Saturday, December 17, 2011


David Foster Wallace, The Pale King, 2011, page 383
"Donne of course called it lethargie and for a time it seems conjoined somewhat with melancholy, saturninia, otiositas, tristitia - that is, to be confused with sloth and torpor and lassitude and eremia and vexation and distemper and attributed to spleen, for examle see Winchilsea's black jaundice, or of course Burton."

eremia |er-ay-mee'-ah|
a solitude, an uninhabited region, a waste
Etymology:  ecclesistical Greek ἐρημίτης , < ἐρημία a desert, <ἐρῆμος uninhabited.


David Foster Wallace, The Pale King, 2011, page 365
"'More like stupefied.  They're full-timers.  Glazed.  What's the other word.  Average burn here's three years.  Obtundated is the word."

obtundation  |ob′tundā′shən|
a greatly reduced level of consciousness. The patient is not yet comatose but is close, arousing only with very strong stimulus.
Etymology: L, obtundere, to blunt, atus, process

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Baker-Miller pink

David Foster Wallace, The Pale King, 2011, page 312
"Two walls' paneling painted over in Baker-Miller pink."


Sunday, December 11, 2011


David Foster Wallace, The Pale King, 2011, page 229
“Continuing on without pause, he said, ‘Exacting?  Prosaic?  Banausic to the point of drudgery?  Sometimes.  Often tedious?  Perhaps.  But brave?  Worthy?  Fitting, sweet?  Romantic?  Chivalric?  Heroic?’”

banausic |bəˈnôzik; -sik|adjective formalnot operating on a refined or elevated level; mundane.• relating to technical work.ORIGIN mid 19th cent.: from Greek banausikos ‘of or for artisans.’


David Foster Wallace, The Pale King, 2011, page 73
“Our mutual contract here is based on the presumptions of (a) my veracity, and (b) your understanding that any features or semions that might appear to undercut that veracity are in fact protective legal devices, not unlike the boilerplate that accompanies sweepstakes and civil contracts, and thus are not meant to be decoded or ‘read’ so much as merely acquiesced to as part of the cost of our doing business together, so to speak, in today’s commercial climate.

A semion is technically part of an anyon, the latter of which is defined in the OED as "a particle having characteristics intermediate between those of fermions and bosons in two-dimensional space." However, it seems Wallace uses the word as a form closer to "semiotics." A later search reveals that semion is Greek for "sign."

From the Infinite Jest wiki:


David Foster Wallace, The Pale King, 2011, page 70 F.N.
“The latter is a good example of the sort of thing that threw the publisher’s legal people into a swivet of anality and caution.

swivet |ˈswivit|noun [in sing. ]a fluster or panic the incomprehensible did not throw him into a swivet.ORIGIN late 19th cent.: of unknown origin.

Friday, December 2, 2011


Mark Twain, Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, 1896, page 83
“It was a fine thing to see how that young swashbuckler had made himself so popular in a strange land in so little a while, and without other helps to his advancement than just his tongue and the talent to use it given him by God – a talent which was but one talent in the beginning, but was now become ten through husbandry and the increment and usufruct that do naturally follow that and reward it as by a law.”

usufruct |ˈyoōzəˌfrəkt; -sə-|noun Roman Lawthe right to enjoy the use and advantages of another's property short of the destruction or waste of its substance.ORIGIN early 17th cent.: from medieval Latin usufructus, from Latin usus (et) fructus ‘use (and) enjoyment,’ fromusus ‘a use’ fructus ‘fruit.’

Friday, November 25, 2011


Tom Wolfe, The Right Stuff, 1979, page 303
“In his everyday life doughty little Gus lived the life of the right stuff.”

doughty |ˈdoutē|adjective ( -tier -tiest ) archaic, humorousbrave and persistent his doughty spirit kept him going.ORIGIN late Old English dohtigvariant of dyhtig, of Germanic origin; related to Dutchduchtig and German tüchtig.


Tom Wolfe, The Right Stuff, 1979, page 261
“They swirled about his capsule like tiny weightless diamonds, little bijoux – no, they were more like fireflies.”

bijou |ˈbē zh oō|adjective(esp. of a residence or business establishment) small and elegant the greasy spoons have given way to bijou restaurants.noun ( pl. -joux |- zh oō(z)|) archaica jewel or trinket.ORIGIN French, from Breton bizou ‘finger ring,’ from biz ‘finger.’


Tom Wolfe, The Right Stuff, 1979, pages 77-78
“You could see a poor sunken hookwormy sharecropper in bib overalls trying to push a rusty plow through some eroded ground that was more gully than topsoil, aided by a mule with all his ribs showing, while off to one side the man’s sallow hollow-socketed pellagra-ravaged wife with a swollen eight-month belly covered by a dress made from a fertilizer sack leans up against their shack to catch her breath or else to prop up the side wall.”

pellagra |pəˈlagrə; -ˈlāgrə; -ˈlägrə|nouna deficiency disease caused by a lack of nicotinic acid or its precursor tryptophan in the diet. It is characterized by dermatitis, diarrhea, and mental disturbance, and is often linked to overdependence on corn as a staple food.
ORIGIN early 19th cent.: from Italian, from pelle ‘skin,’ on the pattern of podagra.


Tom Wolfe, The Right Stuff, 1979, pages 73-74
“Regardless of how much he thought of himself, no flight surgeon dared position himself above the pilots in his squadron in the way he conducted himself before them: i.e., it was hard to be a consummate panjandrum, the way a typical doctor was.”

panjandrum |panˈjandrəm|nouna person who has or claims to have a great deal of authority or influence.ORIGIN late 19th cent.: from Grand Panjandrum, an invented phrase in a nonsense verse (1755) by S. Foote.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Joan Didion, "Goodbye to All That" 1967
"From my office, I could look across town to the weather signal on the Mutual of New York Building and the lights that alternately spelled TIME and LIFE above Rockefeller Plaza; that pleased me obscurely, and so did walking uptown in the mauve eight o’clocks of early summer evenings and looking at things, Lowestoft tureens in Fifty-seventh Street windows, people in evening clothes trying to get taxis, the trees just coming into full leaf, the lambent air, all the sweet promises of money and summer."

lambent |ˈlambənt|
adjective poetic/literary(of light or fire) glowing, gleaming, or flickering with a soft radiance the magical, lambent light of the north.• (of wit, humor, etc.) lightly brilliant a touch of the lambent bitterness that sometimes surfaced in him.ORIGIN mid 17th cent.: from Latin lambent- ‘licking,’ from the verb lambere.