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cynic = cínico, cynique, cynisk, etc.?

A discussion of the peculiarities of languages and the differences between them.

cynic = cínico, cynique, cynisk, etc.?

Postby Brazilian dude » Wed May 04, 2005 3:46 pm

I never took the trouble to really find out the meaning of cynic(al) until today, when I realized that it doesn't have exactly the same meaning in all European languages, maybe a result of a differing understanding of the Greek philosophy. We shall focus on the meaning that we most often come across these days, wherein seems to lie the crux of the matter:

In English:
1 capitalized : an adherent of an ancient Greek school of philosophers who held the view that virtue is the only good and that its essence lies in self-control and independence
2 : a faultfinding captious critic; especially : one who believes that human conduct is motivated wholly by self-interest


Here, as previously said, I'm interested in the second meaning of cynic, knowing that the first one is shared by all (?) European languages.

Here's the definition that my Portuguese dictionary gives to the word cínico: Que ostenta princípios e/ou ostenta atos imorais; impudico, obsceno.

Here's the definition of cínico in Spanish:


In Italian:
cìnico: cìnico

(pl. m. -ci), agg.

che è proprio, caratteristico, tipico della scuola filosofica fondata dal greco Antistene (IV sec. a.C.) e dei filosofi ad essa appartenenti; essi sostenevano la necessità di vivere secondo natura nel rifiuto delle regole, delle convenzioni e delle istituzioni sociali che, secondo loro, rendevano gli uomini schiavi di bisogni non naturali; ostentavano indifferenza verso i beni e i mali della vita e predicavano il completo dominio della ragione sulle passioni e la piena autonomia dello spirito rispetto alle necessità esterne
us. anche con valore di s. m. riferito a persona per indicare ogni appartenente a questa scuola

per est. di chi irride o si mostra indifferente ai valori della vita; di chi si comporta con freddezza ignorando ogni sentimento di solidarietà umana

proprio, tipico di chi è cinico, di animo cinico

avv. cinicamente, con beffardo disprezzo.


In Romanian:


In Catalan:


In Swedish:


My French dictionary says the following: Qui exprime sans ménagement des sentiments, des opinions contraires à la morale reçue.

We can see that Spanish and Portuguese cínico and French cynique have the same meaning, applicable to someone with questionable morals, Catalan cínic and Italian cinico refer to someone who doesn't believe in the sincerity of someone else's feelings (not unlike English cynic), but the former also has the same meaning shared by Spanish, French, and Portuguese. Romanian cinic and Swedish cynisk also seem to have the same meaning as in English.

What's going on here?

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Re: cynic = cínico, cynique, cynisk, etc.?

Postby KatyBr » Wed May 04, 2005 6:14 pm

Brazilian dude wrote:Here, as previously said, I'm interested in the second meaning of cynic, knowing that the first one is shared by all (?) European languages.

Brazilian dude

I've never heard that word used any other way, but def.#2, in English, either.
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Postby Ilka » Sat May 14, 2005 6:30 am

The Spanish, Portuguese and French meaning apply to the person's behavior, while the other definitions apply to his attitude toward others.

According to my Duden Dictionary of Etymology, followers of the school of Cynicism were, in a sense, like dogs (the origin of the word cynic is to be found in the Greek word Kyon "dog"), in that they attacked their victims in a vicious and shameless manner.

Perhaps the meaning of cynic didn't have to wander far from a brazen person to one of questionable morals.

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Postby Brazilian dude » Sat May 14, 2005 11:10 am

Perhaps the meaning of cynic didn't have to wander far from a brazen person to one of questionable morals.

Exactly.

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Postby KatyBr » Sat May 14, 2005 1:01 pm

Ilka wrote:
Perhaps the meaning of cynic didn't have to wander far from a brazen person to one of questionable morals.

Ilka

Come to think of it, I don't see much of a reach, here in English, cynics are generally not well-liked , and we do assign 'sin' to those we don't approve of. eh?
So, nice to see you again Ilka, I'm glad you found your way here.

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Postby uncronopio » Sun May 15, 2005 2:24 am

Brazilian dude, I had the same problem when I first encountered the word in English. In Spanish people rarely (if ever) say 'I am cynical about this', while I have heard that many times from English speakers.
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Postby Brazilian dude » Sun May 15, 2005 11:04 am

Exactly.

