The Devil's Dictionary [NOOK Book]

Overview

History, n. an account mostly false, of events mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers mostly knaves, and soldiers mostly fools. Marriage, n. The state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress, and two slaves, making in all two. Self-Esteem, n. An erroneous appraisement. These caustic aphorisms, collected in The Devil's Dictionary, helped earn reporter Ambrose Bierce the epithet's Bitter Bierce, the Devil's Lexicographer, and the Wickedest Man in San Francisco. First published ...
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The Devil's Dictionary

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Overview

History, n. an account mostly false, of events mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers mostly knaves, and soldiers mostly fools. Marriage, n. The state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress, and two slaves, making in all two. Self-Esteem, n. An erroneous appraisement. These caustic aphorisms, collected in The Devil's Dictionary, helped earn reporter Ambrose Bierce the epithet's Bitter Bierce, the Devil's Lexicographer, and the Wickedest Man in San Francisco. First published as The Cynic's Word Book 1906 and later reissued under its preferred title in 1911, Bierce's notorious collection of barbed definitions forcibly contradicts Samuel Johnson's earlier definition of a lexicographer as a harmless drudge.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This enjoyable abridgment is an updated version of a classic lexicon by one of the 19th century's most famous satirists. Originally published between 1881 and 1886 as a regular feature in the Wasp, a San Francisco journal, and again in 1904 in Hearst papers, Bierce's 700 definitions are just as humorous, witty, and satiric today as they were then. They mock social, professional, and religious conventions while also providing a small glimpse into late 19th-century society. Entries include, for example, "Apologize" ("To lay the foundation for a future offence"); "Beggar" ("One who has relied on the assistance of his friends"); and "Saint" ("A dead sinner revised and edited"). Illustrations by satiric cartoonist Steadman complement the text, while Angus Calder's (The People's War) introduction provides basic biographical data on Bierce's life and works and a brief bibliography. Recommended for public and academic libraries.-Laurie Selwyn, Grayson Cty. Law Lib., Sherman, TX Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Dana Gioia
Forget the Summer of Love. Bierce is the real voice of San Francisco—mordant, worldly, skeptical, and witty.
The Hungry Mind Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781625582751
  • Publisher: Start Publishing LLC
  • Publication date: 12/12/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 216
  • File size: 336 KB

Meet the Author

A veteran of the American Civil War who fought at Shiloh and Chickamauga in the Union ranks, Bierce became one of America's best-known writers and journalists, admired for his insolent, entertaining and sometimes courageous columns. In 1913 he set off for Mexico, then in the throes of revolution, and was never seen again. Ralph Steadman is the author of many illustrated books including Sigmund Freud, I Leonardo, The Big I Am, The Scar-Strangled Banner, Alice and Animal Farm. His most recent publication is the novel, Doodaaa.

RALPH STEADMAN was born in 1936. He began his career as a cartoonist, and through the years has diversified into many creative fields. Ralph collaborated with Dr Hunter S. Thompson in the birth of 'gonzo' journalism, with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas; he has illustrated classics such as Alice in Wonderland, Treasure Island and Animal Farm, and written and illustrated his own books, which include Sigmund Freud, I Leonardo and The Big I Am. Steadman is also a printmaker, and has travelled the world's vineyards, culminating in his books The Grapes of Ralph, Untrodden Grapes and Still Life with Bottle.

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Read an Excerpt

The Devil's Dictionary


By AMBROSE BIERCE, Philip Smith

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1993 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-11555-9


CHAPTER 1

A


Abasement,n. A decent and customary mental attitude in the presence of wealth or power. Peculiarly appropriate in an employee when addressing an employer.

Abatis,n. Rubbish in front of a fort, to prevent the rubbish outside from molesting the rubbish inside.

Abdication,n. An act whereby a sovereign attests his sense of the high temperature of the throne.


Poor Isabella's dead, whose abdication
Set all tongues wagging in the Spanish nation.
For that performance 'twere unfair to scold her
She wisely left a throne too hot to hold her.
To History she'll be no royal riddle—
Merely a plain parched pea that jumped the griddle.

G. J.

Abdomen,n. The temple of the god Stomach, in whose worship, with sacrificial rights, all true men engage. From women this ancient faith commands but a stammering assent. They sometimes minister at the altar in a half-hearted and ineffective way, but true reverence for the one deity that men really adore they know not. If woman had a free hand in the world's marketing the race would become graminivorous.

