Extracts from Ambrose Bierce’s DEVIL’S DICTIONARY.
In Ambroce Bierce’s famous dictionary there are several words that can be considered Cubanisms. These terms are important in order to understand the current situation of the Caribbean nation. The short list includes widely used phrases, including for the media on the island of Cuba. If, while reading, someone feels there are allusions, we recommend you direct yourself to the end of this text.
(Translator’s note: the entries have been left in their original order, not re-sorted to be alphabetical in English.)
Year, s. Period of three hundred sixty-five disappointments.
Candidate, s. Modest gentleman who gives up the distinction of private life and diligently seeks the honorable obscurity of public office.
House, s. Hollow structure built for habitation of man, rat, beetle, cockroach, fly, mosquito, flea, bacillus and microbe …
Trade, s. Kind of transaction in which A steals from B the goods belonging to C, and in compensation B takes from the pocket of D the money belonging to E.
Engaged, adj. Fitted with a ring at the ankle to hold the chain and shackles.
Commitment, s. Settlement of conflicting interests that gives all adversaries the satisfaction of thinking they have gotten what they should not get, and that the only thing they’ve been stripped of is their fair share.
Congress, s. Group of men who meet to repeal laws.
Consult, v.l. Require the approval of another to take an already decided attitude.
Corporation, s. Ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.
Painting, s. Two-dimensional representation of a bore which has three.
Law, s. Legitimate authority to be, or do, or have; for example, to have the right to be king, to cheat your neighbor or to have the measles.
Day, s. Twenty-four hour period largely wasted. It is divided into the exact day and night, or the inexact day: the first is devoted to financial sins and the second to the other sins. These two kinds of social activities are complementary.
Diplomacy, s. Art of lying on behalf of the country.
Economy, s. Purchase of a barrel of whiskey that is not needed for the price of a cow that you don’t have.
Elector, s. He who enjoys the sacred privilege of voting for a candidate who chooses others.
Exiled, s. He who serves his country living abroad, without being an ambassador.
Finance, s. Art or science of managing revenues and resources for the convenience of the administrator.
Hurricane, s. Atmospheric demonstration once very common but is now usually replaced by the tornado and cyclone …
Impunity, s. Wealth.
Independent, adj. In politics, sick with self-respect. It is a derogatory term.
Justice, s. More or less adulterated article that the State sells to the citizens in return for their loyalty, their taxes and their personal services.
Nepotism, s. The practice of appointing your own grandmother for public office, for the good of the Party.
Palace, s. Beautiful and costly residence, particularly that of a high official. The residence of a high dignitary of the Church is called a palace; that of the founder of his religion is called a barn or manger. Progress exists.
Politics, s. Conflict of interests masquerading as principled struggle. Management of public interests for private profit.
President, s. Dominant figure in a small group of men who are the only ones who know for certain that the vast majority of their countrymen did not want to him to become president.
Referendum, s. Law submitted to popular vote to establish a consensus of public folly.
Republic, s. Administrative entity operated by an incalculable multitude of political parasites, logically activists but fortuitously efficient.
Resident, s. and adj. He who can not leave.
Revolution, s. In politics, an abrupt change in the form of misgovernment.
Work, s. One of the processes by which A acquires the goods of B.
“It is a bad habit to say that the thoughts of others are bad, that only ours are good and those who hold views different from ours are the enemies of the nation …”
Mahatma Gandhi, THE ART OF NON-VIOLENCE
March 13 2012