The Devil’s Guide to Valentine’s Day - OZY | A Modern Media Company

The Devil’s Guide to Valentine’s Day

The Devil’s Guide to Valentine’s Day

By Sean Culligan and Sean Braswell


Because a first-rate emotion deserves more than a second-rate holiday.

By Sean Culligan and Sean Braswell

In his irreverent 1906 masterpiece, The Devil’s Dictionary, American writer Ambrose Bierce took aim at all manner of human hypocrisies, sins and shortcomings by penning a lexicon of cynical word definitions for a cynical age.

In our latest installment of “The Devil’s Guide,” we channel Bierce’s sardonic spirit to examine the beauty, romance and commercial spirit of everyone’s favorite love holiday.

admirer, n. One practiced in the art of long-range lechery.

attraction, n. That blessed frenzy of animal enthrallment in which two become one and, before too long, three.

“Be Mine” n. Overly possessive courtship proposition that has become a holiday staple, presumably because neither “You Belong to Me” nor “I Shall Have You” would fit on a half-inch piece of heart candy.

beauty, n. The power by which a woman charms a lover and terrifies a husband. —Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

box of chocolates, n. Conveniently packaged confection collection whose wide distribution and drugstore-aisle displays provide millions of last-minute purchasers with a uniquely mass-produced gift to bestow on their beloved.

candlelit dinner, n. Awkwardly staged culinary pageant in which low-level lighting and a $10 Chardonnay are deployed to compensate for the unattractiveness of the fixed-price menu and the pageant’s sponsor.

courtship, n. That period which is to marriage, as a very witty prologue to a very dull play. —William Congreve

Cupid, n. Roman god of desire who lights the flame of lust in others yet remains himself content to wander the Earth in the bewitching form of a denuded chubby boy with wings.

flowers, n. Collection of a plant’s reproductive organs harvested and offered up to the female of the species by a male who has no feathers or ornamentation of his own with which to attract a suitable mate.

Galentine’s Day, n. Festive day of commiseration in which a group of involuntarily single women show their complete indifference to the Valentine’s Day traditions by making almost constant reference to them.

greeting card, n. A bent, treated piece of parchment containing a 5-cent sentiment that you can call your own for $5.94 more.

helpmate, n. A wife, or bitter half. —Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

honeymoon, n. A short period of doting between dating and debating. —Ray Bandy

husband, n. One who, having dined, is charged with the care of the plate. —Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

jewelry, n. One of the manifold combinations of kitsch and cubic zirconia whose bolstered appeal in February allows the Zales in your local mall to put off their impending bankruptcy for yet another year.

lingerie, n. Impractical undergarment modeled by Tens and sold by Eights to Threes hoping to make their Fours look like Sixes.

love, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage. —Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

love letters, n. Amorous dispatches displaying the timeless art of seduction, and whose eloquent 10,000-word missives of yesteryear have been supplanted by the “ur gr8 lets m8” texts of yesterday.

lovesick, adj. Sick.

Lupercalia, n. Ancient Roman precursor to Valentine’s Day in which love-crazed men opted to boost the fecundity of their women, not with champagne or chocolates, but with the robust affection that only a tanned-animal-hide beating can provide.

marriage, n. A lottery in which men stake their liberty and women their happiness. ―Madame de Rieux


romance, n. A feeling of intense excitement and mystery that succeeds in convincing its lovestruck victims that their routine act of animal copulation has somehow been written into the stars all along.

SAD (Single Awareness Day), n. A lighthearted alternative holiday that provides single people with an occasion to dine alone and binge on chocolates, and couples with an occasion to laugh at their expense.

St. Valentine, n. A third-century Roman saint and martyr of which little is reliably known but much is believed, not unlike love itself.

suitor, n. That noble gentleman who bends his knee so that he might plant his parsnip.

Sweethearts, n. Heart-shaped conversation candies whose embossed endearments serve as a delivery device for sugar and modified corn starch.

Valentine’s Day, n. Or as men like to call it, Extortion Day. —Jay Leno

wedding, n. A funeral where you smell your own flowers. —Eddie Cantor

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