Major Characters

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What’s the big deal? Who cares?

Both of these questions are common and

colloquial ways of saying it’s not important.
Will you two shut the fuck up?

A crude and common filler to express anger and similar emotions.

One a piece after supper.

“One a piece” is a way of saying one piece to each person.

“Supper” is a somewhat dated but still used word for dinner.
Seriously, am I weird? :: Yeah, but so what?

“Weird” is an excellent word meaning strange or bizarre. “So what?” is a slangy way of saying something is not important. Common and useful.

It won’t be like grammar school. You’ll be taking your college

courses, and me, Teddy and Vern will all be in the shop courses

“Grammar school” is another word for elementary school, which is for kids up to about age 11. “College courses” in a high school are academic classes that prepare kids for college, such as Economics and History, while “shop courses” are practical classes that teach kids a trade or job, such as wood shop and electric shop.

…with the rest of the retards making ashtrays and birdhouses.

“Retard” is a crude but still used slang word

for a retarded or very stupid person.
It’s asshole if your friends drag you down.

Here, Chris uses “asshole” as an adjective to mean bad or shitty, but this is never really done. If your friends “drag you down,” they pull you down to their lower level.

If you hang with us, you’ll just be another wise guy with shit for brains.

“To hang with” a person is a slangy way of saying to pass time with them. “Hang out” is more common. “Wise” means smart, but a “wise guy” is a set expression for a person who is always insulting people and causing problems. To say a person has “shit for brains” is obviously insulting!

Do you think Mighty Mouse can beat up Superman? :: What are you—cracked?

Another alternative slang word for crazy, insane, nuts, loony, etc.

You could be a real writer, Gordie. :: Fuck writing! It’s a stupid waste of time!

Note the use of “fuck” as a (very crude) way of expressing disgust or anger at whoever (or whatever) the direct object is (i.e.…”I hate writing”).

That’s your dad talking! :: Bullshit!

One of the greatest cuss words in English, generally

meaning lies, half-truths or other kinds of nonsense.

Kids lose everything unless there’s somebody there to look out for them,

and if your parents are too fucked up to do it, then maybe I should.

“To look out for” a person is to make sure they are doing ok and not being hurt or hurting themselves. If a person is “fucked up,” they have serious emotional or other types of problems.

I’m crossing here, and why you guys are dragging your asses half way across the state and back, I’ll be waiting on the other side, relaxing with my thoughts.

A slangy way of saying to move very slowly.

Do you use your left hand or right hand for that?

This is one of Gordie’s most clever lines. He’s implying that when Chris is “relaxing with his thoughts,” what he is really doing is masturbating.

Man, that was the all time train dodge! Too cool!

“To dodge” something is to avoid it, often by stopping or turning at the last possible moment. Thus for this film, a “train dodge” is the game of staying on train tracks as a train approaches, until the last possible second, before jumping off.

Ok then, you won’t mind if we check your jockeys for Hershey squirts, will ya?

A “jockey” is loose fitting men’s underwear. “Hershey” is a famous brand of chocolate and a “squirt” is a small amount of something, and thus this is a totally ridiculous and disgusting way to refer to feces or shit.

Why don’t you cook your dick? It would be a small meal.

A common slang word for a penis.

Screw you guys! I got it.

A more gentle version of “fuck you guys.”

Nothing like a smoke after a meal. :: Yeah, I cherish these moments.

“A smoke” is a slangy way of referring to a cigarette. “To cherish” something is an interesting verb meaning to have great affection for it.

Come on, Gordie. But not one of your horror stories, ok? I’m not up for that.

A “horror story” is a story designed to scare or terrify the reader. To be “up for” something is to be emotionally ready or prepared for it.

He weighs close to 180, but it’s not his fault. It’s his glands.
A medical word for the various organs in the body responsible for the

production of hormones and other key functions.

I don’t know about any hyboid gland, but what a

blimp!. :: No shit, she looks like a Thanksgiving Turkey.

