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Vocabulary from The Catcher in the Rye

 

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Old May 28, 2010, 12:25 PM
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Vocabulary from The Catcher in the Rye

I'm reading The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, and I've found some colloquial expressions I had read before in some novels from the 1950's, but I haven't seen them used in movies or more recent texts, but still I'd like to have some help to know if I'm interpreting these expressions the right way:

a bang —> a pleasurable sensation
crumby —> disgusting
dough —> money
Mac —> Man, fellow
phony —> false, fake
screwballs —> an eccentric person
swell —> great, fantastic
the can —> a lavatory
to be a goner —> someone dead or about to die
to be loaded —> to have much money to spend
to chew the fat —> to talk relaxedly
to give someone a feel —> to caress someone
to horse around —> to joke
to neck —> to kiss, embrace and caress
to shoot the bull/crap —> to lie and exaggerate
to give the time / to give it —> to have sexual intercourse (would this be said only by men?)

And in the next situations, how are those expressions used?

· Someone makes a redundant remark ("that's a deer hunting hat") and the answer is "Like hell it is."
I know there is a rude side for this expression, but what is this "like hell"? Is it some kind of emphatic "of course"?

· The young man narrates about meeting a woman he finds nice and as she takes off her gloves, he says "was she lousy with rocks." I can't really figure out what he means.

· I'm confused about the expression "to haul it in": The narrator talks about his father: "He's a Corporation Lawyer. Those boys really haul it in." I have found that "to haul" is to make profits, mostly illicit ones but "to haul in" is to arrest… how are these two put together?

· The narrator often uses the adjective "old" when he talks about people he has dealt with for long: "I wanted to call old Jane", "old Mrs. Morrow didn't know..."
Is this a common use of "old" or is it also a past fashion?


Thank you, for taking the time to read through.
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  #2  
Old May 28, 2010, 01:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AngelicaDeAlquezar View Post
I'm reading The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, and I've found some colloquial expressions I had read before in some novels from the 1950's, but I haven't seen them used in movies or more recent texts, but still I'd like to have some help to know if I'm interpreting these expressions the right way:

a bang —> a pleasurable sensation [Depends on context; could mean sexual intercourse; could mean loud noise]
crumby —> disgusting ["crummy" is the spelling I know; it connotes poor quality]
dough —> money [Yes. Cf "la pasta" in Spanish]
Mac —> Man, fellow []
phony —> false, fake [Yes]
screwballs —> an eccentric person [A screwball, yes. Also a cocktail, I believe]
swell —> great, fantastic [Yes. en-us]
the can —> a lavatory [Ditto]
to be a goner —> someone dead or about to die [Yes]
to be loaded —> to have much money to spend [Yes]
to chew the fat —> to talk relaxedly [Yes]
to give someone a feel —> to caress someone [Yes]
to horse around —> to joke [Not exactly. I would generally understand it as physical tomfoolery, the kind of thing teenage boys do to impress girls]
to neck —> to kiss, embrace and caress [Roughly]
to shoot the bull/crap —> to lie and exaggerate [I believe so]
to give the time / to give it —> to have sexual intercourse (would this be said only by men?) [The first seems improbable, but... "To give it to her" would certainly be a crude euphemism for sexual intercourse.]

And in the next situations, how are those expressions used?

· Someone makes a redundant remark ("that's a deer hunting hat") and the answer is "Like hell it is."
I know there is a rude side for this expression, but what is this "like hell"? Is it some kind of emphatic "of course"?
Emphatic negation.

Quote:
· The young man narrates about meeting a woman he finds nice and as she takes off her gloves, he says "was she lousy with rocks." I can't really figure out what he means.
Is the young man interested in geology?

Quote:
· I'm confused about the expression "to haul it in": The narrator talks about his father: "He's a Corporation Lawyer. Those boys really haul it in." I have found that "to haul" is to make profits, mostly illicit ones but "to haul in" is to arrest… how are these two put together?
Here, to make a lot of money. Hauling can refer to moving cargo; I think the metaphor is that they make so much money that they need machines to shift it.

Quote:
· The narrator often uses the adjective "old" when he talks about people he has dealt with for long: "I wanted to call old Jane", "old Mrs. Morrow didn't know..."
Is this a common use of "old" or is it also a past fashion?
I personally wouldn't use it except to qualify "friend" or "colleague".
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Old May 28, 2010, 01:23 PM
hermit hermit is offline
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Right, and "Mac" will be used in direct address, like "Hey, buddy, wait just a minute!" "Hey, pal, what's all this...!",
"Listen, mac..." (¡Oye, cabrón!).

Lousy with rocks = big ring(s) on her fingers. ("Rocks" are gems - diamonds, etc.) "Lousy" = (literally , infested with lice),
here, figuratively implies "loaded with", or "having an abundance of...".

