Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Wondrous Word Wednesday: Infinite Jest Edition

Hosted by Bermuda Onion, the point of this meme is to share all the new words you came across this week. Yay!


As previously stated, I'm reading Infinite Jest with a group of people online, and anyone who knows anything about David Foster Wallace knows that he was a wordie. That plus the fact that I started late and have had to read a huge chunk of this book to get caught up means this is going to be a long long loooooooooooong WWW. They will probably all be long through the end of the summer even though I'm skipping most of the medical terms of art peppered throughout the novel. Ready? Ok!

wen -- a benign encysted tumor of the skin, esp. on the scalp, containing sebaceous matter; a sebaceous cyst

I am debating whether to risk scratching the right side of my jaw, there there is a wen.

actuate -- to move to action

And in this new smaller company, the Director of Composition seems abruptly to have actuated, emerged as both the Alpha of the pack here and way more effeminate than he'd seemed at first...

presbyopic -- unable to focus clearly on nearby objects ; farsighted

O. stood there, he says, hefting a cold clod, playing with the Velcro on his puffy coat, watching as the Moms, bent way down to me, hand reaching, her lowering face with its presbyopic squint, suddenly stopped, frozen beginning to I.D. what it was I held out...

enfilade -- a military term referring to a sweeping fire from along the length of a line of troops

Uncle Charles, a truly unparalleled slinger of shit, is laying down an enfilade of same, trying to mollify men who seem way more in need of a good brow-mopping than I.

magiscule -- cf. majuscule: a large letter, either capital or uncial, used in writing or printing

...and also an obscenity he had assumed was directed at him magisculed in red grease pencil along the bottom, with multiple exclamation points

maxillofacial -- of, pertaining to, or affecting the jaws and face

The medical attaché's particular experitse is the maxillofacial consequences of imbalances in intestinal flora.

fantod -- plural: a state of irritability and tension

Roaches give him the howling fantods.

dipsomania -- an insatiable craving for alcoholic beverages

...the father, a dipsomaniacal tragedian progressively crippled by obsessions with death by spider-bite...

mordant -- bitingly painful

feck -- efficacy; force; value

...and devoted his unimpaired hours almost exclusively to the production of documentaries... and mordantly obscure and obsessive dramatic cartridges. leaving behind a substantial... number of completed films and cartridges, some of which have earned a small academic following for their technical feck and for a pathos that was somehow both surreally abstract and CNS-rendingly melodramatic at the same time.

plangent -- loud and resounding; expressing or suggesting sadness; plaintive

...sarcasm and jokes were often the bottle in which clinical depressives sent out their most plangent screams for someone to care and help them.

leptosome -- a person with a slender, thin, or frail body

It's possibly odd that the leptosomatic Mario I., so damaged he can't even grip a stick, much less flail at a moving ball with one, is the one kid at [Enfield Tennis Academy] whose company Schtitt seeks out...

prandial -- of or relating to a meal

calliopsis -- a North American annual plant (Coreopsis tinctoria) widely cultivated for its showy flower heads with yellow rays and purple-red to brownish centers

quincunx -- an arrangement of five objects with one at each corner of a rectangle or square and one at the center

But often on a warm evening sometimes Mario and Coach Schtitt will find themselves out alone... Schtitt savoring a post-prandial pipe, Mario enjoying the smells of the calliopsis alongside the grounds' quincunx paths...

prolix -- tediously prolonged

...locating beauty and art and magic and improvement and keys to excellence and victory in the prolix flux of match play is not a fractal matter of reducing chaos to pattern.

pedalferrous -- the adjective form of 'pedalfer', which is a soil rich in alumina and iron, with few or no carbonates

fulvous -- of a dull, brownish yellow

They thunder eastward across pedalferrous terrain that today is fallow, denuded. To the east, dimmed by the fulvous cloud the hamsters send up, is the vivid verdant ragged outline of the annularly overfertilized forests of what used to be central Maine.

teratogenic -- of, relating to, or causing malformations of an embryo or a fetus

... fans atop the hugely convex protective walls of anodized Lucite hold off the drooling and piss-colored bank of teratogenic Concavity clouds and move the bank well back, north, away, jaggedly, over your protected head.

atavistic -- reverting to or suggesting the characteristics of a remote ancestor or primitive type

Besides Hal, who's atavistically dark-complected anyway, the ones here with the least bad piebald coloring are the players who can tolerate spraying themselves down with Lemon Pledge before outdoor play.

semion -- the Greek word for sign

One semion that still works fine is holding your fist up and cranking at it with the other hand so the finger you're giving somebody goes up like a drawbridge.

sangfroid -- coolness and composure, especially in trying circumstances

Maranthe's tone now become derisive despite his legendary sangfroid in matters of technical interviews...

guilloche -- a repetitive architectural pattern widely used in classical Greece and Rome, consisting of two ribbons that wind around a series of regular central points

He exhales a slow breath through rounded lips, looking off up a the ceiling's guilloche border

aperçu -- a brief or detached view; conspectus; sketch

He's thinking in an abstract absent way about limits and rituals, listening to Blott give Beak his aperçu.

osseous -- having to do with the bone, consisting of bone, or resembling bone

The U.S.S. Millicent's hair, which was almost osseously hard-looking, composed of dense woven nests of reticulate fibers like a dry loofa sponge...

boscage -- a mass of trees or shrubs; a thicket

There was no sign of Husky VI of any other model of tripod in any of the thickets and boscages.

murated -- ok I can't find a good definition of this word. It seems like it only occurs in this book and some genetics journals. One guys says it means "walled". Another says it has to do with genetic mutation. The first sounds spurious to me because it's a little "too easy" given the sentence it appears in:

Several times also Maranthe called U.S.A. to Steeply 'Your walled nation' or 'Your murated nation.'

agnate -- coming from a common source; akin

... then every third month Pemulis and Axford work the agnate unsupervised line that snakes across the blue lobby shag, selling little Visine bottles of urine out of an antique vendor's tub for ballpark wieners.

erumpent -- bursting through or as if through a surface or covering

He's never looked better on court or on monthly O.N.A.N.T.A. paper. He is erumpent.

éclat -- brilliant success

Hal's head, closely monitored by deLint and Staff, is judged still level and focused and unswollen/-bludgeoned by the sudden éclat and rise in general expectations.

rutilant -- having a reddish glow

... you're a machine a body and object, Jim, no less than this rutilant Montclair...

That's it! Oy.


  1. Holy cow! I'd never be able to read that book with all those words in it! Roaches give me the howling fantods too! Thanks for participating!

  2. That's a lot of words! I actually knew a lot of them (I used to work for a doctor), but they would make a novel pretty daunting.

    My words are from the same book as yesterday's teaser, The Loved One, and they are all about the mortuary profession. You can find them here.

  3. Eclat is my favorite on your list.

    That book sounds like it keeps you reading the dictionary as much as the novel. :-) Great!

  4. BermudaOnion -- Roaches just set me howling flat out. Luckily, I have a 24-hour roach hunter affectionately known as "my cat."

    Lisa -- Daunting indeed. All I know about medicine is "That hurts" or "That doesn't."

    Other Lisa -- Eclat's my fav too, actually, because it's one of the few I can see myself actually using.

  5. I didn't count but that's a LOT of words for just one section of a book. Out of all of them I knew calliopsis. I have grown those pretty little things. (Having the picture helped)

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