Full Glossary for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
"Auld Lang Syne" "Auld Lang Syne" is a song customarily sung on New Year's Eve. The song is based on a poem by the late eighteenth-century Scottish poet Robert Burns. As happens in Chapter 46, most people know the melody well and just make up words as they sing it. "Auld Lang Syne" is often translated from the Scots as "old long ago" or "since long ago."
Bushwick Avenue Bushwick Avenue was the location of several very successful breweries. The area borders Williamsburg but could not have been more different from the Nolan's neighborhood. At the time that Johnny takes his children to walk along Bushwick Avenue in Chapter 25, it is the home of many luxurious mansions.
caul A caul is a thin membrane that covers a newborn baby's head and or face. A caul is thought to be rare, and in many cultures it is thought to indicate that the child is destined to do great things. Francie is born with a caul.
consumption Consumption is an old term that was used to describe tuberculosis. Consumption was almost always a death sentence early in the twentieth century, because there were few successful treatments. Both Henny in Chapter 4 and Andy in Chapter 8 are dying of consumption.
Goyem A Goyem or Goyim (the standard spelling for the word) is a Yiddish word for a person who is a non-Jew and who is ignorant about Jews. It is often used as a pejorative term. In Chapter 5, the Jewish pickle seller calls Francie a "Goyem," a word that she does not understand.
Prima Donna Prima Donna was originally a term applied to the female lead in an opera. It is also used to refer to someone who is the leading lady in the speaker's life and is occasionally used to refer to a temperamental or vain person. Johnny often calls Francie "Prima Donna," and since she is neither vain nor temperamental, it is likely he means that she is his leading lady.
scapular A scapular is a religious object worn by Catholics. It is modeled after the monastic religious habits of some monks and nuns, who wear a top garment that looks like a long rectangular cloth with a hole cut in the center for the head to fit through. In Chapter 27, Katie's mother makes a scapular for Francie, which she describes very well.
sheeny Like so many other derogatory words for Jews, sheeny is a pejorative term that suggests that the Jewish pickle seller is dishonest. In Chapter 5, Francie calls the pickle that she wants a "sheeny" pickle, not understanding that this is an insult.
spats Spats are a piece of leather or heavy cloth that were worn by men. Spats covered the upper part of the shoe, extending to the ankle. In Chapter 45, Neeley wants spats for Christmas, but when he wears them, the other boys who live nearby make fun of him.
studs Studs are used in place of buttons on tuxedo shirts. Early in the novel, readers learn that Katie gave Johnny pearl studs as a wedding gift. They are a prized possession for Johnny and are buried with him.