Related Analysis Pages
Vocabulary in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Vocabulary Examples in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn:
"the bad place..." See in text (Chapter I)
When Huck refers to "the bad place" and "the good place" he's talking about Heaven and Hell, which have been presented to him in this simplistic way so that he'll understand their intrinsic value: one is a place you want to go to, one isn't. The trouble with this construction is that Huck isn't a usual boy and doesn't see "bad" and "good" the way other characters do, and thus doesn't associate Heaven and Hell with good and evil. This naturally causes some frustration for the widow.
"snuff..." See in text (Chapter I)
A kind of fine, ground tobacco meant to be inhaled, snuff was first brought to Europe in the mid 16th Century and became a favorite amongst members of the ruling class before being adopted by the general public. It was generally kept in gold or silver tins ("snuffboxes") and would've been common at the time the novel was written. It wouldn't have been unusual for a religious woman like the widow to use snuff.
"grumble a little over the victuals..." See in text (Chapter I)
This refers to the action of saying grace over a meal, which Huck neither understands nor respects. Based on this line, we can assume that Huck isn't religious and doesn't understand why he should read the Bible (though he does refer to its stories when it suits him).
"highwaymen..." See in text (Chapter II)
Highwaymen were horseback-riding thieves who ambushed travelers and stole money and other valuables that the victims carried. Highwaymen were common until the early 19th century, at which point the spread of civilization and population essentially ended their activities. Tom wouldn't have had direct experience with highwaymen but would instead have read about them in books.
"tanyard..." See in text (Chapter II)
Tanneries are workshops where animal hides were processed into leather. The tanning process requires the use of the chemical tannin, which is stored in vats in the tanyard, where these boys have hidden. In general, the chemicals used in the tanning process gave off a very strong, unpleasant smell, making this a great place to hide from passersby who want to avoid the smell.
"saddle-boils..." See in text (Chapter II)
Like bedsores, saddle-boils develop in the places were horseback riders make extended contact with their saddle. It's most common now among cyclists and racers and sometimes require medical attention. How Jim would've gotten the saddle-boils on his back rather than his legs remains a mystery.
"Jim..." See in text (Chapter II)
Many critics feel that Jim, while a slave, is the character with the most humanity in the book. He's uneducated and very superstitious, like Huck, but he's also loyal, trustworthy, and honorable, and it's only through him that Huck comes to understand the truth about slavery and about man's inhumanity towards man.
"Providence..." See in text (Chapter III)
Also known as Heaven or "the good place." Remember that in a previous chapter Heaven was described as a place where angels played harps and sang all day, and that Huck wasn't that interested in going there because of it. The differing descriptions of Providence confuse Huck and lead him to conclude that Heaven means different things to different people, and that there might be a heaven out there for him.
"whale me..." See in text (Chapter III)
"Whale" is Huck's way of saying "wail," implying that Pap wailed on him or beat him when he was sober. Since alcoholics tend to be more abusive when they're drunk than when they're sober, this line indicates that Pap's abusive behavior isn't a symptom of his alcoholism but is rather a major character flaw.
"for a consideration..." See in text (Chapter IV)
In legal terms, a "consideration" is an item of value which is offered by one or more parties when entering into a contract. It requires that both parties assent to the terms of the contract and that some amount of money is paid for the consideration. This is why the Judge can pay one dollar to buy six thousand dollars. It's perfectly legal.
"half-yearly..." See in text (Chapter IV)
In financial terms, a "half-yearly" refers to an amount of money garnered over the course of half a year. In this case, a hundred and fifty plus dollars, equal to a dollar a day for six months. The Judge wisely suggests that this is too much to give to Huck at once, given his age.
"temperance..." See in text (Chapter V)
"Temperance" means abstinence from alcohol. In the 1830s, when the novel is set, the temperance movement, as it's called, adopted teetotalism, an extreme form of temperance. This new Judge's attempt to convert Pap to teetotalism at once reinforces the fact that he's new in town and recalls the more modern phenomenon of "interventions."
