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The Devil's Dictionary was begun in a weekly paper in 1881, and was continued in a desultory way at long intervals until 1906. In that
year a large part of it was published in covers with the title The Cynic's Word Book, a name which the author had not the power to reject or happiness to approve. To quote the publishers of the present work:
"This more reverent title had previously been forced upon him by the religious scruples of the last newspaper in which a part of the work had appeared, with the natural consequence that when it came out in covers the country already had been flooded by its imitators with a score of 'cynic' books - The Cynic's This, The Cynic's That, and The Cynic's t'Other. Most of these books were merely stupid, though some of them added the distinction of silliness. Among them, they brought the word 'cynic' into disfavor so deep that any book bearing it was discredited in advance of publication."
Meantime, too, some of the enterprising humorist
s of the country had helped themselves to such parts of the work as served their needs,
and many of its definitions
and so forth, had become more or less current in popular speech
. This explanation is
made, not with any pride of priority in trifle
s, but in simple denial
of possible charges of plagiarism
, which is no trifle. In merely resuming
his own the author hopes to be held guiltless by those to whom the work is addressed - enlightened souls who prefer dry wines to
sweet, sense to sentiment, wit to humor and clean English to slang.
A conspicuous, and it is hope not unpleasant, feature of the book is its abundant illustrative quotations from eminent poets, chief of
whom is that learned and ingenius cleric, Father Gassalasca Jape, S.J., whose lines bear his initials. To Father Jape's kindly
encouragement and assistance the author of the prose text is greatly indebted.