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David Foster Wallace, Enucleating* English

Apr 15, 2010

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Barrie Hardymon

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I love to read the notes in the margins of used books — it's like literary forensic work. It's even more telling to read a marked up dictionary — especially when the dictionary in question belonged to the late David Foster Wallace. Slate has posted a complete list of words that Wallace circled in his dictionary; and a quick perusal has turned up something akin to FIVE that I actually recognize. (I was a Latin student, so Ablative Absolute was kind of a gimme.) Here are a few of my favorites — new favorites, I should say.

Flitch: NOUN:
A salted and cured side of bacon.

A longitudinal cut from the trunk of a tree.

One of several planks secured together to form a single beam.

Espalier: NOUN:
A tree or shrub that is trained to grow in a flat plane against a wall, often in a symmetrical pattern.

A trellis or other framework on which an espalier is grown.

Relict: NOUN:
Ecology An organism or species of an earlier time surviving in an environment that has undergone considerable change.

Something that has survived; a remnant.

A widow.

*Yes, that's the archaic of enucleate.

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