The Devil’s Guide To The 21st Century

A hundred years ago, Ambrose Bierce released his Devil’s Dictionary of definitions of the fundamentals of his world.

A lot has happened since then, so we present the Addendum to the original, the Devil’s Guide to the 21st Century.


A: Indefinite article. (See also: “Political Principles”)

Advertising: The mechanism by which a fool and his money are soon parted.

Agnosticism: Theological bet-hedging.

Airplane: The dream of gods and heroes, an airplane is a magical conveyance that allows man finally to achieve the goal of flight. So magnificent is it, in fact, that it requires the invention of a special device – the airline – to turn it into a soul-sucking cavalcade of human misery, and so re-balance the yin and yang of the universe.

Alcohol: Evolution’s accelerator pedal.

Altruism: Self-interest in full camouflage.

American football: A good run, ruined.

Astrology: Entrail-reading’s less socially awkward cousin.

Atheist: A philosophical grown-up.

Axis of Evil: A collective term for the nations of Iran, Iraq and North Korea. Any student of geography or geometry of course knows that these three countries do not form an axis of any kind. If using straight lines, they are at best an Angle of Evil. If curves are allowed into the proposition, they become an Arc of Evil. Both of these more geometrically accurate terms, however, were discarded as being insufficiently terrifying. From this we understand that while geometry may be tortuous, it is not actually evil.
That would be algebra you’re thinking of.

Baby: A young human. Also a term misapplied to foetuses, embryos and even blastocytes by those who seek to deny a woman her reproductive rights. The proof of this misapplication of course lies in the fact that humanity has bothered to come up with entirely different words for these different stages of life. By “pro-life” logic, teenagers too should be considered babies, and it should be illegal to destroy them. Clearly, that way madness lies.

Bailout: What one does to a sinking ship in a desperate attempt to avoid the inevitable.

Bank: A legalised consortium of swindlers, thieves, extortionists and torturers which somehow, against all the laws of mathematics, collectively manages to achieve a moral standard lower than that of any of its component parts.

Baseball: The least imaginative use ever made of a baseball bat.

Beck, Glenn: It is commonly believed that there are only Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. This is the result of a transcription error in the King James Bible. In reality, there are Five Horsemen – War, Famine, Pestilence, Death and Hysteria. Anyone who has watched Glenn Beck’s show knows that the Fifth Horseman is already here. Of course, most people who have watched Glenn Beck’s show rather wish that the Fourth Horseman had preceded him.

Bible, The: Proof that no matter how big or how famous an author gets, they still need a really good editor.

BFF (Best Friends Forever): A promise made by people too shallow to understand that “forever” extends beyond next week.

Blog: Device that allows people to indulge their creative impulses, without any of the usual tiresome requirements that they be interesting.

Capitalism: Economic system that gives the rights of personhood to corporations and the rights of deities to currencies, in the belief that money, if sufficiently worshipped, will reproduce.

Celebrity: An egomaniac with entertainment value.

Chocolate:  Throughout the whole of recorded history, mystics, alchemists and other assorted hippies have searched and toiled and sweated to discover the distilled elixir of life. Now available at Tesco.

Church of England: Agnosticism for the socially awkward.

Cocaine: Sugar for those with more money than sense.

Coalition: System of government expressly designed to ensure nobody gets what they actually want.

Communism: Economic and political system based on the idea that many idiots are better than one.

Compromise: A 21st century notion by which everybody loses. Originally the invention of desperate parents of multiple siblings, it was never meant to be taken seriously by anyone over the age of 8.

Cowell, Simon: The best available evidence that hell is real.

Creationism: Proof that evolution does not necessarily select for intelligence.

Credit Card: A plastic lie which guarantees not only its own discovery but also its own punishment.

Cricket: One of a handful of games that would be palpably improved by the use of live hand grenades (See also: “Pass The Parcel“)

Cynicism: Accuracy.

Debt Ceiling: The economic value of the sincerity in the statement “The check is in the mail.”

Deficit: The operating condition of world economies in the 21st century. The chief role of any government now is to decide how to spend the money they do not have.

Democracy: Mob rule with suits and slogans.

Democrat: One who believes that government exists to “make life better for everyone.” Democrats are generally mystified and really rather hurt by the fact that “everyone” doesn’t agree with them.

Dumbass: A kind of cretin who, by all logical assessment, should not be allowed to walk about in the world on his or her own, but somehow, vexingly, still is. In the early 21st century, scientists revealed research which claimed that in any modern city, one is never more than ten feet away from a dumbass.

