Well, we have that in common & a fondness for lugubrious

I am in love with Slate’s list of words David Foster Wallace circled in his dictionary. Circling words would be something I’d do if I still used an old fashioned dictionary. I have a lovely, fat dictionary. It’s one of those “unabridged” numbers, in fact it’s Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary. Sucker weighs like nine pounds and is currently acting as a nice shelf for a bunch of manuscripts that need editing. It lives upstairs in the Fortress of Solitude. It’s entirely too big and bulky to be practical. Plus, well there’s the Internet.

For awhile I’ve longed for an online dictionary that would keep track of all the words I looked up. For awhile I thought I found one. It kept track of all my words and I rejoiced. But then after like a week it forgot all the words, and since then I have forgotten the name of that dictionary. So this year I resolved to write down all the words I look up. This is not the best method for keeping track of the words, but it’s a start.

I look up words for all kinds of reasons. Sure a lot of the time it’s for spelling purposes. But a lot of times it’s definition and not because I don’t know what the word means but I want to know what the subtle nuance is between using that word or some other word I had in mind. Or, I’m checking on some other writer who used the word. You’d be amazed, well probably not, by how many writers use words incorrectly. Like you’ll see annexed on the list here. I saw someone somewhere use it like: I was annexed from something. I don’t know if the writer meant isolated or what. But I had to check myself to make sure there wasn’t some secret hidden meaning before I openly ridiculed the writer in my head.

So yeah. Here’s my list of words. You’ll see that compared to David Foster Wallace I’m a mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging, monosyllabic simpleton.

incredulity 05Jan10
gullible 06Jan10
incomprehensible 07Jan10
lexicographers 11Jan10
bated 11Jan10
delivered 11Jan10
fulgent 12Jan10
ferocious 12Jan10
fiance/fiancee 17Jan10
eponymous 17Jan10
massacring 17Jan10
complements 19Jan10
megalith 19Jan10
inchoate 21Jan10
cathartic 21Jan10
Elegiac 24Jan10
corollary 25Jan10
ubiquitous 29Jan10
relentlessly 02Feb10
Brachiosaurus 02Feb10
misspelling 04Feb10
verisimilitude 06Feb10
bereft 11Feb10
Usage 12Feb10
recrimination 16Feb10
touts 17Feb10
ancillary 21feb10
tumuli 22feb10
oblogquy 23 Feb10
bureaucracy 24Feb10
profane 01Mar10
annexed 03Mar10
obstreperous 10Mar10
surreptitiously 11Mar10
collateral 14Mar10
intercalary 15Mar10
prognosticating 16Mar10
plaintive 30Mar10
tenuous 01Apr10
winsome 03Apr10
Fatuous 07Apr10
intellect 13Apr10

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  1. Kevin Fenton 15.Apr.10 at 4:02 pm

    Maybe the iPad or one of these other modern wonders will include a real, substantial, enhanced version of a dictionary. A memory of looked up words would be awesome. When I was at the U of M MFA program, we got free access to the OED online. That was great.

    “Fulgent” is one of those words that always trips me up because, like “bucolic” and “pulchritude,” its unpleasant sound subverts its meaning.

  2. Jodi 15.Apr.10 at 4:05 pm

    Yes! Pulchritude gets me all the time. It’s so icky.

  3. Kevin Fenton 16.Apr.10 at 7:24 am

    My horrible admission is that I last encountered “pulchritude” on a recent episode of Parenthood.

  4. Doug 19.Apr.10 at 12:01 am

    For years I was using “bereft” not exactly incorrectly but generally out of the common connotation, but I didn’t look it up because I thought I knew its precise meaning.

    The shame should not come from looking something up (to the extent that doing so holds that association–I’m not saying that’s at all an implication one should draw from your post; I’m using that as the springboard for this new topic where we presume, for the sake of argument, that we’re supposed to feel like we should just know all these words); the shame comes from not looking up words even when we think we know them.

    No, I’m not sure when this became a confessional.


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