The original Dictionary was not published during Flaubert’s lifetime, but since 1911 it has been a guide for right-thinking people everywhere. It has recently become clear, however, that this wondrous reference, while still full of eternal wisdom, is falling behind the times. Social situations have arisen of which Flaubert could not have dreamed, while others have fallen away, and now as then the good citizen needs an aide for those tricky moments in life when saying or thinking the wrong thing could lead to social disaster.
Moreover, despite the deep wisdom which Flaubert’s Dictionary contains, it must also be said that great steps forward have been made since his time in the field of lexicography. As Borges said, “the roots of language are irrational and of a magical nature.” We now know that the prescriptive approach to language is flawed, for the laws of language are merely contingent. They can and do and must change. Rather than Flaubert’s prescriptive approach—which is, at its heart, a mere reflection of the anti-democratic spirit of his time—the editors of this new edition have used a descriptive approach. Some of the terms have been defined in multiple ways. The reader herself will have to decide which of the possible uses of a given term is applicable in any given social situation. Although this makes this dictionary slightly less user-friendly, it is a necessary corrective for the earlier dictionary’s oppressive presumption that words mean something in particular.
Within definitions, words printed in italics refer to words, or forms thereof, defined elsewhere in the dictionary. Definitions printed with an asterisk are taken from Flaubert’s original dictionary. Within these definitions, alterations are within square brackets.
A (grade): B.
Abortion: defend it hysterically.
Achilles: character played by Brad Pitt.
Actor: “~ slash shamanic healer.”
Academic: i) pointless. ii) the greatest danger to civilization.
Addiction: all ~ is genetically caused.
Agnostic: less likely to offend than “atheistic.”
Alcoholism: only practiced in public by teenagers and the homeless.
Ambition: good in businesspeople, bad in politicians, absent in teenagers.
America: praise the idea of it, without defining the idea too closely. Full of perverts.
Anger: i) “your ~ is a gift.” ii) must be managed.
Anglo-Saxons (in France): dangerously cosmopolitan neo-conservatives.
Antiques: i) reminder of a simpler, more authentic age. ii) profitable.
Architecture, modern: disrupts local communities.
Architecture, postmodern: honors the colorful, irrational past.
Argument: there are always at least two sides.
Army: “I don’t support the war, but we must support our troops.”
Art, classical: “how would you like that in your living room?!”
Art, modern: fail to understand it.
Art, postmodern: the death of Western civilization.
Artist: i) praise her as a thorn in the side of the oppressor. ii) praise her willingness to sell her work to companies for use as decoration.
Asia: produces great mathematicians. Note the power of positive stereotypes.
Astrology: “well, there’s something to it, I’m sure.”
Attention span: to those who have one, regret losing yours; to those who don’t, mock those who do.
Back: always hurts.
*Baldness: always “premature,” caused by youthful excesses—or by the hatching of great thoughts. [“Actually, ~ is caused by excess testosterone!”]
Barbers: regret their replacement by hairdressers.
*Basis (of society): property, the family, religion, respect for authority. Show anger if these are impugned.
Beard: a common symbol of individuality.
Beef: full of protein and iron. “Succulent.” “This ~ melts in your mouth!”
Beethoven: DUM DUM DUM DAH!!!!! DUM … DUM … DUM … DAH!!!!!!!!!
Bible: should match your outfit.
*Bird: aspire to become one, saying with a sigh: “Oh, for a pair of wings! Wings!”—it shows a poetic soul.
Black: “some of my best friends are ~.” Mock people who say “some of my best friends are ~.”
Blues, the: only blind people can play ~.
Book: declare that you have never read one, it shows you have a personality.
Bourgeoisie: regret its passing.
Braces: human teeth require ~.
Bread, brown: a sign of culture. “But historically, ~ was food for the impoverished.”
Bread, white: a sign of vulgarity. “But historically, ~ was food for the upper classes.”
Bridge (in billiards): using it marks you as less than a man.
Buddhism: praise it as a religion without God.
Budget: try to ensure that your opponent’s ~ doesn’t pass.
Burial: prefer your ~ to be unconventional, particularly, e.g., scattering your ashes into water.
*Business: comes first … The most important thing in life. Be-all and end-all.
Butchers: word only used in the context of war crimes.
Cancer: “we must find a cure.” This cure is the most important task of our time.
Casualties: strikes a better note than “dead soldiers.”
