Digital Devil's Dictionary

Freed of his campaign obligations, Old Nick himself arrived yesterday to kick back with some old friends.  It turns out he is turning his attention back to his magnum opus, The Devil's Dictionary.  It has been almost a century since the first edition was put out, with Ambrose Bierce as his ghost writer.  Bierce's present status, the Dark Angel pointed out, does not permit him to engage in further earthly endeavors, of course. It is time for digital edition anyway.

Over the past 100 years, Mephistopheles has been busy enough sowing confusion in all the languages of the world, but especially English.  "The English tongue went viral right after the first Dictionary went to press," he observed, "largely because I showed it to be so capable of warping the way mortals think."  

I reflected that it truly has become the lingua franca of every tyrant, tinpot despot, and political philosopher since Lenin.  It is hard to see how they could have gained any traction relying on their own languages.  Stalin certainly gave it a good try, but in the end Orwell was able to pen in one English-language novel more deceptive phrases and pernicious usages than Uncle Joe's boys were able to pull off in three decades.  His stable of writers did some amazing things with "liberation" and "democratic," but the Russian language does not have the versatility to invent entire replacements for rational speech,

Consider good old English words like "diversity," for example, or "sustainable." One can clearly see the Devil's work in them.

I mentioned this to Satan, and he replied with a smile.  "Yes, you found me out.  They are the culmination a product line I first tried out during the New Deal, and it really moved when World War II got going.  I called it the Protean Line. They seem like euphemisms, but with a twist: they are not a pleasant way of saying something unpleasant, but rather a pleasant way of saying nothing at all."

The demand for that type of usage is self-evident.  One can get it off the rack and alter it to dress up any pernicious ideology or prejudice. This feat is way above warping words; it is excising the necessity of logic and coherence from vocabulary altogether.

"The Protean Line is a killer app.  Everyone can be for one of these word products - or put another way, no one can say they are against it," Satan observed.  "It does not have an antithesis, so it meets no resistance at all.   'Proactive' is another big mover.  No one had even heard of that before 1938. "

But the Devil acknowledges that parlor tricks from the Protean Line do not fit well into the format of his Dictionary.  It will not do have scores of listings, each followed by the definition "a borrowed word returned without content."  To qualify for The Devil's Dictionary, a word or phrase must carry a specific, deleterious, and hidden meaning.  After all, the very point of the book is to enable one to unmask what a politician, merchant, lawyer, or journalist is really saying. 

Beezlebub then handed me some words he had scribbled down as he sneaked them into the language.  "Give those a gander," he said, "and get back to me with definitions as you understand them.  There may be a fee in it for you. My people will get a contract over to you to sign - in blood, of course. " Here follow the feeble results:

"Public-Private Partnership": A device for getting the people to pay twice for something they neither want nor need.

"Win-Win Situation": When two players agree to tie for first in a three - person contest.

"Too Big to Fail": Having achieved a state of disorder that is too complicated for all but the unsophisticated to grasp.   

"Investing in Our Future": a means of extrasensory communication by which the living convince the unborn to accept government programs under which they cannot afford to live. 

"Making Every Vote Count": assuring that the groaning of the mules does not drown out the songs of the passengers.

"Climate change": mass delusion that arises when people grasp that weather is not static.

"Stakeholder": a player who has someone else's skin in the game.

"Settled science": A monetary cycle under which (a) universities use government grants to excoriate the unaesthetic byproducts arising from pursuit of individual happiness, (b) the resulting outcry stimulates a geometric increase in government grants for universities to devise ameliorative programs, and (c) taxes and regulation required to implement ameliorative programs starve pursuit of individual happiness and thus the unaesthetic byproducts thereof.  See butterfly effect.

"The 1%": The universe of a variable number of taxpayers who have more than you.

"Creationism": a field of learning based on the hypothesis that The Almighty's divine will and omniscience immutably gave forth chiggers, earthquakes, sociopaths, stinging nettles, lawyers, and Canada Geese. 

"No Child Left Behind":  A theory of public education under which the able are inveigled to loiter about until the stragglers show up.

"Rap music": A contemporary burning bush through which The Almighty calls on white people to remember their oppressive ancestors.

