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Ambrose Bierce The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


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QUEEN, n. A woman by whom the realm is ruled when there is a king, and through whom it is ruled when there is not.

QUILL, n. An implement of torture yielded by a goose and commonly wielded by an ass. This use of the quill is now obsolete, but its modern equivalent, the steel pen, is wielded by the same everlasting Presence.

QUIVER, n. A portable sheath in which the ancient statesman and the aboriginal lawyer carried their lighter arguments.

He extracted from his quiver,

Did the controversial Roman,

An argument well fitted
To the question as submitted,

Then addressed it to the liver,

Of the unpersuaded foeman.

      —Oglum P. Boomp

QUIXOTIC, adj. Absurdly chivalric, like Don Quixote. An insight into the beauty and excellence of this incomparable adjective is unhappily denied to him who has the misfortune to know that the gentleman's name is pronounced Ke-ho-tay.

When ignorance from out of our lives can banish
Philology, 'tis folly to know Spanish.

      —Juan Smith

QUORUM, n. A sufficient number of members of a deliberative body to have their own way and their own way of having it. In the United States Senate a quorum consists of the chairman of the Committee on Finance and a messenger from the White House; in the House of Representatives, of the Speaker and the devil.

QUOTATION, n. The act of repeating erroneously the words of another. The words erroneously repeated.

Intent on making his quotation truer,

He sought the page infallible of Brewer,

Then made a solemn vow that we would be
Condemned eternally. Ah, me, ah, me!

      —Stumpo Gaker

QUOTIENT, n. A number showing how many times a sum of money belonging to one person is contained in the pocket of another—usually about as many times as it can be got there.


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