Nickell’s Skeptickles: Daffynitions A-Z

October 10, 2013

Here are some wacky definitions that skeptics may find amusing. (I am, of course, following the lead of Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary, 1911, originally published as The Cynic’s Word Book, 1906.)

ASTROLOGICAL, adj. 1. Pertaining to astrology, which reveals the influence of celestial bodies upon the wallets of customers.

2. A misnomer for astro-illogical.

CLAIRVOYANTLY, adv. From the French, meaning “seeing clearly,” as in “The psychic determined clairvoyantly that her opulently dressed client could pay handsomely for a reading.”

DEBUNK, v.t. To untactfully tell the truth—supported by evidence—about a fantasy someone has adopted as reality.

ESP, n. 1. An acronym for Extraordinary Sentient Pretense.

FLYING SAUCER, n. A weapon sometimes employed in marital disputes. Also known as a UFO, an acronym for Unleashed Familial Ordnance.

GHOST HUNTING, n. A popular, often televised, game in which participants, armed with any of various electronic devices, fan out in a “haunted house” and see if they can detect each other. They are often heard exclaiming, “Did you hear that?!”

MEDIUM, n. A person of small scientific knowledge who spins large—even extra large—fantasies about the dead.

MIRACULOUS, adj. In describing an occurrence, an exclamation uttered for want of an explanation.

SPONTANEOUS HUMAN COMBUSTION, n. A subject of impromptu, overheated discussions about unusual burning deaths, in which tempers flare and sparks fly.

TEA LEAF READING, n. A method apparently employed by the U.S. Tea Party movement to divine the sentiments of “the American public” (i.e., the small percentage who agree with them).

ZENER CARDS, n. A deck of special symbol cards used in ESP (q.v.) tests, in which a certain game is played by three individuals: one pretends to mentally send symbols, another to receive them, and a third tries to make statistical results seem positive (as, for instance, by coining the term “negative ESP”).