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Jeff Graeber

Copyright 2018 by Jeff Graeber

For my parents, who taught me the joy of argument.

"Cynicism sells." -James Husum


This work is partially inspired by Samuel Johnson's Dictionary as well as Ambrose Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary, which it may resemble in style and tone, though hopefully not too much in content. Actually, Johnson and Bierce are almost certainly just two of many great people from whom I have unconsciously (or sometimes consciously) stolen.

This work is made up mainly of definitions, though sometimes I have been unable to resist inserting commentary. Should I ever be fortunate enough to have this published, I'm sure a well meaning editor will cut most of it out.

ACTIVIST (n.) A person who takes a part in a cause, out of either true belief in that cause or the simple desire to be active. Activists are both necessary and dangerous in any healthy society, especially one that has pretensions of being democratic, depending on whether the activist is well- or badly- informed. If anyone ever figures out how to distinguish between a well- and ill-informed activist, please let me know.

ADOLESCENCE (n.) The justification for infanticide.

ADVERTISING (n.) 1. The attempt to convince people that shit tastes good. 2. More specifically, an industry devoted to making consumers spend money they would not otherwise spend for products they do not want or need. All in all, a completely immoral practice.

AFTERLIFE (n.) I have no idea. Someday I'll know. In the meantime, I don't see how it's anything to worry about.

AGNOSTIC (adj.) The only religious point of view that is truly rational. Theism and atheism both rest on an appeal to ignorance.

AMERICAN REVOLUTION (n.) A triumph of liberty over oppression for white males living in North America. An unqualified catastrophe for Africans and American Indians.

ANARCHIST (n.) A fool who believes it would worthwhile to overthrow a government. Whether this condition would be harmful or beneficial is debatable but ultimately irrelevant; it won't last. Power vacuums never last long.

ANGEL (n.) Anyone who goes the extra mile. Whether human or some other specie isn't really important.

ANIMAL RIGHTS (n.) A good example of an idea taken too far. If cows and pigs have rights then so do wheat plants and bean stalks. See also VEGETARIANS.

ART (n.) Communication. If it speaks to you, it's art. If it doesn't, it's noise. This applies whether you are looking at the Mona Lisa or listening to a mouthwash jingle. See GREAT ART.

ARTIFICIAL (adj.) Made by humans, which is to say, the completely natural product of a completely natural species, therefore completely natural.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (n.) A term with no referent. Self contradictory. Humans cannot endow any object with a quality that they themselves lack.

ASSASSIN (n.) A person who seeks to transform a politician into a statesman.

ASSAULT RIFLE (n.) An extraordinarily redundant term. What, pray, is a non-assault rifle?

ASSHOLE (n.) 1. Someone who has the temperament of a gadfly but lacks the wit. 2. The most annoying kind of driver.

ASSUMPTIONS (n.) 1. The basic foundations of everything we claim to know. Usually they are faulty. 2. Completely unsupported statements whose worth depends entirely on point of view. Other people's assumptions are subject to question, but our own tend to be sacrosanct. See also KNOWLEDGE.

ATTENTION SPAN (n.) A deficient one is the only thing that could possibly keep you from reading the rest of this excellent book.

AUTHORITY (n.) 1. The first thing to be questioned. 2. The complement of responsibility.

AUTOBIOGRAPHY (n.) Often entertaining, sometimes informative, never trustworthy. People who aren't lying to other people are usually lying to themselves.

AVERAGE (adj.) Meaningful only in mathematics.

AVERAGE PERSON (n.) A term with no referent.

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BANK (n.) A facility where you actually pay for the privilege of being cheated out of your money.

BELIEF (n.) What most people call knowledge.

BIAS (n.) Any opinion contrary to your own.

BIBLE, THE (n.) A book read by few but quoted by many.

BIGOT (n.) Someone who fears just about everything.

BISEXUALITY (n.) A truly politically correct sexual orientation. Heterosexuals and homosexuals both discriminate on the basis of gender.

BLASPHEMY (n.) 1. A statement or belief that threatens the prevailing religious establishment. 2. A supposed crime against God invented by priests. The only way we are even remotely capable of causing harm to God is by harming each other.

BOOKS (n.) The most fabulous objects in the universe.

BOSS (n.) A pompous, arrogant, overbearing, tightfisted jackass whose only functions seem to be to annoy you and prevent work from being done. See also EMPLOYEE.

BRAIN, HUMAN (n.) The most unused object in the universe.

BUREAUCRAT (n.) An executive that works for the government.

BUSY WORK (n.) A sure way to discourage productivity.

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CAT (n.) An animal specifically designed by God to remind us that life doesn't have to make sense.

CAUSE (n.) An event frequently mistaken by many people for an effect. Confusing cause and effect is a premier human talent.

CELIBACY (n.) Wasted time.

CENSORSHIP (n.) A sinful and obscene practice used by idiots who claim to be combating sin and obscenity. It's not only evil, it doesn't even work. Minimizing exposure to "bad" or "wrong" influences usually only heightens their attractiveness.