Ability,n. The natural equipment to accomplish some small part of the meaner ambitions distinguishing able men from dead ones. In the last analysis ability is commonly found to consist mainly in a high degree of solemnity. Perhaps, however, this impressive quality is rightly appraised; it is no easy task to be solemn.

Abnormal,adj. Not conforming to standard. In matters of thought and conduct, to be independent is to be abnormal, to be abnormal is to be detested. Wherefore the lexicographer adviseth a striving toward a straiter resemblance to the Average Man than he hath to himself. Whoso attaineth thereto shall have peace, the prospect of death and the hope of Hell.

Aborigines,n. Persons of little worth found cumbering the soil of a newly discovered country. They soon cease to cumber; they fertilize.

Abracadabra.


By Abracadabra we signify

An infinite number of things.

'Tis the answer to What? and How? and Why?
And Whence? and Whither? —a word whereby

The Truth (with the comfort it brings)

Is open to all who grope in night,
Crying for Wisdom's holy light.
Whether the word is a verb or a noun

Is knowledge beyond my reach.

I only know that 'tis handed down

From sage to sage,
From age to age—

An immortal part of speech!

Of an ancient man the tale is told
That he lived to be ten centuries old,

In a cave on a mountain side.
(True, he finally died.)

The fame of his wisdom filled the land,
For his head was bald, and you'll understand

His beard was long and white
And his eyes uncommonly bright.

Philosophers gathered from far and near
To sit at his feet and hear and hear,

Though he never was heard
To utter a word

But "Abracadabra, abracadab,

Abracada, abracad,

Abraca, abrac, abra, ab!"

'Twas all he had,

'Twas all they wanted to hear, and each
Made copious notes of the mystical speech,

Which they published next—
A trickle of text

In a meadow of commentary.

Mighty big books were these,
In number, as leaves of trees;

In learning, remarkable-very!

He's dead,
As I said,

And the books of the sages have perished,
But his wisdom is sacredly cherished.
In Abracadabra it solemnly rings,
Like an ancient bell that forever swings.

O, I love to hear
That word make clear

Humanity's General Sense of Things.

Jamrach Holobom.

Abridge,v. t. To shorten.

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for a people to abridge their king, a decent respect for the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. —Oliver Cromwell.

Abrupt,adj. Sudden, without ceremony, like the arrival of a cannon-shot and the departure of the soldier whose interests are most affected by it. Dr. Samuel Johnson beautifully said of another author's ideas that they were "concatenated without abruption."

Abscond, v.i. To "move in a mysterious way," commonly with the property of another.


Spring beckons! All things to the call respond;
The trees are leaving and cashiers abscond.
Phela Orm.

Absent, adj. Peculiarly exposed to the tooth of detraction; vilified; hopelessly in the wrong; superseded in the consideration and affection of another.


To men a man is but a mind. Who cares
What face he carries or what form he wears?
But woman's body is the woman. O,
Stay thou, my sweetheart, and do never go,
But heed the warning the sage hath said:
A woman absent is a woman dead.

Jogo Tyree.

Absentee,n. A person with an income who has had the forethought to remove himself from the sphere of exaction.

Absolute,adj. Independent, irresponsible. An absolute monarchy is one in which the sovereign does as he pleases so long as he pleases the assassins. Not many absolute monarchies are left, most of them having been replaced by limited monarchies, where the sovereign's power for evil (and for good) is greatly curtailed, and by republics, which are governed by chance.

Abstainer,n. A weak person who yields to the temptation of denying himself a pleasure. A total abstainer is one who abstains from everything but abstention, and especially from inactivity in the affairs of others.

Said a man to a crapulent youth: "I thought

You a total abstainer, my son."

"So I am, so I am," said the scapegrace caught—

"But not, sir, a bigoted one."

G. J.

Absurdity,n. A statement of belief manifestly inconsistent with one's own opinion.

Academe,n. An ancient school where morality and philosophy were taught.

Academy,n. (from academe). A modern school where football is taught.

Accident,n. An inevitable occurrence due to the action of immutable natural laws.

Accomplice,n. One associated with another in a crime, having guilty knowledge and complicity, as an attorney who defends a criminal, knowing him guilty. This view of the attorney's position in the matter has not hitherto commanded the assent of attorneys, no one having offered them a fee for assenting.

Accord,n. Harmony.

Accordion,n. An instrument in harmony with the sentiments of an assassin.

Accountability,n. The mother of caution.


"My accountability, bear in mind,"
Said the Grand Vizier: "Yes, yes,"
Said the Shah: "I do—'tis the only kind
Of ability you possess."
Joram Tate.

