Zany vocabulary & eclectic quotes of wisdom from Ignatius J. Reilly

Appreciation for the enigmatic “Confederacy of DUNCES” by John Kennedy Toole

May 22, 2017 · 11 min read

“In addition, I am at the moment writing a lengthy indictment against our century. When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip.”


  • abstruse — difficult to understand; obscure
  • ague — malaria or some other illness involving fever and shivering

“She offered Patrolman Mancuso a torn and oily cake box that looked as if it had been subjected to unusual abuse during someone’s attempt to take all of the doughnuts at once.”


  • beery — relating to or characterized by the drinking of beer, typically in large amounts
  • brusque — abrupt or offhand in speech or manner

“In the five years that he had dedicated to this work, he had produced an average of only six paragraphs monthly.”


  • cretinous — “a dwarfed and deformed idiot” of a type formerly found in families in the Alpine lands, a condition caused by a congenital deficiency of thyroid hormones
  • coiffed — style or arrange (someone’s hair), typically in an elaborate way
  • coterie — a small group of people with shared interests or tastes, especially one that is exclusive of other people
  • coxcomb — a vain and conceited man; a dandy

“Here, I’ll take your things.” Mr. Gonzalez was slapped on the hand when he reached for the cap, but he was permitted to have the coat.”

“Ignatius taped a sheet of Big Chief paper on which he had printed in crayon: TWELVE INCHES (12) OF PARADISE.”


  • dirges — a lament for the dead, especially one forming part of a funeral rite; a mournful song, piece of music, or poem
  • dormer — a window that projects vertically from a sloping roof
  • dotage — the period of life in which a person is old and weak

“Possession of anything new or expensive only reflected a person’s lack of theology and geometry; it could even cast doubts upon one’s soul.”

“My being has many facets.”


  • enervated — cause (someone) to feel drained of energy or vitality; weaken
  • ennui — a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement

“Then he tiptoed carefully around the little inert figure of Miss Trixie, returned to the filing department, picked up the stack of still unfiled material, and threw it into the wastebasket.”

“He was four workers in one. In Mr. Reilly’s competent hands, the filing seemed to disappear.”


  • floozie — a girl or a woman who has a reputation for promiscuity
  • foppery — foolish character or action
  • forlorn — pitifully sad and abandoned or lonely; (of an aim or endeavor) unlikely to succeed or be fulfilled; hopeless

“Ignatius believed in the rota Fortunae, or wheel of fortune, a central concept in De Consolatione Philosophiae, the philosophical work which had laid the foundation for medieval thought.”

“When Fortuna spins you downward, go out to a movie and get more out of life.”


  • graft —is a form of political corruption, being the unscrupulous use of a politician’s authority for personal gain. The term has its origins in the medical procedure whereby tissue is removed from one location and attached to another for which it was not originally intended. Similarly, political graft occurs when funds intended for public projects are intentionally misdirected in order to maximize the benefits to private interests

“With the breakdown of the Medieval system, the gods of Chaos, Lunacy, and Bad Taste gained ascendancy.”


  • hovel — a small, squalid, unpleasant, or simply constructed dwelling

“Only the most flamboyant offal would be seen in a miscarriage like that. You must have some shame or at least some taste in dress.”

“Canned food is a perversion. I suspect that it is ultimately very damaging to the soul.”

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Statue in new Orleans
  • imprecations — a spoken curse

“Ignatius went behind the filing cabinets, picked up the accumulated and unfiled material, and threw it in the wastebasket. Noticing that the office manager was sitting at his desk with his hand over his eyes, Ignatius pulled out the first drawer of the files, and, turning it over, dumped its alphabetical contents into the wastebasket, too.”


“The tragedy of the book is the tragedy of the author — his suicide in 1969 at the age of thirty-two. Another tragedy is the body of work we have been denied.

It is a great pity that John Kennedy Toole is not alive and well and writing. But he is not, and there is nothing we can do about it but make sure that this gargantuan tumultuous human tragicomedy is at least made available to a world of readers.” — Walker Percy

“Myrna appeared through a turnstile carrying a NON-VIOLENT CONGRESS FOR THE SEXUAL NEEDY placard and began heckling him. “Jesus will come to the fore, skins or not.” Ignatius-St.James prophesied grandly.”


  • loquacious — tending to talk a great deal; talkative
  • lugubrious — looking or sounding sad and dismal

“Am I going to be attacked in my own home before a stranger with a false beard?”


