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Vocabulary in Dubliners

Vocabulary Examples in Dubliners:

The Sisters

🔒 19

"latterly..."   (The Sisters)

While this word can mean "recently," in this context it also refers to the later stages in Father Flynn's life. How recently Eliza noticed this "something queer" coming over Father Flynn, then, is difficult to pinpoint exactly. Context suggests that it is a recent occurrence, but the mystery surrounding Father Flynn's life suggests that his odd behavior may have been happening for a while.

"beef-tea..."   (The Sisters)

This is type of beef broth. Beef-tea is a juice made from beef that has been boiled in water, and it has fairly strong associations with the ill and the feeble.

"truculent..."   (The Sisters)

Joyce's choice of "truculent" here to describe the dead priest's face has interesting connotations. The word itself means "aggressively defiant," which gives the impression that the corpse has a rather mean-spirited or combative look on its face. Usually the dead are described as lying peacefully. Perhaps Joyce is signaling that Father Flynn died with some unresolved issue or problem.

"chalice..."   (The Sisters)

A chalice is a vessel similar to a large cup that is used in Mass for holding wine. The wine is then consecrated before being used for communion. The chalice must be made of gold or silver, or the lip of the cup should be silver or gold-lined. For the vessel to become a sacred chalice, a bishop must consecrate it.

"Persia..."   (The Sisters)

The former name of today's Iran, Persia and other parts of the Middle East (called the Orient in the 19th century) were associated with romance and mystery, as well as sensuality and exoticism.

"the responses..."   (The Sisters)

Part of Mass, the responses are the phrases, verses, or words that the congregation or choir says in reply to the priest leading the service. The inclusion of responses allows the faithful to more actively participate in the service rather than simply sit and listen to their priest.

"Post Office Directory..."   (The Sisters)

Similar to phone books and other directories, this Post Office Directory is an annual Dublin publication giving city addresses and the names of residents. The priest used this example as a comparison for the amount of text the fathers of the Church wrote because it was likely the most accessible comparison for the young boy to comprehend.

"the fathers of the Church..."   (The Sisters)

The Roman Catholic Church recognizes certain Christian writers from the first seven centuries with this designation because their works helped form the modern church. In this sense then, "fathers" means something similar to "founders," much in the same way that the United States refers to its "founding fathers."

"venial..."   (The Sisters)

In contrast to a mortal sin, a venial sin is an offense against God that is considered a lighter matter or one performed without the full consent of the sinner. Venial sins do not destroy the faithful's right to eternal happiness, and so the difference between the two is obviously very important.

"mortal..."   (The Sisters)

In the Roman Catholic doctrine, a sin that is considered mortal is one that represents a morally bad human act. If such acts are taken willfully with full consent on the part of the individual performing the act, then the sinner is deserving of eternal punishment. For devoted Catholics, dying in mortal sin without absolution from a priest is a fate feared above all others.

"inefficacious..."   (The Sisters)

"Inefficacious" means something that does not produce a desired effect. So, the priest's handkerchief is not only so blackened with snuff-stains that it failed to help keep his garments clean, but it also possibly contributed to his dirty garments.

"R. I. P...."   (The Sisters)

This initialism stands for the Latin term Requiescat In Pacem, which translates to Rest In Peace—a common and brief prayer for the dead.

"crape bouquet..."   (The Sisters)

"Crape" or "crepe" is a thin silk or cotton cloth with small wrinkles all over its surface. A crape bouquet could either be flowers wrapped in this material or the entire bouquet, flowers and all, could be made from this material.

"Re-covered..."   (The Sisters)

Notice here the importance of the hyphen. While "re-covered" means to put a new cover or covering on something, "recover" can mean to get something back again.

"Drapery..."   (The Sisters)

The word "drapery" means cloth coverings that hang in loose folds, long curtains, and even artistic arrangements of clothing. The name of the store then suggests the kinds of goods it deals in, which are dry goods and clothes.

"bootees..."   (The Sisters)

An alternative spelling of "booties," a "bootee" typically means a soft, small shoe made for babies or very small children. However, any soft, sock-like shoe can also be considered a bootee.

"nipper..."   (The Sisters)

A "nipper" is an informal, or slang, word for a young child—boys in particular. The word has many other meanings, and surrounding context is vital to understanding the intended meaning.

"they say he had a great wish for him..."   (The Sisters)

This line contains two meanings. First, it could mean that Father Flynn had hopes that the young boy would follow him into the priesthood one day. Second, it is also an idiomatic phrase derived from Irish that means had great esteem or respect for the boy.

"faints and worms..."   (The Sisters)

This phrase refers to the process of distilling whiskey. "Faints" is the term for impure and/or weak spirits that occur towards the end of the distilling process. "Worms" is the term for the spiral condensing tubes used in the process of distilling liquor.