CERTAINTY (n.) A sure sign of a closed mind. I'm absolutely certain of that.

CHANGE (n.) Constant.

CHOICE (n.) The primary factor of a consequence. People love having choices, but they can't abide dealing with consequences.

CHURCH (n.) An institution, much like government, which has the primary purpose of maintaining order and keeping people pacified. Any worthwhile effect it may also have is completely serendipitous.

CLICHE (n.) What truth tends to transmogrify into when it is repeated too much.
"The reason that cliches become cliches is that they are the hammers and screwdrivers in the toolbox of communication." -- Terry Pratchett

CLOSED MIND (n.) What most people actually have. See also OPEN MIND.

CLOSED MOUTH (n.) The prerequisite of an open mind.

CODEPENDENCY (n.) A buzzword created in the 1980's to sell self-help books. All human relationships are codependent.

COMFORT (n.) The enemy of progress.

COMMENTATE (v.) I have no idea. I've never used this word, nor seen it being used, and in fact it makes no sense to me. BUT, there are thousands of "commentators" out there, and they must be doing something, so whatever it is they are doing is what the verb "to commentate" means.

COMMENTATOR (n.) A talking head who talks and talks and talks and talks and never manages to say anything useful or intelligent. Wait a moment, that's the description of most of the people on this planet.

COMMON SENSE (n.) Neither common nor sensible.

COMPENSATION (n.) Redress given for grief or injury. What people really mean when they use the words "justice" or "guarantee."

COMPLETED EDUCATION (n.) Death. Or at least my education won't be complete until I am dead. Many people confusingly refer to "completing their education" when they obviously mean "finishing formal schooling." I wonder about these people. Or maybe I'm confusing walking corpses with living people.

COMPUTER (n.) A device originally designed to assist the human brain, but more and more frequently it's used to replace the human brain.

CONGRESS (n.) Any group of three or more useless people.

CONSEQUENCE (n.) The product of a choice. People love having choices, but they can't abide dealing with consequences.

CONSERVATIVE (n.) Someone who believes in both individual freedom and the need for government intervention, depending entirely on which issue is in the forefront. See also LIBERAL

CONSERVATISM (n.) An emotional attitude, frequently mistaken for a sociological opinion. See also LIBERALISM.

CONSISTENCY (n.) A very overrated and hard to achieve phenomenon. If you don't believe me, try writing a book.

CONTROL (n.) An extraordinarily rare phenomenon; it may in fact be completely illusory or even mythical. The only thing anyone ever has the slightest hope of actually controlling is their own action.

CONVENTIONAL WISDOM (n.) Generally wrong.

COUPON (n.) A device used to make stupid people think they are saving money when in fact they are actually spending money. A prime example of the basic immorality of advertising.

COURAGE (n.) The ability to act calmly and steadily even when you are pissing your pants with fear.

COURTESY (n.) A commodity that costs almost nothing, reaps tremendous benefits, yet is shat upon daily by millions.

CRAP (n.) Used to be, it was only 90% of everything. But thanks to the Internet, it's now 99.9% of everything.
"Ninety percent of everything is crap." -- Sturgeon's Law, Theodore Sturgeon

CRITIC (n.) Someone who cannot do anything well, and so sees fit to comment on everyone else.

CRITIC BASHING (n.) A form of criticism in itself. Best be careful.

CRUSADER (n.) An idiot with a cause. See also MARTYR.


CYNICISM (n.) A rather pessimistic world view which is probably inaccurate and exaggerated but is really useful in selling works such as this.

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DEATH (n.) The cost of life.

DEBAUCHERY (n.) A lot like salt; a little bit is good for you but too much is rather unhealthy.

DECENT NEIGHBORHOOD (n.) A neighborhood where the neighbors actually are nice to each other. See also NICE NEIGHBORHOOD, GENTRIFICATION.

DECENCY (n.) How well people treat each other. Period. The term has absolutely no connection whatsoever to the clothes people wear or don't wear or the language they use or don't use or the opinions they have or don't have.

DEGREE (n.) A certificate which allows one to leave school without being called a dropout. It's very useful for impressing stupid people.

DEMOCRACY (n.) A bumbling, inefficient, top-heavy form of government which almost never accomplishes anything worthwhile (and when it does it is only at tremendous cost). Democracy has one and only one redeeming quality: it is better than anything else that has ever been tried.

DEMOCRAT (n.) A useless annoying scoundrel whose primary passion is to make damn sure that rich people pay their fair share for everything. The only thing in the universe that could ever make a Republican look good.

DETERMINISM (n.) A scientific doctrine created and clung to by people who can't deal with uncertainty.

DEVIL, THE (n.) A scapegoat used to take the blame and responsibility for all our failings, all our mistakes, and all the instances we make the wrong choices. ("The Devil made me do it...")

DISCRIMINATE (v.) To make a choice. For instance, choosing not to read this book is an act of discrimination on your part. It's not whether we discriminate but rather why we discriminate that causes problems.

DOCTRINE (n.) An enormous blob of inertia that people hide behind to avoid thinking.

