Thursday, 31 October 2013

Entry: emetics (n.)

In context: "'Bridget, I forgot to tell you I saw that Rite Aid's having an enormous clearance on emetics."

Definition: Having power to produce vomiting. Also fig. sickening, mawkish.


SNOOT score:  1
Page: 702

Source: Oxford English Dictionary   

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Entry: catachresis (n.)

In context: "This has got to be a mispronunciation or catachresis on R.v.C's part, since Clonidine -- 2-(2,6-Dichloroanilino)-2imidazoline -- is a decidedly adult-strength anti-hypertensive; the infant'd have to be N.F.L.-sized to tolerate it."

Definition:  Improper use of words; application of a term to a thing which it does not properly denote; abuse or perversion of a trope or metaphor.

Other: I wish I had learned more than 2 classes worth of Greek, so I could make more sense of the etymology, which seems really interesting:

Etymology:  < Latin catachrēsis, < Greek κατάχρησις misuse (of a word), < καταχρῆσθαι to misuse, < κατά with sense of perversion + χρῆσθαι to use.

SNOOT score:  4
Page: 1053

Source: Oxford English Dictionary   

Monday, 28 October 2013

Entry: fictile (adj.)

In context: "We are shown how to fashion masks of ennui and jaded irony at a young age where the face is fictile enough to assume the shape of whatever it wears.  And then it's stuck there, the weary cynicism that saves us from gooey sentiment and unsophisticated naïveté."

Definition: Capable of being moulded, suitable for making pottery. 

Other: I love DFW's use above as well as the following from the OED:

1837   T. Carlyle French Revol. I. i. ii. 10   Ours is a most fictile world; and man is the most fingent plastic of creatures.

SNOOT score:  2
Page: 694

Source: Oxford English Dictionary   

Entry: anhedonia (n.)

In context: "One kind is low-grade and sometimes gets called anhedonia, or simple melancholy."

Definition: From fn. 280:

"Anhedonia was apparently coined by Ribot, a Continental Frenchman, who in his 19th-century, Psychologie des Sentiments says he means it to denote the psychoequivalent of analgesia, which is the neurologic suppression of pain."


SNOOT score:  3
Page: 692

Source: Infinite Jest

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Entry: epicene (adj.)

In context: "...the security guys'd see identical epicene figures high-heeling it away in different direction and get fuddled about who to chase."

Definition:  Adapted to both sexes; worn or inhabited by both sexes.


SNOOT score:  3
Page: 691

Source: Oxford English Dictionary   

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Entry: quixotic (adj.)

In context: "...they bow to your quixotic will..."

Definition: Of an action, attribute, idea, etc.: characteristic of or appropriate to Don Quixote; demonstrating or motivated by exaggerated notions of chivalry and romanticism; naively idealistic; unrealistic, impracticable; (also) unpredictable, capricious, whimsical.

Other: I'm surprised this one hasn't come up yet.  I think it's pseudo-snooty, but not actually SNOOT-worthy.

SNOOT score:  1
Page: 690

Source: Oxford English Dictionary   

Friday, 25 October 2013

Entry: deuteragonist (n.)

In context: "Oglivie'd once lectured for a whole period on this kid's character as an instance of the difference between an antagonist and a deuteragonist in moral drama..."

Definition:  The second actor or person in a drama: distinguished from the protagonist.

Other: I feel like this is one of those words you can use to check if people are listening to you when you speak.  If they just nod here, they probably aren't.

SNOOT score:  4
Page: 688

Source: Oxford English Dictionary   

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Entry: ontological (adj.)

In context: "It's no accident that in a bureaucracy getting fired is called 'termination,' as in ontological erasure, and the bureaucrat leaves his supervisor's cubicle duly shaken."

Definition:  Of, relating to, or of the nature of ontology; metaphysical; (Theol.)   ontological argument n. the argument that God, being defined as the most great or perfect being, must exist, since a God who exists is greater than a God who does not.

Other: The above definition doesn't really work in this usage.  A better fit can be found under ontology (n.): The science or study of being; that branch of metaphysics concerned with the nature or essence of being or existence.

Any philosophy students reading this are very welcome to add their thoughts and deepen our understanding of the history, usage, and import of this term.

SNOOT score:  3
Page: 686

Source: Oxford English Dictionary   

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Entry: constellated (adj.)

In context: "DeLint's back is pale and constellated with red pits of old pimples, though the back's nothing compared to Struck's or Shaw's back."

