Pages 3-27

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Page 3


Hal is referring to the fact that the office he's in is decorated with art by Frederic Remington (1861-1909), an American painter who work can be seen online here.


A type of knot used to tie a necktie

Harold Incandenza

Hal's full first name is given for the first time.


A fictional town just west of Boston, which exists where parts of the real town of Brighton and the Boston neighborhood of Allston exist in reality. There used to be a real Enfield in western Massachusetts but it was disincorporated in 1938.

Page 4


Organization of North American Nations Collegiate Atheltic Assocation -- presumably the future complement of the NCAA.


"A benign encysted tumor of the skin, esp. on the scalp, containing sebaceous matter; a sebaceous cyst" (Random House Unabridged Dictionary

Randolph Tennis Center

The Randolph Tennis Center is a real place, near Tuscon, Ariz., where the main campus of the University of Arizona is also located.

El Con Marriott

"El Con" is short for "El Conquistador," and while there is a Hilton El Conquidistdor Hotel in Tuscon, the Marriot has a different name.

Page 5

"...the fat women in the Viking hat having sung..."

Another way of saying, "It ain't over till the fat lady sings." This expression refers to opera, particularly those by Richard Wagner.


Out of eight people in the room (including himself, three deans, the Director of Composition, deLint, and C.T.), five are looking at Hal. Hal not being able to look at himself, two people are not looking at Hal, presumably deLint and C.T.


A circumflex is a diacritical mark, as seen in the French verb être (to be). Presumably, the dean's eyebrows have taken on this shape.

Pac 10

The Pacific 10 athletic conference, the other members of which are: Arizona State Univ., Univ. of California at Berkeley, Univ. of Oregon, Oregon State Univ., Stanford Univ., UCLA, USC, Univ. of Washington, and Washington State Univ.


Referring to Friedrich August Kekule von Stradonitz (a.k.a. August Kekulé), a German organic chemist (1829-1896). Chemicals are said to be formed by knots of elements. The exact shape to which Hal is referring is unclear.

Page 6


This word, not found in dictionaries, would seem to mean "of or pertaining to an aviary," an aviary being where birds are kept.

Page 7


A jewel-cutter


Degenerate or decadent

Prescriptive Grammar

This terms describes a school of thought that there are rules of grammar that should be obeyed and taught. Wallace is firmly in this school.

Post-Fourier Transformations

Named for Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier (1768-1830), a French mathematician, a Fourier transformation is "a certain linear operator that maps functions to other functions" (Wikipedia). Post-Fourier would refer to those transformations that came after Fourier.

Holographically Mimetic

Approximating reality using holograms

Montague Grammar

Named for Richard Merett Montague (1930-1971), an American logician, this is an approach to semantics that suggests that the semantics of natural languages is essentially the same as those of formal languages, such as logic or computer programming.

Physical Modality

Modality, in linguistics, refers to sign theory. Physical modality would, therefore, be either how a physical thing is represented by a sign or how any idea is represented by something physical.




The era of the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I (reigned 527-565)


Italian for "below," it means the dean is speaking in a low voice.

Page 8

Oxbridge Quadrivium-Trivium

Oxbridge refers to the two oldest colleges in the U.K., Oxford and Cambridge. The Quadrivium are the four academic subjects of arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy. The Trivium are three disciplines, i.e., grammar, logic, and rhetoric.

Page 9


North American Associaton of University Professors, the presumed followed to the American Assocation of University Professors.

de moi

French: from me

"...who use whomsoever as a subject..."

"Whosoever" would be the proper subjective form of this word.

capillary webs

The smallest networks of blood vessels, where arteries turn into veins


As if eliminating solid bodily waste


An acronym for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, a statute used primarily to charge organized crime figures in criminal conspiracies.

Page 10

Brewster's-Angle light

Name for Sir David Brewster (1781-1868), a Scottish scientist, the angle is the angle which non-polarized light striking a surface at will reflect polarized light. Presumably a desk lamp is position at such an angle. This is explained in better detail here.


A suburb of Boston, about 17 miles west of the city


Hal's older brother, his name means "a tree" or "pale."


a brand name of rotary tiller



Page 11


Literally "old-eyed," this is the inability to focus one's eyes as one grows older



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Page 12


Søren Aabye Kierkegaard was a 19th century Danish philosopher and one of the progenitors of existential philosophy


Albert Camus was a 20th century Algerian-born French author of existentialist texts.

Dennis Gabor

Dennis Gabor, born Gábor Dénes, was a 20th century Hungarian physicist who invented holography, for which he received the Nobel Prize.

