“So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say. If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written.” — Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
Over at Page Views, the new literary blog helmed by Alexander Nazaryan, this item reminded me that many months ago, I meant to write here about all the words I looked up while reading Infinite Jest.
Knowing what I was in for, vocabulariwise, I had vowed, at the outset, to look up and write down every word in the novel I didn't know. And I held to this promise quite well. Until I didn’t.
At first, I was surprised to find that I didn’t have to look up nearly as many words as I’d anticipated. But then the going got slower. And I didn’t always have my trusty notebook at hand while reading. Or I was so into the flow of reading that I didn’t want to interrupt that flow, even for a quick riffle through the dictionary. Or I did interrupt the flow to look up a word, but then didn’t feel like writing out the definition.
“You mean ... you were lazy?”
I also soon realized that my repeatedly pausing to write out definitions was going to seriously threaten my ability to hit my end-of-summer reading deadline. Now, one might argue that my not looking up words every time I didn’t know them must have seriously impeded my understanding of certain passages — a sharp point, for sure, but that's a whole other blog post in itself.
Anyway: I do have a partial list of looked-up words. And so in the spirit of sharing — because lists, we love them! — here you go:
Words Looked Up While Reading Infinite Jest
aigrette — 1. a bunch of the long, white, showy plumes of the egret, once worn for ornament on a hat or in the hair; 2. any ornament like this
aleatory — of or pertaining to chance
anfractuous — sinuous or circuitous
apocope — loss or omission of the last letter, syllable or part of a word, e.g., in the derivation of curio from curiosity
assuasive — soothing, allaying [ed. note: weird that nearly half these words begin with “a”]
enfilade — 1. a volley of gunfire directed along a line from end to end; 2. a suite of rooms with doorways in line with each other [ed note: I no longer have any idea what context this word appeared in]
erumpent — bursting forth
fulgurant — like or full of lightning; flashing
lapidary — characterized by an exactitude and extreme refinement that suggests gem cutting (e.g., a lapidary style)
misprision — 1. a mistake, especially one due to misreading, either deliberate or unintended, or to misunderstanding; 2. scorn; contempt; 3. misconduct or neglect of duty, especially by a public official [ed. note: sense 1 = apropos, considering our topic]