Catholicism: criticize its authoritarianism. Against the democratic spirit.
Champagne: note that it is not a drink, but a region. “Champagne coupes were designed by Napoleon to mimic his wife’s breasts!”
Change: only discussed in the context of regimes.
*Chiaroscuro: no one knows what this means.
Child pornography: the greatest evil of all time other than Hitler.
Children: hate them.
Christianity: admire Jesus Christ, but reject organized religion.
Churches: admire ~ as objects of beauty, their “ambience.” Regret their religious function.
*Cigars: the only good ~ are smuggled in.
Circus: i) symbol of freedom; “I always wanted to run away and join the ~.” ii) full of freaks.
Classes: have been eliminated.
Class, lower: adjective referring to unsuitable behavior.
Class, middle: you belong to it.
Class, upper middle: don’t be like this.
Class, upper: all newvo rishe.
Classical: any music produced by an orchestra, chamber ensemble, etc. Fail to understand it.
Classics, the: force of oppression. Know enough to despise ~: “Plato was an authoritarian.” “Aristotle condoned slavery.” “Wordsworth became a reactionary.” If a classic is mentioned which you don’t know, pronounce the author i) anti-Semitic, ii) phallologocentric.
Cleansing: the highest compliment one can pay to any food, drink or ethnicity.
Coffee: be addicted to it.
College: i) major in something useful like finance. ii) the greatest time of your life.
Colonies, ex-: i) are slowly overcoming the incompetence of empire. ii) note that things were worse before empire.
Comedy: contemporary ~ is callow and vulgar. The ~ of previous ages was a biting political attack on reason in the spirit of democracy.
Comedies, romantic: express fondness for ~ when around women.
Communism: the end result of health care. The USSR proves that it’ll never work.
Competition: the source of our creative energies.
Congratulations: for anything other than the most routine event, requires an e-card.
Consensus: agree that it can’t happen.
Conservative: i) liberal. ii) conservative. iii) fascist.
Constitution, the American: immutable foundation of our great society.
Conversation: “~ is a lost art, I’m afraid.” Blame electronic media.
Creative non-fiction: most significant form of literature in our time.
Creativity: refuse to let yours be ruined. Get in touch with it in middle age.
Critic: reject her ideas, since she never has any suggestions for what we should do.
Darwin: i) always right. ii) always wrong.
Days: always take ~ one at a time.
Debt: i) public ~ is inexcusable; private ~ drives the economy. ii) public ~ drives the economy; private ~ is a failure of social safety nets.
Deconstruction: i) any kind of analysis or investigation of anything at all. ii) tool of the devil.
Defeat: be gracious in ~.
Democracy: “the cure for ~ is more ~.”
Dentists: show great fear of ~.
Dentures: inexhaustible source of comedy.
*Descartes: cogito ergo sum. [Attack him as the origin of dualism, the root of all evil.]
Dessert: you must either have a “sweet tooth,” or abstain altogether.
Diamonds: only compressed coal. Forever. A girl’s best friend. Compare their use-value to water’s.
Dictionary: now available online, like encyclopedias.
Diplomas: are available for anything.
Divorce: one in two marriages ends in ~.
Documentary style (of movies): expresses all emotions authentically.
Dolphins: i) smartest animal other than us. ii) rapists.
Down-time: best spent working.
Duties: an obsolete concept, replaced by rights.
Economics: actually explains everything.
Economy, the: completely incomprehensible.
Elites: people who read books and/or work in the media.
Empires: oppose all ~. Almost always “evil ~”.
Encore: you must cheer louder or they may not come back!
England: land of neo-liberal orthodoxy, financial turmoil, beautiful tradition, bad teeth, perverts.
Evacuation: always immediate.
Evo-psych: explains all action.
*Exception: say that it proves the rule, but don’t venture to explain how.
Exercise: occurs at a private gym.
Family: generally holding you back from achieving your potential.
Farm animals: sexual innuendo.
Farmers: the source of all that is good in the world. Must be protected from taxation.
Fascist: anyone who disagrees with you is a ~.
Feminism: Unnecessary now that women are acknowledged to be equal to men.
Fertility: inversely related to wealth.
*Feudalism: no need to have any clear idea of what it was, but criticize it lustily.
Fetus: i) person. ii) not a person.
Food: don’t eat ~ to live; live to eat ~!
Fossil: i) proof of the flood. ii) proof of evolution.