"make it warm..." See in text (Chapter V)
"Make it warm" here has two potential meanings: 1) that Pap will make things difficult for Huck, as in "put him in hot water," and 2) that Pap will keep the jail cell warm for Huck, in anticipation of his inevitable descent into being an outlaw and a drunk. Neither of these meanings bode well for Huck.
"dandy..." See in text (Chapter V)
Here, "dandy" is meant as a derogatory word for a homosexual male, which Pap applies to Huck because he's dressing well and seems to care about his health and well-being. A dandy is traditionally an effeminate male, making this an odd way to describe Huck and a way for his abusive Pap to question his manliness.
"lay for you..." See in text (Chapter V)
That is, lie in wait. Pap is threatening to stalk Huck and make sure he doesn't fall out of line with Pap's orders. Pap is evidently threatened by Huck's ability to read and fears that as Huck grows, Pap will lose his power over him. This will result in some desperate behavior in future chapters.
"I'll learn her how to meddle..." See in text (Chapter V)
Pap uses the word "learn" the way we use the word "teach," which makes this sentence translate as, "I'll teach her not to meddle." This entire conversation is one long threat, from the first moment Pap opens his mouth to the minute he leaves, and Huck's attitude suggests that this is the true nature of their relationship: not as father and son, but as bully and victim.
"tanned..." See in text (Chapter V)
In this case, "tanned" means "beat" and further confirms that Pap was physically abusive toward Huck. Remember, also, that Pap used to drink down in the old tanyard and that he's associated with leather, hides, alcohol, and chemicals, all of which can be associated with pain and violence.
"tramp..." See in text (Chapter VI)
In the 19th and the early 20th Century, a "tramp" was a homeless vagabond or shifter who traveled from place to place and lived off of his wits. This figure was popular in American literature and film, but has since fallen out of the cultural zeitgeist as the word "tramp" has taken on different connotations.
"delirium tremens..." See in text (Chapter VI)
A state of confusion and psychosis that is generally brought on by withdrawal from alcohol or narcotics. "Two drunks and one delirium tremens" means that Pap will get drunk twice and either go through withdrawal in between these instances or after both. How and where Pap learned this phrase is a mystery.
"Stern..." See in text (Chapter VII)
That is, the rear of a boat. There's also the bow (the front), the starboard side (right), and the port side (left). Twain's time as a steamboat captain would've familiarized him with these terms, but it's unclear whether or not Huck himself knows the term or is merely repeating what he heard.
"“trot” line..." See in text (Chapter VII)
A trotline is a heavy fishing line with a row of hooks hanging on smaller lines called "snoods." Trot lines like this one were used by fishermen and tramps to continuously catch fish, typically on a river or a swift-moving body of water.
"roust me out..." See in text (Chapter VII)
That is, to rouse, or to wake up. Pap's insistence on being roused suggests that he's worried about something, and that he has reason to believe that men are looking for Huck. For what reason, we won't learn until later, but keep this in mind as you continue to read.
"palavering..." See in text (Chapter VII)
In the context of this line, what does "palavering" mean?
"rowlocks..." See in text (Chapter VII)
A swiveling device attached to a boat, allowing its captain to steer using oars. This is significant because it means that Pap is using both hands to row the boat and can't pick up a weapon without first letting go of the oars. While the sound is ominous, the reality is Huck's much safer than he seems.
"whetstone..." See in text (Chapter VII)
A whetstone is a fine-grained stone for sharpening tools like knives. Huck uses it here as a kind of red herring to draw attention to Pap as a potential suspect in his "murder." Huck's counting on his father's history of alcoholism and abuse to keep people from searching for him after he runs away.
"drawing a bead on a bird..." See in text (Chapter VII)
That is, "aiming." This phrase derives from the act of looking down a sight or a barrel and "drawing" a small circle on the target where you intend to hit it. It's a term that's meant to connote skill and precision but in this case adds a much-needed comical element to a tense scene.
