What in the tarnation is an "aguer"? While reading Faulkner, don't be discouraged if you trip over a few unfamiliar words—the author is known for treating the English language as his personal property. So whether you city folk don't know a hitch-reign from a plowline or you're stumped on a highfalutin word, this glossary has you covered—adze to zinc.
"Two tears slid down her fallen cheeks, in and out of the myriad coruscations of immolation and abnegation and time" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 295).
"They went on, in a steady single file, the two backs in their rigid abnegation of all compromise more alike than actual blood could have made them" (Light in August, p. 148).
"He leaned on the rail, looking down at the trout which he had already spent, and suddenly the acrimony, the conflict, was gone from their voices…" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 118).
Adulant: Faulkner's variant of "adulatory": here, one who praises excessively
"Adulant. Adulant if not a husband he'd ignore God" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 111).
Adze: a cutting tool that has a thin arched blade set at right angles to the handle and is used chiefly for shaping wood
"Chuck. Chuck. Chuck. of the adze" (As I Lay Dying, p. 5).
Ague-fit: shivering due to a malarial fever
"She just stood there looking at me, shaking like an ague-fit, her hands clenched and kind of jerking" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 206).
Aguer: variant of "ague," a malarial fever
"…shaking like he had an aguer" (As I Lay Dying, p. 188).
A holt: as in "a hold"
"…take a holt of my hand" (As I Lay Dying, p. 139).
Ahun: as in "iron"
"Holding on to that ahun gate" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 6).
Aihy: as in "any"
En ef I'd a knowed of aihy one higher, we'd a been on it instead" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 114).
Aiming to: as in "intending to"
"Are you aiming to leave it laying there?" (As I Lay Dying, p. 31).
Airy: as in "every"
"You use airy one of them?" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 195).
Alpaca: the wool of a South American mammal related to the llama
"The visitor was undersized, in a shabby alpaca coat" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 293).
Ammoniac: the aromatic gum resin of a Persian herb
"…smells of cooling flesh and ammoniac hair…" (As I Lay Dying, p. 56).
"… faintly ammoniac with that breathless desertion of old stables…" (Light in August, p. 109).
Animal magnetism: a paranormal belief that humans and other organisms produce a magnetic force
"The animal magnetism of a dead body makes the stress come slanting, so the seams and joints of a coffin are made on the bevel" (As I Lay Dying, p. 83).
Annealment: a variant of "anneal," here it suggests the tempering and cooling of Dilsey's spirit as if it were glass or metal
"Dilsey sat bolt upright beside, crying rigidly and quietly in the annealment and the blood of the remembered Lamb" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 297).
Apotheosis: exaltation to divine rank, deification
"He would be sort of grand too, pulling in lonely state across the noon, rowing himself right out of noon, up the long bright air like an apotheosis" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 120).
"It was as if all their individual five senses had become one organ of looking, like an apotheosis…" (Light in August, p. 291).
"For a while still she looks down at him from the composite picture, neither with censure nor approbation" (As I Lay Dying, p. 48).
Arras:: a wall hanging, tapestry
"It seemed to him that he could see the yellow day opening peacefully on before him, like a corridor, an arras, into a still chiaroscuro without urgency" (Light in August, p. 111).
Asbestos: a fireproof material. Quentin may be referring to the fire curtain in old theaters, but "Asbestos" was also a brand name found on flat-irons (like the ones he uses to weigh himself down in the river).
"Theatrical fixture. Just papier-mache, then touch. Asbestos. Not quite bronze" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 92).
A-tall: as in "at all"
"…I couldn't see nobody a-tall…" (As I Lay Dying, p. 69).
"I never heard of nobody a-tall named it" (Light in August, p. 33).
Auger: a hand tool with a helical shaft used for boring holes
"…the top of the box bored clean full of holes and Cash's new auger broke off in the last one" (As I Lay Dying, p. 73).
Augur: a sign or omen
"… a man's name, which is supposed to be just the sound for who he is, can somehow be an augur of what he will do…" (Light in August, p. 33).
Avatar: the incarnation of a deity in human or animal form to fend off evil
"When he blundered again at the door a moment later, again invisible and blind within and beyond his wooden avatar, Dilsey opened the door and guided him across the kitchen with a firm hand" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 273).
"… she advanced in identical and anonymous and deliberate wagons as though through a succession of creakwheeled and limpeared avatars…" (Light in August, p. 7).
Ax: as in "ask"
"Whut you fixin to ax me kin you do now?" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 273).
Bait: to feed an animal, especially on a journey
"…bait the mules…" (As I Lay Dying, p. 116).
Baleful: portending evil, ominous
"… he worked well enough, with a kind of baleful and restrained steadiness" (Light in August, p. 34).