DOG (n.) An animal specifically designed by God to love us the way we are supposed to love each other.

DOGMA (n.) Must be stamped out at all costs!

DOUBT (n.) A sign of intelligence and intellectual honesty.

DRIVER (n.) An operator of a motor vehicle. There are 3 types of driver, the maniac, the asshole and the safe driver. A maniac drives faster than you do. An asshole drives slower than you do. A safe driver drives the exact same speed that you do.

DRUG ABUSE (n.) An activity that humankind has engaged in for the entirety of its existence. I see no reason to suppose it will ever stop.

DYING (n.) A sure-fire way for a politicians to increase their popularity. I wish more would try it.

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EATING (n.) Murder.

EDITOR (n.) 1. A synonym for censor. 2. Someone who wants to be a writer but lacks the talent. Wait a moment, what am I saying? I'm a writer trying to get a book published. Editors are the greatest people on this or any planet!

EDUCATION (n.) A process of growth which everyone goes through whether they like it or not. True teachers can facilitate, accelerate and to some extent direct this process. Educators, on the other hand, tend to think of education as some kind of commodity to be provided.

EDUCATOR (n.) A bureaucrat who thinks they're a teacher.

EFFECT (n.) An event frequently mistaken by many people for a cause. Confusing cause and effect is a premier human talent.

ELECTIONS (n.) In theory, a completely adequate and reliable method of removing bad office holders from office. In practice, a way of ensuring that bad office holders will remain in office for as long as they want.

EMPLOYEE (n.) A lazy, whining, ungrateful, incompetent, overpaid moron whose only functions seem to be to annoy you and to do as little work in as much time as possible. See also BOSS.

ENLIGHTENED SELF INTEREST (n.) The understanding that what benefits you is ultimately going to benefit me, and what harms you is ultimately going to harm me. It is the single best possible motive for action. Alas, so few people are enlightened.

ENOUGH MONEY (n.) A term with no referent. Most of us never get enough, but those who actually acquire more than they need usually convince themselves that they still need more. See money.

ENTERTAINMENT (n.) 1. The exercise of one's mind through reading, music, television, games, movies, etc. 2. The complete shut down of one's mind through reading, music, television, games, movies, etc.

ENTROPY (n.) The reason everything fails.

EQUAL (adj.) Exactly the same; identical. No two people are equal. All people are supposed to have (in our dreams) equal status.

EROTICA (n.) Pornographic material that is considered to be legitimate art. One person's erotica is another person's porn.

ESCAPISM (n.) According to many people, the discarding of real life for fantasy; more accurately, the discarding of one fantasy for another.

EVANGELIST (n.) An advertiser claiming to work for some noble cause instead of just money.

EVOLUTION (n.) A theory which seeks to explain observed changes in plant and animal species over time. Atheistic scientists and religious fundamentalists both seem to hold the rather silly idea that this somehow denies the existence of God.

EXECUTIVE (n.) A bureaucrat who works in private industry.

EXERCISE (n.) A form of torture probably invented by Torquemada; it should have been outlawed by the Geneva Convention.

EXPERIENCE (n.) What nobody learns from.

EXPERT (n.) A specialist who tends to be wrong in a spectacular fashion.

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FAILURE (n.) The end result of most endeavors.

FAIR (adj.) A term with no referent. Life would be so much easier if people simply forgot about this ridiculous and non-existent notion called "fairness." See UNFAIR.

FAITH (n.) The ability of people to recognize and deal with the fact that they have no control over anything.

FANTASY WORLD (n.) Where most of us live. People who think that little pieces of green inked paper have intrinsic value are living in the biggest fantasy of all.

FASHION (n.) 1. An obscene word beginning with 'F.' 2. An industry designed to separate people from their money without returning anything of use or value. Sort of like titty bars, but not as honest.

FEAR (n.) The feeling one gets when realizing one's own shortcomings. The root cause of any and all negative feelings we may have.

FICTION (n.) Like truth, except more believable.

FOOD (n.) Organic material from living creatures that is consumed by other living creatures in order to satisfy their energy needs. It is obviously wrong, cruel, and immoral, and any person who eats should be ashamed of themselves. See also ANIMAL RIGHTS, VEGETARIAN.

FOOL (n.) A person who does not doubt.

FREE (n.) A word much overused and abused by advertisers and marketers. Anytime someone tells you you are getting something for free, stop and count up how much money you are spending.

FREE WILL (n.) Something that I assert that I possess, either because I actually do possess it, or because it has been determined that I should assert it.

FRIEND (n.) Someone who knows most of your faults, but likes you anyway.
"Friends help you move. Good friends help you move bodies." --James Husum

FUNDAMENTALIST (n.) 1. People who thinks it's a sin to use the brain that God gave them. 2. A person who is terrified that God only loves people who kiss his ass.

FUTILE (adj.) Drug abuse laws, gun control laws, prostitution laws, abortion laws, and probably laws in general.

