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Vocabulary in Rip Van Winkle
Vocabulary Examples in Rip Van Winkle:
Rip Van Winkle
"squaw..." See in text (Rip Van Winkle)
The noun “squaw” is derived from an Algonquin language. It refers to a Native American woman, and it could be used in an arguably neutral context until the mid 20th century (as Irving does here). However, its specific etymology is unclear, and today “squaw” is interpreted as an offensive term.
"gallows air..." See in text (Rip Van Winkle)
The gallows were a form of execution originating in Europe in which the condemned were hanged from a suspended wooden post. As the the gallows were a place marked by death, the usage of the word gives Wolf a solemn appearance of someone anticipating his end. The scene emphasizes Dame Van Winkle’s dictatorship within the household and gives a reason for Rip and Wolf’s constant outings.
"A termagant wife may, therefore, in some respects, be considered a tolerable blessing..." See in text (Rip Van Winkle)
The use of the words “worth all the sermons” just prior goes well with this line, drawing religious themes into what would actually be quite undesirable. The irony here is that no one would reasonably describe a “fiery furnace of domestic tribulation” as a “blessing.” To some extent, Irving may be sincerely commending the sort of flexibility Rip has developed through his wife’s harangues; however, he is doing so in a very mocking way.
"old firelock..." See in text (Rip Van Winkle)
“Firelock” is another historical word for firearm. Evident from the events that will soon unfold, this is the same gun, or “fowling piece,” that Rip took with him to the mountains. However, changing the term for the same object denotes Rip’s confusion at its rusty state, which leads him to believe that it is not the same gun.
"bilious-looking..." See in text (Rip Van Winkle)
The adjective “bilious” refers to the type of spiteful, unpleasant personality thought in medieval times to be caused by an overabundance of bile in a person’s composition.
"rubicund..." See in text (Rip Van Winkle)
Similar in definition to “ruddy,” the adjective “rubicund” describes someone’s complexion as colored, flushed, and reddish. Here, it means that King George III is depicted with a healthy reddish glow.
"henpecked husband..." See in text (Rip Van Winkle)
In colloquial usage, “henpecked” refers to someone who is overwhelmed and controlled by a nagging wife. It derives from the communal behavior of chickens, which use pecking to maintain a social hierarchy that controls access to resources. There is also a metaphorical layer to the phrase: the hen, the wife, is described as petty and domestic, and her nagging is as sharp and repetitive as the pecking of a hen.
"termagant..." See in text (Rip Van Winkle)
The origins of the word “termagant” are unknown, but as a proper noun in medieval English plays it came to reference a supposed god worshipped by Muslims. The Termagant character was violent and angry, and the word evolved to its modern usage as an overbearing, harsh woman, similar to a “shrew.”
"virago..." See in text (Rip Van Winkle)
By modern definition, the noun “virago” refers to a domineering or ill-tempered woman. However, its latin root refers to a heroic woman or female warrior. This could imply that Rip not only views his wife as a domineering woman, but that he views his marriage in general as a battleground between his listlessness and her attempts to get him to work.
"connubial..." See in text (Rip Van Winkle)
The adjective “connubial” describes something either related to marriage or the relationship between a married couple. Rip’s marital fears are only overcome upon seeing the desolate and rundown state of his old house. His dread over seeing his wife is immediately alleviated upon realizing she is not there and apparently has not been for some time.
"burghers..." See in text (Rip Van Winkle)
The noun “burgher” refers to the inhabitant of a burgh, borough, or corporate town. It shares a similar meaning with “citizen” and has its linguistic roots in early modern German or Dutch. Notice too, how Irving’s narrator, Geoffrey Crayon, talks about Diedrich Knickerbocker’s fascination with Dutch culture in North America.