Wednesday, August 1, 2007


Quarter 1 Vocabulary

Vocabulary from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

calamitous adj. causing or accompanied by calamity n. a state of deep distress or misery caused by major misfortune or loss; an grave event marked by great loss and lasting distress and affliction. Our parents had decided to put an end to their calamitousmarriage, and Father shipped us home to his mother.

inordinate adj. exceeding reasonable limits : immoderate; excessive. In later years I was to confront the stereotyped picture of gay song-singing cotton pickers with such inordinaterage that I was told even by fellow Blacks that my paranoia was embarrassing.

thwarted vt. to run counter to so as to oppose or baffle : to oppose successfully : defeat the hopes or aspirations of; frustrate. But in my case of sacrificial effort I was thwarted. Uncle Willie held tight to my dress and I only got close enough to smell the clean dry scent of hot iron.
covenant n. a formal, solemn, and binding agreement. It seemed that the peace of a day’s ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect.

rakishly adj. dashingly or carelessly unconventional; jaunty. The used-to-be sheriff sat rakishly astraddle his horse.

condoned vt. to pardon or overlook voluntarily; esp. : to treat as if trivial, harmless, or of no importance; excuse. . . . he rode out of the yard, sure that things were as they should be and that he was a gentle squire, saving those deserving serfs from the laws of the land, which he condoned.
heinous adj. hatefully or shockingly evil : abominable. He moaned the whole night through as if he had, in fact, been guilty of some heinous crime.

impudent adj. marked by contemptuous or cocky boldness or disregard of others; insolent. (27) “Thou shall not be impudent” [was a] commandment of Grandmother Henderson upon which hung our total salvation. (88) I was called impudent. . . . (105) an act of impudent rebellion . . . (242) impudence n. the quality or state of being impudent. . . . but impudence would have diminished my lead.

appellations n. an identifying name or title; designation. The impudent child was detested by God and a shame to its parents. . . . All adults had to be addressed as Mister, Missus, Miss, Auntie, Cousin, . . . Sister, Brother and a thousand other appellations indicating familial relationship and the lowliness of the addressor.

incur vt. to become liable or subject to : bring down upon oneself . His obesity, while disgusting, was not enough to incur the intense hate that we felt for him.

infused vt. to cause to be permeated with something (as a principle or quality) that alters usually for the better : introduce ; inspire; animate (34) The spirit infused Deacon Jackson and Sister Willson . . . at the same time.

insolently adj. insultingly contemptuous in speech or conduct : overbearing : exhibiting boldness or effrontery : impudent, proud. And certainly [whitefolks] couldn’t be spoken to insolently.

sobriquet n. a descriptive name or epithet : nickname. In fact, even in their absence [whites] could not be spoken of too harshly unless we used the sobriquet“They.”

illusory adj. based on or producing illusion : deceptive . [I] had built such elaborate fantasies about him and the illusory mother that seeing him in the flesh shredded my inventions. . . .

decorum n. propriety and good taste in conduct or appearance; orderliness; polite behavior. . . . the men in their flashy suits and flesh scars sat with churchlike decorum and waited to ask favors from her.

reprobation n. the act or state of being reprobated vt. to condemn strongly as unworthy, unacceptable, or evil. There was no police investigation nor socialreprobation.

impassivity n. giving no sign of feeling or emotion; expressionless. The weight of appreciaion and the threat . . . of a return to Momma were burdens that clogged my childish wits into impassivity.

afflicted vt. to distress so severely as to cause persistent suffering or anguish : trouble; injure. Because of the lurid tales we read . . . Bailey and I were afflicted—he physically and I mentally.

abated v. to reduce in degree or intensity : moderate. Then she picked me up in her arms and the terror abated for a while.

morose adj. having a sullen and gloomy disposition.There is nothing more appalling than a constantly morose child.

indeterminate adj. not definitely or precisely determined or fixed : vague. For anindeterminatetime, nothing was demanded of me or of Bailey.

regaled vt. to entertain sumptuously : to give pleasure or amusement to . Momma beamed and Uncle Willie was proud when Bailey regaled the customers with our exploits.

countenance vt. to extend approval or toleration to : sanction. . . . I could understand his frustration just as he could countenancemy withdrawal.

construed vt. to understand or explain the sense or intention of, usually in a particular way or in a given set of circumstances . It was a dangerous practice to call a Negro anything that could be loosely construed as insulting . . .

berated vt. to scold vehemently and at length. . . . [he] berated me for making all that noise . . .

raucous adj. disagreeably harsh or strident : hoarse : boisterously disorderly [They] were looked upon with some suspicion because they were so loud and raucous in their services.

resolute adj. marked by firm determination : resolved : bold; steady. . . . the minister stood resolute until the song unwound like a child’s playtoy and lay quieted in the aisles.

abandon n. a thorough yielding to natural impulses; esp. enthusiasm, exuberance There seemed to be an abandon which suggested that . . . it should be a time for great rejoicing. abandonment n. (same definition) I ate . . . with the nearest approach to abandonment I had ever experienced.

genteel adj. having an aristocratic quality : relating to the upper class : elegant or graceful in manner : free from vulgarity or rudeness : polite. Louise reminded me of Jane Eyre. Her mother lived in reduced circumstances, but she was genteel, and though she worked as a maid I decided she should be called a governess. . . .

