September 21, 2009 § Leave a comment
David Foster Wallace was a contributing author to the Oxford American Writer’s Thesarus. This is his note on the word ‘pulchritude’
A paradoxical noun because it means beauty but is itself one of the ugliest words in the language. Same goes for the adjectival form pulchritudinous. They’re part of a tiny elite cadre of words that possess the very opposite of the qualities they denote. Diminutive, big, foreign, fancy (adjective), colloquialism, and monosyllabic are some others; there are at least a dozen more. Inviting your school-age kids to list as many paradoxical words as they can is a neat way to deepen their relationship to English and help them see that words are both symbols for things and very real things themselves.
In the above clip, he responds to the use of phrases like ‘prior to’ and ‘at the present time’, and even finds time to take a swing at ‘utilise’ and ‘individual’.
WARNING: you should only bother watching it if you’re interested in, you know, words.
More on DFW and the Thesarus at Maud Newton