Battery: an artillery unit in the army equivalent to a company; Faulkner is comparing the people watching Lena to a firing squad
"She rises and walking a little awkwardly, a little carefully, she traverses the ranked battery of maneyes and enters the store, the clerk following" (Light in August, p. 27).
Beardsley: British illustrator whose black and white, often erotic drawings were both highly individual and typical of the art nouveau style
"… formally erotic attitudes and gestures as a Beardsley of the time of Petronius…" (Light in August, p. 260).
Beast with two backs: a phrase meaning partners engaged in sexual intercourse (In Shakespeare's Othello, the villain Iago says, "I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs.")
"Darl had a little spy-glass he got in France at the war. In it it had a woman and a pig with two backs and no face" (As I Lay Dying, p. 254).
"…running the beast with two backs and she blurred in the winking oars…" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 148).
Beggar lice: a plant having seeds that cling to clothing
"I had gotten beggar lice and twigs and stuff all over me…" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 241).
Begridge: as in "begrudge," to envy the possession or enjoyment of, or to give with reluctance
"I dont begridge um" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 231).
Beholden: owing gratitude, indebted
"We would be beholden to no man" (As I Lay Dying, p. 19).
"'I wouldn't be beholden,' she says" (Light in August, p. 14).
Bellering: as in "bellowing," the roaring of a large animal
"You reckon I be found anywhere with him, time he start bellering" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 15).
Bellied: to cause to swell, fill out
"The saw gave forth a single sluggish twang that ceased with lifeless alacrity, leaving the blade in a thin clean curve between Luster's hand and the floor. Still, inscrutable, it bellied" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 287).
Benignant: favorable, kind and gracious
"He looked down at me, benignant, profound" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 100).
Bevel: the angle of a surface that meets another at any angle but 90°
"I made it on the bevel" (As I Lay Dying, p. 82).
Biggity: self-important and conceited
"Aint you talking biggity" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 15).
Billets: short, thick pieces of wood used as firewood
"He loaded himself mountainously with stove wood. He could not see over it, and he staggered to the steps and up them and blundered crashing against the door, shedding billets" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 269).
Birdsell wagon: a high-quality farm hauling wagon, not the cheap, rattling kind like the Bundrens own
"A rattling wagon is mighty dry weather, for a Birdsell" (As I Lay Dying, p. 34).
Bit: an amount equal to one-eighth of a dollar
"I figures dat tomorrow mawnin I be still owin un nine dollars and six bits at dat rate" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 231).
Bivouac: a temporary encampment often in an unsheltered area
"One night he disappeared from the bivouac" (Light in August, p. 476).
Blackguard: a scoundrel
"Yet any blackguard—" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 93).
Blooden: related by blood
"…blooden children…" (As I Lay Dying, p. 256).
Blow: to go away, depart
"'Then I'll blow,' he thought" (Light in August, p. 236).
Bofe: as in "both"
"Here I had to tote yo wood en build yo fire bofe. Didn't I tole you not to leave dis place last night befo dat woodbox wus full to de top?" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 269).
Boll-weevil: insect that attacked cotton plants and devastated Southern agriculture in the 1920s
"'You'd better be glad you're not a boll-weevil waiting on those cultivators,' I says. 'You'd work yourself to death before they'd be ready to prevent you'" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 189).
Bolt: to eat hurriedly and with little chewing
"… the messenger was eating breakfast in the kitchen, bolting his food with decorous celerity" (Light in August, p. 244).
Boneyard: a cemetery or graveyard
"Whar you gwine, Luster? To de boneyard?" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 319).
Bootblack: a person who cleans and polishes shoes for a living
"At the corner two bootblacks caught me, one on either side…" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 83).
Boy: an offensive form of address for a male servant or black man
"'Keep him out about half an hour, boy.' Uncle Maury said" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 5).
"… behind him stood two slaves which he owned: the negro woman who cooked, and his 'boy,' a man older than himself and who did not have one remaining hair, who was the cook's husband" (Light in August, p. 471).
Branch: a tributary of a river
"… they splashed and fought in the branch" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 16).
Brogans: a heavy shoe; especially a coarse work shoe reaching to the ankle
"Beside his chair his brogans sit" (As I Lay Dying, p. 11).
"… a pair of her husband's brogans…" (Light in August, p. 329).
Bridge-piling: a heavy beam driven into the earth as support
"He said it had already covered the highest water-mark on the bridge-piling he had ever seen" (As I Lay Dying, p. 85).
Bruck hit: as in "broke it"
"…not fo days since you bruck hit." (The Sound and the Fury, p. 113).