Accuse,v.t. To affirm another's guilt or unworth; most commonly as a justification of ourselves for having wronged him.

Acephalous,adj. In the surprising condition of the Crusader who absently pulled at his forelock some hours after a Saracen scimitar had, unconsciously to him, passed through his neck, as related by de Joinville.

Achievement,n. The death of endeavor and the birth of disgust.

Acknowledge,v.t. To confess. Acknowledgment of one another's faults is the highest duty imposed by our love of truth.

Acquaintance,n. A person whom we know well enough to borrow from, but not well enough to lend to. A degree of friendship called slight when its object is poor or obscure, and intimate when he is rich or famous.

Actually,adv. Perhaps; possibly.

Adage,n. Boned wisdom for weak teeth.

Adamant,n. A mineral frequently found beneath a corset. Soluble in solicitate of gold.

Adder,n. A species of snake. So called from its habit of adding funeral outlays to the other expenses of living.

Adherent,n. A follower who has not yet obtained all that he expects to get.

Administration,n. An ingenious abstraction in politics, designed to receive the kicks and cuffs due to the premier or president. A man of straw, proof against bad-egging and dead- catting.

Admiral,n. That part of a war-ship which does the talking while the figure-head does the thinking.

Admiration,n. Our polite recognition of another's resemblance to ourselves.

Admonition,n. Gentle reproof, as with a meat-axe. Friendly warning.

Consigned, by way of admonition, His soul forever to perdition.

Judibras.

Adore,v.t. To venerate expectantly.

Advice,n. The smallest current coin.


"The man was in such deep distress,"
Said Tom, "that I could do no less
Than give him good advice." Said Jim:
"If less could have been done for him
I know you well enough, my son,
To know that's what you would have done."

Jebel Jocordy.

Affianced,pp. Fitted with an ankle-ring for the ball-and-chain.

Affliction,n. An acclimatizing process preparing the soul for another and bitter world.

African,n. A nigger that votes our way.

Age,n. That period of life in which we compound for the vices that we still cherish by reviling those that we have no longer the enterprise to commit.

Agitator,n. A statesman who shakes the fruit trees of his neighbors—to dislodge the worms.

Aim,n. The task we set our wishes to.


"Cheer up! Have you no aim in life?"
She tenderly inquired.
"An aim? Well, no, I haven't, wife;
The fact is—I have fired."

G. J.

Air,n. A nutritious substance supplied by a bountiful Providence for the fattening of the poor.

Alderman,n. An ingenious criminal who covers his secret thieving with a pretence of open marauding.

Alien,n. An American sovereign in his probationary state.

Allah,n. The Mahometan Supreme Being, as distinguished from the Christian, Jewish, and so forth.


Allah's good laws I faithfully have kept,
And ever for the sins of man have wept;
And sometimes kneeling in the temple I
Have reverently crossed my hands and slept.

Junker Barlow.

Allegiance,n.


This thing Allegiance, as I suppose,
Is a ring fitted in the subject's nose,
Whereby that organ is kept rightly pointed
To smell the sweetness of the Lord's anointed.

G. J.

Alliance,n. In international politics, the union of two thieves who have their hands so deeply inserted in each other's pocket that they cannot separately plunder a third.

Alligator,n. The crocodile of America, superior in every detail to the crocodile of the effete monarchies of the Old World. Herodotus says the Indus is, with one exception, the only river that produces crocodiles, but they appear to have gone West and grown up with the other rivers. From the notches on his back the alligator is called a sawrian.

Alone,adj. In bad company.


In contact, lo! the flint and steel,
By spark and flame, the thought reveal
That he the metal, she the stone,
Had cherished secretly alone.

Booley Filo.

Altar,n. The place whereon the priest formerly raveled out the small intestine of the sacrificial victim for purposes of divination and cooked its flesh for the gods. The word is now seldom used, except with reference to the sacrifice of their liberty and peace by a male and a female fool.


They stood before the altar and supplied
The fire themselves in which their fat was fried.
In vain the sacrifice!—no god will claim
An offering burnt with an unholy flame.

M. P. Nopput.

Ambidextrous,adj. Able to pick with equal skill a right-hand pocket or a left.

Ambition,n. An overmastering desire to be vilified by enemies while living and made ridiculous by friends when dead.

Amnesty,n. The state's magnanimity to those offenders whom it would be too expensive to punish.

Anoint,v.t. To grease a king or other great functionary already sufficiently slippery.


