'Of Mice and Men' Vocabulary

Of Mice and Men is written in simple language, reflecting the understated nature of the world in which it takes places. However, a verbal richness appears through Steinbeck’s use of slang and phonetics to capture the manner in which the characters speak, and the novel is filled with uncommon vocabulary words and phrases. 

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Alfalfa

Definition: a plant grown for harvesting and fodder

Example: “George says we’re gonna have alfalfa for the rabbits.”

02
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Bindle

Definition: a sack, bag, or carpet tied to a stick, used by migrant workers during the Great Depression

Example: “George unslung his bindle and dropped it gently on the bank.”

03
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Bindle Stiff

Definition: someone who carries a bindle, a hobo

Example: “Ever’body out doin’ som’pin’. Ever’body! An’ what am I doin’? Standin’ here talkin’ to a bunch of bindle stiffs.”

04
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Bemused

Definition: dazed, lost in thought

Example: "George stood up. ... 'We’ll fix up that little old place an’ we’ll go live there.' He sat down again. They all sat still, all bemused by the beauty of the thing, each mind was popped into the future when this lovely thing should come about."

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Brittle

Definition: fragile, likely to break or shatter

Example:  “'I’m lookin’ for Curley,' she said. Her voice had a nasal, brittle quality."

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Dejectedly

Definition: with sadness, or in defeat

Example: “Lennie sat down on the ground and hung his head dejectedly.”

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Derision

Definition: ridicule, scorn

Example: "Through the open door came the thuds and occasional clangs of a horseshoe game, and now and then the sound of voices raised in approval or derision."

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Euchre

Definition: a trick-based multiplayer card game

Example: "George said, 'Anybody like to play a little euchre?' 'I’ll play out a few with you,' said Whit."

09
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Golden Gloves

Definition: a national amateur boxing tournament

Example: “An’ Curley’s handy, God damn handy. Got in the finals for the Golden Gloves. He got newspaper clippings about it.”

10
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Graybacks

Definition: lice

Example: “'Then how come he got graybacks?' George was working up a slow anger."

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Halter

Definition: a rope or strap placed around the head of a horse or other animal for leading or tethering

Example: “And while she went through the barn, the halter chains rattled, and some horses snorted and some stamped their feet.”

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Hoosegow

Definition: prison (informal, slang)

Example: “These here jail baits is just set on the trigger of the hoosegow.”

13
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Jackson Fork

Definition: a fork suspended from a machine for gathering hay

Example: “One end of the great barn was piled high with new hay and over the pile hung the four-taloned Jackson fork suspended from its pulley.”

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Jungle-up

Definition: to camp outside

Example: “Tramps who come wearily down from the highway in the evening to jungle-up near water.”

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Lame

Definition: injured or physically disabled

Example: "After a moment the ancient dog walked lamely in through the open door."

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Mollify

Definition: to appease, to reduce severity

Example: “'Damn right he don’t,' said George, slightly mollified, 'not if he wants to stay workin’ long.'”

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Skinner

Definition: a type of worker on a farm, especially one who works with horses and mules

Example: “You ain’t no skinner. They’s no call for a bucker to come into the barn at all. You ain’t no skinner. You ain’t got nothing to do with the horses.”

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Skitter

Definition: to move quickly and lightly (especially a small animal)

Example: "When a little bird skittered over the dry leaves behind him, his head jerked up and he strained toward the sound with eyes and ears until he saw the bird, and then he dropped his head and drank again."

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Sullen

Definition: sulky, in a foul mood

Example: “She paused and her face lost its sullenness and grew interested.”

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Whitewashed

Definition: (of a surface) painted uniformly white

Example: "The bunk house was a long, rectangular building. Inside, the walls were whitewashed and the floor unpainted."