"a wood-flat..." See in text (Chapter VIII)
A flat-bottomed boat that's used to carry wood. This act of "catching" the boat recalls Huck's catching of the canoe in Chapter VII, when he jumped out into the river while Pap wasn't looking. This parallel may be Twain's way of suggesting that Jim was planning to run away, just like Huck, and that Huck fits in more with the slaves, the lowest rank in society, than with prim and proper people like the Widow Douglas.
"fust I tackled stock..." See in text (Chapter VIII)
Huck's clarifying question after this indicates that "stock" can be read in a number of ways, including "livestock" (as Jim says) and the stock or the shares of a business one can buy on the stock market. Twain's use of the word "speculating" contributes to this ambiguity, because that word is typically used when one is taking a gamble buying either land or a share of a business.
"fantods..." See in text (Chapter VIII)
Gave him the fantods, as in, made him uneasy. Huck's apprehension when he sees the man stems both from his fear of being caught or trapped (especially by his father) and his social anxieties, which make it difficult for him to relate to other people without suspecting that they're out to get him.
"sand in my craw..." See in text (Chapter VIII)
A craw is a stomach. Today, we have a phrase like this one: "he's got a stick in his craw." Essentially, it means that this person is angry about something that's causing problems. Huck's term, on the other hand, means that he isn't feeling very feisty, that is, there isn't any "sand" in his stomach that's working him up.
"put in time..." See in text (Chapter VIII)
This phrase keeps recurring throughout this chapter. Today, we take it to mean that someone has put in or spent some time and effort on something, but Huck means "to pass the time," or relax. This allows Twain to manage or skip ahead in the timeline without having to list or repeat everything Huck does in a day.
"corn-pone..." See in text (Chapter VIII)
That is, cornbread. Corn-pone would've been made with only the very simplest ingredients (water, cornmeal, salt), and, as Huck suggests, eaten by the poor of the countryside. This "baker's bread" of significantly higher quality is very nearly wasted in the search for Huck's body.
"a reticule..." See in text (Chapter IX)
A woman's drawstring purse, often used to carry miscellaneous items like these ones for sewing. Note the incredible variety of the items in this house: women's clothing, baby bottles, candlesticks, and knives. All of these together suggest that this was a poor family's house, and that something happened (perhaps a robbery) that led them to leave their house and this dead body behind. We'll learn exactly who this man is later in the book.
"one of the calico gowns..." See in text (Chapter X)
A calico dress is made out of unbleached, often unprocessed cotton. In the 19th Century, when this novel was written, calico dresses often had structured whale-bone hoop skirts that made the dress puff out, giving Huck enough room to wear both the dress and his trousers. If not for the concealing nature of 19th Century women's clothing, Huck would have no hope of passing for a woman.
"a texas..." See in text (Chapter XII)
On a steamboat, a "texas" is a structure that encloses the pilothouse and the crew's quarters. This is located on the hurricane deck, which is also called the texas deck. In this context, no one risks their life for the texas and the pilothouse because these are the only parts of the boat that aren't underwater (meaning, the boat is worthless).
"chimbly-guy..." See in text (Chapter XII)
A wire that braces a chimney (in this case, the tall, twin chimneys that release the steam that powers the boat). Notice how Twain uses the lightning in this scene not the emphasize the beauty of nature but to close a plot hole, allowing Huck and Jim to see something that they otherwise wouldn't have been able to. Their inability to see at night without this lightning will cause problems later on in their journey.
"the dolphin..." See in text (Chapter XIV)
Huck means "dauphin," the French word for both Prince and dolphin. Louis XVI actually had two sons, Louis Joseph and Louis-Charles; the former died at the age of seven and was succeeded as dauphin by the latter, who died at the age of ten after his father was killed in the French Revolution.
