Devil's Dictionary

Jan 10, 2002
Outside Magazine

   Photo: Illustration by John S. Cuneo

By Marshall Sella

BEFORE HE VANISHED in Mexico in 1914, never to be heard from again, the formidable writer Ambrose Bierce, whose short stories often explored themes of horror and death, cobbled together his Devil's Dictionary. It was a fiercely satirical work, filled with definitions such as "fidelity (n): a virtue peculiar to those who are about to be betrayed." Here at Outside, we have a much brighter view of the world. In a full quarter-century of publishing, we're proud to say, only nine members of our editorial staff have vanished in Mexico (and six of those, quite frankly, weren't pulling their weight). More to the point, we admit that we use a fair amount of obscure terminology and slang in our pages. Phrases like "footy," "mangy choss," and "two-planker wanker" are tossed around with gleeful abandon. Most often, we like to tell ourselves that you'll comprehend these terms "in context," because it saves a lot of time and trouble in the copy-editing stage. But maybe that's not fair to you, our cherished readers. So here's a primer to make your next 25 years of reading a little more illuminating and a little less, shall we say, chossy.

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