A&P and Other Stories Glossary
by John Updike
Glossary of Terms
Alan LaddA Hollywood film actor who was very popular in the 1940s and the 1950s. His most famous leading role was the title character in the 1953 classic western "Shane."
bursitisAn inflammation of the joints that usually occurs in knees, elbows, or shoulders.
canIn "A & P," Sammy uses this term as slang for a woman's rear end.
carapaceThe upper section of a lobster.
catecheticalRefers to classes held for Christian children and teens, intended to teach them theology and values. Catechism or "Sunday school" is present in both Catholic and Protestant traditions.
DDTShort for dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, a chemical pesticide. DDT was used heavily in agriculture after World War Two. In Silent Spring, which was published in the same year as "Pigeon Feathers," Rachel Carson suggested that DDT harms the environment and causes cancer in humans, causing a massive controversy about its use.
deus ex machinaLatin: "god out of the machine." In literature, a deus ex machina refers to a device used by an author that neatly solves an unsolvable problem through contrivance - the invention of a new character, rule, or flaw not previously established in the narrative.
ditheringPuttering around aimlessly.
femmeA derogatory term used by David’s father for an especially feminine woman.
firmamentSky, or the heavens.
furiesIn Greek mythology, the furies are a group of avenging female deities.
FuzzbusterThe brand name of one of the first radar detectors, a device used to determine if a car's speed is being monitored by police. These became popular in the 1970s and 1980s following the reduction of the national speed limit (Ha).
gooseThe handle that David’s Granmom uses to take hot flatirons off the stovetop.
HoudiniA reference to Harry Houdini, a famous magician who lived from 1874 to 1926 and specialized in spectacular escapes.
Hula BowlAn annual, post-season college football game held in Honolulu between 1947 and 2008.
inamorataA female lover.
Lauren BacallA movie star in the 1940s and 50s known for her work in film noir classics such as "To Have and Have Not" and "The Big Sleep."
lichenA moss-like growth.
mortisedA cavity that is made with grooves to hold something (usually a bolt or a screw) in securely.
pachysandraA creeping shrubbery.
pietyReligious devotion, faith.
potashShort for potassium carbonate or potassium hydroxide, both of which are commonly used in fertilizer.
precipitousA very steep decline.
presbyopiaA condition that advances with age where the eye loses ability to focus on near objects.
qualitativelyAn amount measured by the quality of something rather than its quantity.
rookeryA colony of animals used for breeding, particularly birds.
SisypheanIn Greek mythology, Sisyphus is a king whose greed is punished by an eternal task of pushing a large boulder up a hill, only to have the boulder repeatedly roll down from the peak. As an adjective, a task that is laborious yet pointless is said to echo Sisyphus' plight.
slotA checkout lane in a grocery store.
superphosphateA kind of fertilizer that is usually airdropped in mass quantities.
tremoloA musical term for sounds that evoke trembling.
vehementZealous, ardent, impassioned.
wagglerElsie Kern’s term for her mother’s hand, which “waggles” due to Parkinson’s disease.
wopA racial slur used for Italian-Americans. Although it is extremely offensive today, it was only a moderate insult--and thus used more frequently--when "Ace in the Hole" was published in 1953.
A&P and Other Stories Essays and Related Content
- A&P and Other Stories: Major Themes
- A&P and Other Stories: Questions
- A&P and Other Stories: Purchase the Novel and Related Material
- John Updike: Biography
- A&P and Other Stories Summary
- About A&P and Other Stories
- Character List
- Glossary of Terms
- Major Themes
- Quotes and Analysis
- Summary and Analysis of Ace in the Hole
- Summary and Analysis of A & P, Part 1
- Summary and Analysis of A & P, Part 2
- Summary and Analysis of A & P, Part 3
- Summary and Analysis of Pigeon Feathers
- Summary and Analysis of Separating
- Summary and Analysis of Short Easter
- Consumerism and the Cold War
- Related Links on A&P and Other Stories
- Suggested Essay Questions
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 1
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 2
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 3
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 4
- Author of ClassicNote and Sources