Tuesday, August 28, 2007


EDITOR, n. A person who combines the judicial functions of Minos, Rhadamanthus and Aeacus, but is placable with an obolus; a severely virtuous censor, but so charitable withal that he tolerates the virtues of others and the vices of himself; who flings about him the splintering lightning and sturdy thunders of admonition till he resembles a bunch of firecrackers petulantly uttering his mind at the tail of a dog; then straightway murmurs a mild, melodious lay, soft as the cooing of a donkey intoning its prayer to the evening star. Master of mysteries and lord of law, high-pinnacled upon the throne of thought, his face suffused with the dim splendors of the Transfiguration, his legs intertwisted and his tongue a-cheek, the editor spills his will along the paper and cuts it off in lengths to suit. And at intervals from behind the veil of the temple is heard the voice of the foreman demanding three inches of wit and six lines of religious meditation, or bidding him turn off the wisdom and whack up some pathos.

O, the Lord of Law on the Throne of Thought,
A gilded impostor is he.
Of shreds and patches his robes are wrought,
His crown is brass,
Himself an ass,
And his power is fiddle-dee-dee.
Prankily, crankily prating of naught,
Silly old quilly old Monarch of Thought.
Public opinion's camp-follower he,
Thundering, blundering, plundering free.
Respected contemporaree!
—J.H. Bumbleshook

2007 Update:  A terse macaw among long-winded owls.  


Minka said...

editor,n. the first one ever was God:

God gave a long, hard look at Adam and thought to himself: "I know I can do better than this". To Adam he announced: "Give me a rib, son!"

puppybrose said...

Minka: *claps* hah! i have to say, that was even better than Doug's update (which was most excellent) ; )

puppybrose said...

Knock, knock.

Who's there?


Editor, who?

Ah'm so goshdarn hungry, if that ol' horse o' your'n died right now, editor.

"old" cowboy joke (that i may have just made up).

Omnipotent Poobah said...

editer-One who corrects bad spelling and typographical errers//

puppybrose said...

Knock, knock.

Who's there?


Macaw, who?

Macaw's broke down. Owl's about lending me yours?

(help! i've fallen in a pile of bad knock knock jokes, and i can't get up. where's a good editor when i need one? or a muzzle, for that matter...?)

tsduff said...

Who the heck are you calling a macaw? caw caw... I'm never terse neither...

"Hurry Puppy, here's a hand up" *holds out a wing*

tsduff said...

Editor: The guy with the red pen.

Mo'a said...

Editor: Age and experience.

I Dive At Night said...

Mr. Bierce has issues with editors, no?

And Doug, you seem to be saying the whole biz is "fowl".

Doug said...

Minka, you see what happens you rewrite in barbecue sauce.

Neva, it's a new old cowboy joke to this old cowboy, but you know I have a thing for knock knock jokes and that was a fine one.

Poobah, and blechs them for that.

Neva, that was one of the best ever.

Terry, I would never accuse a crow of macawdom. Bird of a different feather.

Mo'a, that was beautiful. Amen.

Morgan, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck...

TLP said...

Editor: What Ambrose needed on that one.

Your update: very good.

Editor: someone to write fowl letters to. (And who would edit that to read, "Someone to whom one might write foul letters.")

karma said...

Douglas, you need to edit your definition, it's far too long (winded) so i sped-read.

what's with all the bird talk here? a hand in the bush is worth two birds out of hand, i'll say

sxtfnskx: sex 4 skunks

Jamie Dawn said...

Bierce's "a severely virtuous censor" plus your update equals brilliance.
TLP is right. Bierce needed some editing. His "a severely virtuous censor" was perfect, but the rest was overkill.
Luckily, you have the gift of getting to the point.

the amoeba said...

No writer ever born, made, or spontaneously generated has truly appreciated the services of an editor. The principal purpose of fame and fortune among authors is to obtain the power to consign the editor to perdition.

Robert Heinlein did it, which is how come his later books are so perverted.

Victor Hugo did it, which is how come he got away with Les misérables - all 1400 pages of it.

And then there's this guy whose initials came, for a generation of San Francisco lesser literary lights, to stand for "Almighty God Bierce". I mean, since when does God ..."?

If an editor's responsible for an edition, does one blame perdition on a perditor?

puppybrose said...

*takes hold of extended wing/steps out of "bad joke pile"/dusts off punny smelling stuff* Thanks, Terry!

i just guessing, but surely Larry McMurtry would have used that first dumb joke, Shirley, had he thought of it and/or his editor hadn't discouraged Knock, Knockery. (or not)

Theresa said...

Editor: someone who separates the wheat from the chaff and then prints the chaff. (okay, it's not mine, it's really Adlai Stevenson's, but it was too good to pass up)


Editor: A frustrated writer.

I think Minka had the best definition of all.

ariel said...

editor, not friend

Jim said...

Knock, knock

Who's there?

J.H. Bumbleshook

J.H. Bumbleshook who?

I had to Google him

So, J.H. Bumbleshook who again?

He's the guy, well, Google said "Ambrose Bierce used the phrase to help define ‘editor’ in The Devil’s Dictionary, by supplying a poem by “J.H. Bumbleshook”"

Editor: The editor can edit the above if he/she wishes.

goldennib said...

I would say something disparaging about editors but I sure would like to have one some day, so I will say, "Editors have a thankless job and are the most wonderful people in the world."

; D

The Boy from S.A.C.A.D.A. said...

A Editer is somone who cant abreva-ate his own name.

Logophile said...

Devil or god, depending on which side of the red pen I am.

actonbell said...

Bierce's tongue was definitely a-cheek:) Great update, Doug.

(Ahhh, Gabriel Garcia. I was expecting one of Bierce's short stories.)

Miz BoheMia said...

Ha, ha, haaa! Brilliant! So, to follow your line of logic...

Editor... an absent presence in the land of BoheMia!

Doug said...

TLP, Someone to whom one might send marshmallows, is what my editor said.

Karma, I'm sure I don't follow the metaphor. Maybe it's Indiosyncratic.

JD, my best guess is he was being ironic but shouldn't have been. Some of his definitions are pages long.

Amoeba, who but the losers are ever blamed for the loss.

Neva, I've read only about a dozen or so of McMurtry's novels. That must have been in the other one.

Theresa, that was well worth quoting.

Ariel, you still read this site?

Jim, for background, Bierce used to write poems to illustrate his definitions and attribute them to fictional people or real people fictionally. In the spirit of the page, I do the same. When you see something like
"He loved her with an ardor, such a hot one
That her daddy had to guard her with a shotgun
-Ovid," don't believe the citation.

Haha, Nessa. Yeah, you and Pia better be sweet today.

The poor fool, SACADA -Ed.

Logo, I go by whether they do the retyping.

Actonbell, see how I got ya there? Had to get up pretty early, but I did'er.

Miz B, if I win the lottery, I'm buying you one or more.

cooper said...

Sometimes I just have to read and enjoy. You can't expect me to work all the time can you?

Minka had a winner, and we are getting Mizzy B a theme editor, so I can view her blog without the template editor.

The OE said...

Editor: A giant green monster from a classic Japanese movie that spits out edamame peas at supersonic speeds. "Mothra was knocked out when Editor hit him in the head with a giant soy pea"

Hobbes said...

Editor: obsolete. This term has been replaced with "marketer" in current usage, as Bumblestock's "Public opinion's camp-follower" adumbrates.

Doug said...

Cooper, relax and think of this as tiyr conservatory.

OE, you're working for us, right?

Hobbes, just when I'm getting over proud of my vocabulary, a stuffed animal sends me scrambling for a dictionary.