Flaubert’s Dictionary of Received Ideas

Gustave Flaubert

I’m reading The Art of Travel by Alain De Botton.  In his book, Mr. De Botton writes about Flaubert and how much he liked Egypt.  He quotes Flaubert from his Dictionary of Received Ideas.  Below, I quote–out of order– De Botton who is quoting from Flaubert’s dictionary entries that I thought the most amusing.

Absinthe — Exceptionally violent poison: one glass and you’re a dead man.  Journalists drink it while writing their articles.  Has killed more soldiers than the Bedouins.

Architects — All idiots; always forget to put staircases in houses.

Englishwomen — Express surprise that they can have pretty children.

Black women — hotter than white women (see also brunettes and blondes).

Koran — Book by Mohammed, which is all about women.

Old People — When discussing a flood, thunderstorm, etc., they cannot remember ever having seen a worse one.

Blondes — hotter than brunettes (see also Brunettes)

Brunettes — Hotter than blondes (see also Blondes)

Sex — Word to avoid.  Say instead, “Intimacy occurred…’.


Postscript (7/7/11):

I recently read this about Flaubert from the book ABC of Reading by Ezra Pound:

It is said that Flaubert taught De Maupassant to write.  When De Maupassant returned from a walk Flaubert would ask him to describe someone, say a concierge when they would both pass in their next walk, and to describe the person so that Flaubert would recognize, say, the concierge and not mistake her for some other concierge and not the one De Maupassant had described.

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