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The Cynic's Word Book

 

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RABBLE n. In a republic, those who exercise a supreme authority tempered by fraudulent elections. The rabble is like the sacred Simurgh, of Arabian fable--omnipotent on condition that it do nothing. (The word is Aristocratese, and has no exact equivalent in our tongue, but means, as nearly as may be, "soaring swine.")
RACK n. An argumentative implement formerly much used in persuading devotees of a false faith to embrace the living truth. As a call to the unconverted the rack never had any particular efficacy, and is now held in light popular esteem.
RADICALISM n. The conservatism of to-morrow injected into the affairs of to-day.
RADIUM n. A mineral that gives off heat and stimulates the organ that a scientist is a fool with.
RAILROAD n. The chief of many mechanical devices enabling us to get away from where we are to where we are no better off. For this purpose the railroad is held in highest favor by the optimist, for it permits him to make the transit with great expedition.
RAMSHACKLE adj. Pertaining to a certain order of architecture, otherwise known as the Normal American. Most of the public buildings of the United States are of the Ramshackle order, though some of our earlier architects preferred the Ironic. Recent additions to the White House in Washington are Theo-Doric, the ecclesiastic order of the Dorians. They are exceedingly fine and cost one hundred dollars a brick.
 
Old English 'word lottery' pick

Detinue : n. A person or thing detained; n. A form of action for the recovery of a personal chattel wrongfully detained.

 
The Cynic's Word Book by Ambrose Bierce published in 1906 and 1911.
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