"I doan' take no stock in dat..." See in text (Chapter XIV)
Recall that in Chapter VIII Jim related the story of how he speculated in "stock" and lost fourteen dollars. Here, he uses the word "stock" in the sense of putting faith in something. In many ways, his speculating on livestock was a case of misplacing his faith in something, wanting to believe that he'd have returns on something that ended up being a bad investment. Here, he doesn't put any emotional or moral stock in Solomon's wisdom, dismissing it as something that would lead him astray.
"harem..." See in text (Chapter XIV)
A house or part of a house where women in Muslim families live. The term "harem" has been widely used in the Western world to refer to a house where women like concubines and prostitutes live. This usage stems from the erroneous belief that all Muslim men have dozens of wives and that they live in a state of sexual freedom. Huck uses this definition of the word here to make the life of a king seem even more luxurious.
"green hand at the business..." See in text (Chapter XVI)
The term “green hand” means that someone is a novice at a certain activity, a beginner. If Huck’s father was a “green hand” at sailing a trading boat, he would be unfamiliar with the common trade routes. Thus, it would be more understandable for Huck to be asking for directions to Cairo—a clever lie that would not raise suspicion.
"smallpox..." See in text (Chapter XVI)
Often called the "pox," smallpox is a virus that results in small blisters breaking out all over the body of an infected person. It's one of only two infectious diseases to have been declared fully eradicated by the World Health Organization (WHO). Before the vaccine was invented and widely disseminated, smallpox claimed some 300 - 500 million lives in the 20th Century alone.
"big parlor that had a new rag carpet ..." See in text (Chapter XVII)
A “parlor” is a sitting room, or what we might call the “living room” today. During the time frame that the novel is set in, a parlor room would typically be reserved for entertaining guests. Families that could afford houses with these rooms were usually middle-class or higher. The fact that this family has a “big parlor” with a “new rag carpet” suggests that they are somewhat well-off, though we do not know the source of their wealth.
"he was very frowzy-headed..." See in text (Chapter XVII)
Frowzy meaning scruffy and unkempt. Twain characterizes Buck as a young, disheveled boy who lives in a small, tense household with his evidently strange family. There hasn't (yet) been any mention of their financial situation, but it's implied, just from Huck's description of the house ("a big, old-fashioned double log house") that, though they're well off, the Grangerfords have become an eccentric, insular family.
"coarse-hand..." See in text (Chapter XVIII)
“Coarse-hand” refers to writing something in print rather than in cursive. Huck tells Miss Sophia that he cannot read cursive, even though he can, which eases her anxiety about him possibly having read the letter.
"puncheon..." See in text (Chapter XVIII)
A split log or a piece of timber lain on the ground in place of flooring. This usage is specific to North America and originated in the late 17th century. Twain uses it here to emphasize that this is the country and that the citizens of this town have made only the barest effort to build a clean, respectable place of worship. The pigs lazing about on this puncheon floor are symbolic of the townsfolk, who seek comfort and not personal salvation in the church.
"preforeordestination..." See in text (Chapter XVIII)
Predestination. A theological doctrine that asserts all events happen according to God's will and that an individual's fate has already been predetermined by God. This is an example of religious determinism, and it's part of the traditional doctrine taught by Roman Catholicism. Those who believe in predestination will often absolve themselves of guilt for their actions by saying that it was all God's will, and that may well be how the Grangerfords are justifying their actions to themselves.
"pretty ornery preaching..." See in text (Chapter XVIII)
Twain's use of the word "ornery" here is telling. Typically, it means to be irritable or bad-tempered. Here, it means that the preacher's tone is combative, frustrated, and angry, likely because he's getting tired of this feud. The subject of his sermon (brotherly love) suggests that he has been trying to convince these two families to put their feud to rest, and that his advice has fallen on deaf ears. Their appreciation of the sermon only makes this all the more upsetting, because they refuse to apply his teachings to their own lives.