"...Hobbes is just Rousseau in a dark mirror..."

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) was a British philosopher and author of Leviathan. In it, he suggests that the only escape from living in a state of nature that is "solitary, nasty, brutish, and short" is to build societies. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) was the Swiss-French philosopher who wrote The Social Contract, in which he advances the same argument but idealizes the state of nature.


Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) was a highly influential German philosopher.


Latin for "creation," the line over the a indicates the vowel is pronounced as in "hate" rather than in "father."


To pinion is to disable a bird by clipping its wings.

Nunn Bush

A brand of shoes

Page 13

half nelson

a wrestling hold where both arms are pinned behind the back


The Heimlich maneuver, named for contemporary American physician Henry Jay Heimlich, dislodges food from a choking person's trachea by applying sharp pressure to the abdomen.


This is the plural of pase, a Spanish word used in bullfighting to denote the movement of the matador's cape in drawing in the bull.


lying on one's back


a word used to denote a type of military gunfire. A formation or position is "in enfilade" if weapons fire can be directed along its length. For instance, a column of marching troops is enfiladed if fired on from the front rather than the side.

Page 14


apparently a genuine fast food chain

Page 15


shoes popular in Latin American with rope for soles

Page 15


plural of cirrus, a type of cloud


a strict disciplinarian

Page 16


Named for Ernst Mach (1838-1916), a Bohemian-Austrian physicist, the mach unit is a unit for the speed of sound. "Ultra-mach" would apply to a plane flying at several times the speed of sound.


This word refers to "aged and weathered boards, esp. those salvaged from dismantled barns" (Random House Unabridged Dictionary).

starboard list

Employing the nautical term for "right" (starboard), the woman referred to tends to move right as she tries to move forward.


a neologism meaning "of or like an incision"


This would seem to imply a person who has an affinity for infants.


missing fingers


I.e., James Incandenza, this is the first reference to Hal's father.

Page 17

"...Donald Gately and I dig up my father's head..."

See Hamlet, Act Five, Scene One.

Venus Williams

At the time this novel was published, Venus Williams would have been sixteen years old.


Dymphna was a 7th century Irish saint. Her feast day is May 15. She is the patron saint of mental illness professionals, epilectics, and the mentally ill, among others.

Petropolis Kahn

Petropolis is Greek for "city of stone" or "city of Peter." Petrópolis is a city in Brazil near Rio de Janeiro. A treaty was signed there on November 11, 1903, ending hostilities between Bolivia and Brazil.

"Kahn" is a variant on the Jewish name for a priest, i.e., kohen.


the cause of a disease

O.E.D. VI's count

This is a reference to the Oxford English Dictionary, sixth edition.


deriving from Latin


deriving from Old English

Page 17

Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment

Page 18

200 grams

a little over seven ounces

"...using just audio.."

The implication here is that in the time of the book, there are videophones.


A part of of Boston proper, west of downtown and across the Charles river from Cambridge. The fictional Enfield most likely occupies part of what is in reality Allston.

Page 19


"Teleputer", as used elsewhere in the text. Assumed to be a hybridized communications/entertainment device.

Page 20


a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, their equivalent of the FBI

Porter Square, Cambridge

a neighborhood of Cambridge bordering on Somerville, about a mile from Tufts University, which is on the Somerville/Medford border

Page 21

Wedekind festival

This would presumably be a festival celebrating the plays of German playwright Benjamin Franklin Wedekind (1864-1914), a proto-expressionist.

Page 22


inflammation of the pleurae, the membranes surrounding the lungs

120 grams

about 4.2 ounces

Tito Puente

Ernest Anthony Puente, Jr., an internationally known Puerto Rican jazz musician.

Marlborough Street

Marlborough Street runs through the Back Bay area of Boston.

Page 23

methamphetamine hydrochloride

As the endnote on p. 983 tells us, this the chemical name for crystal meth. Calling to mind that Infinite Jest was published in 1996, don't think crystal meth is a new phenomenon.

Page 24


"Magiscules" are upper-case letters; Wallace is using this noun as a verb.

50 grams

about 1.75 ounces


grown in water without soil

Page 25


a drinking mug

E.W.D. land barge

perhaps "Enfield Waste Disposal"

half a meter

nearly 20 inches


Short for "carburetor," just as the carburetor in an internal combustion engine mixes air with gas to allow combustion, the carbuteror on a water pipe allows one to draw air in with marijuana smoke.


Presumably a computer which shows television shows or movies, it occurs to me now that "TP" may stand for "teleputer."

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