A “blimp” is the gas powered airship that look like a giant oval balloon.

“No shit” is a slangy way of saying that which was just said was obvious and didn’t need to be stated (A hyboid gland doesn’t exist).
Go on, Gordie. It’s a swell story.

An adjective that means excellent, or more colloquially, cool.

All the kids…they call him Lard Ass.

A cruel insult for a fat person (“Lard” is a type of animal fat).

At school, they put this sticker on his back that says “wide load,” and

they rank him out and beat him up whenever they get a chance.

“Wide load” is the sign that is put on the back of a truck that is carrying something that is considered too wide or big for the streets the truck is driving on. “To beat up” a person is to physically attack and hurt them.
The greatest revenge idea a kid ever had.

“Revenge” is the act of hurting somebody who had hurt you earlier.

Principal John Wiggins…and our celebrity contestant from KLAM Portland!

A “contestant” is a person who takes part in a contest (In this case to see who can eat the most pie). Note that the radio stations are identified by four letters, starting with Ks in the Western US and W in the eastern US.

Don’t pay attention to those fools, Lard Ass.

An important word for a person without good judgement who is

easily tricked, or more generally, a silly, stupid or foolish person.
I got 10 riding on you myself, Billy Boy.

If you have ten dollars “riding on” a person, you have bet 10 dollars

that they will win in the game or contest they’re participating in.
Drum roll!

The sound a drummer makes when trying to build excitement.

Hey Lard Ass, chow down! Wide load!

“To chow down” is to eat quickly and often with enthusiasm.

You better pace yourself, if you want to hold out, boy!

“To pace oneself” in a contest is to use as much energy as needed, but not so much that you run out of energy later in the contest. In this case, “to hold out” is to survive after a long and difficult experience.

Castor oil. [written]

The oil of a large plant that is used mainly to get people to throw up

or vomit, in order to eliminate harmful things in their stomach.
Diving into his 5th pie, Lard Ass began to imagine he wasn’t eating pies.

“To dive into” a meal is to eat with great hunger (“To dive”

is literally to jump hands and head first into a body of water).
He pretended he was eating corn flakes and rat guts in blueberry sauce.

“Guts” are the intestines of your stomach.

A strange and scary sound, like a log truck coming at you at 100 miles an hour.

“Logs” are large tree trunks that are used for building houses

(A log truck is always very big in order to be able to carry the logs).
Bossman took one look at Bill Travis and barfed on Principal Wiggins.

A very unpleasant slang word which means to throw up or vomit.

The Women’s Auxiliary barfed all over the Benevolent Order of Antelope.

Two funny-sounding names for typical social clubs (“Auxiliary” means

a group or person who supports another. “Benevolent” means kind-hearted, an “order” is a club and “Antelope” are beautiful animals that

are similar to deer).

A complete and total barfarama.

A fun word that doesn’t exist: A place where everyone is throwing up.

Maybe he went home and celebrated with a

couple cheeseburgers. :: Jesus, that ending sucks.

If something “sucks,” it is extremely bad. Crude, but very common.

The boys courageously face a series of dangers,

from ghosts in the woods to leeches in the water.

Cherry flavored pez. No question about it.

“Pez” is a type of popular candy. “No question about

it” is one way of saying “I am absolutely certain.”

I knew the $64,000 question was fixed.

The “64,000 Question” was a very famous game show in the 1950s in which contestants tried to show who had the most knowledge. If a game is “fixed,” people who work at the game have cheated in such a way to make sure the person they want to win does win.

They just keep wagon-training.

A “wagon-train” is a long line of horses pulling covered carriages.

What the hell is Goofy?

“The hell” is added to Wh questions to express surprise, frustration and other emotion. Goofy was a famous cartoon animal, but it was not clear what kind of animal Goofy was supposed to be.

I promise I won’t hawk no more dirty books.

A way of referring to a book with lots of naked girls or sexual activity.

I promise I’ll eat all my lima beans. :: Two for flinching.