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GADFLY (n.) 1. A person who tries to goad people and society into actually thinking. As a general rule people do not like this; being forced to think evidently causes most people pain. Gadflies therefore tend to be swatted with regularity. Jesus, Socrates, and Martin Luther King, Jr. were all gadflies. 2. Possibly, an asshole with delusions of grandeur.

GAMBLING (n.) Life.

GENERALIST (n.) A person who knows absolutely nothing about a wide variety of subjects. See also SPECIALIST.

GENIUS (n.) A person who can use their eyes, ears, and brain at the same time. (Occurrences of people using their brain and their mouth at the same time are so exceedingly rare as to be legendary or even downright mythical.)

GENTRIFICATION (n.) The process of turning a Decent Neighborhood into a Nice Neighborhood.

GOD (n.) According to many, many people, a childish, neurotic, insecure being who craves constant attention and adoration, has a fetish for ritual, and a really unhealthy voyeuristic obsession with all of our sex lives. Actually, God is an enlightened being who would be absolutely ecstatic if we would simply start loving each other, or even just refrain from killing each other.

GOVERNMENT (n.) An institution whose primary purpose is to maintain order and keep people pacified. Government has a secondary purpose of doing actual good for society, but politicians seem to have an existential need to prevent this at any cost. Therefore what little good government actually manages to do is almost always serendipitous.

GRACE (n.) The most wonderful thing in the universe, readily available in infinite quantity. The only thing necessary to receive it is the instant willingness to give it to someone else.

GRAMMAR (n.) A set of rules that either determine how people are supposed to use language, or describe how people actually use language. Or maybe it's a combination of both. I don't know.

GREAT ART (n.) Art that is essentially inexplicable. It is invariably more than the sum of its parts, and any attempt to analyze it will only give a faint echo of its meaning.

GROWN UP (adj.) Referring to the stage of life when you stop wishing you were older than your actual age and start wishing you were younger than your actual age.

GRUDGE (n.) Something you really cannot afford; the longer you hold them the more expensive they become.

GUARANTEE (n.) A term with no referent. Most people who use the word are actually talking about the compensation they will grant when (inevitably) the infallible phenomenon they are trying to sell actually does fail.

GUN (n.) A device whose only potential use is as a weapon. Knives can cut paper or cut people. Rockets can carry humans to the moon or carry destruction to other cities. Guns, on the other hand, can only be used for violence.

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HAPPINESS (n.) A choice surprisingly few people are willing to make.

HATE (n.) The active form of fear.

HEAVEN (n.) A mental state we create for ourselves out of love. When a critical mass of people decide that it's more important to love each other than to fear each other, the world will be a paradise.

HELL (n.) A mental state we create for ourselves out of fear, hate, and insecurity.

HELP (n.) A very strange and confusing commodity. It's almost always needed, and almost always available, yet when it's needed most it's hard to find, and when it's offered most it's usually refused.

HERESY (n.) Any belief that does not accord with the prevailing religious establishment.

HERETIC (n.) Any person who thinks.

HETEROSEXUALITY (n.) Along with homosexuality, a sexual orientation that blatantly discriminates against gender.

HERO (n.) A public figure who people opt, for some arbitrary and inexplicable reason, to judge for their accomplishments instead of their failings.

HISTORY (n.) Fiction about the past made up by the prevailing political establishment. See also REVISIONIST HISTORY.

HOLIDAY (n.) Ideally, a time when no one has to work. Usually, a time when people in service industries have to work harder, often for no more pay. On Thanksgiving Day morning, when you decide you need to make a quick run to the grocery store to get some more stuffing and cranberry sauce, stop for a moment and think about what you are doing and what you are making other people do.

HOMO SAPIENS (n.) A violent animal species inhabiting the planet Sol III that may have a limited potential to someday develop some intelligence. Maybe. Possibly. Personally, I have my doubts.

HOMOPHOBE (n.) Literally, someone who fears homosexuality, but I strongly suspect that most homophobes in fact fear sex in general but have developed more tolerance for heterosexuality.

HOMOSEXUALITY (n.) Along with heterosexuality, a sexual orientation that blatantly discriminates against gender.

HONESTY (n.) The primary barrier to becoming rich.

HUMAN BEING (n.) Either, a self aware creature with the potential to exercise free will and who will always be more than just the sum of their parts; or, an automaton. I know which one I am. I'm not sure about anyone else.

HUMOR (n.) Always offensive. Show me anything you think is funny and I will show you how it's offensive.

HYPOCRITE (n.) Just about everybody at some point or another.

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I DON'T KNOW (cl.) Probably about the closest thing to an intelligent statement that's ever been made.

I THINK... (cl.) A precursor to a statement that is almost invariably wrong.

IDEOLOGY (n.) The best way to ensure that nothing useful ever gets done. A favorite tool for politicians.

IDIOT (n.) That thing which everyone hates being treated as, but no one minds acting like.

IGNORANCE (n.) A problem with a very easy solution. Unfortunately, most people are content to let the problem remain unsolved.

ILLUMINATI (n.) In literature, various small groups of people who secretly wield total power and control over the entire world. It's just fiction; they don't really exist. Really. Trust me. (Personally, I'm hoping they will offer me money to suppress this entry.)

