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Vocabulary in Bernice Bobs Her Hair

Vocabulary Examples in Bernice Bobs Her Hair:


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"awfully slick girl..."   (II)

In this context, the adjective “slick”—a slang term—means smooth in manners or suave. Marjorie suggests that Martha is popular because she uses her wit and personality. This suggests that women were judged for more than their beauty in this time period. It also reveals that Marjorie partakes in the contemporary social scene because she uses popular jargon from the time.

"gardenia girls!..."   (II)

A gardenia is an extremely beautiful flower that has a short life expectancy—it fades quickly once it has bloomed. A “gardenia girl” was a slang term in the 1920s for fashionable women who rejected traditional gender expectations and morality. Gardenia girls lived “fast and loose” in the party scene of the flapper era.

"lame-duck..."   (II)

The North American expression "lame-duck" indicates that someone is an ineffectual or unsuccessful person. In this context, Marjorie claims that Bernice is hopeless because she has no social skills.

""I hate dainty minds," answered Marjorie. "But a girl has to be dainty in person. If she looks like a million dollars she can talk about Russia, ping-pong, or the League of Nations and get away with it."..."   (III)

The adjective “dainty” means delicate, small, and pretty; graceful in build or movement. Marjorie distinguishes between dainty minds and dainty appearances to reinforce her lesson about the role of women in the Jazz Era. She abhors “dainty minds,” delicate, posh, or unimaginative minds, but she champions “dainty appearances” because beauty allows women access to conversations and spheres previously restricted to them. In this way, Marjorie demonstrates how women of the Jazz Age repurposed social expectations of women, that they should be delicate and beautiful, in order to gain more social power, access to conversations and opinions about politics.

"frights..."   (III)

In the 1920s, a “fright”—another slang term—meant anything that was extremely unsightly or strange. Marjorie describes Bernice’s clothing in this way to shame her into wearing something more contemporary and fashionable.

"gay..."   (IV)

In the 1920s, the adjective “gay” meant lighthearted and carefree. By “you were having a gay time,” Marjorie means that Beatrice was having fun.

"brilliantine..."   (IV)

The noun “brilliantine” is a scented oil used to make hair look glossy. Beatrice’s use of this oil marks her awareness of modern fashion trends.

"Marjorie had culled this from Oscar Wilde...."   (IV)

The verb “culled” means to select from a variety of sources. Oscar Wilde was a playwright and writer in the 1880s and 90s famous for The Importance of Being Earnest and The Picture of Dorian Gray. Though he was imprisoned and condemned for homosexuality and his extravagant lifestyle, Wilde became an admired cult figure in the 1920s. His personality and writing became symbolic for how contemporary youth culture rejected traditional social conventions.

"Splush..."   (V)

The exclamation “splush” means nonsense, or rubbish. Fitzgerald added this word to the English dictionary when he wrote this story. Marjorie makes this exclamation to mock Bernice in front of their friends and show them that she has been lying about bobbing her hair.

"bon mot?..."   (V)

The phrase “bon mot” is borrowed from French and means a witty remark or witticism. Marjorie asks this question sarcastically; it is clear that she does not believe that Bernice is witty or has anything truly interesting to say.

"the sphinx of sphinxes...."   (V)

A sphinx is a mythological creature that had the head of a human and the body of a lion. In Greek mythology, sphinxes were treacherous and merciless. They posed riddles to anyone who came across their path and ate or killed anyone who could not solve the riddle. They are depicted as ravenous, crafty, and manipulative monsters. This characterization of Marjorie, as the beast of all beasts, suggests to the reader that Marjorie’s retaliation will be severe.

"twitted..."   (V)

The verb “twit” means to taunt, tease, or ridicule, especially by referencing something embarrassing. In this context, the narrator means that Marjorie was ridiculed by Bernice’s relationship with Warren, Marjorie’s main love interest.

"tonsorial..."   (V)

The adjective “tonsorial” means related to the work of a barber or hairdresser. By this word, the narrator means Bernice’s claims that she will bob her hair.

""Scalp the selfish thing!"..."   (VI)

The verb “scalp” means to cut or tear the scalp and hair off of a person’s head. It is generally associated with victory or done when someone claims victory in battle over an enemy. Bernice’s final statement about Marjorie shows that she has won in this battle against Marjorie and rejected the society for which Marjorie stands.

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