Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Entry: pubertyizing (adj.)

In context: "'I'm saying how stressing the pubertyizing skeleton like this, it's real short sighted.'"

Definition: So obviously a neologism that I felt a little embarrassed checking it in the OED.  But anyways, presumably describes a person/creature undergoing puberty.

Other: Which raises for me the question - do animals go through puberty?  I have a feeling that opens a whole can of Google worms I'm not particularly prepared to delve into.

SNOOT score: 1

Page: 104

Source: N/A

Entry: zygomatics (n.)

In context: "His [Hal's -- JM] parents' pregnancies must have been all-out chromosomatic war: Hal's eldest brother Orin has got the Mom's Anglo-Nordo-Canadian phenotype, the deep-socketed and lighter-blue eyes, the faultless posture and incredible flexibility (Orin was the only male anybody at E.T.A.'d ever heard of who could do a fully splayed cheerleader-type split), the rounded and more protrusive zygomatics."

Definition:  Short for zygomatic muscle n. at sense A.   or zygomatic bone n. at sense A.

Other: Your zygomatic muscle (which looks like fetching - have you been working out lately?) helps you to smile.  Check out this Wikipedia entry.

SNOOT score: 1

Page: 101
Source: Oxford English Dictionary, Wikipedia

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Entry: otterish (adj.)

In context: "Hal is sleek, sort of radiantly dark, almost otterish, only slightly tall, eyes blue but darkly so, and unburnable even w/o sunscreen, his untanned feet the color of weak tea, his nose ever unpeeling but slightly shiny."

Definition: Not surprisingly a neologism, but pretty obviously an adjective describe an otter-like manner or appearance.


Here are some interesting -ISH words valid in Scrabble:




SNOOT score: 1

Page: 101
Source:  Oxford English Dictionary

Entry: semion (n.)

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

Definition: I'm surprised that this isn't in the OED, but pretty clearly from

Other: semiology (n.): Sign language; The branch of science concerned with the study of linguistic signs and symbols.

I was wondering about the semiotics of dislike, and found an illustrated guide to offensive hand gestures

SNOOT score: 2

Page: 101
Source: Oxford English Dictionary

Monday, 27 February 2012

Entry: cognomen (n.)

In context: "He [Stice -- JM] makes the companies that give him clothes and gear give him all black clothes and gear, and his E.T.A. cognomen is 'The Darkness.'"

Definition:  Hence, in English use: a distinguishing name or epithet given to a person or assumed by himself; a nickname.


In Latin use:  (a) The third name, family name, or surname of a Roman citizen, as Marcus Tullius Cicero, Caius Julius Cæsar;  (b) an additional name or epithet bestowed on individuals, as Africanus, Cunctator (in later Latin called agnomen).

Other: Cool word!  I'm a big hockey fan, but I think hockey cognomen are among the worst.  You're Smith?  Smithy.  You're Jones?  Jonesy.  Winnipeg Jets goalies Ondrej Pavelec?  Pavvy. 

SNOOT score: 3

Page: 100
Source: Oxford English Dictionary

Entry: piebald (adj.)

In context: "...the ones here with the least bad piebald coloring are the players who can tolerate spraying themselves down with Lemon Pledge before outdoor play."

Definition: Of a horse or other animal: having black and white patches; pied; (more widely) having patches of other colours, particoloured (rare)


1885    R. F. Burton tr. Arabian Nights' Entertainm. I. xiv. 134   Thereupon the eagle changed into a piebald wolf and these two battled in the palace for a long time.

SNOOT score: 1

Page: 99
Source: Oxford English Dictionary

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Entry: atavistically (adj.)

In context: "Besides Hal, who's atavistically dark-complected anyway..."

Definition: From atavism (n.): Resemblance to grand-parents or more remote ancestors rather than to parents; tendency to reproduce the ancestral type in animals or plants.

