"A Long Way from Chicago," Vocabulary from Prologue-1930

In eight different stories, award-winning writer Richard Peck shows how summers with Grandma are adventures that can never be forgotten.

Here are links to our lists for the novel: Prologue-1930, 1931-1933, 1934-1942

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. privy
    a room or building equipped with one or more toilets
    For one thing, at Grandma's you had to go outside to the privy.
  2. prohibition
    a law forbidding the sale of alcoholic beverages
    Prohibition was on in those days, which meant that selling liquor was against the law. So people made their own beer at home.
  3. obituary
    a notice of someone's death
    The county seat newspaper didn't want to run an obituary on anybody called Shotgun, but nobody knew any other name for him.
  4. citified
    having the customs or manners of someone urban
    Mary Alice and I carried the tale home that a suspicious type had come off the train in citified clothes and a stiff straw hat.
  5. reprobate
    a person without moral scruples
    "He was just an old reprobate who lived poor and died broke," Grandma said.
  6. cauldron
    a very large pot that is used for boiling
    Yesterday she'd done apple butter, and that hadn't been too bad. She made that outdoors over an open fire, and she'd put pennies in the cauldron to keep it from sticking.
  7. penitentiary
    a correctional institution for those convicted of crimes
    They were telling the reporter Shotgun killed a man and went to the penitentiary.
  8. grudge
    a resentment strong enough to justify retaliation
    "Was that Effie again? Never trust an ugly woman. She's got a grudge against the world," said Grandma, who was no oil painting herself.
  9. peddler
    someone who travels about selling his wares
    We figured Grandma might grab up her broom to swat him off the porch. We'd already seen how she could make short work of peddlers even when they weren't lippy.
  10. fleeting
    lasting for a markedly brief time
    "Ah well, fame is fleeting," Grandma said.
  11. pauper
    a person who is very poor
    "And now he goes to a pauper's grave with none to mark his passing," the reporter said, which may have been a sample of his writing style.
  12. flinch
    draw back, as with fear or pain
    He flinched because he had it on good authority that she'd just been let out of an insane asylum.
  13. loll
    hang loosely or laxly
    After the second beer the reporter lolled, visions of Shotgun's Civil War glories no doubt dancing in his head.
  14. taper
    diminish gradually
    Mrs. Wilcox had been humming "Rock of Ages," but tapered off after "let me hide myself in thee."
  15. tarry
    leave slowly and hesitantly
    He went out a side window, headfirst, leaving his hat and his notepad behind. Which he feared more, the living dead or Grandma's aim, he didn't tarry to tell.
  16. savor
    derive or receive pleasure from
    Grandma stood there savoring the silence.
  17. gauge
    diameter of a tube or gun barrel
    Then she turned toward the kitchen with the twelve-gauge loose in her hand.
  18. smug
    marked by excessive complacency or self-satisfaction
    It was the cat, sitting smug on Shotgun Cheatham's breathless chest, who'd batted at the gauze the way a cat will.
  19. gloat
    dwell on with satisfaction
    Though she didn't gloat, she looked satisfied.
  20. smithereens
    a collection of small fragments considered as a whole
    But I lay awake that night, recalling the sound when Grandma's mailbox was blown to smithereens.
  21. waft
    be driven or carried along, as by the air
    The smell of breakfast wafted up from the kitchen.
  22. wring
    twist and compress, as if in pain or anguish
    But Mrs. Wilcox just stood there on the porch, wringing her hands.
  23. consolation
    the comfort you feel when soothed in times of disappointment
    All the laws of civilization has broke down, and town life is getting too dangerous. My only consolation is that there's a prayer meeting at church tomorrow night.
  24. smother
    envelop completely
    Grandma settled into her chair to smother her last pancake with corn syrup.
  25. galoot
    a foolish or clumsy person
    He was a big, tall galoot of a kid with narrow eyes.
  26. flit
    move along rapidly and lightly; skim or dart
    His gaze kept flitting to the shotgun.
  27. jaunt
    a journey taken for pleasure
    Another whopper, and a huge one. Grandma off on a jaunt and us with her? I didn't think so.
  28. sneer
    a facial expression of contempt or scorn
    With a sneer at me, Ernie Cowgill disappeared through the door and stomped off the porch.
  29. coincidence
    the property of two things happening at the same time
    It may have been just a coincidence that a family named Cowgill ran the dairy.
  30. glower
    look angry or sullen as if to signal disapproval
    Mary Alice glowered but said nothing.
  31. scuffle
    walk by dragging one's feet
    Now we were by the door to the kitchen, and I heard the scuffle of heavy feet in there on the crinkly linoleum.
  32. singe
    burn superficially or lightly
    But a singed smell came from their pants.
  33. witless
    lacking sense or understanding or judgment
    The cherry bomb had scared them witless, except for Ernie, who was witless anyway.
  34. sidle
    move sideways
    I sidled down the side aisle, treadling heavy.
  35. pilfer
    make off with belongings of others
    "What we have here," Grandma said, "is breaking-and-entering. Burglary and pilfering.
  36. temptation
    the desire to do something that you know you should avoid
    Unless my trigger finger gives way to temptation. They wanted this shotgun, and they're liable to get it, right between the eyes.
  37. glint
    be shiny, as if wet
    The ceiling light glinted wickedly off her spectacles.
  38. culprit
    someone or something responsible for harm or wrongdoing
    You knew at the time who the culprits was who kicked your privy to kingdom come.
  39. prey
    profit from in an unethical manner
    Thugs like yours who prey on two old helpless widow women such as Effie and myself is liable to get up to anything.
  40. lament
    express grief verbally
    Then he whaled the tar out of every one of them. They squealed like stuck hogs while Mrs. Cowgill lamented from the milk wagon.

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