"I say…He's a queer old josser!..."   (An Encounter)

A "josser" is slang for a simpleton or simply a fellow when it is used with "old" as it is here. It's unclear what the old man is doing, but considering Mahony's remark, it is likely that the old man's actions are highly inappropriate.

"totties..."   (An Encounter)

Since the old man asked about sweathearts, from context we know that "totties" means something like "girlfriends." This slang word is also a vulgar term for expensive prostitutes.

"right skit..."   (An Encounter)

Another example of Mahony's slang, "to be a right skit" means that something would be a lot of fun.

"Swaddlers! Swaddlers..."   (An Encounter)

"Swaddlers" = [slang] “Protestants”

In Catholic Ireland, this particular insult is pejorative. It’s possible that the origin of this Dublin slang is an allusion to a passage in the “Protestant” Bible where the baby Jesus is described as being wrapped in “swaddling clothes.”

"a bob and a tanner..."   (An Encounter)

These are both slang terms for amounts of money. A "bob" refers to a shilling or an amount worth twelve pence, and a "tanner" is simply another term for six pence.

"Old Bunser..."   (An Encounter)

Our narrator tells us that Mahony is fond of and freely uses slang, and this play on Father Butler’s name is no exception. This combination of Butler and Bunsen Burner (a gas burner that makes an extremely hot blue flame) suggests a disrespectful reference to the Father’s temperament.

"catapult..."   (An Encounter)

Since Mahony couldn't possibly carry a medieval siege weapon in his pocket, this word refers to an instrument made of a forked stick with an elastic band fastened to the two prongs (also known as a slingshot) and it is used to shoot small stones, bullets, peas, etc.

"air..."   (An Encounter)

Based on the context of this sentence, "air" here means a tune or melody. This is likely a borrowing from the Italian word aria.

"coping..."   (An Encounter)

While orthographically the same as a form of the verb "to cope," this noun is pronounced differently (think copper) and refers to an architectural feature. "Coping" is the top layer of a brick or stone wall that is usually higher on one end than the other to allow rain to be carried off easily.

"to carry it by storm..."   (An Encounter)

In the context of battle, this phrase means to try and take over the stable by "storming," or attacking, it suddenly, with a lot of force, and/or with large numbers.

"to have some gas with..."   (An Encounter)

Another slang phrase, “to have some gas” means to have fun with someone or something. In this case, Mahony wants to try shooting some birds with his catapult.

"pipeclayed..."   (An Encounter)

Pipeclay is a type of clay used to make pipes for smoking tobacco, and to “pipeclay” means to clean something with pipeclay. Here, the narrator used pipeclay to clean his white canvas shoes.

"miching..."   (An Encounter)

A slang word, “miching” means to intentionally miss school. Other terms with this same meaning include playing truant, playing hookey, or skipping.

"he had a vocation for the priesthood..."   (An Encounter)

This is a relatively common phrase used to indicate that someone feels that God is calling him or her to join the faith as a priest. The narrator says that people were "incredulous" (they couldn't believe it) when they found out that Joe Dillon wanted to join the priesthood, because his behavior was likely not very appropriate for church.

"who collected used stamps for some pious purpose..."   (Araby)

The narrator is referring to the practice of selling postage stamps to collectors and then donating the proceeds to support some church cause. Even used postage stamps were considered valuable for this practice, providing ways for the poor or pious to make extra money.

"hallstand..."   (Araby)

A "hallstand" is a large piece of furniture that is usually located in the foyer or front hall of a building. Coats, hats, umbrellas, brushes, and other articles of clothing are hung on it. Other similar names and items include a coatrack and a hall tree.

"my chalice..."   (Araby)

A "chalice" is a type of "goblet." In Roman Catholic tradition, the chalice is the cup used in the Eucharist to symbolize the Holy Grail that Jesus used for the last supper. The boy's imagining this action brings to mind sacred quests, such as the romantic tale of King Arthur's search for the Holy Grail.

"to keep nix..."   (Eveline)

To keep "nix" is a slang term that means "to keep guard" or "to keep watch." The word "nix" itself has such meanings as "nothing" or an exclamation serving as a refusal.

"cretonne..."   (Eveline)

"Cretonne" is a strong cotton or linen cloth that often has a colorful floral pattern and is used for chair covers, curtains, and other kinds of upholstery. The word is French in origin, possibly derived from Creton, a village in Normandy where linen manufacturing was done. Other sources mention that it could be named after a possible inventor, Paul Creton, who lived in a village with an active textile industry in Lower Normandy.

"What do you put in your gab for..."   (Counterparts)

According to an irish myth, kissing the Blarney Stone, a block of stone on the battlements of Blarney Castle in Ireland, gives a person the ability to speak easily and confidently. This is where the phrase "the gift of the gab" comes from. In context, Farrington is asking "Why did you even say anything?" because he sees the man as having had nothing of value to add.

"a sponge..."   (Counterparts)

A "sponge," in this context, is a freeloader, or someone who only stays in their company for the free drinks

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