Also, if you take disease or symptom broadly:

b. Pathol. Recurrence of the disease or constitutional symptoms of an ancestor after the intermission of one or more generations.

Other: A word familiar from Hunter S. Thompson.

Very cool usages:

1915    W. S. Maugham Of Human Bondage xxvi. 108   Some atavistic inheritance of the cave-dweller.

1922    J. Joyce Ulysses iii. 645   The sporadic reappearance of atavistic delinquency.

SNOOT score: 3

Source: Oxford English Dictionary

Entry: attritive (adj.)

In context: "Though C.T. makes his administrative assistant Lateral Alice Moore drive the prorectors bats trying to ferret out data on littler kids' psychic states, so he can forecast probable burnouts and attritive defection, so he'll know how many slots he and Admissions'll have to offer Incomings for the next terms."

Definition:   Characterized by attrition, wearing away.

Other: A bit of neat info.  

1927    W. S. Churchill World Crisis 1916–18 i. ii. 45   The only method of waging war on the Western Front was by wearing down the enemy by ‘killing Germans in a war of attrition’.

Attrition can also have a more theological emphasis, which is fascinating:

An imperfect sorrow for sin, as if a bruising which does not amount to utter crushing (contrition); ‘horror of sin through fear of punishment, without any loving sense, or taste of God's mercy’ (Hooker), while contrition has its motive in the love of God. (A sense invented by scholastic theologians in 12th c.; the earliest in English.)

SNOOT score: 2

Page: 99
Source: Oxford English Dictionary

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Entry: ephebes (n.)

In context: "The savvier Big Buddies don't get too overly close with their L.B. ephebes, don't let them forget about the unbridgeable gaps of experience and ability and general status that separate ephebes from upperclassmen who've hing in and stuck it out at E.T.A. for years and years."

Definition: Not in the O.E.D., but certainly familiar outside of Wallace.

eˈphebic adj. of or pertaining to an ephebus, or to early manhood.


SNOOT score: 2

Source:  Oxford English Dictionary

Entry: quiescent (adj. / n.)

In context: "Hal sits on the floor, quiescent, chin on his chest, just thinking it's nice finally to breathe and get enough air."

Definition: A nice entry - given the context and character, a few of the definitions fit:

Othera. In a state or condition of quietness; motionless; inactive; dormant.

 b. Med. Of a disease or disease process: inactive.

†b. Of a person: silent, not speaking. Obs. rare.

 3. Electronics. Corresponding to or characterized by the absence of an input to a device ready to receive one.

SNOOT score: 3

Page: 97
Source: Oxford English Dictionary

Friday, 24 February 2012

Entry: acutance (n.)

In context: "Troeltsch pretends to shuffle cards.  'Next item.  Next like flash-card.  Define acutanceAnybody?"

Definition:   The sharpness of a photographic or printed image; a numerical measure of this.

Other: A nice meta-ish entry/usage for today.  

If you ever make an inappropriate comment about an attractive person walking past you, you can now always say, "I said acutance!"

SNOOT score: 2

Page: 96
Source: Oxford English Dictionary

Entry: teratogenic (adj.)

In context: "Move south, calmly and in all haste, toward some border metropolis - Rome NNY or Glens Falls NNY or Beverly MA, say, or those bordered points between them at which the giant protective ATHSCME fans atop the hugely convex protective walls of anodized Lucite hold off drooling and piss-colored banks of teratogenic Concavity clouds and move the bank well back, north, away, jaggedly, over your protected head."

Definition:   teratogenic adj. /-ˈdʒɛnɪk/ pertaining to teratogenesis; producing monsters.

Other: What a great word!  Though, the etymological link to teratoma (n.) A tumour, esp. of the gonads, characteristically formed of numerous distinct tissues and believed usually to arise from germ cells or their precursors, makes it maybe a little less fun.

SNOOT score:  4

Source:  Oxford English Dictionary

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Entry: fulvous (adj.)

