(a.k.a The Devil's Dictionary, New Millennia Edition)

 
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guillotine

Cynical Definitions

n. A machine which makes a Frenchman shrug his shoulders with good reason.

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Cynical Quotations

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 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.

— Ambrose Bierce

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