A supposedly DFW thing I'll never do again | Buzz Blog
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A supposedly DFW thing I'll never do again


The University of Texas-Austin has a collection of documents and oddities belonging to the late, great David Foster Wallace, including his marked-up copy of the American Heritage Dictionary with 23 entries circled. ---Were these his favorite words? Words he intended to use in his writing? A vocabulary exercise?

In any case, the circled words are fairly obscure ... so I amused myself by seeing how many I could correctly define. And, even though I managed to finish Infinite Jest -- yes, even the footnotes and the parts where it gets all 12-Steppy -- as it turns out, I got only five of them right -- that's 22 percent. Damn your genius, David Foster Wallace!

Here are the words with my definitions, if you'd like to play along. (To see the real definitions, highlight the black areas.)

Have fun!

My definition: Half-audible snippets of oratory overheard from outside a cathedral or civic auditorium.
Real definition: Abnormal lack of ability to act or to make decisions.

My definition: A rhetorical appeal to an audience's sense of resigned familiarity.
Real definition: Organisms that live on or in the bottom of a body of water.

My definition: A bulbous forehead.
Real definition: A company of badgers.

My definition: Having both red and white blood cells.
Real definition: Disposed in two vertical rows.

My definition: One who outsources or delegates labor; a manager.
Real definition: A space on a coin, token, or medal usually on the reverse below the central part of the design.

My definition: The cutting edge of a sword or blade.
Real definition: A German style of blackletter.

My definition: Pregnant.
Real definition: Pregnant.

My definition: Having overly porous skin.
Real definition: A pet name, or the use of pet names.

My definition: Inscrutable.
Real definition: Tending to cause discontent, animosity, or envy.

My definition: A lacy collar or shirtcuff.
Real definition: A hut in Mexico and southwestern United States with a thatched roof and walls made of upright poles or sticks covered and chinked with mud or clay.

My definition: Eyeliner.
Real definition: A preparation used especially in Arabia and Egypt to darken the edges of the eyelids.

My definition: One being sued.
Real definition: One to whom a legacy is bequeathed or a devise is given.

My definition: Talkative.
Real definition: Given to or characterized by deception or falsehood or divergence from absolute truth.

My definition: A garment.
Real definition: A fragrant pale yellow essential oil obtained from flowers chiefly of the sour orange and used especially in cologne and as a flavoring.

My definition: A realm of interest.
Real definition: A morsel left at a meal.

My definition: Wealthy.
Real definition: Guilty of a moral offense.

My definition: Bitter; medicinal; curative.
Real definition: Arranged in groups of five.

My definition: A type of symbolic word puzzle.
Real definition: A representation of words or syllables by pictures of objects or by symbols whose names resemble the intended words or syllables in sound; also a riddle made up of such pictures or symbols.

My definition: Regarding; directed toward.
Real definition: Dried perspiration of sheep deposited in the wool and rich in potassium salts.

My definition: A wise leader.
Real definition: A punishment identical to the offense, as the death penalty for murder.

My definition: Subservient.
Real definition: Excessively fond of or submissive to a wife.

My definition: An opening beneath a plant exposing its root system.
Real definition: Of, relating to, or being a deformity in which an anatomical part is turned outward away from the midline of the body to an abnormal degree.

My definition: A conclave of wise elders.
Real definition: An Anglo-Saxon council made up of a varying number of nobles, prelates, and influential officials and convened from time to time to advise the king on administrative and judicial matters.