Chapters 15–19

After the death of their daughter, Frank McCourt's impoverished immigrant parents decide to return to Ireland. With humor and tenderness, this Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir tells the story of his early life there.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. denounce
    accuse or condemn openly as disgraceful
    She doesn’t say a word and I wonder if she’s going to the post office to denounce me for sleeping in my grandmother’s bed and wearing her black dress.
  2. famine
    a severe shortage of food resulting in starvation and death
    Have a cup o’ tay an’ a bit o’ bread. You need it, God help us. You look like one left over from the Famine itself.
  3. craving
    an intense desire for some particular thing
    Dennis had the craving, so he did, for a nice sheep’s head with a bit of cabbage and a spud so up with me to Barry the butcher with the last few shillings I had.
  4. gleam
    shine brightly, like a star or a light
    I can’t leave the pile of rags alone with a useless money order because the pile is an old woman, Mrs. Gertrude Daly, all twisted with every class of disease you can get in a Limerick lane, arthritis, rheumatism, falling hair, a nostril half gone from her jabbing at it with her finger, and you wonder what kind of a world is it when this old woman sits up from the rags and smiles at you with teeth that gleam white in the dark, her own teeth and perfect.
  5. titter
    a nervous restrained laugh
    Getting paid for sitting and chatting is no laughing matter and the first titter out of any of us and out we go till we come to our senses and if the tittering continues we’ll be reported to the proper authorities.
  6. prattle
    speak about unimportant matters rapidly and incessantly
    Mackey, what is it you’re prattling about over there?
  7. mews
    a street lined with dwellings that were originally stables
    Toby says nobody knows Limerick like the telegram boy. We know every avenue, road, street, terrace, mews, place, close, lane.
  8. perish
    pass from physical life
    Come in. You’ll perish standing there.
  9. douse
    wet thoroughly
    She leaps from the sofa, dances around the parlor like a wild one and runs into the kitchen to douse herself with water.
  10. repose
    the absence of mental stress or anxiety
    I slip the telegram under the door and cycle back down to the Franciscan church to beg for the repose of Theresa’s soul.
  11. revile
    spread negative information about
    I want to go to the priest, to Mr. and Mrs. Carmody. I want to tell them how I’m the one who sent Theresa to hell. They can do whatever they like with me. Abuse me. Revile me. Throw grave dirt at me.
  12. quaff
    swallow hurriedly or greedily or in one draught
    You Irish quaff at every turn.
  13. wretched
    morally reprehensible
    Get off my wife, you wretched Papist twit.
  14. plead
    appeal or request earnestly
    He hits me in the back with the whiskey bottle, pleads, Will you not watch one hour with me?
  15. pelt
    attack and bombard with or as if with missiles
    He pelts me with sherry glasses, whiskey glasses, assorted ham sandwiches, items from his wife’s dressing table, powders, creams, brushes.
  16. abscess
    a localized collection of pus surrounded by inflamed tissue
    Every time I deliver a telegram to her street, every time I pass the graveyard I feel the sin growing in me like an abscess and if I don’t go to confession soon I’ll be nothing but an abscess riding around on a bicycle with people pointing and telling each other, There he is, there’s Frankie McCourt, the dirty thing that sent Theresa Carmody to hell.
  17. clammy
    unpleasantly cool and humid
    I kneel with people in the pews next to confessionals but when my turn comes I can’t breathe, my heart pounds, my forehead turns cold and clammy and I run from the church.
  18. languish
    become feeble
    I am sure you don’t want to languish in the dungeons of Limerick jail far from friends and family.
  19. litigious
    of or relating to legal proceedings
    I remain, yours in litigious anticipation,
    Mrs. Brigid Finucane
  20. imminence
    the state of being liable to happen soon
    Inasmuch as you have not succumbed to the imminence of litigation in our previous epistle be advised that we are in consultation with our barrister above in Dublin.
  21. perseverance
    persistent determination
    Write your name and address and write me a paragraph explaining why you came here for this job and how you propose to rise in the ranks of Eason and Son, Ltd., by dint of perseverance and assiduity where there is great opportunity in this company for a boy that will keep his eye on the guidon ahead and guard his flanks from the siren call of sin.
  22. assiduity
    great and constant diligence and attention
    Write your name and address and write me a paragraph explaining why you came here for this job and how you propose to rise in the ranks of Eason and Son, Ltd., by dint of perseverance and assiduity where there is great opportunity in this company for a boy that will keep his eye on the guidon ahead and guard his flanks from the siren call of sin.
  23. pending
    awaiting conclusion or confirmation
    We’ll take you on pending the decision on the sore eyes.
  24. intercede
    act between parties with a view to reconciling differences
    I begged him to intercede for Theresa Carmody but he never did a thing, stood up there on his pedestal with the little smile, the birds, the lambs, and didn’t give a fiddler’s fart about Theresa or me.
  25. linger
    take one's time; proceed slowly
    ...and sometimes Mr. McCaffrey gets into a state when boys linger in the lavatory interfering with themselves and wasting the valuable time for which Easons is paying them and on top of it putting their immortal souls in danger.
  26. unbeknownst
    without someone's knowledge
    Borrows magazines to take home unbeknownst to Mr. McCaffrey and God knows what he does with himself and the magazines all night.
  27. gratitude
    a feeling of thankfulness and appreciation
    She’s not happy I’m a messenger boy because that’s the lowest you can drop in Limerick but if it brings in ham like this we should light a candle in gratitude.
  28. squabble
    argue over petty things
    Alphie says you can get it in America yes you can and they argue about America and Australia and boomerangs till Mam says, For the love o’Jesus, yeer brother is leaving us and the two of ye are there squabbling over boomerangs.
  29. seep
    pass gradually or leak or as if through small openings
    The words make no sense and everyone wonders why tears are seeping from his shut eyes.
  30. moor
    secure in or as if in a berth or dock
    He climbs down the ladder, tugboat chugs away, and we sail up the Hudson past Manhattan, under the George Washington Bridge, past hundreds of Liberty ships that did their bit in the war, moored now and ready to rot.
Created on March 29, 2013 (updated November 2, 2018)

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