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Postby tcward » Sun May 15, 2005 10:27 pm

When those people were saying they were 'cynical about' something, what did they mean?

I've heard it used that way, basically meaning 'jaded' (see def. 2 in English).

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Postby Apoclima » Mon May 16, 2005 6:05 pm

Although cynics believed in the virtuous life as a prerequisite to happiness. The cynic had a very different idea of virtue. Although altruism was considered a virtue, a cynic would certainly find in it, by sarcasm and satire, an underlying motive of self-interest.

Social conventions and mores were equally and easily dismissed as false values standing in the way of true virtuous living. Things that were of non-utilitarian value like art and finery were held in comtempt. Wine was more valuable than a statue and flour was more valuable than poetry.

If one looks at the lives of the Cynic philosophers, there is a great resemblance to the voluntary homeless of our day.

We all have the image of Diogenes, sleeping under his tub during the day (probably with a hangover), and searching the night with a lantern (I doubt that he owned one) for an honest man, and, of course, never finding one!

Antisthenes was famous for the line, "The best wine is someone else's."

Socrates, while talking about the nature of pride to a group that included Antisthenes, insisted about him, "I can see your pride through the holes in your clothes."

I see very little drifting in the different uses of this word in modern times. Firstly it means that one considers human beings to be acting in self-interest, that other explanations are rationalizations (lies) and that human society, culture and morality are based the tangle of these false values.

To say that I am cynical about something means that I question the truth of it, because the underlying motivation of believing it is self-interest, just more façade to justify a corrupt society, or it enhances someone else's self-interest.

It doesn't seem a great jump to me, for a cynic to mean one that people consider immoral, because the questioning and rejecting of societal values as arbitrary and capricious certainly lends itself to "immoral actions."

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Postby Brazilian dude » Mon May 16, 2005 9:27 pm

façade

I didn't read fuh-KEID this time.

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Postby tcward » Mon May 16, 2005 9:34 pm

Socrates, while talking about the nature of pride to a group that included Antisthenes, insisted about him, "I can see your pride through the holes in your clothes."


Then again, this may have been a euphemism for something else... ;)

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Postby Brazilian dude » Mon May 16, 2005 9:36 pm

I'll never forgive myself. How didn't I see that? :D

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Postby Apoclima » Tue May 17, 2005 3:41 am

Tim:
"I can see your pride through the holes in your clothes." Then again, this may have been a euphemism for something else...


A special note regarding a term that is the antonym of Exegesis, called Eisegesis. Eisegesis, is the method of interpreting a passage of Scripture according to personal bias, (personal notions or opinions), rather than the original intent of the Text.


Language & Logic

My mistake! I think the quote would better read, "I can see your pride through the holes in your cloak." If I am not mistaken Antisthenes was known to have worn only a cloak like a shepard boy. His "pride," as you thought of it, was usually on display for anyone to see, except if it was cold.

While he [Antisthenes] was a disciple of Socrates, he exhibited a severity of manners by his unkept dress. He frequently appeared in a threadbare and ragged cloak. An anecdote relates that Socrates, remarked that Anthisthenes took pains to expose, rather than to conceal the tattered state of his dress, and said to him, "Why so ostentatious? Through your rags I see your vanity."

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Postby malachai » Thu Aug 17, 2006 12:18 am

Ilka wrote:According to my Duden Dictionary of Etymology, followers of the school of Cynicism were, in a sense, like dogs (the origin of the word cynic is to be found in the Greek word Kyon "dog"), in that they attacked their victims in a vicious and shameless manner.


It's from the same root as the word "hound", as well. :D
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Postby Perry » Thu Aug 17, 2006 9:23 am

The OEDhas an interesting angle on this word. It connects the word to the name of the gymnasium where Antisthenes taught, the Grey Dog.

My mistake! I think the quote would better read, "I can see your pride through the holes in your cloak." If I am not mistaken Antisthenes was known to have worn only a cloak like a shepard boy. His "pride," as you thought of it, was usually on display for anyone to see, except if it was cold.


Perhaps Socrates was anticipating Mae West. "Is that your pride through the holes in your cloak, or are you just glad to see me?"
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