ILLUSION (n.) What we create when a thing we need badly does not exist.

IMAGINATION (n.) The original word for virtual reality.

IMPOSSIBLE (adj.) Almost nothing; see IMPROBABLE.

IMPROBABLE (adj.) Almost everything; see IMPOSSIBLE.

INCEST (n.) 1. The consensual coupling of two (or more) blood related adults; an act of dubious morality at best. 2. The horrible, horrible crime of child molestation by an adult relative of the victim. Someone please explain to me why the same term is used to label these two related but essentially different actions.

INMATES (n.) The people running the asylum.

INOFFENSIVE HUMOR (n.) A term with no referent.

INSURANCE (n.) Legalized racketeering. Actually, I've done a lot of thinking about this definition, considering the possibility that I may have been too harsh. That insurance companies actually perform a necessary and vital service and suffer a lot of abuse from, well, people like me. So after long and careful consideration I have decided that, no, my original definition, legalized racketeering, is absolutely correct.

INTELLECTUAL (n.) An idiot with an education.

INTELLIGENCE (n.) An interesting concept. I've read about it in books, but I've never actually seen it.

INTELLIGENT DESIGN (n.) If there is anything intelligent about the design of this universe, I have yet to see it.

INTERNET (n.) An ingenious technological monstrosity which allows the spread of ignorance, fear, superstition, lying, and misinformation over the entire world at incredible speed. With each technical improvement, the noise-to-signal ratio moves ever closer to infinity.

IRONY (n.) Life.

ISM (sf.) A suffix intellectuals add to words to give the impression they know what they're talking about.

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JOURNALIST (n.) Someone who claims (and possibly even believes) to be telling the truth when in fact they're writing fiction.

JUSTICE (n.) A term with no referent. Most people use this word when they actually mean either "vengeance" or "compensation."

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KNOWLEDGE (n.) A very rare phenomena. Most people confuse it with "opinion."

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LABEL (n.) A useless and misleading symbol that everyone insists on applying to any and all objects in the universe.

LANGUAGE (n.) One of the most wonderful things in the universe, and one of the most abused.

LAWYER (n.) The larval form of a politician.

LAZINESS (n.) The ability to distinguish what is essential from what can wait.

LIBERAL (n.) Someone who believes in both individual freedom and the need for government intervention, depending entirely on which issue is in the forefront. See also CONSERVATIVE

LIBERAL BIAS (n.) The term most conservative people use whenever they encounter impartial objectivity.

LIBERALISM (n.) An emotional attitude, frequently mistaken for a sociological opinion. See also CONSERVATISM

LIBERTARIANISM (n.) An adolescent fantasy. It might work if enough people were enlightened (like that's ever going to happen).

LIBRARY (n.) Sacred ground.

LIFE (n.) 1. Uncertainty. 2. A fatal condition for which there is no cure. 3. A dreary and unending process where x transforms into y, and y transforms into z, and z transforms into x.
"Life. Don't talk to me about life." --Marvin the Paranoid Android.

LISTENING (n.) An activity done with one's mouth closed, one's ears open, and one's brain functioning, something few people can… excuse me? Is anyone there?

LOGIC (n.) A really neat method for rationally analyzing arguments, but completely useless in evaluating the worth of competing needs, regardless of what any ill informed Vulcan may tell you.
"Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." --Spock of Vulcan. Unfortunately, this isn't logic, it's simple utiltarianism.

LOVE (n.) The feeling one gets when realizing others' worth. The true root cause of any and all positive feelings we may have.

LOSER (n.) Anyone who thinks winning is everything.

LUXURY (n.) An unobtainable necessity.

LYING (n.) The true mark of self-awareness. If we ever build a computer that is actually capable of lying to us, then I will worry.

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MAGIC (n.) A term used to describe any object or process that is not readily explainable or understandable. Obviously the entire universe is magical.

MAILBOX (n.) A receptacle where other people dump their trash which you are then obligated to dispose of.

MARKETING (n.) The art of selling inferior products or services to people who don't need them at inflated prices. I must consider how to market this book.

MARRIAGE LICENSE (n.) A document from the government granting people permission to do something they need no permission to do. Completely useless.

MARTYR (n.) An idiot with a cause worth dying for.

MASTURBATION (n.) Sex without love, regardless of the number of participants.

MEDITATION (n.) The art of turning off one's own mind without having to resort to drugs, loud music, electronic media, or talking.

MEME (n.) The smallest possible unit of ignorance.

MISOGYNIST (n.) Someone who fears women.

MISTAKE (n.) 1. Something other people make. 2. Inevitable. 3. A fantastic learning tool that too often goes unused.

MISTAKEN (adj.) People who are sure of themselves.

MONEY (n.) 1. An addictive drug. The more you have, the more you need. 2. A device for storing generated energy for later use. Essentially, a battery. And batteries always leak.

MORALITY (n.) Basic respect for other peoples' rights and choices; something completely unheard of in most people who preach about morals.

MOUTH (n.) An organ whose two primary functions are to ingest food and to inhibit brain use.

