1. Sybaritic. From The Know-It-All. "The Britannica gives an elegant description of Anna's brother Stiva, who is 'genial and sybaritic'." I've heard this word before. I just have no idea what it means. If only it started with a "c," I might guess the definition was computer-related, although I suppose this would be quite anachronistic (as the above-referenced Anna and Stiva are characters in the book Anna Karenina, first published in the 19th century) and slightly misspelled. As it is, I can only guess that the term is complimentary. Webster says: A native or resident of the ancient city of Sybaris. Well, that doesn't help me. Good thing Webster also says these residents were voluptuaries and sensualists. So I guess whether that's complimentary is a matter of perspective. I'm not claiming points for this one. Even though I would like to.
2. Abseiling. From Notes From a Big Country. Somewhere, once upon a time, I possessed a scrap of paper with this word scratched on it, along with the page number where I could find its use in the book. If that scrap of paper still existed I could quote to you the sentence where I found this word. As it is, I will have to be content with telling you that, by context, I assumed that abseiling and rappelling are synonyms. Webster says: I am an American book, not a British one. Webster online says: Your guess is correct. One point!
3. Furgle. Here, and for the following two words, we return to Catch-22. If I couldn't refer to the context of its use, I would think Joseph Heller may have made this word up by combining something like froth and gurgle. But it's pretty easy to tell what Heller meant when he wrote, "[Hungry Joe] could never decide whether to furgle them or photograph them, for he had found it impossible to do both simultaneously." Obviously it's a stand-in for a slightly less polite f-word. Webster is strangely silent on the matter, but I think I'll take the point anyway.
4. Paroxysms. "[Milo Minderbinder] was capable of paroxysms of righteous indignation." I'm pretty sure that paroxysms are convulsions, frequently associated with coughing or laughter, though I never would have guessed that based on its use alongside "indignation." Webster says: A fit, attack, or sudden increase or recurrence of symptoms (as of a disease). A sudden violent emotion or action. Hey, look at this: Convulsion (a ~ of coughing). I get a point for being right about convulsions, but now the use (mainly due to the part about violent emotion) makes more sense.
5. Pernicious. "Just about all [Yossarian] could find in [war's] favor was that it paid well and liberated children from the pernicious influence of their parents." My guess is something along the lines of extensively, insidiously invasive. Which is what I imagine the "pernicious" in "pernicious anemia" to mean. Webster says: Highly injurious or destructive; deadly; wicked. Hmmm, I just don't see how I can wrangle a point out of that one.
Three out of five. Good thing my life doesn't depend on knowing the definition to these words.