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…