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The Devil's Dictionary:    

Definition of Guillotine

A machine which makes a Frenchman shrug his shoulders with good reason.   In his great work on Divergent Lines of Racial Evolution, the learned Professor Brayfugle argues from the prevalence of this gesture -- the shrug -- among Frenchmen, that they are descended from turtles and it is simply a survival of the habit of retracing the head inside the shell.  It is with reluctance that I differ with so eminent an authority, but in my judgment (as more elaborately set forth and enforced in my work entitled Hereditary Emotions -- lib. II, c. XI) the shrug is a poor foundation upon which to build so important a theory, for previously to the Revolution the gesture was unknown.  I have not a doubt that it is directly referable to the terror inspired by the guillotine during the period of that instrument's activity.

Devil's Dictionarydefinition from:
The Devil's Dictionary
by Ambrose Bierce, 1911

Regular definition:
???l??ti:n n. & v. --n. 1 a machine with a heavy knife-blade sliding vertically in grooves, used for beheading. 2 a device for cutting paper, metal, etc. 3 a surgical instrument for excising the uvula etc. 4 Parl. a method of preventing delay in the discussion of a legislative bill by fixing times at which various parts of it must be voted on. --v.tr. 1 use a guillotine on. 2 Parl. end discussion of (a bill) by applying a guillotine. °°guillotiner n. [F f. J.-I. Guillotin, Fr. physician d. 1814, who recommended its use for executions in 1789]

Last updated: 9/3/2011 12:48:30