DIPLOMACY, n. The patriotic art of lying for one's country
In 1881 Ambrose Bierce, journalist and former soldier for the
Union army in the Civil War, began writing satirical definitions for the San Francisco Wasp, and then for William Randolph Hearst's San Francisco Examiner. Bierce was launched on a journalistic career that would see him liked and loathed in equal measure - and earn him the title of 'the wickedest man in San Francisco'.
In his column, Bierce, a contemporary of Mark Twain, brought his biting black humour to bear on spoof definitions of everyday words, writing deliberate mistranslations of the vocabulary of the establishment, the Church and the politics of his day, and shining a sardonic light on hypocrisy and deception.
These columns formed the beginnings of a dictionary, first published in 1906 as The Cynic's Word Book. Over 100 years later, Bierce's redefinitions still give us pause for thought - REPORTER, n. A writer who guesses his way to the truth and dispels it with a tempest of words; UN-AMERICAN, adj. Wicked, intolerable, heathenish; POLITICS, n. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage - making for a timely new edition of this irreverent and provocative satire.
Publisher: Bodleian Library
Number of pages: 256
Dimensions: 198 x 129 mm