Ecology: The idea that extinction should be avoided at all costs. Currently unsupported by large groups of people who appear to believe that, so long as everyone else dies first, they win.

Economics: A subtle combination of lies, damned lies and statistics.

Emo: A teenager entirely aware of its own pointlessness.

Evolution: “Just a theory” that has explained more in 150 years than religion has in 6,000.

Facts: Articles of heresy in the 21st century, where only competing opinions are allowed to claim validity.

Fashion: A subtle co-mixture of style and stupidity; the commoditisation of cool.

Fast Food:  If you watch chimpanzees eat, several facts become apparent. They eat with their hands, grunt and squeal unintelligibly and will, if the occasion demands it, happily ingest a mouthful of faeces.

The theory of evolution claims mankind diverged from his chimpanzee cousins some 5-7 million years ago.

Fast food restaurants prove that the theory of evolution may not be all it’s cracked up to be.

Feminism: The revolutionary idea that one half of the human population should be equal to the other. This is thought by some to be how Communism starts.

Geocaching: A hobby that used to be more simply known as Looking For Stuff. Now practised with a piece of technology that tells you Exactly Where Stuff Is.

Glamping: The co-opting of the outdoor lifestyle by people who’d be eaten first in any emergency situation. Real campers have in fact been known to engineer or indeed entirely make up such emergencies, just to get glampers to shut the hell up about how rugged and close to nature they feel (See Also “Surrey Panther”, “Bigfoot”).

Globalization: Economic system that does to indigenous cultures what a Smith & Wesson does to brains.

GPS: Global Positioning System. Billions of dollars’ worth of space hardware and in-car equipment employed to mechanize the backseat driver.

Gym: A voluntary torture chamber.

Gymnastics: Sadomasochism with a scoring system.

Healthcare: The principle that one has a right to be healed when one is sick without necessarily facing a life of unutterable penury as a result. They have this in older, less-American countries.

Homeland Security: The notion that the nation can only be truly safe once everyone’s under suspicion.

Homeopathy: Water. The assertion that homeopathic remedies are anything more than water is only made by the kind of people who would compliment the Emperor on the fineness of his clothes.

Hope: The patently groundless assertion that life will get better. Life ends in death. Any questions?

Insurance: Protection money with a smile and a free gift, just for enquiring.

Internet: The fastest method of spreading stupidity that very clever people have yet devised. This is not to be confused with the fastest way very stupid people have devised of spreading stupidity, which is known as Breeding.

iMac: The supermodel of computers – very pretty to look at but functionally illiterate.

Infomercial: An extended commercial. Strict linguists are now demanding these be referred to more accurately as “bullshimercials.”

iPad: Proof that, if left alone for long enough, even pet rocks will evolve.

Islam: A relatively immature religion, currently going through its teenage phase of slamming doors, yelling “I never asked to be manifested!” and killing thousands of people for no readily identifiable reason. Many Christians look down on Islam for this kind of behaviour, almost as if the 15th century never happened. Or the 16th century. Or the 17th. Or the…

Kindle: A device owned by those for whom “books” are too complex a concept.

Journalism: The perfect alternative to an honest living.

Large Hadron Collider: Fantastically expensive device designed to smash things together and see what happens. A technological toddler, in essence.

Lawyer: A bastardized form of “liar.”

Looting: Revolution for personal gain.

Media, “Liberal”: Media, Rational.

Microsoft: The ultimate profanity. Known euphemistically as “the M Bomb,” it is generally only used when all other linguistic ordinances have been exhausted. Sadly, the nature of 21st century work means the M Bomb can be heard in every office in the world on a daily basis. Usually around two minutes before an important meeting or deadline.

Music: Form of harmonious or melodious noise, sadly now defunct. (See also: “Cowell, Simon.”)

NASCAR: A popular American motorsport, the chief attraction of which appears to be the opportunity to watch hillbillies explode into greasy balls of flame.

National Health Service: A dead horse being quietly flogged.

Netbook: A small computer that can do everything a real notebook can. At least as long as its batteries last.

News: A concept now in terminal decline, based on the waning importance of delivering facts impartially. (See also “Wikipedia“)

Nouvelle Cuisine: The Emperor’s new dinner.

Novelist: A professional liar.

Olympics: The quadrennial celebration of a collection of sports that no one gave a flying 50-yard fuck about for the past three years and 50 weeks.

O’Reilly, Bill: Proof that 3.5 million people can be wrong after all.

