WORD LISTS

"All the Pretty Horses," Vocabulary from Part 1

July 2, 2013
As you read Cormac McCarthy's "All the Pretty Horses," learn these word lists for the novel: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
forebear
Along the cold hallway behind him hung the portraits of forebears only dimly known to him all framed in glass and dimly lit above the narrow wainscotting.
veneer
He pressed his thumbprint in the warm wax pooled on the oak veneer.
mantel
Inside the house there was no sound save the ticking of the mantel clock in the front room.
prairie
The landscape is often the focus of description in the novel. Being aware of the definitions of particular terrain and vegetation would make the reading experience of "All the Pretty Horses" richer, especially since McCarthy tends to use the landscape in metaphorical relations with the characters that navigate this terrain.
He walked out on the prairie and stood holding his hat like some supplicant to the darkness over them all and he stood there for a long time.
abate
The wind was much abated and it was very cold and the sun sat blood red and elliptic under the reefs of bloodred cloud before him.
influenza
Twelve years later when his wife was carried off in the influenza epidemic they still had no children.
swivel
On the desk was a small brass calendar mounted on swivels that changed dates when you tipped it over in its stand.
yoke
The word here is used figuratively. Many of McCarthy's descriptions enter the realm of poetry, using the mundane objects of the current landscape in order to connect them to something greater.
The black crosses of the old telegraph poles yoked across the constellations passing east to west.
splice
His grandfather said the Comanche would cut the wires and splice them back with horsehair.
meek
The Good Book says that the meek shall inherit the earth and I expect that’s probably the truth.
corral
There were half a dozen of them breaking through a pole corral and their manes were long and blowing and their eyes wild.
mezzanine
He went up the stairs to the mezzanine and found Franklin’s name lettered in an arc across the pebbled glass of the door and took off his hat and turned the knob and went in.
plateau
Snow was falling in the San Saba when they crossed it and snow was falling on the Edwards Plateau and in the Balcones the limestone was white with snow and he sat watching out while the gray flakes flared over the windshield glass in the sweep of the wipers.
usher
He thanked her and went in and tendered his ticket to an usher who led him over to the red carpeted stairs and handed him the ticket back.
alcove
At the intermission he rose and put on his hat and went down to the lobby and stood in a gilded alcove and rolled a cigarette and stood smoking it with one boot jacked back against the wall behind him.
firmament
He and Rawlins lay in the road where they could feel the heat coming off the blacktop against their backs and they watched stars falling down the long black slope of the firmament.
conscience
If you got a bad conscience just tell me what you want me to say and I’ll say it.
brim
He stood back and touched the brim of his hat and turned and went on up the street.
yonder
Why don't we lay up yonder and wait on him?
chaff
They lay in the dry chaff under the trees with their coats rolled up under their heads and their hats over their eyes while the horses grazed in the grass along the creekbed.
graze
They lay in the dry chaff under the trees with their coats rolled up under their heads and their hats over their eyes while the horses grazed in the grass along the creekbed.
reckon
How far is that do you reckon?
bluff
They passed under a high limestone bluff where a creek ran down and they crossed a broad gravel wash.
suture
To the west a mile away ran a wire fence strung from pole to pole like a bad suture across the gray grasslands and beyond that a small band of antelope all of whom were watching them.
myriad
The sandbar below them was thickly grown with willow and carrizo cane and the bluffs on the far side were stained and cavepocked and traversed by a constant myriad of swallows.
shoal
We can cross right down yonder off of that shoal, John Grady said.
shallow
The kid was sitting the big bay horse in the shallow water off the gravel bar and looking across the river.
slump
Half a dozen low houses with walls of mud brick slumping into ruin.
notch
Two of them were empty but the third was covered with the tin lid from a lardpail and the lid was notched to accommodate the handle of an enameled tin dipper.
rivulet
A thin blue rivulet of drainwater ran down the clay gully in front of the store and a goat stood in the rutted road looking at the horses.
drought
The road was deeply gullied and it was washed out in the draws and in the draws were cattle dead from an old drought, just the bones of them cloven about with the hard dry blackened hide.
wedge
Compare with "notch." They share a similar shape, but a notch is an opening and a wedge is a solid piece.
Under it was a board supported by two wedges driven into the wall and on the board was a small green glass with a blackened candlestub in it.
cauterize
Rawlins eyed balefully that cauterized terrain.
huddle
It was cold in the night and in the dawn before daylight when they woke Blevins was already up and had a fire going on the ground and was huddled over it in his thin clothes.
desiccated
What they dredged smoking out of the ground looked like some desiccated effigy from a tomb.
alight
The change in his pocket burned through and fell out on the ground and set the grass alight.
plumb
Run plumb out of the country, called Rawlins.
arroyo
John Grady rode through the willows and down the arroyo following the occasional bare footprint in the rainspotted loam until he came upon Blevins crouched under the roots of a dead cottonwood in a caveout where the arroyo turned and fanned out onto the plain.
impale
Bye and bye they passed a stand of roadside cholla against which small birds had been driven by the storm and there impaled.
serf
The drawers he wore were baggy and dirty and he did indeed look like some sad and ill used serf or worse.
pluck
Rawlins twisted the cigarette into the corner of his mouth and plucked a match from his pocket and popped it alight with his thumbnail.
bedlam
All out bedlam had broken across the lot.
founder
If we don't founder on deermeat I’m a chinaman.
heifer
I’ve seen them vaqueros worked for Blair cut a yearling heifer so thin you could see through the meat.
carcass
In the night the coyotes woke them and they lay in the dark and listened to them where they convened over the carcass of the deer, fighting and squalling like cats.
squall
In the night the coyotes woke them and they lay in the dark and listened to them where they convened over the carcass of the deer, fighting and squalling like cats.
cull
This bunch has done been culled once up on the mesa, ain't it?
totter
He was chewing woodenly and half tottering on the bench.
slight
She had blue eyes and she nodded or perhaps she only lowered her head slightly to better see what sort of horse he rode, just the slightest tilt of the broad black hat set level on her head, the slightest lifting of the long black hair.
pendulum
The brass weights stirred behind the casement doors, the pendulum slowly swept.

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