Phrase coined by an Eph in 2020 most likely to gain wide currency? I will go with “Bonfire of the Authorities,” from Professor Darel Paul.


A bonfire of the vanities (Italian: falò delle vanità) is a burning of objects condemned by authorities as occasions of sin. The phrase usually refers to the bonfire of 7 February 1497, when supporters of Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola collected and burned thousands of objects such as cosmetics, art, and books in Florence, Italy on the Shrove Tuesday festival.[1][2]

Francesco Guicciardini’s The History of Florence gives a first-hand account of the bonfire of the vanities that took place in Florence in 1497.[3] The focus of this destruction was on objects that might tempt one to sin, including vanity items such as mirrors, cosmetics, fine dresses, playing cards, and even musical instruments.

The phrase “bonfire of the authorities” is, on its face, perfect. This really is an age in which trust in authority figures is being destroyed. To the extent that non-leftists used to place some faith in NPR or public health professionals, that faith is being squandered.

But, is there a deeper connection, to the original meaning? Are NPR, public health, leading magazines themselves “vanity items?” I hope we never find out.

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