Orgasm: A state of sexual pleasure, historically the province of men. Since the discovery in the 20th century that women could not only achieve this state as well as men but more often, more regularly and arguably more intensely, there have been concerted efforts by a number of male-dominated groups (organized religion, the Republican party etc) to ban women from having orgasms, and even, where possible, to redefine the female orgasm as “just a theory,” and discourage belief in it altogether.

Paintballing: What happens when accountants and middle managers are allowed to run feral.

Physics: The patient study of precisely how and why shit happens. (CF “Colonoscopy”)

Philosophy: The contemplation of the universe’s navel, and the investment of serious time and effort in trying to describe the fluff found therein.

Podcasts: The radio for lonely people.

Prayer: Supernatural plea-bargaining.

President: America has two types of president – the good ones and the bad ones. As soon as the entire nation agrees on which is which, the Rapture will occur.

Quantum Physics: The reassuring notion that the electron, the fundamental building block of all matter in the universe, really doesn’t know what the hell it is, but is very very eager to please.

Rap: Misogyny for the musically minded.

Ready Meals: Food that should come with a handful of barbiturates or a shotgun as standard.

Religion: Onanism with chanting and the occasional song. Jazz hands optional.

Republican: One who believes the government should do nothing, and have no money with which to do it.

Resumé: A structured lie.

Romance: Man’s most effective sexual lubricant. Also, in the long run, his most expensive. It is possible there is some sort of mystical connection between these two facts.

Roe v. Wade: A ruling that secures the right of a woman to abort a foetus once she realizes she slept with a moron the night before. Oddly, this is opposed by many people whose mothers could probably have made productive use of the law.

Search Engine: Device that makes actual searching entirely obsolete. Should more accurately be described as a command engine. Or a genie.

Secretary: One whose job it is to remember where, and in how many pieces, their boss has left his brain. (See also: “Smartphone.”)

Skiing: Russian roulette with geography.

Smartphone: A device, slightly larger than the average penis, that has more processing power than the male brain. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that many men have made a switch and started thinking with their smartphones.

Sobriety: State of being which allows one to see things as they actually are. The history of mankind has been one long flight from such a ghastly prospect.

Social networking: Online system that allows people who are very clearly antisocial to convince themselves they really have friends.

Staycation: The fashionable name for sitting your poor ass on the couch.

Tea Party, The: The reason your parents are always telling you to get an education (See Also, UKIP).

Televangelist: Con man with a really large bullhorn.

Textspeak (also, txtspk): A language understood only by teenagers and some advanced forms of bacteria.

TiVo: Device that allows you to record television programmes you didn’t care enough about to watch and store them so you can not watch them over and over and over again.

Trump, Donald: There are some people (See “Palin, Sarah” and “Miss World”) who when you look at them instinctively make you think “If they had a brain, they’d be dangerous.” Donald Trump is the proof that yes, they really would.

TV: A device installed in nearly every 21st century home, with the express purpose of lying to us. This can be highly entertaining, but should not under any circumstances be taken seriously.

Twitter: Website where those who can only be interesting or funny for 140 characters or fewer gather to convince themselves they have wit.

Vibrator: A girl’s new best friend.

Walmart: Ultimate 21st century practitioner of the Find The Lady trick, the “lady” in this case being sweatshop production labour, de-unionised store labour, minimum-wage exploitation and shoddy product quality. But ooh, look, sneakers for a dollar ninety-five. How do they do that?

Weiner: American slang term for the penis. Also the name of a politician forced to resign after sending pictures of his penis to a woman on the internet. This was the day satire spontaneously combusted in America.

Wii: A device that lets you have virtual fun, for people too lazy for the real thing.

Wikipedia: It has long been asserted that a thousand monkeys with a thousand typewriters would eventually produce the Complete Works of Shakespeare. Wikipedia has finally disproved this theory.

WMDs: Weapons of mass destruction. In the 21st century, these were discovered to be not only invisible but actually nonexistent.

Xenophobia: Equal-opportunity ignorance (See “BNP”).

YouTube: What happens when the Internet and the movies don’t exactly love each other very much but occasionally get together for a sleazy booty call in a back alley somewhere.

Zeitgeist: The pinnacle of currency and “cool.” In the 21st century, we have reduced the duration of the zeitgeist from Andy Warhol’s “fifteen minutes” to something closer to twelve seconds – and counting. Indeed, among young people in the 21st century, the zeitgeist is now achieving a half-life of mere nanoseconds, allowing the notion that something that is “soooo fifteen minutes ago” has long outlived its moment in the collective attention span.