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

A supposedly DFW thing I'll never do again

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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!


abulia
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.

benthos
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.

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

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

exergue
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.

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

gravid
My definition: Pregnant.
Real definition: Pregnant.

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

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

jacal
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.

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

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

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

neroli
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.

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

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

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

rebus
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.

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

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

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

valgus
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.

witenagemot
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.

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