If you write, or simply love words, you have to admire the author of an oeuvre called The Devil’s Dictionary. Ambrose Bierce’s publication was originally called The Cynic’s Word Book (not quite as catchy) and contains his wry collection of satirical definitions that still hold up after 100 years. (Will we be read in 2116?)
Conservative: A statesman who is enamoured of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.
War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.
Sweater: a garment worn by child when its mother is feeling chilly.
Corporation: An ingenious device for obtaining profit without individual responsibility.
Life: A spiritual pickle preserving the body from decay.
Patience: A minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue.
Egotist: a person more interested in himself than in me.
Ambrose Bierce also included this cryptic (to me) definition of ovation, name-dropping the inimitable Dudley Spink*. Not every entry is a pithy gem:
Ovation: In ancient Rome, a definite, formal pageant in honor of one who had been disserviceable to the enemies of the nation. A lesser “triumph.” In modern English the word is improperly used to signify any loose and spontaneous expression of popular homage to the hero of the hour and place.
“I had an ovation!” the actor man said,
But I thought it uncommonly queer,
That people and critics by him had been led
By the ear.
The Latin lexicon makes his absurd
Assertion as plain as a peg;
In “ovum” we find the true root of the word.
It means egg.
*No clue, really, about Dudley Spink.