Vocabulary for Kincaid’s A Small Place
Pages 3–19 disembark (v.): To go ashore out of a ship; to get out of a vehicle or aircraft. You disembark from your plane (4). quaint (adj.): Having an old-fashioned quality that is usually appealing. The sign hangs there [. . .] more than a decade later, with its unfulfilled promise of repair, and you might see a sort of quaintness on the part of these islanders (9). dilapidated (adj.): Decayed, deteriorated, or fallen into partial ruin through neglect or misuse. [T]hey look brand-new, but they have an awful sound, like an old car — a very old, dilapidated car (6). ingenuity (n.): Skill or cleverness that allows someone to solve problems, invent things, etc. [T]he West got rich not from [. . .] undervalued labor [. . .] but from the ingenuity of small shopkeepers in Sheffield and Yorkshire and Lancashire (9-10). notorious (adj.): Well-known or famous, especially for something bad. Everybody knows he’s a drug smuggler, and if just as you were driving by he stepped out of his door your driver might point him out to you as the notorious person that he is (11). taxing (adj.): Requiring a lot of energy; exhausting. [A]s an ordinary person you are not well equipped to look too far inward and set yourself aright, because being ordinary is already so taxing, and being ordinary takes all you have out of you (16). banality (n.): The quality or state of being boring, uninteresting, or ordinary. But the banality of your own life is very real to you; it drove you to this extreme, spending your days and your nights in the company of [. . .] people you would not want to have as your actual neighbor (18).
Pages 23–37 empire (n.): A group of countries or regions that are controlled by one ruler or one government. They don’t seem to know that this empire business was all wrong (23). irrevocable (adj.): Not possible to be revoked, annulled, or taken back. [T]hey should, at least, be wearing sackcloth and ashes in token penance of the wrongs committed, the irrevocableness of their bad deeds (23). cow (v.): To destroy the resolve or courage of; to make someone afraid to do something. Government House was surrounded by a high white wall — and to show how cowed we must have been, no one ever wrote bad things on it (25). demise (n.): The death of a person, thing, or idea. I was sitting across from an Englishman, one of those smart people who know how to run things that England still turns out but who now, since the demise of the empire, have nothing to do (30). litany (n.): A prolonged or tedious account; a ceremonial prayer consisting of a long series of invocations. I was reciting my usual litany of things I hold against England (31). dyspeptic (adj.): Ill-humored; affected by stomach pain caused by indigestion. [L]ook at how bitter, how dyspeptic [it makes me] just to sit and think about these things (32). eloquent (adj.): showing the ability to use language gracefully and effectively. The people like me, finally, after years and years of agitation, made deeply moving and eloquent speeches against the wrongness of your domination over us (35). debacle (n.): A great disaster or failure. [P]erhaps you observe the debacle in which I now exist, the utter ruin that I say is my life (36). bureaucracy (n.): A system of government or business that is large in size, contains a hierarchy of authority, and has many specialized functions. You will forget your part in the whole setup, that bureaucracy is one of your inventions (36).
Pages 41–60 relent (v.): To agree to do something that you have been resisting; to become less severe or harsh. The head librarian [. . .] seemed to spend her time [. . .] wondering if in the end the people at the Mill Reef Club will relent and contribute their money to the building of a new library (44). imperious (adj.): Having or showing the proud and unpleasant attitude of someone who gives orders and expects others to obey…