A woman who loves footnotes so much she had "n.b." tattooed... on her foot. The woman, s.e. smith, links to Wikipedia to help people understand "n.b." — nota bene — and Wikipedia just gives us the literal and semi-literal translation: "note well" or "pay attention"/"take notice."
Now, I've listened the the audiobook of David Foster Wallace reading "Consider the Lobster" about a thousand times — n.b. David Foster Wallace gluttonously indulged in footnotes — and he does an aside:
n.b. - which means "nota bene," which the audio commandant wants me to tell you means "note well," but actually really means "by the way"...Here's a reddit discussion of that Wallace aside. They seem to think he's joking. But what's the joke? Is it that people use "n.b." when there's no reason to pay any more note to the thing after the "n.b." than to anything else in the text? Or is it not a joke, and Wallace is giving the abbreviation the meaning it has genuinely acquired in use over the years, which is to designate an aside?
At this point, you might wonder whether Wallace is a prescriptivist or a descriptivist when it comes to word usage, and the cool thing about that is there's an essay in the "Consider the Lobster" essay collection* — it's not all about lobsters! — that has about a million things to say on that subject, but since it's not one of the essays in the audiobook — which is an abridgment — his resolution of that issue is not lodged in my brain. The essay is "Tense Present: Democracy, English, and the Wars over Usage." Key passage:
Garner's A Dictionary of Modern American Usage is thus both a collection of information and a piece of Democratic rhetoric.49 Its goal is to recast the Prescriptivist's persona: The author presents himself as an authority not in an autocratic sense but in a technocratic sense. And the technocrat is not only a thoroughly modern and palatable image of Authority but also immune to the charges of elitism/classism that have hobbled traditional Prescriptivism.Thus, I take it, Wallace wasn't joking. He was seeking votes for assigning the meaning "by the way" to "n.b."
49(meaning literally Democratic — it Wants Your Vote)
*Even though I have the audiobook of "Consider the Lobster" and the paperback of the unabridged text, I bought the Kindle version just now so I could cut and paste text for blogging purposes. But when I made my first attempt at copying, I got a pop-up window — the first I've ever seen in a Kindle book — "Due to publisher restrictions, copy is not allowed for this title." That was pretty annoying. I found a few key words — hypereducated snoot egghead — Googled and found copyable text here. Feel free to read it free. N.b., it has 52 footnotes [at the free link; 124 footnotes in the Kindle text].