Quote #17: David Foster Wallace (2006)

We don’t think of ourselves as citizens in the old sense of being small parts of something larger and infinitely more important to which we have serious responsibilities. We do still think of ourselves as citizens in the sense of being beneficiaries—we’re actually conscious of our rights as American citizens and the nation’s responsibilities to us and ensuring we get our share of the American pie. We think of ourselves now as eaters of the pie instead of makers of the pie. So who makes the pie?

word #17: “moldiwarp” (n.)


  1. The European mole (talpa europaea).
  2. An underhand person; a sneak, a plotter, a spy.

Richard Burton prescribed other associative literary traits on the moldiwarp in his epic The Anatomy of Melancholy:

Be silent then, rest satisfied, desine, intuensque in aliorum infortunia solare mentem, comfort thyself with other men’s misfortunes, and, as the moldiwarp in Aesop told the fox, complaining for want of a tail, and the rest of his companions, Tacete, quando me oculis captum videtis, you complain of toys, but I am blind, be quiet; I say to thee, be thou satisfied

Can a name for an animal be an onomatopoeia ?

word #16: “mytacism” (n.)


  1. using the letter M incorrectly or to an extreme.

This has nothing to do with alliterative tongue-twisters, like reciting “A missing mixture measure” over and over. The OED offers the necessary context for such an obscure word:

In Latin prose composition: the pronunciation of a final m before a word beginning with a vowel, regarded as a fault by grammarians. Also: the placing of a word with a final m before a word with an initial m.

Interesting fact about Latin grammarians: the profession is not some continuation of Ancient Rome; they only came to exist after the civilization’s collapse. Thus, there is no actual authority on how to pronounce the language, only reasonable arguments that are hashed-out ad infinitum . Think about it: from California to Bangalore people read and write grammatically near-exact English, yet the spectrum of pronunciation and orality is as diverse as Kew Gardens. No one can see the word “Ladder” and figure folks in Chicago say “Lehteh” or that the correct way to say “water” in Philadelphia is “wüdder.”

This is why some words die.