Founding Fathers, the: spend much time deciding if ~ were Christian, Agnostic or Atheistic. i) slave owners. ii) political geniuses.
France: i) “we saved their yellowbellied asses in World War II.” ii) “we didn’t want to, but were forced to by a liberal government.”
Freedom: i) the ability to choose between laxative brands at a pharmacy. ii) doesn’t exist.
Free trade: i) its presence the cause of all good in the world. ii) its presence the cause of all poverty.
Fruit: know what is in season, it shows your sophistication.
Fugue: excellent metaphor for any difficult book or movie.
Fur: a sign of great wealth among the poor.
Fusion, atomic: will solve all of our problems when it eventually happens. “Imagine, fusion-powered cars!”
Garlic: healthy, but its use must be covered up with breath mints.
Gay: “Some of my best friends are ~.” Mock those who say “Some of my best friends are ~.”
Geisha: admire her memoirs.
Gene: each one causes a specific human behavior, thus, e.g., the gay gene, the alcoholic gene, the cancer gene.
Genius: “there are no true geniuses left!”
Gentleman: a generally decent man.
Gibberish: the languages that non-Europeans speak.
Gift: i) it’s the thought that counts. ii) basis of the economy.
Global warming: economically harmful.
“Global warming”: conspiracy among liberals to harm the economy.
Good, the: outmoded idea.
Good, doing: actions on the basis of an unfashionable belief in an outmoded idea.
Gordian Knot: solved by cutting; no need to know how it was tied.
Government: i) prefer it small, except with regard to morals. ii) prefer it large, except with regard to morals.
Greek: i) “it’s all ~ to me!” ii) root of our civilization.
Group: wiser than the individual.
Guerrillas: the army must be recomposed in order to deal with ~.
Hair: really a political issue.
Hamlet: over-identify with him.
Hammock: the symbol of all leisure.
Health care, national: i) decry the public option ii) express amazement that the U.S. does not have it.
Heat: “it’s not so much the ~ as the humidity.”
Hedge funds: even their manager don’t understand ~.
*Hemorrhoids: (i) come from sitting on stoves and stone benches. [(ii) hilarious.]
Henry VIII: had many wives.
*Hiccups: to cure, place a large key in the middle of the back, or cause fright.
Hitler: absolute evil. Can be used to win any argument.
Horn: call saxophones horns.
Hostilities: strikes a better note than “fights,” “battles” or “wars.”
Human nature: evolved in order to produce the chemicals adenosine, cytokine, thyme and guano.
Hunting: cause of all evil. Express amazement that one could kill an animal which lives wild and free.
Hygiene: our savior.
Hysteria: a conspiracy of the system designed to oppress women.
Idealism: leads to war.
Ideology: its time is through.
*Idiots: those who think differently than you.
Images: there’s nothing else.
Imagination: its time is through.
Immigration: must be reduced.
Imports: refuse to buy ~, since they harm the nation’s economy.
Individual: be just quirky enough to be called a “true ~”.
Industry: its time is through.
Innate ideas: proven by the existence of language.
Innocence: bemoan its corruption.
Innovation: always accomplished by an individual acting out of self-interest.
*Instinct: substitute for intellect.
Integrity: whenever accused of anything, assert your ~.
Intellect: unmeasurable. To claim that some are more intelligent than others is borderline racism.
Intellectuals: their time is through.
Internet: “I’m addicted to the ~, I swear!”
Japan: full of perverts.
Jargon: is never necessary. Just a way for elites to keep us from understanding what they’re saying.
Jealous: be ~ of your lover, it’s a sign of passion.
Jews: don’t refer to ~ in any way at all ever.
Justice: roll your eyes at it.
Koran: i) treating it with respect is a sign of cowardice and defeatism. ii) treating it without respect is the sign of a narrow mind. iii) have not read it.
Korea: the new Japan.
Ladies: i) “~ first … I guess that leaves you out, doesn’t it!” ii) find some reason to object to the term’s use at all.
Languages (foreign): i) ignorance of ~ is the greatest of all crimes. ii) completely useless, since everyone speaks English.
Latin: is making a comeback! Mention the Vatican man who teaches people to speak it.
Laurels: refuse to rest on ~, despite not knowing what they are.
Law, the: profitable.
Lawyers: mock ~, but want your children to become them.