As sovereigns are anointed by the priesthood,
So pigs to lead the populace are greased good.
Judibras.

Antipathy,n. The sentiment inspired by one's friend's friend.

Aphorism,n. Predigested wisdom.


The flabby wine-skin of his brain
Yields to some pathologic strain,
And voids from its unstored abysm
The driblet of an aphorism.

"The Mad Philosopher," 1697.

Apologize,v.t. To lay the foundation for a future offence.

Apostate,n. A leech who, having penetrated the shell of a turtle only to find that the creature has long been dead, deems it expedient to form a new attachment to a fresh turtle.

Apothecary,n. The physician's accomplice, undertaker's benefactor and grave worm's provider.


When Jove sent blessings to all men that are,
And Mercury conveyed them in a jar,
That friend of tricksters introduced by stealth
Disease for the apothecary's health,
Whose gratitude impelled him to proclaim:
"My deadliest drug shall bear my patron's name!"

G. J.


Appeal,v.t. In law, to put the dice into the box for another throw.

Appetite,n. An instinct thoughtfully implanted by Providence as a solution to the labor question.

Applause,n. The echo of a platitude.

April Fool,n. The March fool with another month added to his folly.

Archbishop,n. An ecclesiastical dignitary one point holier than a bishop.


If I were a jolly archbishop,
On Fridays I'd eat all the fish up—
Salmon and flounders and smelts;
On other days everything else.

Joho Rem.


Architect,n. One who drafts a plan of your house, and plans a draft of your money.

Ardor,n. The quality that distinguishes love without knowledge.

Arena,n. In politics, an imaginary rat-pit in which the statesman wrestles with his record.

Aristocracy,n. Government by the best men. (In this sense the word is obsolete; so is that kind of government.) Fellows that wear downy hats and clean shirts—guilty of education and suspected of bank accounts.

Armor,n. The kind of clothing worn by a man whose tailor is a blacksmith.

Arrayed,pp. Drawn up and given an orderly disposition, as a rioter hanged to a lamp-post.

Arrest,v.t. Formally to detain one accused of unusualness.

God made the world in six days and was arrested on the seventh. —The. Unauthorized Version.

Arsenic,n. A kind of cosmetic greatly affected by the ladies, whom it greatly affects in turn.


"Eat arsenic? Yes, all you get,"
Consenting, he did speak up;
"'Tis better you should eat it, pet,
Than put it in my teacup."

Joel Huck.

Art,n. This word has no definition. Its origin is related as follows by the ingenious Father Gassalasca Jape, S.J.


One day a wag—what would the wretch be at? —
Shifted a letter of the cipher RAT,
And said it was a god's name! Straight arose
Fantastic priests and postulants (with shows,
And mysteries, and mummeries, and hymns,
And disputations dire that lamed their limbs)
To serve his temple and maintain the fires,
Expound the law, manipulate the wires.
Amazed, the populace the rites attend,
Believe whate'er they cannot comprehend,
And, inly edified to learn that two
Half-hairs joined so and so (as Art can do)
Have sweeter values and a grace more fit
Than Nature's hairs that never have been split,
Bring cates and wines for sacrificial feasts,
And sell their garments to support the priests.

Artlessness,n. A certain engaging quality to which women attain by long study and severe practice upon the admiring male, who is pleased to fancy it resembles the candid simplicity of his young.

Asperse,v.t. Maliciously to ascribe to another vicious actions which one has not had the temptation and opportunity to commit.

Ass,n. A public singer with a good voice but no ear. In Virginia City, Nevada, he is called the Washoe Canary, in Dakota, the Senator, and everywhere the Donkey. The animal is widely and variously celebrated in the literature, art and religion of every age and country; no other so engages and fires the human imagination as this noble vertebrate. Indeed, it is doubted by some (Ramasilus, lib. ll., De Clem., and C. Stantatus, De Temperamente) if it is not a god; and as such we know it was worshiped by the Etruscans, and, if we may believe Macrobious, by the Cupasians also. Of the only two animals admitted into the Mahometan Paradise along with the souls of men, the ass that carried Balaam is one, the dog of the Seven Sleepers the other. This is no small distinction. From what has been written about this beast might be compiled a library of great splendor and magnitude, rivaling that of the Shakspearean cult, and that which clusters about the Bible. It may be said, generally, that all literature is more or less Asinine.


"Hail, holy Ass!" the quiring angels sing;
"Priest of Unreason, and of Discords King!
Great co-Creator, let Thy glory shine:
God made all else; the Mule, the Mule is thine!"

