WORD LISTS

"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," Vocabulary from the short story

October 9, 2013
"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." a comedic short story by James Thurber, chronicles a jaunt into town taken by a man who is inept at everything in his real life, so he lives inside of his imagination.
rakish
He wore his full-dress uniform, with the heavily braided white cap pulled down rakishly over one cold gray eye.
lieutenant
"I'm not asking you, Lieutenant Berg," said the Commander.
cylinder
The pounding of the cylinders increased: ta-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa.
auxiliary
In this example sentence, the word refers to an engine.
"Switch on No. 8 auxiliary!" he shouted.
turret
"Full strength in No. 3 turret!" shouted the Commander.
hurtle
The crew, bending to their various tasks in the huge, hurtling eight-engined Navy hydroplane, looked at each other and grinned.
astonishment
"Hmm?" said Walter Mitty. He looked at his wife, in the seat beside him, with shocked astonishment.
intimate
Here, the adjective "intimate" is synonymous with "remote" in describing the far away spaces in Mitty's mind.
Walter Mitty drove on toward Waterbury in silence, the roaring of the SN202 through the worst storm in twenty years of Navy flying fading in the remote, intimate airways of his mind.
tense
"You're tensed up again," said Mrs. Mitty.
hastily
"Pick it up, brother!" snapped a cop as the light changed, and Mitty hastily pulled on his gloves and lurched ahead.
aimlessly
He drove around the streets aimlessly for a time, and then he drove past the hospital on his way to the parking lot.
distraught
"Haggard" means "showing the wearing effects of overwork or care or suffering"--paired with "distraught" it describes a doctor who needs almost as help as his millionaire patient (which is when Mitty in his daydream steps in).
He looked distraught and haggard.
tertiary
Mitty is not actually a skilled surgeon, so a lot of the medical terms are made up: "obstreosis" is not a real word; "duct" is "a bodily passage or tube" and "tract" is "a system of body parts that serve some particular purpose" so individually, they could refer vaguely to the body; "tertiary" has a lot of syllables that could sound like the position of the obstruction ("the physical condition of blocking or filling a passage").
"Hello, Mitty," he said. "We're having the devil's own time with McMillan, the millionaire banker and close personal friend of Roosevelt. Obstreosis of the ductal tract. Tertiary. Wish you'd take a look at him."
intern
"The new anesthetizer is giving way!" shouted an intern.
delicate
He began fingering delicately a row of glistening dials.
craven
Mitty looked at him and at the craven figure of Benbow, who drank, and at the grave, uncertain faces of the two great specialists.
insolent
The attendant vaulted into the car, backed it up with insolent skill, and put it where it belonged.
cocky
They're so damn cocky, thought Walter Mitty, walking along Main Street; they think they know everything.
referendum
"Referendum" is not a personal item one can purchase, but its inclusion in the list reveals the way Mitty's mind works and the author's playful use of words: an "initiative" is the "power to introduce a new legislative measure" that could lead to a "referendum", which sounds like "cardorundum", which should be "carborundum," which Mitty could metaphorically use to sand down the abrasively irritating nature of his wife.
No. Toothpaste, toothbrush, bicarbonate, cardorundum, initiative and referendum?
automatic
The District Attorney suddenly thrust a heavy automatic at the quiet figure on the witness stand.
insinuate
"You are a crack shot with any sort of firearms, I believe?" said the District Attorney, insinuatingly.
bicker
Walter Mitty raised his hand briefly and the bickering attorneys were stilled.
bedlam
A woman's scream rose above the bedlam and suddenly a lovely, dark-haired girl was in Walter Mitty's arms.
tousle
Captain Mitty looked up at him through tousled hair.
ammunition
An "ammunition dump" is a place that holds large supplies of ammunition for an army.
"Somebody's got to get that ammunition dump," said Mitty.
barrage
"The box barrage is closing in," said the sergeant.
menacing
The pounding of the cannon increased; there was the rat-tat-tatting of machine guns, and from somewhere came the menacing pocketa-pocketa-pocketa of the new flame-throwers.
derisive
They went out through the revolving doors that made a faintly derisive whistling sound when you pushed them.
fleeting
Then, with that faint, fleeting smile playing about his lips, he faced the firing squad;
inscrutable
Mitty's mind is inscrutably obscure ("not clearly understood or expressed") to his wife. In his mind, Mitty can picture himself being disdainful to the firing squad (which could represent his wife's scolding and demands); but in his real life, Mitty obeys and waits for his wife, and does not show any arrogant superiority or contempt.
erect and motionless, proud and disdainful, Walter Mitty the Undefeated, inscrutable to the last.

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