*Learned, the: make fun of. All it takes to be learned is a good memory and hard work.
*Learning: despise it as the sign of a narrow mind. Let on that you have a fair share. The common people do not need it to earn their daily bread.
Left-handedness: once a sign of diabolism; now a sign of creativity.
Lent: refuse to give up anything.
Liberal: i) socialist. ii) liberal. iii) conservative.
Libertarian: be one. Denounce all government by the people in favor of government by the market.
Liberty (economic): praise it.
Liberty (moral): deplore it.
Library: never visit one.
*Literature: occupation of idlers.
Locke: bring up “mingling labor.”
Luck: make your own.
*Machiavelli: i) do not read, but regard him as a scoundrel. [ii) “read ~ if working in business.”]
Malthus: proves the stupidity of environmentalism.
Make-up: use as much as possible in order to look natural.
Martyr: don’t be one: it’s irritating.
Marx: i) Lenin. ii) Stalin.
Materialism: favor it, both socially and scientifically.
Mathematics: fail to understand it.
Mattress: know at least one person who doesn’t use one.
Medical students: completely antisocial party animals.
Melancholy: must be cured with pills.
Memoir: the most significant form of creative non-fiction, especially the “food ~.”
Men: where have all the real ~ gone?
Men, black: their aggression is vulgar. Note the percentage of ~ in prison.
Men, white: i) source of all that is wrong with the world. ii) the most oppressed of all minorities.
Metaphors: always mixed.
*Metaphysics: laugh at it. This is proof of your superior intellect.
Method: destroys creativity.
Mexico: where criminals go; where workmen come from.
Milk: only drink it raw or fat-free. Anything else is dangerous to your health.
Minorities: ensure you belong to at least two.
Money: “can’t buy you happiness,” according to those who have enough to buy themselves food, clothing, shelter and iPods.
*Monopoly (state): thunder against.
Monopoly (private): praise the genius of the successful entrepreneur.
Morality: raise your eyebrows if anyone says this seriously.
Movies: say “films.”
Movies, action: express fondness for ~ when around men.
Movies, silent: express fondness for ~ when around intellectuals.
Music, jazz: i) “it’s the notes they don’t play that matter.” ii) for elevators.
Music, modern: it’s just noise.
Music, popular: buy albums by authentic musicians, not commercial garbage.
Mussolini: not as bad as Hitler: he made the trains run on time.
Mustache: either ironic or Eastern European.
Nature: must be conserved, except when it comes in the form of reptiles, arachnids, etc.
Neighbor: love thy ~, provided you live in the suburbs.
Newspapers: bemoan their dying. Never be seen reading one unless on a Kindle or iPhone.
Newspaper websites: post at least one article per day on your Facebook feed.
Novels: dying out. Replaced by the memoir.
Obama: i) has raised America’s prestige by being, not doing, something. ii) that something is Jesus. iii) that something is Muhammad.
Olive oil: good fat.
Open mind: easily polluted.
Opera: reactionary art form. Anti-Semitic.
*Optimist: synonym for idiot.
Orchestra: regardless of the quality of the performance, give a standing ovation.
Order, Law and: i) television show. ii) political platform.
Orgasms, multiple: wish men could have ~ too.
Orientalism: i) interest in and knowledge of Asian cultures and societies. ii) horrific sin.
Original: there isn’t one.
Ostrich: anyone who disagrees with the facts that you know.
Pantheism: very spiritual.
Paradox: anything which is not immediately obvious.
Pascal: his wager is a legitimate argument for religious faith.
Passive, the: the quality of your mind is shown by your use of it.
Pederast: should be shot.
Philosophy: very difficult. Protest that it is all over your head.
Pilates: back in style, Asian-style!
Pimples: disease caused by genetics. Require sophisticated medical attention.
Pirates: back in style!
Pleasant: if a man is ~ to a woman, he is trying to sleep with her.
Poetry: never read it.
Police: “the thin blue line.” If the subject is raised, discuss television shows. Dismiss the idea that your child would become a ~woman.
Politics: i) the engineering of reality. ii) in ~, policy is dictated by reality.
Pornography: i) a form of free speech which must be defended. ii) a picture of the oppression of women.
Pornography, jargon of: e.g. DP,TP, fluffer, wood. Pretend you know what it all means, it shows you have an open mind.
Poverty: no longer exists, except in religious countries.
Power: is omnipresent. “The only thing to do is to care for one’s self.”