  • Magyar — a member of a people who originated in the Urals and migrated westward to settle in what is now Hungary in the 9th century AD
  • mansard — a roof that has four sloping sides, each of which becomes steeper halfway down
  • modicum — a small quantity of a particular thing, especially something considered desirable or valuable
  • muscatel — a muscat grape, especially as grown for drying to make raisins
  • muumuu — a woman’s loose, brightly colored dress, especially one traditionally worn in Hawaii
  • moribund — (of a person) at the point of death; (of a thing) in terminal decline; lacking vitality or vigor
  • nosegay — a small bunch of flowers, typically one that is sweet-scented

“It appeared that Vaseline had also been applied to the mustache, for it gleamed very brightly.”


  • Onanists — a man who masturbates; a man who uses coitus interruptus as a means of birth control

“The syndicate. Whoever the are. Look at my hands.” Ignatius shoved two paws into the man’s face. “My entire nervous system is on the brink of revolt against me for subjecting it to such trauma. Ignore me if I suddenly go into a state of shock.”

“Let me assure you that I did not choose to collapse here before your gas chamber of a den. I did not return here of my own volition. My feet have simply ceased to function. I am paralyzed.”


  • penury — extreme poverty; destitution
  • proustian — of, relating to, or resembling Marcel Proust, his writings, or the middle-class and aristocratic worlds he described
  • pyloric — connects the stomach to the duodenum. The pylorus is considered as having two parts, the pyloric antrum (opening to the body of the stomach) and the pyloric canal (opening to the duodenum)

“There was the old aunts who has been robbed of fifty cents by some hoodlums, the cousin who had been struck by the Magazine streetcar, the uncle who had eaten a bad cream puff, the godfather who had touched a live wire knocked loose in a hurricane.”

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Statue in New Orleans

“In my private apocalypse he will be impaled upon his own nightstick.”


  • rococo — or “Late Baroque”, is an early to late French 18th-century artistic movement and style, affecting many aspects of the arts including painting, sculpture, architecture, interior design, decoration, literature, music, and theater
  • roughage — food containing much indigestible material acting as fiber

“Dear Reader, A great writer is the friend an benefactor of his readers.” — Macaulay

“Dear Reader, A good book is the precious lifeblood of a master-spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose for a life beyond.” — Milton

“Dear Reader, Books are immortal sons defying their sires.” — Plato”


  • sated — satisfy (a desire or an appetite) to the full; supply (someone) with as much as or more of something than is desired or can be managed
  • sepulcher — a small room or monument, cut in rock or built of stone, in which a dead person is laid or buried
  • stentorian — (of a person’s voice) loud and powerful
  • supercilious — behaving or looking as though one thinks one is superior to others

“Once in high school someone had shown him a pornographic photograph, and he had collapsed against a water cooler, injuring his ear.”


“I had an unspoken attachment to it. It was a contact with my childhood, a link with the past.”


“As the magnificence and originality of my worldview became explicit through conversation, the Minkoff minx began attacking me on all levels, even kicking me under the table rather vigorously at one point.”

“Myrna was, you see, terribly engaged in her society; I, on the other hand, older and wiser, was terribly dis-engaged.”


  • vibrissae — any of the long stiff hairs growing around the mouth or elsewhere on the face of many mammals, used as organs of touch; whiskers
  • vicissitudes — a change of circumstances or fortune, typically one that is unwelcome or unpleasant; alternation between opposite or contrasting things

“Veneration of Mark Twain is one of the roots of our current intellectual stalemate.”


“Our nation demands the scrutiny of a completely disengaged observer like your Working Boy, and I already have in my filed a rather formidable collection of notes and jottings that evaluate and lend a perspective to the contemporary scene.”


“Attacked by a bird. Mrs. Reilly wept. “That hadda happen to you, Ignatius. Nobody never gets attacked by a bird.”


  • *ZANY* — If you had to compress the breadth of comedic genius of this novel into one word— zany — would be mine. (amusingly unconventional and idiosyncratic; an erratic or eccentric person)

“So we see that even when Fortuna spins us downward, the wheel sometimes halts for a moment and we find ourselves in a good, small cycle within the larger bad cycle. The universe, of course, is based upon the principle of the circle. At the moment, I am in an inner circle. Of course, smaller circles within this circle are also possible.”

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Statue in New Orleans

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