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Vocabulary in The Old Nurse's Story

Vocabulary Examples in The Old Nurse's Story:

The Old Nurse's Story

14

"palsy..."   (The Old Nurse's Story)

The noun “palsy” refers to a condition that renders someone helpless or paralyzes the body. It can be physical or brought on by extreme shock.

"swooned..."   (The Old Nurse's Story)

The very “to swoon” means to faint.

"Those gone down to the pit..."   (The Old Nurse's Story)

The phrase “gone down to the pit” can refer to either a literal or a spiritual death. Hester may be referencing the look on a person’s face when confronting death, or she may also be thinking of the despairing looks of those who are condemned to suffer in hell.

"she had been confined of a little girl at a farm-house on the Moors,..."   (The Old Nurse's Story)

The phrase “to be confined” in this context refers to the time when a pregnant woman must rest and give birth. Though Maude and the foreign musician are married, that they had the ceremony in secret would be scandalous at the time, which is why Maude insists on hiding the child from her family.

"I had heard no sound of little battering hands upon the windowglass, although the phantom child had seemed to put forth all its force; and, although I had seen it wail and cry, no faintest touch of sound had fallen upon my ears...."   (The Old Nurse's Story)

If the otherworldly child crying to be let in weren’t enough, then the fact that she appears to be totally silent and unable to interact with the world ought to convey a menacing tone. Hester also seems to accept that the child is a ghost, calling her a “phantom”—another word for a ghost.

"'I shall catch it,'..."   (The Old Nurse's Story)

The phrase “to catch it” here means to be punished or disciplined for an offense.

"telling stories..."   (The Old Nurse's Story)

The phrase “telling stories” in this case means “telling lies”—which is why Hester is irritated with Rosamond, since she believes the child is being untruthful.

"maud..."   (The Old Nurse's Story)

The noun “maud” refers to a dark, checked plaid wrap worn by Scottish shepherds.

"bairn..."   (The Old Nurse's Story)

The noun “bairn” is Scottish slang for a child. Because of this diction, readers in Gaskell’s time would likely have guessed that the shepherd was Scottish.

"gowk..."   (The Old Nurse's Story)

The noun “gowk” is used as an insult for a foolish or naive person. It comes from an old word for the cuckoo bird.

"trumpet..."   (The Old Nurse's Story)

The “trumpet” referred to in this sentence is not a musical instrument but an ear trumpet, a rudimentary type of hearing aid typically crafted from metal, wood, or animal products. Its name derives from its funnel-like shape.

"with massy andirons and dogs to hold the wood;..."   (The Old Nurse's Story)

The adjective “massy” is an archaic word for large or bulky. The noun “andiron”—also known as a “firedog”—refers to the metal grates used to hold burning wood in a fireplace.

"Fells..."   (The Old Nurse's Story)

The noun “fell” refers to a type of semi-barren, high landscape that is common in northern England. In this case, it’s a name for the hilly landscape behind the Furnivall manor.

"curate..."   (The Old Nurse's Story)

Although the word “curate” can also be used as a verb, in this case Gaskell is using the noun form, which refers to a member of the clergy who assists a higher-ranking member.

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