Pregnancy: i) a complicated procedure requiring much medical attention and study. ii) a beautiful process leading us back to our wonder at nature.
Priests: all perverted or gay. Choose one to except from this status: “If all priests were like Father Fred, I’d go to church every day!”
Print: has had its day.
*Property: one of the foundations of society. More sacred than religion.
Prostitutes: i) all forced into their trade by poverty and patriarchy. ii) all immensely rich.
Protection: retards growth of something or other.
Pyramid scheme: express astonishment that anyone could fall for it.
Quirkiness: an acceptable deviation.
Radical: i) socialist. ii) fascist. iii) groovy.
Reason: leads to fascism.
Recession: i) theoretically impossible given rational actors and a properly functioning market. ii) theoretically inevitable given rational actors and a properly functioning market.
Religion: i) the source of all oppression. ii) “~ holds the community together.”
*Republicans: the ~ are not all scoundrels, but all scoundrels are ~.
Revolution, American: greatest triumph of humanity.
Revolution, French: nothing but revolting bloodshed and hatred of the successful.
Revolution, Russian: like the French Revolution, but worse.
Rights: i) self-evident, inalienable. Backbone of our civilization. ii) have all the reality of a unicorn.
Rousseau: believed that all people were essentially good. His ideas led to the Revolution, French.
Routine: boring. Rather than have a ~, you should have a flow.
Sacrilegious: adjective used to describe the actions of those who disagree with you.
Science: able to solve all of mankind’s problems.
Seaside: express atavistic longing for it.
Self, your: find it, get in touch with it, do it.
Semite: never used without “anti-,” except in “Actually, a Semite is anyone from southwest Asia.”
Sex: i) makes life worthwhile. ii) source of all woe.
Sin: i) passed on through sexual intercourse. ii) concept designed by The Man to keep you down.
Sleep: note the high percentage of adults who don’t get enough.
Socialism: i) [U.S.:] the governmental form in Canada and Great Britain. ii) fascism.
Society: does not exist. There are only individuals.
South, the: awaiting the next war of Northern Aggression.
Speech, freedom of: put a great deal of thought into this difficult and important issue.
Spinoza: i) radical reformed Jewish philosopher and optician who introduced the world to liberty, equality and the American way. ii) utterly incomprehensible.
Spirit, human: more important than money.
Spiritual: a ~ person feels a need for religion but is rebelling against her parents.
Stag party: make jokes about strippers, but don’t have the courage to hire any.
Stallion: always a person, never a horse.
Suburbs: express terror at the idea that you will certainly end up living in one.
System, the: eo ipso oppressive.
Taste: to have ~ is a sure sign that you are a reactionary.
Taxation: destroyer of humanity.
Teenagers: superseded by tweeners as a market force.
Teeth: absolutely positively must be completely white, or you will never graduate, get a job or a sexual partner.
Television shows: be obsessed with at least one.
Theory: never have a ~ about anything, except ironically. Praise common sense.
Therapy: refers to any method which allows us to realize that a problem is not a problem at all.
*Thinking: painful. Things which compel us to think are generally neglected.
*Toys: should always be educational.
Tourism: makes you a better person, and also bolsters the economies of poor nations.
Tweeners: superseded by preschoolers as a market force.
Vaccine: cause of more diseases than it prevents.
Values: something had by and of families.
Vegetarian: note that Hitler was ~.
Vocalized: sounds better than “said.”
Wagner: “I love the smell of napalm in the morning!” Anti- Semite.
War: i) “what is it good for?” ii) praise defensive ~.
Water: i) the stuff of life. ii) can be improved with various colorings and flavorings.
*Wealth: a substitute for everything, even reputation.
White people: mock what ~ like, particularly their ideals.
Windmills: i) will save the world. ii) a blight on the landscape.
Wine: its quality can be judged by its alcohol content and price. Both should be high.
Wit: shows a lack both of gravitas and of depth.
Women: equal to men in every way except physical strength, traditional intelligence, mathematical intelligence, spatial awareness and income.
Women, white: all repressed.
*Workman: always honest, unless he is rioting.
World War II: = the Holocaust.
Writer: “everyone is a ~ these days.”
*Written, well: an [office-worker’s] phrase to describe the [television shows] she finds entertaining.
Image credit: “The Head Ache, A Print after George Cruikshank” by Enrique Chagoya, 2010.