from creeping barbarism.

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Marginalia, no.117

The man who writes in Saxon
Is the man to use an ax on.

~ Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

Bitter Bierce did not share that opinion of Orwell’s that monosyllabic words of Anglo-Saxon origin are generally preferred.  Of course, if it weren’t for his use of ‘use’ (Latin by way of French) in the above, Bierce himself might have invited the ax.  Personally, I waver.  There is in certain words like ‘wreak’ and ‘death’ a vintage odor of the mead hall that stirs the blood.  But if I limit myself for a full day to Fowler’s favorites, I have nightmares in French and Greek and wake the next morning shouting out for my sesquipedalia verba.

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