"pommel..." See in text (Chapter XVIII)
In this context, a "pommel" refers to the rounded knob at the front of a saddle, across which this young man has lain his gun so that it will be visible to passersby. This man is Harney Sheperdson, and his gun is a symbol for his violent, feuding nature. Recall, however, that Huck had a gun pulled on him when he first met the Grangerfords, and that both families are thus characterized as being quick draws who are suspicious of everyone and their motives.
"Bilgewater..." See in text (Chapter XIX)
Twain engages in wordplay, turning "Bridgewater" into "Bilgewater," a nautical term that refers to water that hasn't drained properly and has collected in the "bilge," the lowest compartment of the ship. The bilge water is always unwanted, usually filthy, and not a nice thing to say to someone. The King's use of the word underscores the antagonism between the two characters.
"mesmerism and phrenology..." See in text (Chapter XIX)
Phrenology is the practice of telling someone's fortune by feeling and "reading" the bumps on their head, and "mesmerism" is the practice of mesmerizing or hypnotizing people. In other words, this man is a charlatan cheating people out of their money by selling them potions, tinctures, and "medicines" and doing anything he can to make a buck (including putting on very bad plays).
"a little temperance revival..." See in text (Chapter XIX)
A temperance revival is a kind of church service that seeks to "save" alcoholics through temperance (or the act of abstaining from alcohol). This bald-headed man runs the revival solely to make money off the entrance fee and is run out of town when he's revealed to be a drunk hypocrite. This is very similar to what happened to Pap in Chapter V when he was taken in by the judge, who "talked to him about temperance and such things till the old man cried."
"tar and feather..." See in text (Chapter XIX)
A popular form of punishment in those days. A person would first be covered in tar and then covered with feathers, which would together burn the person's skin without killing them. This was typically used as a form of humiliation and was carried out by angry mobs such as the one following these men.
"a-cluttering..." See in text (Chapter XIX)
"Cluttering" is a speech disorder characterized by rapid speech, poor grammar, and strange diction. Here, "a-cluttering" refers to the deep, discordant croaking of the bullfrogs, who together "clutter" the air, in the sense of their ruining the silence with a cacophony of sound.
"the unities..." See in text (Chapter XX)
Aristotelian unities, so named because they were first posited by the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. His three unities were: the unity of time, meaning that tragedies should take place in the course of a single day; unity of space, meaning that there should be one scene or location in a play; and unity of action, meaning that there should only be one major plot line and no subplots.
"lining out a hymn..." See in text (Chapter XX)
In communities where not everyone was able to afford a hymnal or a Bible, preachers would often read or sing hymns line by line, a habit referred to as "lining." This was especially common in poor towns and in African-American communities where many people were illiterate.
"some had linsey-woolsey frocks, some gingham ones, and a few of the young ones had on calico..." See in text (Chapter XX)
Three different kinds of fabric: linsey-woolsey being a coarse twill or strong, plain woven fabric; gingham being a lightweight plain woven cotton; and calico being another plain-woven fabric of unprocessed cotton. These fabrics are of slightly descending quality and may well correspond to different socioeconomic substrata or age groups in this community.
"histrionic..." See in text (Chapter XX)
In psychology, to be "histrionic" means to have a personality disorder wherein one is prone to theatrical or overdramatic behaviors that are nevertheless accompanied by shallow and erratic emotions. A muse (or a source of inspiration) can be "histrionic" in the sense of causing one to be or itself being overdramatic. This is all to say that acting is the Duke's favorite pastime.
"cipher..." See in text (Chapter XX)
Twain engages in some clever wordplay: "cipher" means to encrypt or encode in order to make something safe, such as one's credit card information; but the Duke uses it as an abbreviation of "decipher," the antonym of cipher. In this way, the Duke's plan is a way of figuring out a way to travel freely with Jim while also hiding (or "ciphering") their reasons for wanting to travel freely.
