Sunday, May 30, 2010

On Expanding a Vocabulary Much in the Way of a Certain Expanding House, or Words I Had to Look Up While Reading 'House of Leaves'. Part One.

When reading, I have a pencil or pen with me, and I circle any terms I need to look up. I can't accept an encounter with a new word without examining and assimilating it. This leads occasionally to my sitting in coffee houses thinking I must look like a grad student and feeling like a poser with a sign flashing above me in neon: Working Mommy with an unused liberal arts BA! Trying to front all academic! So, but yeah. That's my intention- to look up those sexy new terms. I usually never make it to that point.

And then there was Mark Danielewski.

My notes tucked inside House of Leaves required a large sheet of note paper, covered front and back, and included some stuff (that would spoil the book if I detail it here) I'm pretty sure would have seen me installed in the nearest psych ward should it be found. They also included a small glossary-in-waiting hat I've decided to share here. As I began the definition-hunting, I was soothed by the fact that Firefox itself only recognizes 9 of the vexing words.

So here I am sharing my brain meal. Break the mental bread with me, won't you?
  1. deracinated

    1. to pull up by or as if by the roots; uproot; extirpate
    2. to remove, as from a natural environment

  2. Maginot Line

    1. (Historical Terms) (Military) a line of fortifications built by France to defend its border with Germany prior to World War II; it proved ineffective against the German invasion
    2. any line of defence in which blind confidence is placed

  3. discursive

    1. Covering a wide field of subjects; rambling.
    2. Proceeding to a conclusion through reason rather than intuition.
  4. prolix

    1. Tediously prolonged; wordy: editing a prolix manuscript.
    2. Tending to speak or write at excessive length.

    oh, this is me making with the belly laughs!

  5. antihomies not even IN THE FLIPPIN' DISCTIONARY.
    Oh. OOOOHHH. Am assuming this is part of Johnny's text and he means not-homeboys. Am terrifically embarrassed not to have grokken that previously. (Is to have grokken correct, Heinlein lovers?)

  6. lec·tion

    1.a version of a passage in a particular copy or edition of a text; a variant reading.
    2. a portion of sacred writing read in a divine service; lesson; pericope.
  7. biosemiotics is biology interpreted as a sign systems study, or, to elaborate, biosemiotics is 1. a study of signification, communication and habit formation of living processes
    2. semiosis
    (changing sign relations) in living nature
    3. the biological basis of all signs and sign interpretation

    too new a term for dictionary .com, apparently. Wikipedia supplies teh knowledge, happily. And I think had I known this word in my college art days I could have more easily explained the naked tree-nymphs and suchlike during critiques. I have much more reading to do in this direction.

  8. thamyris
    In Greek mythology, Thamyris (Greek: Θάμυρις), son of Philammon and the nymph Argiope, was a Thracian singer who was so proud of his skill that he boasted he could outsing the Muses. He competed against them and lost. As punishment for his presumption they blinded him, and took away his ability to make poetry and to play the lyre. This outline of the story is told in the Iliad.[1]

    Oh. I has a sad.My notes had no capitalization, so I left it that way here.
Definitions via,, and Wikipedia.

There are 35 terms to learn, but I'm stopping here because I have to ACTUALLY enroll in grad school, probably in FRANCE, to understand Derrida's differance/DifferAnce/differance. I'm starting here, I guess.

I'm also working on a quick reviewlet of Jitterbug Perfume, which is OMGyummy.


  1. I do this, too, use the same dictionary I've had since jr. high. (I prefer to flip than click.)

    I've never read House Of Leaves, but I'm adding it to my library queue, if only for the vocabulary lesson.

  2. It's a long, vertiginous mind-fuck. Which is to say, AWESOME.

  3. I have been struggling for years to read that book! It's not that I lose interest, but it really is tedious, with all the exaggerated footnotes.

    And I won't lie - I've become so freaked out numerous times that I've thrown the book on the floor.

    Someday I'll conquer it!