Word: Attenuated

I first ran across attenuated in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest many years ago and have never been able to remember what it means out of context. To attenuate is to make something thin, weak, or dispersed. Wallace uses the word to describe light and sound. The word comes from the Latin “tenuis” meaning “thin” and is related to “tenuous,” whose meaning I do remember easily and which link I hope will help to cement “attenuated” in my vocabulary. Although “tensile” comes to us from a different Latin root (though I gather the same Indo-European one), it’s another similar word I have a visual association with and consistent grasp of.

Silly sample sentence: At ten, you waited, attenuated, for your breakfast, and then you ate it.

Word: Lugubrious

I know lots of words. In fact, I used to joke with my daughter that I knew all the words, but then I read Blood Meridian and was made to feel stupid. I also happen to be kind of slovenly about looking up words. The Kindle, which briefly helped me look up words I might have glossed over in a print book for want of a nearby dictionary, turned into the thing I use to read the books I care less about than the ones I want to own in print. So I’m equally likely so skip the word lookup on the Kindle for these quick skims as I am to skip running upstairs for the dictionary when reading a real book I’m invested in.

Several times lately I’ve run into words that I’ve seen a million times but couldn’t produce a useful definition for. More often than not, context clues are enough to get the gist, but even when I get the gist, I often turn right around and forget it.

In hopes of helping to combat the memory loss, I thought I’d start a new occasional series (though I’m far too undisciplined for one of these Word(less) Wednesday type things that so many bloggers do) in which I highlight a word I’ve been lazy about.

Today’s word is “lugubrious,” an adjective meaning “mournful, dismal, or gloomy, especially to an exaggerated or ludicrous degree.”

Silly sample sentence: When stupid Lou glued food to his new crude rood, he brooded, his mood lugubrious.