"blackguarding..." See in text (Chapter XXI)
The verb “to blackguard” means to ridicule and verbally abuse someone, but the term can also be used as a noun that means “a scoundrel.” The term is used here as a verb, but it also functions to further characterize Boggs as a foul-mouthed rogue.
"THE ROYAL NONESUCH..." See in text (Chapter XXII)
"Nonesuch" meaning something with no comparison, something that is unrivaled in the way a performance can be unrivaled in its mastery. Here, Twain likely uses the word because it sounds like "nonsense," a rough homonym that clues the reader in to the absurdity of the show the Duke and King will put on for this ornery crowd.
"the most loveliest parasol..." See in text (Chapter XXII)
A parasol is a lightweight, almost decorative umbrella often used by ladies as a sunshade. It's understood to be a sign of high class and breeding, and it's here used to indicate that these woman are, if not wealthy, then certainly able to clean up for a special occasion. Note that Huck spends less time describing these lovely women than he does talking about Boggs in the previous chapter, which gives the reader a sense of his priorities.
"capering..." See in text (Chapter XXIII)
“To caper” means to skip or dance in a playful way. This type of silly performance seems to win the audience over better than the tragedies the troupe performed the previous day, which is exactly what the king had predicted and hoped for.
"Saxon heptarchies..." See in text (Chapter XXIII)
The Saxons or Anglo-Saxons were tribes living in England during the Middle Ages. Their kingdoms were referred to as heptarchies in the south, east, and central parts of England during the period from late antiquity through the Middle Ages. It's somewhat surprising that Huck would remember this technical term, and it proves that, though his recollection is spotty, Miss Watson did give him a good education.
"Greenhorns, flatheads..." See in text (Chapter XXIII)
A greenhorn is someone who's inexperiences ("green") at life and is, in general, not a very bright or knowledgeable person. A flathead is a similarly foolish person. The Duke guessed (correctly) that the crowd would be taken in by their scheme and that they'd be able to get out of there without a hitch. It remains to be seen if this strategy will work again.
"till he just fairly emptied that young fellow..." See in text (Chapter XXIV)
"Emptied" in this context refers to having successfully gotten all the information he needed out of the guy. Given what we already know, it's safe to assume that the King conducted this interrogation so that he can impersonate Peter's brother and to "empty" his coffers, so to speak. This is a clever bit of foreshadowing on Twain's part.
"a tanner..." See in text (Chapter XXIV)
Someone who tans animal hides, most often for leather and clothing. Recall that in Chapter II Ben Rogers and a couple of the others boys in Tom Sawyer's gang hid in the old tanyard while they were waiting for Huck and Tom. Twain's repetition of this profession and that of the "dissenting" (Protestant) minister emphasizes the fact that labor had yet to diversify significantly in the antebellum South and that there were only a few professions (and a few families) that were truly successful in business.
"that's the one that gives herself to good works and has a hare-lip..." See in text (Chapter XXIV)
A harelip is a congenital deformity that results in a cleft or a fissure in the upper or lower lip. Here, as in the cases of characters described as "deaf and dumb," the deformity or disability defines the character, standing in for more nuanced psychological and emotional character development, which Twain foregoes here for the sake of a quick punchline.
"vale of sorrers..." See in text (Chapter XXV)
It is unclear whether or not “vale of sorrers” is a reference to the Christian phrase “vale of tears,” which refers to life on earth as a sorrowful punishment for defying God. However, if this is what the king attempts to allude to, his phrasing gives him away—a nobleman would certainly use the correct religious term “vale of tears.” While it is possible that the king may have been referring to the general sadness that Peter’s death caused the family, Twain’s emphasis on various other mistakes in the king’s diction during his speech might suggest otherwise.
"the hare-lip..." See in text (Chapter XXV)
Recall that in the previous chapter we noted that characters who are differently abled are defined by that difference. A similar thing is happening here. When Joanna was introduced, her name was revealed, but “the hare-lip” now becomes her sole identifier—her name is replaced with a defining characteristic. Refusing to recognize someone’s preferred name can be a hostile action because it degrades and devalues them.