Definition:  Formed into, or set in, a constellation; clustered together as stars in a constellation.

Other: I had guessed this might be a neologism.  Neat word.  Check out this beautiful usage:

c1820   Shelley Question ii,   Daisies, those pearled Arcturi of the earth, The constellated flower that never sets.

SNOOT score:  1
Page: 686

Source: Oxford English Dictionary   

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Entry: aspirated (adj.)

In context: "Matty's Da'd died choking on aspirated blood, a veritable found of the darkest possible blood, Matty coated a spray-paint-russet as he held the man's yellow wrists and Mum lumbered off down the ward in search of a crash-card team."

Definition: The closest I can find is from aspiration (n.):

The action or process of drawing in, out, or through by suction.

In general, my cursory reading indicates that aspiration is when someone chokes on blood that has filled the lungs.  Any medical-type folks want to help out? 

Other: Another, seemingly more common (?) usage of the word, is:

To pronounce with a breathing; to add an audible effect of the breath to any sound; to prefix h to a vowel, or add h or its supposed equivalent to a consonant sound.

SNOOT score: 1
Page: 685

Source: Oxford English Dictionary   

Monday, 21 October 2013

Entry: mien (n.)

In context"...Krause never so much walking as making an infinite series of grand entrances into pocket after pocket of space, a queenly hauteur now both sickening and awesome given Krause's spectral mien..."

Definition: The look, bearing, manner, or conduct of a person, as showing character, mood, etc.

Other: A few hours late today.  Sorry about that.  I spent the weekend canoeing and camping and by the time I got home I was way too tired to get to the blog.  On the plus side, I have some great pictures I may upload here and include relevant (new?) words.

1785   W. Cowper Tirocinium in Task 829   See..Fops at all corners, lady-like in mien.

SNOOT score:  2
Page: 684

Source: Oxford English Dictionary   

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Entry: hauteur (n.)

In context: "...Krause never so much walking as making an infinite series of grand entrances into pocket after pocket of space, a queenly hauteur now both sickening and awesome..."

Definition:  Loftiness of manner or bearing; haughtiness of demeanour.

Other: A good Scrabble word, since auteur (n.) is also good, and is a pretty Infinite Jest-relevant term.

SNOOT score:  1
Page: 683

Source: Oxford English Dictionary   

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Entry: raglan (n.)

In context:  "Steeply's raglan sweater had been his wife's."

Definition:  An overcoat or (later more generally) other garment in which each sleeve continues in one piece up to the neck (see also quot. 1881).

Other: I have a difficult time getting too worked up over words related to clothing.  So... do you... like... stuff?  I got nothing.

SNOOT score:  1
Page: 681

Source: Oxford English Dictionary   

Friday, 18 October 2013

Entry: harlequin (n.)

In context:  "Aubrey DeLint was sitting back up beside them, the cold giving his pitted cheeks a second flush, two feverish harlequin ovals."

Definition: A buffoon in general; a fantastic fellow.

but more interestingly:

A character in Italian comedy, subsequently in French light comedy; in English pantomime a mute character supposed to be invisible to the clown and pantaloon; he has many attributes of the clown (his rival in the affections of Columbine) with the addition of mischievous intrigue; he usually wears particoloured bespangled tights and a visor, and carries a light ‘bat’ of lath as a magic wand.


SNOOT score:  1
Page: 681

Source: Oxford English Dictionary   

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Entry: salaam (n.)

In context:  "DeLint made the small salaam of iteration."

Definition: (I'm not sure if DFW just really wanted to use the word, or if I'm a little light in the head today.)

Respectful compliments.


The Oriental salutation (as)salām (ʿalaikum), Peace (be upon you). Hence applied to a ceremonious obeisance with which this salutation is accompanied, consisting (in India) of a low bowing of the head and body with the palm of the right hand placed on the forehead.

Other: Etymology:  < Arabic salām (hence in Persian and Urdu) = Hebrew shālōm peace.

SNOOT score:  1
Page: 679

Source: Oxford English Dictionary   

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Entry: quandariacal (adj.)

In context:  "'I don't see what's quandariacal for Dr. Tavis about this.'"

Definition: A neologism, presumably from quandary (n.):

A state of extreme perplexity or uncertainty as to what to do; a difficult dilemma.  

Other: You can tell the editor(s) were having fun here:

Etymology:  Origin unknown. Various etymologies have been suggested, all of them implausible. Perhaps compare conundrum n.

