WORD LISTS

Vocabulary from "D.F.W.'s Favorite Grammarian"

December 11, 2013
The novelist David Foster Wallace was obsessed with good writing, and taught students how to write well at two universities. He had his own takes on the timeless debates of grammar, and could hold court on the rather idiosyncratic rationales behind his beliefs. Wallace's Biographer, D.T. Max, profiles the relationship between Wallace and Bryan Gardner, editor of The Dictionary of Modern American Usage, in this New Yorker blog post. D.F.W.’S Favorite Grammarian The New Yorker, December 11, 2013. If you are interested in David Foster Wallace and Grammar, you may want to take a look at this Language Hat post, which offers evidence and analysis which suggests that he didn't quite know what he was talking about.
misgiving
Interviews with him are full of his misgivings that questions are coming too fast and asking for answers that are too short.
impromptu
Yet “Quack This Way” is the fourth posthumous publication of the impromptu oral D.F.W.
irony
An additional irony is that what D.F.W. and Garner, a professor of law at Southern Methodist University whose day job is to teach good writing to lawyers, sit down to talk about is the centrality, the permanence, the almost moral imperative to write well.
discursive
Ask anyone who knew him, and what they remember is his glorious, discursive, impassioned talk.
turgid
My guess is that disciplines that are populated by smart, well-educated people who are good readers but are nevertheless characterized by crummy, turgid, verbose, abstruse, abstract, solecism-ridden prose, are usually part of a discipline where the vector of meaning—as a way to get information or opinion from me to you—versus writing, as a form of dress or speech or style that signals that “I am a member of this group,” gets thrown off.
verbose
My guess is that disciplines that are populated by smart, well-educated people who are good readers but are nevertheless characterized by crummy, turgid, verbose, abstruse, abstract, solecism-ridden prose, are usually part of a discipline where the vector of meaning—as a way to get information or opinion from me to you—versus writing, as a form of dress or speech or style that signals that “I am a member of this group,” gets thrown off.
abstruse
My guess is that disciplines that are populated by smart, well-educated people who are good readers but are nevertheless characterized by crummy, turgid, verbose, abstruse, abstract, solecism-ridden prose, are usually part of a discipline where the vector of meaning—as a way to get information or opinion from me to you—versus writing, as a form of dress or speech or style that signals that “I am a member of this group,” gets thrown off.
solecism
My guess is that disciplines that are populated by smart, well-educated people who are good readers but are nevertheless characterized by crummy, turgid, verbose, abstruse, abstract, solecism-ridden prose, are usually part of a discipline where the vector of meaning—as a way to get information or opinion from me to you—versus writing, as a form of dress or speech or style that signals that “I am a member of this group,” gets thrown off.
yokel
Wallace’s inquiry centered on Garner’s “A Dictionary of Modern American Usage,” a new entry in the ongoing national battle to communicate without seeming like a fool, a yokel, or a toff.
bugaboo
The guide included perennial bugaboos like—or do I mean “such as”?—whether it was O.K. to end a sentence with a preposition (yes, fine) and the admissibility of split infinitives (depends on how many words separate the actual verb and its bereft partner).
bereft
The guide included perennial bugaboos like—or do I mean “such as”?—whether it was O.K. to end a sentence with a preposition (yes, fine) and the admissibility of split infinitives (depends on how many words separate the actual verb and its bereft partner).
proscribe
Were grammarians supposed to proscribe and prescribe, or just describe?
prescribe
Were grammarians supposed to proscribe and prescribe, or just describe?
autocratic
D.F.W. found Garner the ideal mix of instructor and explainer, a teacher with the true credentials of the modest and informed, an authority “not in an autocratic but a technocratic sense.”
encomium
With a certain self- and subject-mockery, he piled on the encomia.
proffer
They exchanged book recommendations; Garner suggested the nineteenth-century critic and grammar authority Richard Grant White, while Wallace proffered his high-lit triad of DeLillo, Gass, and Gaddis.
triad
They exchanged book recommendations; Garner suggested the nineteenth-century critic and grammar authority Richard Grant White, while Wallace proffered his high-lit triad of DeLillo, Gass, and Gaddis.
itinerant
I reached the itinerant professor by phone the other day in a D.C. hotel room—he is on the road two hundred days a year with his Sisyphean mission—and he told me that he and Wallace hadn’t met again until the interview four years afterward, but that they had exchanged letters in the interim.
nauseous
Five years had passed since “Tense Present,” during which time D.F.W. had gone from a so-so school, Illinois State University, to a fancy one, Pomona College, and still he spent his days correcting students who mixed up “nauseous” and “nauseated” and struggled to write clearly.
nauseate
Five years had passed since “Tense Present,” during which time D.F.W. had gone from a so-so school, Illinois State University, to a fancy one, Pomona College, and still he spent his days correcting students who mixed up “nauseous” and “nauseated” and struggled to write clearly.
elan
Garner mentioned to me that the Wallace who presented himself at the Hilton Checkers hotel lacked some of the élan of the Wallace of his earlier acquaintance.
connote
But the truth is that between sophisticated advertising and national-level politics, I am at a loss as to what people’s use of language is now meant to convey and connote to the receiver.”

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