“Lima beans” are a type of healthy food that almost all kids hate.

“To flinch” is to tense your muscles in anticipation of pain
It’s not coyotes. It’s his ghost.

A beautiful animal that looks like a wild dog or wolf that

makes a famous howling sound at night (“Waouuuuuu….”)
2300 hours. Corporeal Teddy Duchamp stands guard.

“2300 hours” is a way of saying 11:00PM in the military. A “corporeal” is a low level rank in the army. “To stand guard” is to stay alert and watch for signs of danger (often while others get to sleep).

No sign of the enemy. The fort is secure. ::

Shut up Teddy, and keep your eyes peeled.

A “fort” is usually a place that is walled off from the outside that is designed to house soldiers. If a fort is “secure,” it is well protected. If a person is “keeping their eyes peeled,” they are staying wide awake and alert in order to see possible dangers.
Teddy, cut it out! I’m trying to sleep!

An excellent colloquial expression which means “Stop it!”

The dog faces rested easy in the knowledge that Corporeal

Teddy Duchamp was protecting all that was dear to them.

“Dog face” is Teddy’s silly way of referring to low level soldiers.

If something is “dear to” you, you cherish it or value it highly.

Maybe you can go into the college courses with me. :: That will be the day.

A useful expression which basically means “that is very unlikely.”

I’m just one of those low-life Chambers kids.

An insulting adjective to refer to anyone who is

considered part of the lowest level of society.
Nobody ever asked me if I took the milk money

that time. I just got a three day vacation.

This is Chris’ way of saying he was kicked out of school for three

days because it was assumed he stole some of the school’s money.

Maybe I took that money to old lady Simons…but I still got a

three day vacation because that money never showed up.

“To show up” normally means to arrive,

though in this context it means to be found.

Yeah, it was brown and had dots on it.

A “dot” is a small spot, mark or point.

Just suppose I told the story—Me, Chris

Chambers, kid brother to Eyeball Chambers.

A “kid brother” is a younger brother.
And do you think that bitch would have dared to do something like that if it had been one of those douche bags that had taken the money? :: Hell no! No way!

A “bitch” is a very vulgar word for a mean or abusive female. “To dare” to do something is decide to do it even though it is very dangerous or difficult. A “douche bag” is a strong insult for a disgusting person

(A douche is a shower, or perhaps a device for feminine hygiene).

“Hell no” and “No way” are common alternatives to “Absolutely not!”

I’m sure she had her eye on that skirt for a long time.

“To have an eye” on something is to be looking at, or in this

case, to be considering buying it. A “skirt” is a type of dress.
Who gives a fuck, anyway?

A more vulgar alternative to “Who gives a shit?”, which

is a way saying that nobody cares or it’s not important.
The freight woke up the other guys and it was on the tip

of my tongue to tell them about the deer, but I didn’t.

A “freight train” is a train that carries goods, such as food and furniture, instead of people. If something is on the “tip of your tongue,” you have trouble remembering what it is you want to say (though here it used a bit differently). A “deer” is a beautiful animal.

Gee, Gordie, why didn’t you get some breakfast

stuff like twinkies, pez and root beer?

“Gee” is a gentle filler word to express surprise or other emotion. “Twinkies” are little yellow cakes, “pez” is a type of candy and “root beer” is a soft drink like coke. They’re all yummy!
I guess a more experienced shopper could

have gotten more for your seven cents.

One of Gordie’s funnier lines (Even in 1959, seven cents wasn’t much!).
With our stomach rumbling, we pressed on toward the Royal River.

If a stomach “rumbles,” it makes the low growling sound that suggests you are hungry. “To press on” toward a place is to continue to move forward even if it is difficult.

The idea of seeing that kid’s dead body was starting to become an obsession.

An important word for an idea or object that one thinks

about constantly, or to the point that it is no longer healthy.
I think we should stick to the tracks.

“To stick to” something is to stay close by it.