Buckboard: a four-wheeled vehicle with a floor made of long springy boards
"They had already dragged the buckboard back from where Quick found it upside down straddle of the ditch about a mile from the spring" (As I Lay Dying, p. 85).
"'There's father,' Nathaniel said to the woman on the buckboard seat beside him" (Light in August, p. 245).
Bucket shop: an illegally operated brokerage
"I'd just have to prove that they were using the telegraph company to defraud. That would constitute a bucket shop" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 227).
Busted-out: plowed or harrowed in preparation for planting
"'You take off and stay in the house today," ma said. 'With that whole bottom piece to be busted out?' pa said" (As I Lay Dying, p. 128).
Byword: an object of notoriety or interest
"… I try to uphold to have her with no more respect for what I try to do for her than to make her name and my name and my Mother's name a byword in the town" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 233).
"It is a byword among young men and even boys that whiskey can be bought from Brown almost on sight…" (Light in August, p. 46). C
Cahy: as in "carry," to take from one place to another
"…cahy her to school" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 186).
Calculant: given to thought, calculation
"His face is calm, down-sloped, calculant, concerned" (As I Lay Dying, p. 147). Chicanery: artful deception, trickery
"…ranging all the way from violence to petty chicanery that would not deceive a child…" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 177).
"… fruit of what small chicanery and deceptions…" (Light in August, p. 168).
Chile: as in "child"
"And when family woman look him in the eye in the full of the moon, chile born bluegum" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 69).
Chillen: as in "children"
"Look at them chillen playing in the branch, if you got to look at something" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 14).
Chimaera: in Greek mythology, a fire-breathing she-monster with a lion's head, goat's body and serpent's tail; also spelled "Chimera"
"Like it were put to makeshift for enough green to go around among the trees and even the blue of distance not that rich chimaera" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 113).
"… sent him against all reason and all reality, into the embrace of a chimaera…" (Light in August, p. 449)
Chinking: to fill narrow openings in
"The cottonhouse is of rough logs, from between which the chinking has fallen" (As I Lay Dying, p. 4).
Chocked: secured with block placed under a wheel, to keep the wheel from moving
"The wagon is hauled clear, the wheels chocked…" (As I Lay Dying, p. 157).
Christmas gift: a game in the South between blacks and whites, in which the one who can say "Christmas gift" first gets a gift; the custom expresses an affectionate yet racist paternalism
"'Christmas gift!' I said" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 87).
Christmas masts: according to Faulkner, comic masks worn by children at Christmas and Halloween
"Him so dead for sleep that Cora says his face looked like one of these here Christmas masts that had done been buried a while and then dug up…" (As I Lay Dying, p. 73).
Chub: a freshwater fish
"'We're going to the Eddy for a chub,' the first said" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 121).
Clamb: as in "climb"
"Me and Benjy seed her clamb out de window last night" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 286).
Clove stems: used to freshen one's breath
"After a while he kind of sneaked his hand to his mouth and dropped them out the window. Then I knew what I had been smelling. Clove stems" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 197).
Cognizance: acknowledgement or recognition
"If you've anything to say, you can come to the squire's and make cognizance of the prisoner" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 142). Complected: as in "complexioned," skin color, especially of the face
"Even when they told me the man they meant wasn't dark complected" (Light in August, p. 51).
Conjure: to influence by magic
"I be durn if Anse don't conjure a man, some way" (As I Lay Dying, p. 193).
Coruscations: flashes of light
"Two tears slid down her fallen cheeks, in and out of the myriad coruscations of immolation and abnegation and time" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 295).
Crepe myrtle and syringa and althea: decorative flowering shrubs
"The house, the brown, unpainted and unobtrusive bungalow is small too and by bushing crepe myrtle and syringa and althea almost hidden…" (Light in August, p. 57).
Cubistic: Cubism is a school of art developed in the early 20th century, characterized by the reduction and fragmentation of natural forms into abstract, often geometric structures
"The square squat shape of the coffin on the sawhorses like a cubistic bug…"(As I Lay Dying, p. 219).
Cuirass: a piece of armor for protecting the breast
"Father had a v-shaped silver cuirass on his running chest" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 82).
Cupola: the observation tower in a train caboose
"It crossed the hill, then descended winding, carrying the eye, the mind on ahead beneath a still green tunnel, and the square cupola above the trees and the round eye of the clock but far enough" (The Sound and the Fury, p. 120).
Curry-comb: a comb used for grooming horses
"He climbs onto the manger and drags the hay down and leaves the stall and seeks and finds the curry-comb" (As I Lay Dying, p. 182).
Curvetting: a light leap by a horse
"With tossing mane and tail and rolling eyes the horse makes another short curvetting rush…" (As I Lay Dying, p. 12).