MULTICULTURALISM (n.) An idea which can't be of much worth since it seems to have originated in a white, male dominated culture.

MUSCLE (n.) What people would rather use than their brain.

MYTH (n.) Like fiction, in that you can learn a great deal about life from it, but also like history, in that you have no idea if it's true or not.

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NATIVE AMERICAN (n.) A native of America, regardless of ethnic origin.

NATURAL (adj.) The entire universe and everything in it, including the so-called artificial bits.

NECESSITY (n.) The word we apply to anything that is easily and readily available.

NEW AGE (n.) A bunch of ideas that aren't very new and didn't work very well when they were originally tried.

NICE NEIGHBORHOOD (n.) A neighborhood where the neighbors are too obsessed over property values to be nice to each other. See also DECENT NEIGHBORHOOD, GENTRIFICATION

NONSENSE (n.) Almost everything you think you know.

NORMAL (adj.) When applied in math or physics, a useful concept. When applied to people, a deadly insult.

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OBSCENE (adj.) Different things to different people. Personally, I find baseball's designated hitter, panned and scanned movies, or a sports car with automatic transmission to all be obscene.

OBSOLETE (adj.) The brand new electronic device you bought just yesterday.

OFFENSIVE (adj.) Just about anything worth doing. Trust me, if you do it right, some idiot somewhere will find an excuse to take offense from it.

OFFICIAL (adj.) A meaningless buzzword that desperately needs to be deleted from the language. Its only virtue lies in its ability to impress stupid people, which is why advertisers use it so much.

OMNIPOTENCE (n.) Supposedly, power without limits. But how can one meaningfully define any power except by its limits?

ONE-HIT WONDER (n.) An artist who has exactly one more hit than 98% of all people, 99.9% of all critics, and 100% of all the fools who criticize people for being one-hit wonders.

OPEN MIND (n.) What everyone believes they have.

OPINION (n.) What most people mean when they use words like "knowledge" or "truth" or "fact."

OPTIMIST (n.) People who fail because they are too busy looking at the clouds and not paying attention to what's going on around them. See also PESSIMIST.
"The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds, and the pessimist fears that this is true." --James Branch Cabell

ORATORY (n.) The art of saying absolutely nothing in 30 minutes or more.


ORIGINAL (adj.) 1. Applying to nothing that has ever been seen since we were living in caves and banging rocks together. 2. A false concept that fools and idiots fret about.

ORTHODOXY (n.) A tool used by shepherds to keep sheep in line.

OTHER PEOPLES' TOES (n.) Things to be stepped on.

OVERWORKED AND UNDERPAID (adj.) Everyone's own self image.

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PATHETIC (adj.) Anyone who does not love this book.

PATIENCE (n.) I've tried it; it takes too long.

PERSON OF COLOR (n.) Semantically identical to "colored person" which I've always heard to be passe, outdated and perhaps even slightly derogatory. Go figure.

PESSIMIST (n.) People who fail because they are too busy staring at the ground and not paying attention to what's going on around them. See also OPTIMIST.
"The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds, and the pessimist fears that this is true." --James Branch Cabell

PHILOSOPHER (n.) 1. From Greek, "a lover of wisdom." 2. Often, a highly educated person who can't find a job.

PLAGIARIST (n.) Every creative person who's ever lived.
"Plagiarism is the first rule of scholarship." --David Eddings

PLAY (n.) Anything you do because you want to do it. See WORK.

POINT OF VIEW (n.) The difference between a genius and a fool, or a leader and a trouble maker, or a gadfly and an asshole.
"You're going to find that many of the truths that we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view." -- Obi Wan Kenobi

POLICE (n.) 1. Public servants who work very hard and put their lives at risk to protect the peace and maintain order despite little support or appreciation. 2. A gang of hoodlums who think nothing of trampling over the rights and lives of ordinary people (particularly minorities) in order to protect the rich and powerful. Don't ask me how, but both those definitions are absolutely correct.

POLICY (n.) A huge blob of inertia that people hide behind to avoid work, responsibility, or decision making.

POLITICAL CORRECTNESS (n.) A buzz term used by the cerebrally challenged.

POLITICIAN (n.) 1. A public servant who usually does exactly what the voters said they wanted done, and is of course universally reviled for doing so. Similar in that regard to a prostitute. 2. A statesman who isn't dead yet. We need to find a way to accelerate this process.

POST-RACIAL (adj.) Not there yet, not by a long shot.

PORNOGRAPHY (n.) Erotic material which is not considered to be legitimate art. One person's porn is another person's erotica.

POTENTIAL (n.) The difference between what we are capable of and what we actually achieve. Humankind has an awful lot of potential.

PREPOSITION (n.) Something you never end a sentence with.

PRIDE (n.) A word which people use all the time without seeming to understand. It is at the same time the platform for our achievements and the excuse for our mistakes. And then, instead of taking pride in their actions, people take pride in historical events, accidents of birth, or other events they literally had no hand in. Proud to be an American? Really? I'm grateful to be an American, I'm lucky to be an American, but you can't be proud of being born a certain way.