“Railroad tracks” are the steel that trains ride on.
Take no prisoners!

An expression used by soldiers who

are determined to kill all their enemies.
Billy and Charlie had managed to keep their enormous secret for about 36 hours.

If a person “has managed to” do something, they are able to do it, despite the difficulty of doing so. “Enormous” means extremely big or huge.

I guess for those guys, protecting their

mother’s good name wasn’t a top priority.

If something is “a top priority,” it is considered very

important (A priority is literally a level or rank).

You guys are acting like my grandmother having a conniption fit.

A “conniption fit” is a sudden outburst of anger or rage.

We go up with a whole bunch of fishing gear, and if a cop asks what we’re

doing, we’re just here to take a couple of steel head out of the river.

“Gear” refers to machines, tools or devices to make things easier.

A “steel head” is a type of trout or fish that is common in Oregon.

You stated your position clearly and now I’m

gonna state mine. Get in the fucking car, now.

“To state a position” is to express an opinion. With crude people, “fucking” is a much loved adjective, adverb, gerund, etc.
I hate this short cut.

A “short cut” is a way to get from point A to B that is shorter,

though perhaps more difficult, then the more traditional way.
We use your body as a raft.

A “raft” is a flat collection of logs or wood that

floats on water, that can be used to transport things.
I’m in the prime of my youth, and I’ll only be young once.

To be in “the prime of your youth” is to be at perhaps your

strongest and healthiest age, when you are still young.
You just signed your own death warrant.

A legal document ordering the death or execution of a person.

Pile on!

If people “pile on” each other, they form a large pile or heap, by lying down on each other, one on top of another. For some strange reason, kids love to do this.

I’m not falling for that one!

In this context, to “fall for” something is to believe it, even if there is

a good reason to think it’s not true. Colloquial, fun and common.
Leeches! Oh my god! Jesus Christ!

“Leeches” are disgusting worm-like animals that stick to your skin and suck blood. The last two sentences are a common expression of great emotion, said by all, whether religious or not.

Sorry, lay off of me.

An interesting way of telling someone to stop

teasing, harassing or bothering them.
He’s still breathing, you idiot.

An excellent word for a stupid person, moron, jerk, fool, etc.

Cool it, you guys. He just fainted.

If you tell a person to “cool it,” you’re telling them to stop whatever it is they’re doing. If a person “faints,” they loses consciousness (and thus, they usually fall to the ground).

He had leeches hanging from his balls!

A very common word for a man’s testicles. This is truly a horrible image!

What are you, his mother? Eat shit!

A crude and stupid but still used way to insult a person.

You four-eyed psycho!

“Four-eyed” is a dated insult expression for a person who wears glasses. A “psycho” is a crazy person. Common, colloquial and fun to say.

You are history, guy, history!

If you tell a person they are “history,” you’re telling them they are in big trouble or that they may even face great harm or death in the near future.

The long journey ends with a final struggle

for the body of Raymond Brower.

Come on, Ace, don’t fuck around.

In this case, “to fuck around” is to do things that will cause trouble.
The train had knocked Ray Brower out of his keds

just like it had knocked the life out of his body.

A brand of casual shoe that is still popular today.
Let’s look for some long branches; We’ll build him a stretcher.

“Branches” are the offshoots or stems

of a tree that grow out from the main trunk.
You might even write about us guys

if you ever get hard up for material.

If a writer is “hard up for material,” they are having

a difficult time finding things to write about.

What the fuck do you know about this?

A crude filler term that is added to Wh

questions to show anger or other emotion.
We found him! We got dibs!

If you “got dibs” on something, you are

the first to claim that it belongs to you.
You were under the porch!

An area outside a main building this is usually covered.

I ought to beat the living shit out of you!

“To beat the living shit out of” a person is to attack them with

great violence, perhaps causing serious and permanent harm.
"Oh Billy, I think I just turned my Fruit

of the loom into a fudge factory."