In context: "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."

Definition: Reddish-yellow, dull yellowish-brown or tawny.

Other: If I had a mustache, and if it was reddish-yellow, dull yellowish-brown or tawny, I would definitely describe it as fulvous.  I'd probably do so while stroking it, too.

SNOOT score: 2

Page: 93
SourceOxford English Dictionary

Entry: pedalferrous (adj.)

In context: "They thunder eastward across pedalferrous terrain that today is fallow, denuded."

Definition: A neologism - or at least a neologic conjugation.  From pedalfer (n.):  A soil in which there is no layer of accumulated calcium carbonate, but in which oxides of iron and aluminium have tended to accumulate (usually acidic and characteristic of humid climates)

Other: It's difficult to get excited by soil*, but hey... it's Thursday!  That's always a good thing, right?

*Apologies to one good friend, who is a soil scientist.  I'm sure he gets all hot and bothered by pedalferrous landscapes and solonetz and solonchaks.

SNOOT score: 1

Page: 93
Source: Oxford English Dictionary

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Entry: locomotival (adj.)

In context: "The noise of the herd [feral hamsters, if you're curious - JM] is tornadic, locomotival."

Definition: From locomotive (adj.): Of or pertaining to travel, or movement from one locality or country to another.

Other: The first locomotive was built in 1804, though a commercially-successful version wasn't around until 1812 - says Wikipedia.

SNOOT score: 1

Page: 93
Source: Oxford English Dictionary and Wikipedia

Entry: amanuensis (n.)

In context: "(Rodney Tine, Sr., Chief of Unspecific Services, acknowledged architect of O.N.A.N and continental Reconfiguration, who held the ear of the White House of U.S.A., and whose stenographer had long double as the stenography-cum-jeune-fille-de-Vendredri of M. DuPlessis, former asst. coordinator of the pan-Canadian Resistance, and whose passionate, ill-disguised attachment (Tine's) to this double-amanuensis - one Mlle. Luria Perec, of Lamartine, county L'Islet Québec - gave rise to these questions of the high-level loyalties of Tine, whether he 'doubled' for Québec out of the love for Luria or 'tripled' the loyalties, pretending only to divulge secrets while secretly maintaining his U.S.A. fealty against the pull of an irresistible love, it is said.)"

DefinitionOne who copies or writes from the dictation of another.

Other: The word is familiar to me, either from reading Walter Benjamin, or from reading related secondary literature.  For some reason, though, I feel that the definition is a bit of a let-down for such a strange and interesting-looking word.

If you haven't played Scrabble very much you might not immediately recall that the board is 15x15.  Playing a 15-letter word is exceedingly rare - the first I remember seeing was MICROEARTHQUAKE.  You can see how that was built of smaller words.  Out of curiosity, I checked what 15 letter words can be built with AMANUENSIS and any of 5 letters, and they're all pretty cool and surprisingly non-esoteric:


SNOOT score: 3

Source: Oxford English Dictionary

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Entry: samizdat (n.)

In context:  "And follow-up out of the Boston offices report possible indications of the victim's prior possible involvement with the widow of the auteur we both know was responsible for the Entertainment in the first place.  The samizdat."

Definition: The clandestine or illegal copying and distribution of literature (orig. and chiefly in the U.S.S.R.); an ‘underground press’; a text or texts produced by this. Also transf. and attrib. or as adj. Phr. in samizdat, in this form of publication.

Other: Fantods, samizdat.

Why do we love certain words?

Panties, dainties, cyber- as a prefix for absolutely anything.

Why do we hate certain words - why do they make us shiver, repulse us, provoke the howling fantods?

Fantods and samizdat speak, in a significant way, to what motivates this project for me.  When I first read them I had no idea as to their meaning, other than what little I could glean from context.  Each was rich and luxurious, strange and opaquely-meaningful.  I've thought about language a fair bit and even written a master's thesis that largely focused on communication, and yet I remain unsure of what creates an initial attraction or repulsion from certain combinations of letters.

