The greatest exponent of cynicism and acknowledged master of the art was the American wit Ambrose Bierce, the author of the famous Devil's Dictionary. No one could wish for a better definition of a cynic than:
'A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be.'
and no one acts as a better guide to the cynical insult than Bierce himself. These are some of his observations on human behaviour:
Admiration: Our polite recognition of another's resemblance of ourselves.
Antipathy: The sentiment inspired by one's friend's friend.
Charity: An amiable quality of the heart which moves us to condone in others the sins and vices to which we ourselves are addicted.
Commendation: The tribute that we pay to achievements that resemble, but do not equal, our own.
Congratulation: The civility of envy.
Defame: To lie about another. To tell the truth about another.
Encourage: To confirm a fool in a folly that is beginning to hurt him.
Forbidden: Invested with a new and irresistible charm.
Forgiveness: A stratagem to throw an offender off his guard and catch him red-handed in his next offence.
Hatred: A sentiment appropriate to the occasion of another's superiority.
Impeccable: Not liable to detection.
Incompatibility: In matrimony a similarity of tastes, particularly the taste for domination.
Laziness: Unwarranted repose of manner in a person of low degree.
Loquacity: A disorder which renders the sufferer unable to curb his tongue when you wish to talk.
Mediate: To butt in.
Politeness: The most acceptable hypocrisy.
Resolute: Obstinate in a course that we approve.
Selfish: Devoid of consideration for the selfishness of others.
Zeal: A certain nervous disorder affecting the young and inexperienced.