Infinite Jest – Vocabulary II.

I had so much fun going through some of the vocabulary words I learned from the first chapter of DFW’s Infinite Jest (almost two months ago), that I thought I’d continue to share some of the more interesting words and sentences here. I am still slowly working my way through Infinite Jest, but I am hope to be able to devote a nice chunk of time to it over the winter holidays.

  • Presbyopia: prezbēˈōpēə (noun) – farsightedness caused by loss of elasticity of the lens of the eye, occurring typically in middle and old age. Literally means old-eyed.

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, froze, beginning to I.D. what it was I held out, countenancing evidence of oral contact with same.

  • Enfilade: enfəˌlād (noun) -a volley of gunfire directed along a line from end to end

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.

  • Fantods: fantäds (noun) – a state or attack of uneasiness or unreasonableness; the creeps!

Roaches give him the howling fantods.

  • Apocopes: əˈpäkəpē (noun) -losses of syllables from words, particularly unstressed vowels

Gately could easily have screwed out of there and never looked back; but here indeed, in the lamplight, is a seascape over next to the chiffonnier, and the associate has a quick peek and reports that the safe behind it is to laugh at, it can be opened with harsh language, almost; and oral narcotics addicts tend to operate on an extremely rigid physical schedule of need and satisfaction, and Gately is at this moment firmly in the need part of the schedule; and so D.W. Gately disastrously decides to go ahed and allow a nonviolent burglary to become in effect a robbery – which the operative legal difference involves either violence or the coercive threat of same – and Gately draws himself up to his full menacing height and shines his flashlight in the little homeowner’s rheumy eyes and addresses him the way menacing criminals speak in popular entertainment – d’s for th’s, various apocopes, and so on…

I was going to type out the whole sentence, but I flipped the page and realized the sentence continued for another half a page!

What are some of the books you’ve read which require a big dictionary every page or so? What are some of your favorite archaic words? I think Howling Fantods is one of the best phrases I have read in a while.

Vocab: -ocracies

Inspired by last night’s debate and a review of some word of the day entries, I present to you a list of -ocracies.

Add to the list in comments if there are any other good ones you know!

  • aristocracy – ruled by those born into a small, privileged class
  • autocracy – ruled by one self-appointed person
  • capracracy – (facetious) ruled by goats
  • corporatocracy – ruled by corporations, often private or with private components
  • epistemocracy – utopian government where those in government have ‘epistemic humility’ (epistemology is a branch of philosophy concerned with the theory of knowledge)
  • ethnocracy – ruled by representatives of ethnic groups and may hold more positions than is proportional to the population of the ethnic group
  • geniocracy – where problem-solving and creative intelligence are criteria for government officials
  • gynecocracy -ruled by women
  • kakistocracy – ruled by those least qualified
  • kleptocracy – government plagued by corruption and greed
  • kratocracy – ruled by those who seize power through force and cunning
  • kritocracy or krytocracy – ruled by judges
  • meritocracy – ruled by those who have demonstrated some applicable talent or ability
  • mobocracy or ochlocracy – ruled by the intimidation of a mob or mass
  • monocracy – ruled by an individual, not necessarily passed on to an heir, as with monarchy
  • panarchracy – government that encompasses all others
  • patriarchy – ruled by men
  • plantocracy – ruled by plantation owners
  • plutocracy – ruled by the wealthy
  • stratocracy – ruled by the army/armed forces
  • technocracy -ruled by technical experts, scientists
  • theocracy – ruled by a religious authority
  • timocracy – ruled by property owners


Infinite Jest – Vocabulary

Everyone knows how much David Foster Wallace loved the English language, right? Part of the journey of tackling Infinite Jest is looking up a few words per page. I’m only still about 130 pages in so far, but I wanted to share some of the best bits I’ve learned so far, but only from the first 10 pages.

  • Effluvium: ef·flu·vi·um (noun) – an unpleasant or harmful odor, secretion, or discharge.

“We have an obligation, to ourselves, chiefly, to see what a brain, and particularly a brain like our own – that is, using the same effluvium we, too, swim through – is capable of.

  • Wen: wen (noun) – a boil or other swelling or growth on the skin, especially a sebaceous cyst.

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

  • Actuate: ac·tu·ate (verb) – cause (a machine or device) to operate, cause (someone) to act in a particular way; motivate.

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, standing hip-shot with a hand on his wind, walking with a roll to his shoulders, jingling change as he pulls up his pants as he slides into the chair still warm from C.T.’s bottom, crossing his legs in a way that inclines him well into my personal space, os that I can see multiple eyebrow-tics and capillary webs in the oysters below his eyes and smell fabric-softener and the remains of a breath-mint turned sour.

  • Hirsute: hir·sute (adjective) – hairy

The patch itself he describes as horrific: darkly green, glossy, vaguely hirsute, speckled with parasitic fungal points of yellow, orange, red.

I think a few of these sample sentences really give you a taste for Wallace’s writing style, especially the sentence where he uses “actuate.” It’s been a real pleasure so far to trip over some of these sentences.

What are some of the books you’ve read which require a big dictionary every page or so? What are some of your favorite archaic words?

