Saturday, March 15, 2008

Fantod Under Glass

I didn't get any more essays graded. (Yet. I didn't get any more essays graded yet. After all, I can still force myself to grade more tonight, right? Right?)

Instead I took a long nap that made me even more tired when I got up from it than before. Too bad I didn't have my camera within easy reach, because my cats piled on me and napped with me, making cute poses and inducing me to further sloth. It was nice.

In the spirit of not doing very much at all (my specialty) I tried to look up what a "fantod" was, as Pseudonymous Grad Student seems to have them. The howling fantods, that is. I was picturing something rather like the Dementors from the last Harry Potter movie ---- a sort of crushing, terrifying despair that completely sucks the life out of you. But the examples listed in the OED (yes, hello, I am a geeky grad student) sounded so unimpressive: the fidgets, or a state of nervous irritability. Well, that hardly sounds worth writing home about. Humpf.

Other synonyms might include the heebie jeebies or the screaming meemies. Ok I like that last one, though it sounds more manic than what PGS was describing. (And heebie jeebies have always sounded like a junkie in need of a fix, even before I really knew what that was. So if I were queen of the world Word, I would officially declare those to be separate ailments, and impose a new, more existentially soul-sucking, definition on fantods, declaring the 19th C meanings of a generalized pissiness to be obsolete.)

Even more interesting, fantods have been mentioned, according to my quick internet search, in Infinite Jest and Gravity's Rainbow, The Pickwick Papers and even in Huckleberry Finn. Huh. I've even read some of those books. Funny thing is I don't remember any mentions of fantods there, and the first thing I thought of when I heard the word was Edward Gorey:

From the same book I scanned in the last time, Mr. Earbrass, in the antique shop, is irritatedly wondering "why anyone should have had a fantod stuffed and placed under a glass bell."

I don't know, it looks kinda cute to me. Maybe that's because I can't hear the howling?


Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

Yep, I get the word from DFW who's also reponsible for the fact that I have to edit three conunctions out of the start of every sentence I draft. I guess I of think of the howling fantods as anxious discomfort verging on horror.

I like the Gorey connection, though.

SEK said...

Ah, howling fantods. Sweet memories of an an entirely different field.

Le sigh.

Sisyphus said...

Oh, and I forgot even to mention how "The Howling Fantods" would be a pretty damn good band name.

So, I'm evidently lacking in my indie-pomo-big books cred, eh? Oh wait! That's right, it doesn't matter because there are absolutely no jobs in that field! Guess I'll just leave that stuff to my old roommates.

Though I will note that I can read more novels in my current field because they're, you know, shorter.

SEK said...

Well, there's a reason I'm not doing that sort of work anymore. I mean, fun is fun, but a man's got to eat. (Occasionally.) (When not dying of the Sudden Creeping Death.)

Sisyphus said...

SEK, do you _still_ have the Sudden Creeping Death? You gotta get past that, man --- you've got emails to send me ... check that, uh, a dissertation to write!

(stupid comment boxes that won't let you use strikethroughs! Meh!)

semanticdrifter said...

I also feel the long shadow of DFW. His voice creeps into mine constantly. The influence gives me some anxiety.