eluded vt. to avoid adroitly : evade : to escape the understanding or grasp of (140) And her eyes . . . shifted quickly as if what they sought had just a second before eluded her. (166). . . I tramped through swampy cemeteries . . . and eluded litters of night-black cats.

placate vt. to soothe or mollify esp. by concessions : appease. Momma came inplacatingly.

onerous adj. involving, imposing, or constituting a burden : troublesome . But on that onerous day, oppressed beyond relief, my own mortality was borne in upon me on sluggish tides of doom.

imperious adj. commanding, dominant : marked by arrogant assurance : domineering. With animperious gesture, he snatched the gray cloth off the open flap . . .

mollify vt. to soothe in temper or disposition : appease to reduce the rigidity of : soften; to reduce in intensity : assuage, temper. But since he had called our names . . . we were mollified.

reprieve n. a temporary respite (as from pain or trouble); a formal temporary suspension of the execution of a sentence, esp. of death. Out of God’s merciful bosom I had won reprieve.

presentiment n. a feeling that something will or is about to happen : premonition. . . . I was overcome with apresentimentof worse things to come.

presumptuous adj. overstepping due bounds (as of propriety or courtesy) : taking liberties. We were maids and farmers, . . . and anything higher that we aspired to was farcical and presumptuous.

perfunctory adj. characterized by routine or superficiality : mechanical : lacking in interest or enthusiasm. . . . there was no need to give any more than the most perfunctorythank-you’s . . .

palpable adj. capable of being touched or felt : tangible; easily perceptible : noticeable. The ugliness [the white men] left was palpable.

rebut vt. to contradict or oppose by legal argument or countervailing proof : to expose the falsity of : refute. vi. to furnish an answer or counter proof. I had been listening and silently rebutting each sentence . . . .

retributive adj. relating to retribution n. something given or exacted in recompense; esp. : punishment. Momma and her son laughed and laughed over the white man’s evilness and her retributivesin.

imperative adj. expressive of a command or exhortation : having power to control; not to be avoided or evaded : necessary . . . (it is imperative that the answer embody truth) . . .

enigma n. something hard to understand or explain; a mystery. He was away in a mystery, locked in the enigma that young Southern Black boys start to unravel . . . from seven years old to death.

blithe adj. of a happy lighthearted character or disposition : lacking due thought or consideration : casual; heedless . Mother was a blithe chick nuzzling around the large, solid dark hen.

traverse vt. to go or travel across or over : to cross She . . .learned to traverse the maze of Spanish-named streets in that enigma that is Los Angeles.

enraptured vt. to fill with delight. Although we were both enraptured, [we were aware] of her nervousness.

unflinchingly adj. not flinching or shrinking : steadfast, uncompromising. Mother’s beauty made her powerful and her power made herunflinchinglyhonest.

clemency n. disposition to be merciful and esp. to moderate the severity of punishment due : an act of leniency : mercy. She had the impartiality of nature, with the same lack of indulgence or clemency.

desiccated v. to dry up : to preserve (a food) by drying : to drain of emotional or intellectual vitality. The Black newcomer had been recruited on the desiccated farm lands of Georgia . . . by war-plant labor scouts.

frivolous adj. of little weight or importance : having no sound basis (as in fact or law) : lacking in seriousness : marked by unbecoming levity. Reserved and firm in her opinions, she spent no time in indulging the frivolous.

subversive adj. relating to subversion n. a systematic attempt to overthrow or undermine a government by persons working secretly from within. It was a college for adults, and . . . it was on the House Un-American Activities list of subversiveorganizations.

recriminations n. a retaliatory accusation; also : the making of such accusations . No recriminations lay hidden under the plain statement . . .

ingenuity n. skill or cleverness in devising : inventiveness. . . . the hero is that man who is offered only the crumbs from his counry’s table but by ingenuity and courage is able to take for himself a Lucullan feast.

colloquial adj. conversational : characteristic of familiar and informal conversation; also : unacceptably informal : using conversational style. We were alert to the gap separating the written word from the colloquial.

convoluted adj. involved, intricate ; having convolutions n. a form or shape that is folded in curved or tortuous windings. . . . I loved the multisyllabic words and convoluted sentences . . .

inducement n. a motive or consideration that leads one to action or to additional or more effective actions. My father added as an inducement the fact that I was only fifteen years old.

affectations n. the act of taking on or displaying an attitude or behavior not natural to oneself or not genuinely felt : speech or conduct not natural to oneself : artificiality. . . . she would crawl up in her blanket of affectations and die circumspectly.

scathing adj. bitterly severe : caustic. The guard stuck his head in the other door before I could form a scathing but polite response.

winsomely adj. generally pleasing and engaging often because of a childlike charm and innocence: cheerful, gay. Dad shook hands with all the men . . . and smiled winsomely at the women.

oblivion n. the condition of forgetting or having forgotten; esp. : of being oblivious adj. lacking memory, mindful attention, knowledge or awareness. I had groggily surrendered myself to oblivion . . .

feint n. something feigned; specifically : a mock blow or attack on or toward one part in order to distract attention from the point one really intends to attack : trick. That was a feint, designed to catch the opponent offguard.

aphorisms n. concise statement of a principle : a terse formulation of a truth or sentiment : adage. She had a store of aphorisms which she dished out as the occasion demanded.

expedient adj. suitable for achieving a particular end in a given circumstance : characterized by concern with what is opportune; esp. : governed by self-interest . . . . each generation found it more expedient to plead guilty to the charge of being young and ignorant . . .

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