"Bail Out": The process by which the officers and first class passengers right the ship by throwing everyone else overboard.

"Laffer Curve": A linear geometric model paid for by persons who can afford drawing linear geometric models.  

"Keynesian": One whose solution to a 21st Century drought is to prime a 19th Century pump.

"Nobel Peace Prize": An award given by inconsequential intellectuals to insufferable persons in recognition of unremitting follies.

"Mainstream Media": The melting pot in which conformity is fused with liberalism to create conventional wisdom.

"Unpaid Intern": A youth indentured for a term of years without pay to a major media company to research the virtues of a high minimum wage.

"Tabloid Journalism": Trashy and sensational news for which The New York Times has not yet won a Pulitzer Prize.

"Grand Bargain": A political compromise under which each faction is able to convince a majority of its members that it has only thrown its most vulnerable supporters under a bus.

"Path to Citizenship": A one-way thoroughfare from the District of Columbia to American voting booths via the Republic of Mexico.

"Recidivism": The compulsion to seek re-election.

"Obamacare":  Insurance benefits provided Americans for slitting their own wrists.

"Live for Free or Die": The motto the State of New Hampshire adopted in November 2012.

"Scenario": a situation dressed in black tie.

 "Community organizer":  A virus deliberately introduced into the body politic to render it immune to civility.

"Talk Radio": a public conversation that, if overheard in a bar or a bus, would cause you to change your seat.

"Conversation with the American people": an invitation to hold one's nose and open wide.

"War on Women": A conflict women declared on themselves and promptly won. 

"Mission creep": The tendency of any undertaking to adopt strategies that address the implicit reasons for its adoption.

"Fiscal cliff:" the direct route to the economic policies in effect as of October 2000.

"The New Normal": a reality once thought unthinkable.

"Derivative": a form of speculation built on the theory that the reflection is more valuable than the mirror because there is no risk of breakage.

"Kitchen table": a forum where family members gather around and determine which credit card offer will best promote their profligacy.

"Free download": a computer application under which the user is the product.  

"Kicking the can down the road": Administering with the foot a jolt to the hindquarters of someone several blocks down the genealogical trail. 

Freed of his campaign obligations, Old Nick himself arrived yesterday to kick back with some old friends.  It turns out he is turning his attention back to his magnum opus, The Devil's Dictionary.  It has been almost a century since the first edition was put out, with Ambrose Bierce as his ghost writer.  Bierce's present status, the Dark Angel pointed out, does not permit him to engage in further earthly endeavors, of course. It is time for digital edition anyway.

Over the past 100 years, Mephistopheles has been busy enough sowing confusion in all the languages of the world, but especially English.  "The English tongue went viral right after the first Dictionary went to press," he observed, "largely because I showed it to be so capable of warping the way mortals think."  

I reflected that it truly has become the lingua franca of every tyrant, tinpot despot, and political philosopher since Lenin.  It is hard to see how they could have gained any traction relying on their own languages.  Stalin certainly gave it a good try, but in the end Orwell was able to pen in one English-language novel more deceptive phrases and pernicious usages than Uncle Joe's boys were able to pull off in three decades.  His stable of writers did some amazing things with "liberation" and "democratic," but the Russian language does not have the versatility to invent entire replacements for rational speech,

Consider good old English words like "diversity," for example, or "sustainable." One can clearly see the Devil's work in them.

I mentioned this to Satan, and he replied with a smile.  "Yes, you found me out.  They are the culmination a product line I first tried out during the New Deal, and it really moved when World War II got going.  I called it the Protean Line. They seem like euphemisms, but with a twist: they are not a pleasant way of saying something unpleasant, but rather a pleasant way of saying nothing at all."

The demand for that type of usage is self-evident.  One can get it off the rack and alter it to dress up any pernicious ideology or prejudice. This feat is way above warping words; it is excising the necessity of logic and coherence from vocabulary altogether.

"The Protean Line is a killer app.  Everyone can be for one of these word products - or put another way, no one can say they are against it," Satan observed.  "It does not have an antithesis, so it meets no resistance at all.   'Proactive' is another big mover.  No one had even heard of that before 1938. "

But the Devil acknowledges that parlor tricks from the Protean Line do not fit well into the format of his Dictionary.  It will not do have scores of listings, each followed by the definition "a borrowed word returned without content."  To qualify for The Devil's Dictionary, a word or phrase must carry a specific, deleterious, and hidden meaning.  After all, the very point of the book is to enable one to unmask what a politician, merchant, lawyer, or journalist is really saying. 