"It's a word that's made up out'n the Greek orgo, outside, open, abroad; and the Hebrew jeesum, to plant, cover up; hence inter...." See in text (Chapter XXV)
Unsurprisingly, the King has no real grasp of linguistics or the English language, and in order to save face he makes up some very blatantly wrong explanation for his use of the word "orgies," which does not, in fact, derive from the Greek "orgo" or have any relation whatsoever to Hebrew.
"Obsequies, you old fool..." See in text (Chapter XXV)
Obsequies are funeral rites performed for the deceased, most often in public. The King has confused the word "obsequies" for the word "orgies," which technically refers to ceremonial rites or festivals, both religious and secular, but which is commonly understood to refer to gatherings of a lascivious nature. Twain uses this mistake to poke fun at the King and undermine him to the crowd.
"yaller-boys..." See in text (Chapter XXV)
Twain appear to be using this term to mean yellow ("yaller") coins (or "boys"). It's worth nothing that, of everything Peter left behind for his family, these gold coins are the only portable items, because the vast majority of his wealth is bound up in his business and his property. If the King and the Duke want to steal anything, it will have to be this bag of gold.
"a-hunting together..." See in text (Chapter XXV)
Note Huck's word choice here. "A-hunting" indicates that the doctor and the preacher are looking for subjects (or, in hunting terminology, targets) on which to prey. This characterizes them as predatory and somewhat amoral people who take advantage of their position within the community. This is, of course, Huck's opinion of them, but there's very little in this book to improve their image.
"vizz..." See in text (Chapter XXV)
This is the King's attempt at saying "viz" a term meaning namely or in other words. This phrase isn't typically used in conjunction with "to wit" or "as follows," which when taken in combination indicate that the King has no idea what these phrases really mean and is merely using them to sound intelligent.
"soul-butter and hogwash..." See in text (Chapter XXV)
Huck appears to be using the phrase "soul-butter" to mean words or phrases that the King has used to "butter" the crowd up or ingratiate himself to them. Huck says it's all a bunch of "hogwash" or nonsense, which makes it very clear that Huck doesn't think very highly of the King's earlier speech.
"doxolojer..." See in text (Chapter XXV)
A "doxology" is a hymn of praise to God that's often tacked onto the end of psalms, hymns, and canticles in liturgical proceedings. "Gloria in Exclesis Deo" is considered the Greater Doxology, whereas "Gloria Patri" is considered the Minor Doxology. It's unclear to which of these doxologies Huck is referring.
"flapdoodle..." See in text (Chapter XXV)
Another word for nonsense. Huck isn't impressed with the King's little speech, in part because he's decided that he doesn't like him and in part because this speech, when compared to the absurd brilliance of his performance at the revival, seems pretty weak and unconvincing by comparison.
"valley..." See in text (Chapter XXVI)
“Valley” means “valet,” or personal attendant. Valet’s were often employed to help with clothing and personal appearance. While Huck has probably never been a valet before, he is perceptive and smart, and thus probably knew enough about high-class styles of dress to be of some help. While the king might act as if he deemed Huck his valet in order to better hide their ruse, the king seems to enjoy reaping the benefits of a new “servant.”
"melodeum..." See in text (Chapter XXVII)
The term “melodeum” is actually referring to a “melodeon,” a keyboard accordion that is typically played by folk musicians. Huck describes this particular melodeon as being “a sick one,” which meant that it was not a well-made and sounded “skreeky” or shrieky.
"By the living jingo..." See in text (Chapter XXIX)
“By the living Jingo” probably means something close to the expression, “by the living God” or “by Jesus.” All of these expressions are used to signal surprise, but the names of God and Jesus are replaced with “Jingo” in order to avoid blasphemy. The term “by the living God” refers to the Christian doctrine that Jesus was once dead and is now alive.