PRINCIPLES (n.) How lawyers get rich.

PRIVACY (n.) Something that does not exist despite the fact that we have an intense need for it. A lot like security in that way.

PROBLEM (n.) The fruit of yesterday's solution.

PROBLEM, THE (n.) People, usually.

PROCRASTINATION (n.) A good solution to surprisingly many problems.

PROGRESS (n.) The word we use to describe the sensation of everything whooshing by us faster and faster and faster.

PROMISE (n.) A sincere and convincing lie.

PROPAGANDA (n.) Just like advertising, except instead of lying about products or services, one lies about ideas.

PROSTITUTION (n.) Like most enterprises, an industry primarily concerned with separating idiots from their money. Throughout history, it has been stigmatized and criminalized for the sole purpose of establishing male control and leverage over the female practitioners.

PRUDE (n.) Someone who fears sex.

PUNCHLINE (n.) Invariably, an insult.

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QUESTION (v.) The first step towards intelligent thinking.

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RACISM (n.) 1. An evil demon capable of hiding in plain sight, sending out false shadows of itself so we look for it in one place while it's wreaking havoc in another, and still confounding us when we have it caught in plain sight. Its primary compulsion is to turn as many people against each other as possible. 2. Part of the basic foundation of our culture, that we have to slowly and laboriously root out.

RACIST (n.) Every person born or raised in our white, western culture. This is probably true of most other cultures as well, but my experience is too limited to be sure.

RATIONALIZATION (n.) The primary method humans use to tell truth from falsehood, right from wrong, or basically to make any important decision. The process is governed by Graeber's Three Laws of Rationalization:

  1. In making a decision, a person will defer to whichever choice is most emotionally comforting. The person will then immediately seek out a rationalization of that choice, making it seem reasonable. Really good rationalists will even believe it themselves.
  2. Law No. 1 applies to the wise and educated as much as it applies to the simple and unlearned.
  3. Law No. 1 applies to you and me as much as it applies to everyone else.
Most people understand Law No. 1 well enough, but some people are confused by Law No. 2, and no one at all seems able to handle Law No. 3.

READING (n.) A really neat practice which most people believe they can do, but actually can't. They get to the point of deciphering individual words, but when they try to put those words together the meaning still escapes them.

REALITY (n.) An interesting concept. Completely nonexistent, but still interesting.

REASONABLE (adj.) 1. Conforming to what we already believe, or would like to believe. 2. Anything that supports our prejudices.

REDUNDANCY (n.) A process used to lengthen this book and thus increase its value and hopefully its price.

REFERENT (n.) The object, idea, or concept that a word or phrase actually represents. If I define something as "a term with no referent," what that means is THERE AIN'T NO SUCH THING!

REGRET (n.) The usual end product of a decision.

RELIGION (n.) Supposedly something that binds people together. In fact it drives more people apart than anything else in the universe.

REPUBLICAN (n.) A useless annoying scoundrel whose primary passion is to make damn sure that poor people don't receive anything that they are not demonstrably and certifiably entitled to. The only thing in the universe that could ever make a Democrat look good.

RESEARCH (n.) Plagiarizing from more than one source.

RESPONSIBILITY (n.) 1. Something you shift to other people whenever possible. 2. The complement of authority.

REVENGE (n.) 1. A vain and worthless pursuit. The cost is much too high and the return is only minimal. 2. What most people mean when they use the word "justice."

REVISIONIST HISTORY (n.) New and improved fiction about the past, made up by people outside the prevailing political establishment. See also HISTORY.

RIGHTS (n.) The things that government cannot legally take away from you. In no case are they ever something that is provided for you.

RISK (n.) Life.

RITUAL (n.) A mnemonic device which has calcified over time and eventually acquired a sense of self importance.

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SACRED COW (n.) The gadfly's favorite food.

SAFETY (n.) A term with no referent.

SALESMANSHIP (n.) One step above fraud on the moral ladder.

SANITY (n.) I've tried it. It's overrated.

SCIENTIFIC CREATIONISM (n.) A doctrine which is not scientific and quite frankly not very creative.

SECURITY (n.) A term with no referent. We will cling to our illusions of security even when we know them to be illusions. Similar to privacy in that regard.

SELF DECEPTION (n.) The premier talent of every person who's ever lived (except me, of course).

SELF JUSTIFICATION (n.) The art of convincing ourselves that it really wasn't our fault despite all evidence to the contrary.

SELF PITY (n.) One of the most pleasurable feelings around. Potentially more addictive than heroin, cocaine, or even Oreo cookies.

SEX (n.) A potential source of both intense joy and tremendous pain; a way to express both love and contempt. This is why there are so many rules and taboos about it, some which are necessary and beneficial, others which are absurd, ridiculous, and outdated. I wish I could tell the difference.

SHOULD (v. aux.) A word that connotes an impossible condition.

SIGHT, THE (n.) One of several terms that have been used to denote a rare but true talent for perceiving more of the universe than is immediately present. Astrologers, psychics, numerologists, and economists all claim to have the Sight. But for every who does there are at least a thousand con artists.

