A&P and Other Stories Glossary

Glossary

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abashedly

With embarrassment.

Alan Ladd

A 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."

bursitis

An inflammation of the joints that usually occurs in knees, elbows, or shoulders.

can

In "A & P," Sammy uses this term as slang for a woman's rear end.

carapace

The upper section of a lobster.

catechetical

Refers 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.

DDT

Short 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 machina

Latin: "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.

dithering

Puttering around aimlessly.

femme

A derogatory term used by David’s father for an especially feminine woman.

firmament

Sky, or the heavens.

furies

In Greek mythology, the furies are a group of avenging female deities.

Fuzzbuster

The 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).

garrulous

Talkative, rambling.

goose

The handle that David’s Granmom uses to take hot flatirons off the stovetop.

Houdini

A reference to Harry Houdini, a famous magician who lived from 1874 to 1926 and specialized in spectacular escapes.

Hula Bowl

An annual, post-season college football game held in Honolulu between 1947 and 2008.

inamorata

A female lover.

Lauren Bacall

A 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."

lichen

A moss-like growth.

mortised

A cavity that is made with grooves to hold something (usually a bolt or a screw) in securely.

omnipotent

All-powerful.

pachysandra

A creeping shrubbery.

piety

Religious devotion, faith.

potash

Short for potassium carbonate or potassium hydroxide, both of which are commonly used in fertilizer.

precipitous

A very steep decline.

presbyopia

A condition that advances with age where the eye loses ability to focus on near objects.

qualitatively

An amount measured by the quality of something rather than its quantity.

rookery

A colony of animals used for breeding, particularly birds.

Sisyphean

In 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.

slot

A checkout lane in a grocery store.

superphosphate

A kind of fertilizer that is usually airdropped in mass quantities.

tremolo

A musical term for sounds that evoke trembling.

tumult

Unrest, upheaval.

vehement

Zealous, ardent, impassioned.

waggler

Elsie Kern’s term for her mother’s hand, which “waggles” due to Parkinson’s disease.

wop

A 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.