Monday, August 10, 2009

Eleven Sweet Words I Have Learned from Reading Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace


: adj.

intended to ward off evil.

sinecure: n. office or position requiring little or no work, esp. one yielding profitable returns. ecclesiastical benefice without cure of souls.


1. of, pertaining to, or characterized by atavism; reverting to or suggesting the characteristics of a remote ancestor or primitive type.

torticollis: n.

a condition in which the neck is twisted and the head inclined to one side, caused by spasmodic contraction of the muscles of the neck.

afflatus: n.

1.inspiration; an impelling mental force acting from within.
2.divine communication of knowledge.

scopophobia: n. 

1. An abnormal fear of being looked at or seen.

maunder:  v. (used without object) talk in a rambling, foolish, or meaningless way. move, go, or act in an aimless, confused manner: He maundered through life without a single ambition.

otiose: adj.
1.being at leisure; idle; indolent.
2.ineffective or futile.
3.superfluous or useless.

erumpent: adj.
1.bursting forth.
2.(of fungi or algae) prominent; projecting from or bursting through host tissue.

lacuna:  n.
1.a gap or missing part, as in a manuscript, series, or logical argument; hiatus.
2.Anatomyone of the numerous minute cavities in the substance of bone, supposed to contain nucleate cells.
3.Botanyan air space in the cellular tissue of plants.



n. arrangement of five objects, as trees, in a square or rectangle, one at each corner and one in the middle.
2.Botanyan overlapping arrangement of five petals or leaves, in which two are interior, two are exterior, and one is partly interior and partly exterior.

I like some of these words more for sound than meaning, i.e. torticollis and quincunx. Quincunx!  I'm on page 324 and I have a list of 124 words to look up.  I think most of them are obscure medical terms.  Matt Chester, why did you not sit me down and force me to read this beast four years ago?  I'm so into its deal.  Actually, I think I remember Mr. Chester reading IJ (or maybe it was Consider the Lobster) when he was working at the circulation desk at good old Lucy Scribs Library (RIP) and I asked him about the book and all he said was "the man loves his footnotes."  Not exactly a hard sell. 

1 comment:

  1. Generally, when I recommend things that are arduous and upsetting like IJ, people either look at me askew and say "Oh...right...sure" or they try it out and return a few days later, saying with a hollow voice "Why...did you do me?"

    But I'm glad you've found it and that you're enjoying yourself.