SILENCE (n.) For a great many people, the most feared object in the universe, at least judging by the lengths they'll go to avoid it. For a minority, a source of great solace.

SIMPLE (adj.) What most people think the world is, but actually it's just what their minds are.

SIN (v.) To make choices and decisions for other people who are quite capable of making choices and decisions for themselves.

SKEPTICISM (n.) The closest thing there is to actual human intelligence.

SNOB (n.) One who longs for the company of equals.

SOLUTION (n.) The seed of tomorrow's problem.

SPECIAL (adj.) A word used by advertisers to convince stupid people that something simple and mundane is in fact magical and unique. It really needs to be expunged from the language.

SPECIALIST (n.) A person who knows absolutely nothing about one single narrowly defined subject. See GENERALIST, EXPERT.

SPIRITUAL (adj.) Anything that is real but not material.

STATESMAN (n.) A dead politician. We need more statesmen.

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS (n.) Pseudo-scientific inquiry that has the uncanny ability to produce whatever results the researchers are looking for.

STATISTICS (n.) Unassailable facts that are used to tell lies.
"There are lies, damn lies, and statistics!" --Mark Twain

STUPIDITY (n.) The most powerful force in the universe.
"Rascality has limits; stupidity has not." --Napoleon Bonaparte

SUCCESS (n.) A word I've used all of my life without having the slightest idea what it means.

SUCKER (n.) Anybody who shelled out good money for this piece of crap.

SUPERSTITION (n.) A certain cause of bad luck.

SURVIVALIST (n.) Someone willing to give up living in order to survive. Wait a moment, that's also a health food dieter.

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TALKING (n.) One of the primary inhibitors of proper brain use. It should be generally avoided except in the rare occasions when there is actually something worthwhile to say.

TAXES (n.) Extortion money.

TEACHER (n.) Someone who works to facilitate the education of students; not to be confused with an educator, who thinks education is some sort of commodity that can be provided.

TEMPTATION (n.) Something which generally leads to regret, whether you yield to it or not.

TEENAGER (n.) A person who believes he or she knows everything. There are some mighty old teenagers out there.

TERRORIST (n.) Someone who is willing or even eager to let someone else die for their own beliefs.

THEOLOGY (n.) 1. Fiction about God. 2. A prime example of circular reasoning.

THINKING (n.) Something that people will go to tremendous lengths to avoid doing.

TOILET (n.) The ideal meditation seat.

TOLERANCE (n.) The absence of hate. Tolerance is not the ultimate moral goal that many people think; rather, it's a very minimal standard.

TOO MUCH MONEY (n.) Is still not enough. See money.

TRUST (n.) The condition that exists between two (or more) people when neither needs anything the other has.

TRUST ME (cl.) The calling card of a liar, semantically identical to "fuck you."

TRUTH (n.) Like fiction, but not as believable.

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UNFAIR! (adj.) The scream of privileged people everywhere whenever they are minorly inconvenienced. See FAIR.

UNNATURAL (adj.) A term with no referent. See NATURAL.

UNIVERSE (n.) 1. The strange and wonderful place we call home. 2. Very possibly, an asylum for insane people from other universes. Who can say?

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VEGETARIANS (n.) People who supply their energy needs by exploiting and consuming living plants. Morally, they are no different and certainly not one whit better than meat-eaters. See also FOOD, EATING

VIOLENCE (n.) According to Isaac Asimov, the last refuge of the incompetent. Seems to me it's usually their first option.

VIRGINITY (n.) 1. A correctable condition. 2. Lack of experience. 3. Something that people get very excited and confused about for no good reason.

VIRTUAL REALITY (n.) Used to be, it was the human imagination. Nowadays it's a gadget you can go out and buy. This is progress?

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WANT (v.) To desire something so intensely that you're willing to do things you don't want to obtain it.

WAY THINGS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE, THE (cl.) The way things never are.

WHY? (adv.) Because people are stupid. I'm serious. The answer to almost any "why?" question is "because people are stupid." "Why is there war? Because people are stupid." "Why is there poverty? Because people are stupid." "Why isn't my book selling? Because people are stupid." See what I mean?

WEAPON (n.) Potentially, any object in the universe.

WISDOM (n.) 1. The realization of one's own ignorance. 2. The ability to laugh at oneself. 3. A commodity in very short supply.

WORDS (n.) Fragile seeming yet deceptively strong tools that can be used to make the most astounding and beautiful creations. Unfortunately, they are mostly used by crude idiots who have no idea what to do with them. And what lawyers do with words should be a crime.

WORK (n.) Anything you do because you have to. See PLAY.

WORRY (v.) Nothing that has ever done me any good.

WRITER (n.) A very peculiar type of attention whore.

WRITING (n.) Just like work, except it generates very little income.
“Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of-- but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.” --Robert A. Heinlein

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ZEALOT (n.) A person who won't consider the possibility of being wrong.

ZOO (n.) A facility where wild animals are penned up but humans are allowed to roam free; just one more example of how screwed up this world is.

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