Beezlebub then handed me some words he had scribbled down as he sneaked them into the language.  "Give those a gander," he said, "and get back to me with definitions as you understand them.  There may be a fee in it for you. My people will get a contract over to you to sign - in blood, of course. " Here follow the feeble results:

"Public-Private Partnership": A device for getting the people to pay twice for something they neither want nor need.

"Win-Win Situation": When two players agree to tie for first in a three - person contest.

"Too Big to Fail": Having achieved a state of disorder that is too complicated for all but the unsophisticated to grasp.   

"Investing in Our Future": a means of extrasensory communication by which the living convince the unborn to accept government programs under which they cannot afford to live. 

"Making Every Vote Count": assuring that the groaning of the mules does not drown out the songs of the passengers.

"Climate change": mass delusion that arises when people grasp that weather is not static.

"Stakeholder": a player who has someone else's skin in the game.

"Settled science": A monetary cycle under which (a) universities use government grants to excoriate the unaesthetic byproducts arising from pursuit of individual happiness, (b) the resulting outcry stimulates a geometric increase in government grants for universities to devise ameliorative programs, and (c) taxes and regulation required to implement ameliorative programs starve pursuit of individual happiness and thus the unaesthetic byproducts thereof.  See butterfly effect.

"The 1%": The universe of a variable number of taxpayers who have more than you.

"Creationism": a field of learning based on the hypothesis that The Almighty's divine will and omniscience immutably gave forth chiggers, earthquakes, sociopaths, stinging nettles, lawyers, and Canada Geese. 

"No Child Left Behind":  A theory of public education under which the able are inveigled to loiter about until the stragglers show up.

"Rap music": A contemporary burning bush through which The Almighty calls on white people to remember their oppressive ancestors.

"Bail Out": The process by which the officers and first class passengers right the ship by throwing everyone else overboard.

"Laffer Curve": A linear geometric model paid for by persons who can afford drawing linear geometric models.  

"Keynesian": One whose solution to a 21st Century drought is to prime a 19th Century pump.

"Nobel Peace Prize": An award given by inconsequential intellectuals to insufferable persons in recognition of unremitting follies.

"Mainstream Media": The melting pot in which conformity is fused with liberalism to create conventional wisdom.

"Unpaid Intern": A youth indentured for a term of years without pay to a major media company to research the virtues of a high minimum wage.

"Tabloid Journalism": Trashy and sensational news for which The New York Times has not yet won a Pulitzer Prize.

"Grand Bargain": A political compromise under which each faction is able to convince a majority of its members that it has only thrown its most vulnerable supporters under a bus.

"Path to Citizenship": A one-way thoroughfare from the District of Columbia to American voting booths via the Republic of Mexico.

"Recidivism": The compulsion to seek re-election.

"Obamacare":  Insurance benefits provided Americans for slitting their own wrists.

"Live for Free or Die": The motto the State of New Hampshire adopted in November 2012.

"Scenario": a situation dressed in black tie.

 "Community organizer":  A virus deliberately introduced into the body politic to render it immune to civility.

"Talk Radio": a public conversation that, if overheard in a bar or a bus, would cause you to change your seat.

"Conversation with the American people": an invitation to hold one's nose and open wide.

"War on Women": A conflict women declared on themselves and promptly won. 

"Mission creep": The tendency of any undertaking to adopt strategies that address the implicit reasons for its adoption.

"Fiscal cliff:" the direct route to the economic policies in effect as of October 2000.

"The New Normal": a reality once thought unthinkable.

"Derivative": a form of speculation built on the theory that the reflection is more valuable than the mirror because there is no risk of breakage.

"Kitchen table": a forum where family members gather around and determine which credit card offer will best promote their profligacy.

"Free download": a computer application under which the user is the product.  

"Kicking the can down the road": Administering with the foot a jolt to the hindquarters of someone several blocks down the genealogical trail.