I'd guess it's multifaceted: contextual, associative, rhythmic, and tonal.  Probably a lot more I'm not sharp enough to notice, too.  When SNOOT is taken a a pejorative, one can forget that seemingly strange words aren't useful only because they distinguish a speaker in some way (that is, performative/political function takes precedence over subjective/aesthetic function), but also because they speak to one's relationship to language, which might be one of the most fundamental relationships we can have.  Sometimes I think of concerns I have over irony and the ironic shadow cast over a language that has to always be deciphered in terms of its function, purpose, and effect.

This wasn't intended to be a longer note, so I'll cut it short here, except to say that I find it interesting and powerful that I love a word like samizdat before I know it's meaning and before I know why I might love it.  When I think on either of these questions - of meaning and appreciation - the word becomes both more meaningful and appreciated.  And this appreciation raises all sorts of questions that for me are a helluva lot of fun to consider.

See also: samizˈdatchik n.  [ < Russian -chik  , agentive suffix] one who takes part in the writing, copying, and distribution of samizdat material (pl. samizdatchiki). 

The Wikipedia page is a worthwhile read, too.

SNOOT score: 5

Source: Oxford English Dictionary, Wikipedia

Entry: pendentive (adj.)

In context: "And Steeply raised his bare arms and held them out and crossed them, maybe as if signalling for distant aid; this made X's and pendentive V's over much in the city Tucson."

Definition: Each of the concave curved triangles lying between the arches supporting a dome, cupola, etc., and the baseline of this structure; an analogous curved region between the groins of a vaulted roof, etc.

Other:  I chose this word not only because it was unfamiliar, but because it has a wonderful rhythm - try saying it aloud and savoring it.  Isn't it fantastic?

To be honest, though, I'm so excited to get to the next word I'm just going to cut it clean now.

SNOOT score: 1

Page: 91
Source: Oxford English Dictionary

Monday, 20 February 2012

Entry: agnate (adj.)

In context: "Their specular perspective, the reddening light on vast tan stone and the oncoming curtain of dusk, the further elongation of their monstrous agnate shadows: all was mesmerizing."

Definition: Difficult to really nail this one.   2. fig. Allied in kind, akin; partaking of the same nature.

Other: Above is the closest to a sensible usage of agnate as I can fine - the etymology highlights the more typical definition: 

Etymology:  < French agnat , < Latin agnāt-us (adgnāt-us , adnātus ) a relation by the father's side; prop. born to, added by birth, past participle of adgnā-sc-i , < ad to + gnā-sc-i to be born, < stem gen- to beget.

SNOOT score: 1

Source: Oxford English Dictionary

Entry: perfidiously (adj.)

In context: "But once Marathe had committed not just to pretend to betray his Assassins des Fauteuils Rollents in order to secure advanced medical care for the medical needs of his wife, but to in truth do this - betray, perfidiously: now pretending only to M. Fortier and his A.F.R. superiors that he was merely pretending to feed some betraying information to B.S.S. - once this decision, Marathe was without all power, served now at the pleasures of the power of Steeply and the B.S.S. of Hugh Steeply: and now they spoke mostly the U.S.A. English of Steeply's preference.

Definition: In a perfidious manner; treacherously. 

To assist,   perfidious (adj. and n.): Characterized by perfidy; guilty of breaking faith or violating confidence; deliberately faithless; treacherous. Also occas. as n.: a perfidious person.

Other: This was a long weekend, both temporally and first-person subjective. With that in mind, I'm super happy to have a great set of words to be working through.

Okay, back to the task: trying to parse some of Wallace's prose without the aid of caffeine (or other) can be difficult.  It's kind of a shame that none of the OED's historical usages are all that interesting.

SNOOT score: 3

Page: 89
Source: Oxford English Dictionary

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Entry: candidatic (adj.)

