A true Cynic.

CYNIC, n. A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be. Hence the custom among the Scythians of plucking out a cynic’s eyes to improve his vision.

One hundred and five years ago, in 1906, a book written by the infamous curmudgeon Ambrose Bierce was published as The Cynic’s Word Book. It was Bierce’s preference that the book — a collection of satirical definitions which he had written for various newspapers “in a desultory way at long intervals” from 1881 to 1906 — be called The Devil’s Dictionary, but publishers had always been nervous about the anti-religious implications of the title. In 1906, American bookshelves were flooded with “a score of ‘cynic’ books — The Cynic’s This, The Cynic’s That, The Cynic’s t’Other,” to name a few. As far as those other “cynic” books were concerned, Bierce added, “most” were “merely stupid, though… More…

A way with words. All of them.

 

Samuel Johnson is a god now. That’s a fitting accomplishment for a man celebrating his 300th this September. It is ironic, though. Johnson was big in every way. He had a penchant for looming. His shadow left most of his contemporaries with little access to the sun. But he was human. His bigness was terrestrial, not divine. He loudly and with gusto proclaimed the vices and virtues of humankind, of which the former generally outnumbered the latter. He always kept in mind that what we see, we see through a glass, darkly.

The contrast between the finitude of the man and the infinitude of his reputation is preserved in his longest-lasting and most peculiar work, the Dictionary. Dictionaries were relatively new inventions in Johnson’s time. They were the necessary product of an increasingly literate society with ever more… More…