G. J.

Auctioneer,n. The man who proclaims with a hammer that he has picked a pocket with his tongue.

Australia,n. A country lying in the South Sea, whose industrial and commercial development has been unspeakably retarded by an unfortunate dispute among geographers as to whether it is a continent or an island.

Avernus,n. The lake by which the ancients entered the infernal regions. The fact that access to the infernal regions was obtained by a lake is believed by the learned Marcus Ansello Scrutator to have suggested the Christian rite of baptism by immersion. This, however, has been shown by Lactantius to be an error.


Facilis descensus Averni,
The poet remarks; and the sense
Of it is that when down-hill I turn I
Will get more of punches than pence.

Jehal Dai Lupe.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Devil's Dictionary by AMBROSE BIERCE, Philip Smith. Copyright © 1993 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 56 )
Rating Distribution

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(21)

4 Star

(10)

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(12)

2 Star

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(10)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 57 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 20, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    The Historic Handbook of Sarcasm and A Compendium to a Thesaurus.

    The Devil's Dictionary is required reading for the student of sarcasm and humor. It was written by a bitter intellectual, at a time in history when North America had its share of major problems and the rest of the world was getting closer to facing disasters of every type. Ambrose Bierce was a romantic realist, dissatisfied with politics, with authority, with human nature, with art, but still a believer in all those things. He was the forerunner of European intellectualism, one of the first cult figures in literary history and an inspiration to generations of Don Quijotes as well as the dadaists, existentialists and absurdists of the twentieth century.

    I strongly believe that writers, politicians and people desiring to be interesting conversationalists will benefit from having this small book nearby.

    11 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 17, 2010

    Devilishly Funny

    The Devil's Dictionary / 978-1-411-43027-3 DICTIONARY, n. A malevolent literary device for cramping the growth of a language and making it hard and inelastic. This dictionary, however, is a most useful work. This "dictionary" by Ambrose Bierce is witty, scathing, and totally hilarious. In his characteristic style, he dishes out his contempt and distaste for those societal norms which he sees as foolish, hypocritical, and dangerous. This is not a book to read, but - truly - a dictionary to reference whenever the mood takes. The aphorisms ring true, even today, and the only real complaint is that we would wish for so much more - the dictionary is "only" 219 pages long, and while that is quiet a fair lot of words, oh, we wish he could have left us even more... ~ Ana Mardoll

    10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 25, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Fun, weird, and perfect for any English class

    I got this book for my 16 year old sister who is very capable of being scathing and contemptuous, but also she is very, very witty. With this book she is able to put a different spin on "regular" definitions. Particularly useful for the morbidly comical in an English class, this book provides the darkest definitions for even the brightest of events. "birth is the first day you start dying" type thing. If you take this book seriously, it could make you angry or sad.. but if you use it to make your english papers more entertaining...
    Use it as a source for any paper in school and it will be hilarious, and a actual source. It was a perfect gift for my sister, just don't take it seriously.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2000

    Brilliant Wit and Insight

    Bierce started The Devils Dictionary as a weekly article written in 1881 in a local San Francisco paper. Yet when you read his comments and observations, you must feel that he truly did not belong to his age, but more to ours!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 21, 2014

    Delights of the Devil's Dictionary

    The Devil's Dictionary is a great read if you enjoy pointed insights concerning popular culture. However, the book isn't for everyone, since it IS a dictionary, albeit one filled with humorous witticisms, but the definitions are definitely worth the read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2011

    Very Amusing

    I bought this book to get different definitions for certain words I am using in my first attempt to write. It has very interesting definitions of many words, makes me laugh out loud when I read it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2013

    Stinks

    I hate it and want to get rid of it

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 24, 2012

    Prewrite

    A part of me went missing...when you left. It's so wrong, and I shouldn't feel this way, but it still hurts. There is just one thing I need to ask. When will I see you again? ((Okay, I literally cried when N left at the end of Pokemon Black and White. Yes, I am a ferriswheel shipper. I can't wait to see N when BW2 comes out this October, can you? :3))

    0 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2012

    A dum book

    I think no won should read this

    0 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2011

    This book is not worth 3$ :(

    Just buy the ¿95 one.. ;-)

    0 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 3, 2011

    DONT READ THIS

    No one should even look at this unless ur loominade

    0 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2011

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    Posted December 30, 2009

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    Posted April 14, 2010

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    Posted June 6, 2011

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    Posted September 15, 2010

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    Posted April 14, 2011

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    Posted November 27, 2010

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    Posted March 26, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2010

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