No longer used by the timid. Said chiefly of words. A word
which some lexicographer has marked obsolete is ever thereafter
an object of dread and loathing to the fool writer, but if
it is a good word and has no exact modern equivalent equally
good, it is good enough for the good writer. Indeed, a writer’s
attitude toward “obsolete” words is as true a
measure of his literary ability as anything except the character
of his work. A dictionary of obsolete and obsolescent words
would not only be singularly rich in strong and sweet parts
of speech; it would add large possessions to the vocabulary
of every competent writer who might not happen to be a competent
Inaccessible to the truth as it is manifest in the splendor
and stress of our advocacy.
Afflicting us with greater or less frequency. That, however,
is not the sense in which the word is used in the phrase “occasional
verses,” which are verses written for an “occasion,”
such as an anniversary, a celebration or other event. True,
they afflict us a little worse than other sorts of verse,
but their name has no reference to irregular recurrence.
The part of the world lying west (or east) of the Orient.
It is largely inhabited by Christians, a powerful subtribe
of the Hypocrites, whose principal industries are murder and
cheating, which they are pleased to call “war”
and “commerce.” These, also, are the principal
industries of the Orient.
A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made
for man — who has no gills.
Generating disagreeable emotions or sensations, as the advance
of an army against its enemy. “Were the enemy’s
tactics offensive?” the king asked. “I should
say so!” replied the unsuccessful general. “The
blackguard wouldn’t come out of his works!”
In that stage of usefulness which is not inconsistent with
general inefficiency, as an old man. Discredited by lapse
of time and offensive to the popular taste, as an old book.
Oily, smooth, sleek. Disraeli once described the manner of
Bishop Wilberforce as “unctuous, oleaginous, saponaceous.”
And the good prelate was ever afterward known as Soapy Sam.
For every man there is something in the vocabulary that would
stick to him like a second skin. His enemies have only to
Relating to a mountain in Thessaly, once inhabited by gods,
now a repository of yellowing newspapers, beer bottles and
mutilated sardine cans, attesting the presence of the tourist
and his appetite. OMEN, n.
A sign that something will happen if nothing happens.
A play representing life in another world, whose inhabitants
have no speech but song, no motions but gestures and no postures
but attitudes. All acting is simulation, and the word simulation
is from simia, an ape; but in opera the actor takes for his
model Simia audibilis (or Pithecanthropos stentor) —
the ape that howls. The actor apes a man — at least
in shape; The opera performer apes an ape.
An unlocked door in the prison of Identity. It leads into
the jail yard.
A favorable occasion for grasping a disappointment.
To assist with obstructions and objections.
In politics the party that prevents the Government from running
amuck by hamstringing it.
The doctrine, or belief, that everything is beautiful, including
what is ugly, everything good, especially the bad, and everything
right that is wrong. It is held with greatest tenacity by
those most accustomed to the mischance of falling into adversity,
and is most acceptably expounded with the grin that apes a
smile. Being a blind faith, it is inaccessible to the light
of disproof — an intellectual disorder, yielding to
no treatment but death. It is hereditary, but fortunately
A proponent of the doctrine that black is white.
A pessimist applied to God for relief. “Ah, you wish
me to restore your hope and cheerfulness,” said God.
“No,” replied the petitioner, “I wish you
to create something that would justify them.” “The
world is all created,” said God, “but you have
overlooked something — the mortality of the optimist.”
A conspiracy between speech and action to cheat the understanding.
A tyranny tempered by stenography.
By Ambrose Bierce