A recurrent suggestion is that the word is an alteration of some post-classical Latin term, arising (perhaps humorously) in scholastic or university use. This is not impossible (compare conundrum n., which also appears to show Latin influence, although both its etymology and its relationship with quandary n. are unclear), but no convincing concrete Latin etymons have yet been suggested. However, the following quot. shows that the word was at least apprehended as Latin at an early date:
1582   R. Mulcaster 1st Pt. Elementarie xvii. 111   In Latin words, or of a Latin form, where theie be vsed English like, as, certiorare, quandare, where e, soundeth full and brode after the originall Latin.

Some of the more fanciful suggestions are: that the word derives < French qu'en dirai-je ‘what shall I say of it?’; that it is an alteration of wandreth n. or its Scandinavian etymon; or that it is shortened < hypochondry n. All of these present obvious difficulties, whether semantically, phonologically, or chronologically, not the least of which is the fact that that the word was originally stressed on the second syllable (see below).

A further ingenious suggestion was made by L. Spitzer in various articles, notably in Jrnl. Eng. & Germanic Philol. (1948) 42 405–9 and Mod. Lang. Notes (1949) 64 502–4, where he argued for a French origin of the word, proposing an (unattested) earlier form of calambredaine (colloquial) nonsense, twaddle, balderdash (1798; of uncertain origin) as common etymon of both quandary n. and conundrum n., and perhaps even of kankedort n. (which is attested much earlier).

N.E.D. (1908) also indicates a former pronunciation (kwǫ̆·ndări) /kwənˈdɛərɪ/ with stress on the second syllable. This pronunciation is illustrated by quots. 1652 and a1720, and is also recommended by such late 18th-cent. and early 19th-cent. lexicographers as Sheridan, Walker, Perry, and Smart. However, the stress gradually shifted to the first syllable of the word (it has been suggested that the stress shift took place in the 18th cent., though the existence of the spelling quandery as early as the 17th cent. perhaps suggests earlier currency of this stress pattern). ˈQuandary is given as the usual pronunciation of the word by as early a source as Johnson (1755). Subsequently, many 19th-cent. and early 20th-cent. dictionaries record both possibilities; it is only in the later 20th cent. that the first-syllable stress came to predominate (the shift in attitudes is clearly seen in the various editions of H. W. Fowler Mod. Eng. Usage). The nonstandard spelling quandry shows elision of the unstressed vowel

SNOOT score:  2
Page: 674

Source: Oxford English Dictionary   

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Entry: akimbo (adj.)

In context: "A shrug, longs arms akimbo."

Definition: With hands on hips and elbows turned outwards.


With reference to (other) limbs, esp. the legs: spread or flung out widely or haphazardly.

Other: Which boxer loves pie?  Akimbo Slice

I make better dad jokes than real dads.

SNOOT score:  1
Page: 674

Source: Oxford English Dictionary   

Monday, 14 October 2013

Entry: rictal (adj.)

In context: "Her smile was rictal and showed confused teeth."

Definition:   Of or relating to the opening or gape of an animal's mouth or bill; spec. designating the bristle-like feathers that flank the bill in many insectivorous birds.

Other: Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving, all!

SNOOT score:  1
Page: 674

Source: Oxford English Dictionary   

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Entry: quorum (n.)

In context: "'Quorum on the decay-type odor.'"

DefinitionA fixed minimum number of members of an assembly or society that must be present at any of its meetings to make the proceedings of that meeting valid.

Other: I had expected the etymology to be more interesting, but nothing too neat here: 

Etymology:  < Anglo-Norman quorum select body of (usually eminent) justices of the peace, every member of which had to be present to constitute a deciding body (1437 or earlier; the word is apparently not attested in continental French until much later (1672, originally with reference to a body of justices of the peace in England)) and its etymon classical Latin quōrum, lit. ‘of whom’ (genitive plural of quī who: see who pron.), from the wording of commissions in which certain persons were specially designated as members of a body by the words quorum vos..unum (duos, etc.) esse volumus ‘of whom we will that one (two, etc.)’

SNOOT score: 1
Page: 672

Source: Oxford English Dictionary   

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Entry: malefic (adj.)

In context: "...the consensus is nobody would much mind seeing the malefic Ann Kittenplan hung out to dry in a serious way."

Definition: Esp. of a stellar influence or magical art or practice: productive of disaster or evil, harmful; baleful in effect or purpose.


SNOOT score: 2
Page: 671

Source: Oxford English Dictionary   

Friday, 11 October 2013

Entry: pace (prep.)

