Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Word of the day: fantod

Before the day is done: Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day is fantod. The dictionary speaks:

“You have got strong symptoms of the fantods; your skin is so tight you can't shut your eyes without opening your mouth.” Thus, American author Charles Frederick Briggs provides us with an early recorded use of fantods in 1839. Mark Twain used the word to refer to uneasiness or restlessness as shown by nervous movements — also known as the fidgets — in Huckleberry Finn: “They was all nice pictures, I reckon, but I didn't somehow seem to take to them, because . . . they always give me the fantods.” David Foster Wallace later used “the howling fantods,” a favorite phrase of his mother, in Infinite Jest. The exact origin of fantod remains a mystery, but it may have arisen from English dialectal fantigue — a word (once used by Charles Dickens) that refers to a state of great tension or excitement and may be a blend of fantastic and fatigue.
Here’s an Infinite Jest example, spoken by the French-Canadian terrorist Rémy Marathe: “‘The U.S.A. fantods are meaning fear, confusion, standing hair.’” Yep.

A related post
From Edward Gorey’s Fantod Pack

comments: 4

Geo-B said...

It is a word beloved of Edward Gorey, who established The Fantod Press to publish his works, and also issued The Fantod Deck of Tarot cards.

Michael Leddy said...

I bought a deck years ago at the Art Institute. Must find!

Chris said...

One thing that wasn't clear to me from reading Mark Dery's biography of Gorey was how the Fantod Press items were printed and produced, although I think the Gotham Book Mart may have had some role in it.

Michael Leddy said...

That wouldn’t surprise me. I have several side-stapled books of Glen Baxter’s art published by the Gotham, things they brought out from who knows where when I asked if they had anything else by him. I remember waiting — and waiting — and waiting — for someone to find out a price. I finally gave up and went to the register and explained. The clerk rang them up for $5 each, the price written in pencil years before.