"Stuff!..." See in text (Chapter XXIX)
In this context, “stuff” is a way of calling out falsehood or trickery. The doctor and the townspeople know immediately that Huck is lying about being from England. While in the beginning of the novel, all of Huck’s attempts at lying were extremely successful, his moral dilemmas might be affecting his ability to lie as effectively.
"Methusalem-numskull..." See in text (Chapter XXXIII)
“Methusalem” refers to the biblical “Methuselah,” a man who appears in the Book of Genesis and who, according to the Bible, lived to be 969 years old. A “numskull” is a foolish person. The term “Methusalem-numskull” is used sarcastically by Aunt Sally to suggest that “William Thompson” would have to be about 1,000 years old before she asked him to kiss her.
"brickbat..." See in text (Chapter XXXIV)
A “brickbat” is a piece of brick that is used as a weapon. In this case, Huck compares the slow smile that spreads across the man’s face to the ripples that are made when you throw a heavy brick into a “mud-puddle.”
"vittles..." See in text (Chapter XXXIV)
“Vittles” is an alternate way of spelling “victuals,” which are food supplies or provisions. Tom’s observation here is even more astute than Huck’s: not only does he notice that a slave is taking provisions down to the hut, but he inventories the food he carries.
"the Castle Deef..." See in text (Chapter XXXV)
By “Castle Deef,” Tom means to refer to “Chateau d’If” which is a prison that is located on the island of If in the Bay of Marseille in France. It was made famous in Alexandre Dumas’s adventure novel The Count of Monte Cristo, published in 1845. Twain seems to be alluding to this novel, though it is unclear whether he suggests that Tom has read it and is referencing it as well. While Tom has referred to many adventure novels so far, making another reference not out of the question, Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is set roughly during the 1830s to 1840s. So Dumas’’s novel may not have been published before Tom mentions the “Chateau d’If,” depending on the exact year in which this takes place.
"the size of a war-whoop..." See in text (Chapter XXXVII)
A “war-whoop” is a rallying cry in war, used during an attack to signal strength and resolve. It has long been associated with the American Indian populations of the United States. The “size of a war-whoop” in this context means that the cry was very loud.
"On the scutcheon we'll have a bend or in the dexter base, a saltire murrey in the fess..." See in text (Chapter XXXVIII)
A “scutcheon,” now typically spelled, “escutcheon,” is a shield or an emblem that bears a coat of arms. The terms, “dexter base,” “fess,” and “nombril” are all points on a shield. A “dexter-base” is a point in the lower-right corner of a shield, a “fess” is the center point of a shield, and the “nombril” is the point halfway between the two. Note that this is specialized jargon that neither Huck nor Jim (understandably) know.
"togs..." See in text (Chapter XXXIX)
The term “togs” means clothing. Huck points out how irrational and frivolous Tom’s idea is because, of course, there is no benefit in Huck’s dressing up as a servant-girl. This is just another one of Tom’s attempts to re-enact a dramatic story merely for the thrill of it.
"allycumpain..." See in text (Chapter XXXIX)
By “allycumpain” Huck means “elecampane,” which is an herb that can be used as an antiseptic. Elecampane root is used in various medicines today. It is important to note that Huck and Tom completely disregard Jim’s requests that they not bring any creatures into the hut. Not only does this place Jim in danger, but the boys get bitten and stung, harming themselves in yet another unnecessary stunt that Tom dreams up and Huck goes along with.
"Singular dream..." See in text (Chapter XLI)
The term “singular” in this case means “unusual” or “strange.” The doctor’s comment that the dream sounds like a peculiar one could be simply stating an opinion, but in this context it could also indicate that the doctor is skeptical of Huck’s story. Additionally, note Twain’s excellent wordplay here: Huck tells the doctor that Tom’s dream shot him, and the doctor reasons that Huck misspoke. However, in some sense it was exactly Tom’s dream for adventure that led to Huck’s being shot.