In context: "...two Embassy security guards w/ sidearms, who'd been dispatched by a candidatic, heartily pissed-off Prince Q..."

Definition: From candida (n.): A yeast-like mycelium-forming parasitic fungus of the genus Candida, which includes species causing disease in people and animals; spec. C. albicans, common as a commensal in the alimentary tract and the vagina, and the cause of thrush.

Other: Nothing like the image of a fungal infection to renew your commitment to eat healthy this week, right?

SNOOT score: 1

Source:  Oxford English Dictionary

Entry: palestra (n.)

In context: "By learning, in palestra, the virtues that pay off directly in competitive game,s the well-disciplined boy begins assembling the more abstract, gratification-delaying skills necessary for being a 'team-player' in a larger arena: the even more subtly diffracted moral chaos of full-service citizenship in a State."

Definition: I'll include two of the definitions: 

1. In ancient Greece and Rome: a place devoted to the public teaching and practice of wrestling and other athletic exercises; a wrestling school, a gymnasium. hist.

2. In extended use: a place of combat, a battlefield; (also) a place to exercise one's intellectual skills, an arena for debate, etc.

Other: PALESTRA takes three back-hooks in Scrabble: ELS (PALESTRAE, PALESTRAL, PALESTRAS).

SNOOT score: 2

Page: 83
Source: Oxford English Dictionary

Saturday, 18 February 2012

A tiny bit of shameless self-promotion:

I have a book review, my fifth, in the Winnipeg Free Press today.  It's on Wael Ghonim's Revolution 2.0

Entry: diagnate (adj.)

In context: "...this diagnate infinite of infinities of choice and execution..."

Definition: A neologism.  Thoughts?


SNOOT score: 1

Source:  N/A

Entry: aleatory (adj.)

In context: "...the aleatory flutter of uncontrolled metastatic growth..."

Definition:  Dependent on the throw of a die; hence, dependent on uncertain contingencies.

Other: To be forthright, I thought this was a medical term.  What a cool word!  An excellent replacement for 'random'.

SNOOT score: 3

Source: Oxford English Dictionary

Friday, 17 February 2012

Entry: simpatico (adj.)

In context: "In short, Schtitt and the tall A.E.C.-optics man (i.e. Incandenza), whose fierce flat serve-and-haull-ass-to-the-net approach to the game had carried him through M.I.T. on a full ride w/stipend, and whose consulting report on high-speed photoelectric tracking the U.S.T.A. mucky-mucks found dense past all comprehending, found themselves totally simpatico on tennis's exemption from stats-tracking regression."

Definition:  Pleasing, likeable; congenial, understanding; sensitive, sympathetic.

Other: I don't really care for any of the usages except this one: 

1905    E. M. Forster Where Angels fear to Tread iii. 86   The person who understands us at first sight, who never irritates us, who never bores,‥that is what I mean by simpatico.

Great word!

SNOOT score: 3

Source:  Oxford English Dictionary

Entry: plosivity (n.)

In context: "When Schtitt exhales pipe-smoke in different geometric patterns they both seem to study intently, when Schtitt exhales he makes little sounds variant in plosivity between P and B."

Definition: Presumably from plosive:  A consonant that is produced by stopping the airflow using the lips, teeth, or palate, and then suddenly releasing an outward flow of air.

Other: A bit of a clunker, in context sentences, eh? 

SNOOT score: 1

Page: 80
Source: Oxford English Dictionary

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Entry: varicoceles (n.)

In context: "He [Schtitt] has a way of focusing his whole self's concentration very narrowly, adjusting his legs' spread for the varicocles and curling one arm over the other and sort of drawing himself in around the pipe he attends to."

Definition:  Varicose condition or dilatation of the spermatic veins.

Other: A funny part (for me... don't judge) that I missed the first two read-throughs.

SNOOT score: 1

Source: Oxford English Dictionary