“Fruit of the loom” is a famous brand of underwear, and in this case, “fudge” is not a chocolate sweet, but rather a ridiculous slang word for shit or feces. 12 year old humor at its worst!

That’s it! You’re ass is grass.

One way of threatening to beat up

or severely harm or injure a person.
OK, Chambers, you little faggot!

A horrible slur against homosexuals.

Why don’t you go home and fuck your mother some more.

“To fuck” is the crudest verb for having sex in the English language, and the one that is most loved by 12 year old boys talking among themselves.

Come on, Chris. Let’s split.

A still common way of saying “Let’s go.”

You ain’t got the sack to shoot a woodchuck!

A “sack” is a small bag, or in this case, Ace’s way of referring

to testicles, or balls (and thus Gordie’s lack of courage). A “woodchuck”

is a small animal that lives in the water and loves to eat wood.

Suck my fat one, you cheap dime store hood!

“Suck my fat one” is a crude insult based on images of oral sex, and once again, typical of 12 year old boys. A “dime store” used to be a store where cheap goods were sold (often for as low as a dime, or 10 cents), but they no longer exist. A “hood” is another word for a gangster or thug.

This is big time, baby!

A slangy way of saying this is very important.

Biggest one in four counties.

A “county” is a administrative area that’s bigger than a city.

There are often a dozen or more counties in a state.
Neither our gang nor their gang got the credit.

To “get the credit” for having some dome something is

to be acknowledged or accepted as the person who did it.
In the end, we decided an anonymous

phone call was the best thing to do.

If a phone call is “anonymous,” it is made by an

unknown person who does not identify themselves.

We headed home, and although many thoughts

raced through our minds, we barely spoke.

A good word that means hardly at all.
I better get back before my mom puts me on the most-wanted list.

A list of wanted criminals with their photographs on them,

that are posted at various public buildings, such as post offices.
Chris, no hard feelings, OK? :: No way, man.

“No hard feelings” is a way of saying there

is no anger or bitterness between two people.
As time went on, we saw less and less of Teddy and Vern, until

eventually they became just two more faces in the halls.

This is Gordie’s way of saying that Teddy and Vern were just

two of countless students that Chris and him saw at school.

Friends come in and out of your life like bus boys in a restaurant.

A “bus boy” is the assistant to the waiter who sets the

table and takes dirty dishes back to the restaurant kitchen.

I head that Vern got married out of high school, had four kids,

and is now the fork lift operator at the Arsegaut lumber yard.

A “forklift” is a large machine with super long arms that is used for transporting large or heavy objects from one place to another at a construction site. A “lumber yard” is a place where lots of types of wood for building construction is sold.

Last I heard, he spent some time in jail and

was now doing odd jobs around Castle Rock.

“Odd jobs” are usually low paid temporary jobs, such as working on a construction site for a couple weeks or delivering papers or washing dishes at a restaurant.
He enrolled in the college courses with me, and although

it was hard, he gutted it out like he always did.

“To gut it out” is to continue working hard until you succeed

at what you want. This is rarely used, but to “stick it out” is common.

One of them pulled a knife.

In this case, “to pull” a knife is to suddenly take it out from

where it was hidden and show it in a threatening manner.
Chris, who had always made the best peace,

had tried to break it up. He was stabbed in the throat.

“To break up” a fight is to stop the two people who are fighting each other. To be “stabbed” is to be attacked with a knife, which enters into the body.

Stand by me

Possible Topics for ESL Class Discussion

1. Do you think it’s true that the best friends you’ll ever have

in life are the best friends you had when you were a kid?

2. What’s so fascinating about a dead body?

3. If you are a male, which of the four boys do you

think you were most like when you were their age?

4. Do you like to go camping? Why or why not?

5. Are kids from your culture often divided into those who are considered

smart and will go on to be lawyers and other professionals (like Gordie),

and those who are considered less smart and will be expected to do manual

labor (like Vern)?

6. Were kids more innocent back in the 1950s than they are now?

7. What did you like and not like about this movie?

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