The Magnificent Ambersons – Vocabulary

the magnificent ambersons

I’m finally reading The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington, the 1919 recipient of the Pulitzer Prize. I’m about four chapters in so far and am finding it hilarious, sharp, and a pretty easy read. The best part of reading on a Kindle is the built-in dictionary. I thought I’d share the vocabulary words I’ve learned so far:

porte cochere

  • Porte-cochère: porte co·chère (noun) – a covered entrance large enough for vehicles to pass through, typically opening into a courtyard

It was a house of arches and turrets and girdling stone porches: it had the first porte-cochère seen in that town.

  • Argot: ar·got (noun) – the jargon or slang of a particular group or class.
  • Badinage: bad·i·nage (noun) – humorous or witty conversation

This was stock and stencil: the accustomed argot of street badinage of the period; and in such matters Georgie was an expert.

This Week in Review – 10/23/2015

This Week in Review



“When I first uncrated these birds, in my frenzy I said ‘I want so many of them that every time I go out the door, I’ll run into one,’” O’Connor wrote in her essay “The King of Birds.” It was not long before she got her wish. Andalusia, then a working dairy farm crowded by cattle and farmhands, was soon dotted by dozens of peacocks.


This week, we posted:

This weekend, I’ll be re-reading The Magicians, watching a lot of television and working on a paper for class. Wherever you are, I hope you have lots of candy, warm socks, and a comfortable couch!

Catch-22 – Vocabulary

Joseph Heller has an impressive and extensive vocabulary. His sentences are so complex and intricate, that I find myself lost and winding through the sentences again and again. I have to pause regularly to look up new words. Inspired by Kimberly, I thought I’d share the words I’m learning as well!

  • Vituperation: vi·tu·per·a·tion (noun) – bitter and abusive language

Yossarian let the girl drag him through the lovely Roman spring night for almost a mile until they reached a chaotic bus depot honking with horns, blazing with red and yellow lights and echoing with the snarling vituperations of unshaven bus drivers pouring loathsome, hair-raising curses out at each other, at their passengers, and at the strolling, unconcerned knots of pedestrians clogging their paths, who ignored them until they were bumped by the buses and began shouting curses back.

  • Esoteric: esəˈterik (adjective) – intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge or interest

The man and woman stepped into the room stiffly side by side as though right out of a familiar, though esoteric, anniversary daguerreotype on a wall.

  • Truculence (noun) – defiance, aggression

His round white cap was cocked in an insolent tilt, his hands were clenched, and he glared at everything in the room with a scowl of injured truculence.

  • Otiose: o·ti·ose (adjective) – serving no practical purpose or result

His own girl sat sprawled out gracelessly on an overstuffed sofa with an expression of otiose boredom.

  • Torpid: tor·pid (adjective) – mentally or physically inactive; lethargic.

Nately was unnerved by her torpid indifference to him, by the same sleepy and inert pose that he remembered so vividly, so sweetly, and so miserably from the first time she had seen him and ignored him at the packed penny-ante blackjack game in the living room of the enlisted men’s apartment.

  • Lissome: lis·some (adjective) – (of a person or their body) thin, supple, and graceful

A lissome, blonde, sinuous girl with lovely legs and honey-colored skin laid herself out contentedly on the arm of the old man’s chair and began molesting his angular, pale, dissolute face languidly and coquettishly.

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion – vocabulary

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion was originally written in Japanese by Yukio Mishima and then translated into English by Ivan Morris, who decides to leave some words untranslated. I thought it might be nice to keep all those words together in a list and add to it as I read the book.

Chapter One

keyaki (tree) – also called a Japanese elm. Its scientific name is Zelkova serrata, and it is a flowering deciduous tree of medium height. It is grown for ornamental purposes and typically has a short trunk and round canopy shape.

kempei-tai – the “Military Police Corps” that served like a secret police force for the Imperial Japanese Army from 1881 to 1945. A kempei is one member of the police force.

kaya (tree) – also called a Japanese nutmeg-yew. Its scientific name is Torreya nucifera. It is a deciduous tree of medium height with leaves like evergreen needles. The wood from this tree is highly valued, and the species is now protected after times of over-harvesting.


shinden-zukuri – a style of architecture used for mansions that was popular in the Heian period of 794 to 1185. The shinden is the main room and is typically on a north-south axis with a courtyard placed to the south. There is a specific symmetry to these estates and use of undeveloped space as a point of design. Buildings are connected by corridors. (Jessica – this layout should look familiar to you as it is based off a similar Chinese model seen in many of the Imperial buildings)

image source

more reading about shinden-zukuri

The Girls from Corona del Mar – Vocabulary

It’s always a good idea to keep a list of words you don’t recognize while you read through a book. For me, some words become very closely associated with where I first read them (cul-de-sac I first saw in The Hardy Boys in third grade). Here is my newly learned vocab list after reading The Girls of Corona del Mar.

  • Rubicund: adj. red or ruddy
  • Autodidact: n. a self-taught person
  • Logorrhea: n. pathologically incoherent, repetitive speech or an incessant or compulsive talkativeness
  • Aplomb: n. imperturbable self-possession, poise, or assurance
  • Weft: n. woven fabric or garment
  • Mimeograph: n. a printing machine with an ink-fed drum, around which a cut waxed stencil is placed and which rotates as successive sheets of paper are fed into it.
  • Dargah: n. the tomb of a Muslim saint; a Muslim shrine
  • Vertiginous: adj. whirling, spinning, rotary