A pandemic appendix to The Devil's Dictionary

Ambrose Bierce was an early 20th-century writer, newspaperman, and adventurer known for his rapier wit.  Indeed, among American satirists, Bierce is (in my opinion) second only to Mark Twain.  

Perhaps his most famous work, in addition to some excellent short stories (like "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"), is The Devil's Dictionary, a glossary of everyday terms cynically reformulated in accordance with Bierce's mordant sense of humor.  

For example, he defined "politics" as "the conduct of public affairs for private advantage."  A politician, he said, is "an eel in the fundamental mud upon which the superstructure of organized society is reared.  When he wriggles, he mistakes the agitation of his tail for the trembling of the edifice.  As compared with the statesman, he suffers the disadvantage of being alive."

Unfortunately for us, Bierce lived about a hundred years too early.  What fun he might have had with our current proliferation of linguistic bovine excrement.  But since he is not here to speak for himself, I will take it upon myself to attempt to channel, in my own feeble way, some small measure of his wit and wisdom.

I therefore humbly offer this "2021 Pandemic Update" to The Devil's Dictionary, with apologies to Bierce, his heirs, and in particular his literary estate.  

Adverse event: 1) in immunology, a negative reaction to a vaccine.  Adverse events can be severe, up to and including death; 2) in journalistic and political discourse, a mirage, a myth, a will o' the wisp.  (See "Conspiracy theorist.")  

Communism: 1) a political and economic system in which government officials control the means of production and redistribute wealth according to need, with themselves deemed neediest; 2) the ultimate, logical extension of pure democracy, in which the majority votes to confiscate the neighbor's property; 3) in the United States, the current platform of the Democratic Party.  

Conspiracy theorist: an individual who has figured out what the government is up to.    

COVID-19: a viral respiratory disease significantly more deadly than the common flu for the elderly, obese, and infirm but considerably less deadly than the government for all and sundry.  

COVID death: 1) a death attributable to any of a wide range of causes, from pancreatic cancer to suicide, after the decedent has potentially been exposed to COVID-19; 2) an efficient means of transferring public funds to private health care providers.

Democracy: formerly, a political system in which all legal citizens have an equal voice in their own governance; currently, an economic system in which all residents, regardless of legal status, receive an equal share of the resources. (See "Communism.")  

Expert: A member of the credentialed class who advances the government-approved narrative.  Those with similar or more impressive credentials who question the government-approved narrative do not qualify.  (See "Science denier.")  

Free speech: a tool by which science deniers spread misinformation.  

Lockdown: an attempt to control a virus that spreads mostly indoors by confining people to their homes.  

Mandate: 1) a government edict or restriction to which a free citizenry subjects itself by collectively ignoring the recommendations of experts; 2) a tool for enforcing democracy.  

Mask: 1) a thin piece of porous paper or cloth, worn over the face, through which viral particles pass freely but oxygen does not.  Its main function, for most people, is cosmetic; 2) a means of allaying adults' fears by suffocating children.

Misinformation: Information the government does not want people to have.  

Overwhelmed: an adjective most often applied to hospitals when they reach 85% capacity, which is almost high enough for them to pay the bills.  

Science: the process of discovering what is true according to the government.  

Science denier: One who has discovered, is in the process of discovering, or wishes to discover what is actually true.

Vaccine: 1) a pharmaceutical intervention designed to control a virus; 2) a government intervention designed to control a population.

Image via Max Pixel.

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