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The Vocabulary of "Tom Sawyer" -- Chapter 2

Updated on November 16, 2010

A New Chapter with New Words:

Chapter two of Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" picks up where chapter one left off: with a bevy of adventure and better-than-useful vocabulary. The words seem to bounce off the pages with life and reverberation--making the reader long for more. Yes. Mark Twain had a tight grip on how to weave vernacular. And we, his readers, have much to enjoy... and learn! So without further adieu...

Mr. Twain...hard at work...maybe?
Mr. Twain...hard at work...maybe?

Melancholy: A feeling of sadness, gloom, or depression of spirit; or a deep, contemplative manner of looking at life--with a certain incidence in mind.

For me, the word melancholy has always surfaced feelings of reflection; especially during an event in life requiring deeper-than-normal review and thought. Although typically used in a negative fashion, melancholy holds an alternative meaning--as expressed by Twain in "Tom Sawyer" prior to the whitewashing adventure. In Twain's context, the word is used to depict a sort of: "Look at this overwhelming task facing me. Oh how I wish I were somewhere else" type of feeling--as opposed to a sense of loss or morose. Used in this way, a more common coverage of the word could go like this: Just thinking of how his friends were basking away in summertime fun wrapped our reluctant hero in a blanket of melancholy.

Skylarking: A sense of delightful play; to frolic (another great word in itself) in joyful activity.

What a colorful word this is, and unfortunately, seldom used these days. Going along with Twain's wonderful sense of bringing animal-like qualities to people, skylarking perfectly fits such a mold. In today's conversations, I would love to hear descriptions such as this: There's nothing quite like a group of young children skylarking their way through a game of this, that, or marbles. Lovely!

Alacrity: A cheerful readiness, or promptness in response.

Here's an outstanding word that seems to be making a comeback, so to speak, as I've heard it used on a few occasions--of all places--during certain sporting events. Not that Twain was referring to football--or other games of sport--but rather a sense of inner joy resulting from his [Tom's] cunning fence-coating deception. As for today, I'd be more than pleased with the following context: My mother's eyes beamed as she welcomed her new daughter-in-law with alacrity and warmth of heart.

Muse(d): To think or meditate (usually in silence) as on some subject.

Muse is a word that scores a lot of use, but still makes my list because it's just a super word. That's it. To muse is to ponder, contemplate, and imagine alternative ways of looking at various objects, thoughts, philosophies, dreams, etc. in a way as to invoke creativity and/or further contemplation. The beauty of a crimson sunset percolates my heart to muse over its creation--bringing me peace.

Wend(ed): to make (one's way) in a particular direction; the process of making one's way in a particular direction.

Not often used today, the verb, wend, offers writers a unique way to describe the passage of space with a specific destination in mind. For example, to wend your way back home is to focus on the trip without too many outside distractions--quite possibly in a daydreaming state of mind, i.e. you have a destination in mind and you make it a point to get there. A good illustration of the word might sound like this: After an exciting day at the neighborhood ballfield, the boys and I wended our directions back home--mentally replaying the game the entire way.

Coming Up Soon... Chapter 3 & Beyond...

I'll try my best to update this series weekly as my time allows... so stay tuned for more stellar words from one of the best, Mark Twain.


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    • santoion profile image


      10 years ago

      Very good hub.Thank You !

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 

      10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      A good lesson in how important it is for writers to choose their words carefully, giving sufficient thought to their various shades of meanings. I always try to be very careful to use exactly the word that conveys the meaning I intend to convey. I'm the kind of guy who enjoys reading the dictionary; if only my memory would share in the adventure! Thumbs up.


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