"Old" imparts a sense of fond familiarity.
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Last edited by hermit; May 28, 2010 at 02:57 PM.
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Old May 28, 2010, 01:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hermit View Post
Lousy with rocks = big ring(s) on her fingers. ("Rocks" are gems - diamonds, etc.) "Lousy" = (literally , infested with lice),
here, figuratively implies "loaded with", or "having an abundance of...".
I was interpreting "lousy" as "rubbish [at performing some activity]".
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Old May 28, 2010, 02:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AngelicaDeAlquezar View Post
to give someone a feel —> to caress someone
to shoot the bull/crap —> to lie and exaggerate
"A feel" sounds more crude/crass than "caress". I almost think about someone "getting a feel" as something done sneakily. A caress implies at least some tenderness. At least in the way I would use those terms...

"To shoot the bull" is, in a way, lying and exaggerating. But it's the kind of "story telling" that some men around a pool table would do, when discussing their conquests. But I would also say that it doesn't necessarily have to involve lying/exaggerating. It can simply mean pointless chat or even gossip...

Quote:
Originally Posted by AngelicaDeAlquezar View Post
· The young man narrates about meeting a woman he finds nice and as she takes off her gloves, he says "was she lousy with rocks." I can't really figure out what he means.
I found this website: http://www.usingenglish.com/forum/as...usy-rocks.html - I have never heard "lousy" used in this context. "Rocks" for diamonds or jewels is very common.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AngelicaDeAlquezar View Post
· The narrator often uses the adjective "old" when he talks about people he has dealt with for long: "I wanted to call old Jane", "old Mrs. Morrow didn't know..."
Is this a common use of "old" or is it also a past fashion?
I would say that "old" could be a rough form of endearment, too. Either sincerely or sarcastically. "Good old Tom and his wife brought me a table for my deck to replace the one I broke!" (He and his wife are such dear and wonderful people for giving me that table!) Or, "My dear old brother decided to have my mother's birthday party on a day that he knew I'd be unavailable." (Yup, I'm annoyed with him about this, and so I'm going to say the words "dear" and "old" VERY sarcastically.)
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Old May 28, 2010, 02:31 PM
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@Everyone: Thank you very much!! All those expressions make much more sense by now.

The text has been very hard for me to follow, since the speech of the narrator is full of colloquialisms, pet words and altered spelling for some words, so while the rhythm of the story should be rather fast for a native English speaker, it was rather slow for me.

@pjt: So "like hell it is" is a negation... I see now, he was being more sarcastic than I thought... I was confused because after that talk, he keeps on calling the hat "my red hunting hat", so it seemed to me the contrary expression.

@hermit: Aaaaah!! Thanks!!
Edit: Is "Mac" as strong as "cabrón"? It didn't seem like a bad word to me.


@Lou Ann: Thanks for the remarks and the link.
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Last edited by AngelicaDeAlquezar; May 28, 2010 at 03:02 PM. Reason: Added question for hermit
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Old May 28, 2010, 08:36 PM
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Here are a couple I didn't agree with. Keep in mind the context can be extremely important for things like this and I don't know what the context is.

a bang —> a pleasurable sensation
This means to have a good time, but not limited to a physical sensation. It is synonymous with "a blast".
Example: We went to the party and had a bang. (We went to the party and enjoyed it very much.) This isn't used so much anymore since "a bang" is also slang for a sexual encounter.

to give someone a feel —> to caress someone
It's impossible to know for sure without context. It could be literally to feel someone with your hands like you said, but the more common meaning would be to allow someone to know what something is like.
Example: I gave him a feel for the car by letting him drive it.

to horse around —> to joke
Not so much to joke although it could include jokes. Really it means to act in some immature but playful manner. It is often associated with the misbehavior that young kids (especially boys) do when they should be doing something else.
Example: The teacher told the boys to stop horsing around and do their work.

to shoot the bull/crap —> to lie and exaggerate
It could be lying, but more generally it just means standing around talking about unimportant things. It is similar to "to shoot the breeze".
Example: John and I are going fishing and we'll probably just shoot the bull for a few hours.

Last edited by Newly; May 28, 2010 at 08:42 PM.
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Old May 29, 2010, 03:17 AM
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Interesting thread , I feel like reading the book again. When I read it I loved it.
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Old May 29, 2010, 08:09 AM
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Angelica - No, "Mac" is not as strong a word as "cabrón", nor is it
a "bad" word. When you address a stranger as "Mac" it comes through
as not very respectful, and to my ear has a tone somewhat like
"Oye cabrón", but not nearly so insulting.

Hi pjt33 - Right, "lousy" denoting poor quality is commonly heard in
N. America, too.
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Last edited by Rusty; May 29, 2010 at 08:36 AM. Reason: merged back-to-back posts
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Old May 29, 2010, 10:35 AM
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@Newly: Thank you!
You're right about the context: I don't have the exact phrases at hand about those expressions, but the narrator says he has a bang when he tells false stories to people who don't know him. This seems to me as he enjoys doing that.
As for "to give a feel", while observing a couple in a bar, the boy says the man was talking to the girl about some sports while he was giving her a feel under the table (which corresponds to laepelba's remark on the expression).

@hermit: Hmm... that word in Mexican Spanish can be very loosely used, but that doesn't mean it's not disrespectful. It can only be used between people who have had a longlasting friendship and confianza between them, so they know that it's not meant as an insult.
I would rather perceive "Mac" more like "cuate", "mano", "hijo" (not as "son", but like "buddy").
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