In context: "Feral hamsters - bogey-wise right up there with mile-high toddlers, skull-deprived wraiths, carnivorous flora, and marsh-gas that melts your face off and leaves you with exposed gray-and-red facial musculature for the rest of your ghoulish-pariah life, in terms of light-night hair-raising Concavity narratives - are rarely sighted south of the Lucite walls and ATHSCME'd checkpoints that delimit the Great Concavity, and only once in a blue moon anywhere south of like the new-border burg of Methuen MA, whose Chamber of Commerce calls it 'The City That Interdependence Rebuilt,' and anyway pace Blott are hardly ever seen solo, being the sort of rapacious locust-like mass-movement creature that Canadian agronomists call 'Piranha of the Plains.'"

Definition: With due deference to (a named person or authority); despite.Used chiefly as a courteous or ironic apology for a difference of opinion about to be expressed.

Other: I think I got the correct usage for this one.  The passage above is long, but was worth copying.

SNOOT score: 4
Page: 670

Source: Oxford English Dictionary   

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Entry: pules (n.)

In context: "Chu has Blott see whether he can lift a bulky old doorless microwave oven that's lying on its side up next to one wall, and Blotts tries and barely lifts it and pules, and Chu marks the oven down for the adults to lift..."

Definition: To cry in a thin or weak voice, as a child; to cry in a querulous tone; to whine, complain, whimper.

Other: Less commonly: to pipe plaintively, as a chicken, or the young of any animal; also applied to the mewing cry of a kite.

SNOOT score: 3
Page: 670

Source: Oxford English Dictionary   

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Entry: parfait (n.)

In context: "an anomalous set of parfait glasses, fruit peels and AminoPal energy-bar-wrappers that the Club itself had left down here after meetings..."

Definition:   A rich iced dessert of whipped cream and often egg mixed with a flavoured syrup or fruit purée. In later use also: (N. Amer.) a dessert consisting of layers of ice cream, meringue, fruit, etc., served in a tall glass.

Other: For some reason I feel an intrinsic antipathy to food-related terms, so let's keep a-moving..."

SNOOT score: -10
Page: 669

Source: Oxford English Dictionary   

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Entry: novitiate (n.)

In context: "...especially if they jet off to some novitiate-pro Satellite circuit for the summer..."

Definition: The state or time of being a novice or beginner in anything; a period of initiation, apprenticeship, or probation.

Other: In general, the term is used more often to denote a novice in a religious order.

SNOOT score: 1
Page: 667

Source: Oxford English Dictionary   

Monday, 7 October 2013

Entry: ambulatory (adj.)

In context: "...the bulk of the ambulatory sub-14 male Eschatonites..."

Definition: Of or pertaining to a walker, or to walking.

Other: Typing this entry, I wonder if ambulatory and ambulance share an etymological link.  Of course they do!  Ambulance comes from French ambulance (formerly hôpital ambulant walking hospital).

SNOOT score: 2
Page: 666

Source: Oxford English Dictionary   

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Entry: furcated (adj.)

In context: "And her response to the dog's death itself was bizarrely furcated."

Definition: Formed like a fork; forked or branched.


SNOOT score: 3
Page: 1051

Source: Oxford English Dictionary   

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Entry: aspic (n.)

In context: "...until the day the father is crushed into aspic in a freak accident on the Jamaica Way and all opportunities for transgenerational instruction are forever lost..."

Definition:   A savoury meat jelly, composed of and containing meat, fish, game, hard-boiled eggs, etc.

Other: You're going to need to be a little flexible with the definition in this case.

SNOOT score: 1
Page: 1050

Source: Oxford English Dictionary   

Friday, 4 October 2013

Entry: vacuous (adj.)

In context: "Ms. Steeples, to my way of thinking, the word "abuse" is vacuous."

Definition:  Empty of ideas; unintelligent; expressionless.

Other: ...and also:

Empty of matter; not occupied or filled with anything solid or tangible.

Devoid of content or substance.

Indicative of mental vacancy.

Etymology:  < Latin vacuus empty, void, free, clear, etc. (compare vacuum n.) + -ous suffix.

SNOOT score: 2
Page: 1050

Source: Oxford English Dictionary   

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Entry: in toto

In context: "...wishing the immaculately polish and sterilized hardwood floor would swallow up the whole scene in toto."

Definition: As a whole, absolutely, completely, without exception

Other: I feel like using Latin phrases isn't as snooty as some people seem to think.

SNOOT score: 2
Page: 1050

Source: Oxford English Dictionary