Heliogabaline et al.

I just finished reading David Foster Wallace’s Consider the Lobster. I enjoyed it, but I had to resist the urge to go and look up each word I didn’t know when I was reading (since there were many, many of them). To give some examples, I did pick out a few words to look up:

  • gonfalon – a banner suspended from a crossbar, often with several streamers or tails
  • vang – a rope extending from the peak of a gaff to the ship’s rail or to a mast, used to steady the gaff
  • psephologist – a sociologist who studies election trends

I also looked up heliogabaline and discovered that he is not just using obscure words but is also making words up. I’m all for creating new words*, but it certainly breaks my habit of looking words up in the dictionary when those words aren’t in the dictionary.

Up next, Lennon Remembers.

* Many years ago I contributed a couple of new words to the Pseudodictionary — tonguewater and skimper. I was Googling around to find the links to those and found out that the Urban Dictionary has a much different definition for skimper than I had.

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