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7 Great Words from the Great Gatsby That You Can Use in Daily Speech

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I read The Great Gatsby several years ago in my mother tongue. I loved the novel and the language. Back then I wasn’t into English and I had no desire to read the original.

Recently I read it in English and loved the novel and the language. But of course this time it wasn’t always easy to understand the meaning of some words or expressions.

Oftentimes I felt like a beginner. But the more you read the better you understand.

But before to dive deep into The Great Gatsby vocabulary have a look at the shortest tutorial on how to choose vocabulary you’d like to learn from the books.

Now get back to Gatsby. Here’re 7 words and expressions that I can use in different contexts and not only in conversations about this novel.

1. SLENDER

If a woman is slender /ˈslen.dɚ/ she’s not only slim but elegant.

In the novel, Fitzgerald used this adjective quite often to describe attractive women like Jordan and Daisy. Both represent upper class society.

Another synonym of slender is full of grace.

Here’re the original quotes:

She was a slender, small-breasted girl, with an erect carriage, which she accentuated by throwing her body backward at the shoulders like a young cadet.

With Jordan’s slender golden arm resting in mine, we descended the steps and sauntered about the garden.

So now when I think of slender I think of that graceful slim ‘golden girl’ from the jazz age.

slender meaning

And if you want another image think about Slender Man, a fictional character who looks like a thin, unnaturally tall humanoid with a featureless head and face and wearing a black suit. Not that attractive but very visual.

slender man

You can use slender for describing people, animals and things. A figure, a body, a book can be slender.

The second meaning of slender is small in amount or degree.
The party won with a slender majority over their main rival.

Here’re my examples with slender in a sentence:
Many women dream of having a slender figure.
Cougar is a beautiful wild cat with a slender figure. 

As always I encourage you to create your own sentence with “slender” and share it in the comments.

2. PLUNGE

In the novel we word plunge is used in a  fixed sentence “take a plunge” /teɪk ə plʌnʤ/. It has the same meaning as the verb “plunge” – to fall, rush or throw yourself into a particular direction, especially into water.  The synonyms are jump, dive.

In the novel, Gatsby invites Nick to “take a plunge” in his posh swimming-pool.

Here’s the original quote:
“Well, suppose we take a plunge in the swimming-pool? I haven’t made use of it all summer.”

Nowadays people rarely say “take a plunge” and instead just use the verb “plunge”.

They plunged into the sea.

plunge meaning

There are some other meanings of the verb “plunge” and you can see them here.

But I’d like to draw your attention to the more frequent expression “take the plunge“.
It looks similar to “take a plunge” but the meaning is absolutely different. If you take the plunge you decide to do something after thinking about it for a long time.

Here’re some examples of usage:
They took the plunge and got married last month.
I took the plunge and created my own website. 

3. CONTEMPT

Contempt /kənˈtempt/ is a noun which means a strong feeling of disliking and having no respect for someone or something. 

The synonyms are disrespect, antipathy, disregard, distaste, scorn.

contempt meaning

The adjective is contemptuous /kənˈtemp.tʃu.əs/. 

If you’re contemptuous of something it means that you don’t respect or like it. 

The synonyms are scornful, arrogant, disdainful. 

In the novel, Fitzgerald used both of these words for describing Tom Buchanan and Jay Gatsby. 

Here’re the original quotes:

“There was a touch of paternal contempt in it, even toward people he (Tom) liked — and there were men at New Haven who had hated his guts.” 

“He (Gatsby) knew women early, and since they spoiled him he became contemptuous of them.” 

Here’re my examples with the word contemptuous

He was rich, narrow-minded, and contemptuous of people who were below him on a social ladder.

Contemptuous people are usually biased towards minorities.

His contemptuous manners made everyone angry.

4. HEART-TO-HEART TALK

When people have a heart-to-heart talk /hɑrt-tu-hɑrt tɔk/ they are honest, open, and don’t hide their true emotions.

In the novel, Tom sarcastically asks his wife Daisy if she had a heart-to-heart talk with her cousin Nick.

Here’s the original quote:
“Did you give Nick a little heart-to-heart talk on the veranda?” demanded Tom suddenly.

Here’re my sentences with this set expression:
Oprah Winfrey is a queen of heart-to-heart talks.
There are few people with whom I can have a heart-to-heart talk.

Synonyms of heart-to-heart are intimate, candid, unreserved.

If you type “heart-to-heart talk” in Google News you’ll see many examples of this expression in the media.

heart-to-heart-talk-in the sentences

Here’re some expressions we can use to start heart-to-heart talk.

  • Let’s put it all on the table.
  • Let’s get it all out in the open.
  • Let’s air it all out.
5. GLEAM

Gleam /ɡliːm/ is a verb and a noun. And it means to produce or reflect a small, bright light or a small bright light itself.

The synonyms for the verb are shine, glow, glitter, sparkle.

The synonyms for a noun are glimmer, glint, glow, twinkle, sparkle.

You can polish a table until it gleams. Or your eyes could gleam with triumph.

7 Great Words from the Great Gatsby That You Can Use in Daily Speech

When I think of a word ‘gleam’ now I imagine a spiritless Myrtle’s husband “who’s so dumb he doesn’t know he’s alive”. And he has a gleam of hope in his eyes when he sees Tom and thinks that he will sell him his car.

Here’s the original quote:
“When he saw us a damp gleam of hope sprang into his light blue eyes”.

There’s a great expression with ‘gleam’ and ‘eyes’: before you were a gleam in your father’s eye. That means a long time before you were born.

Here’re my sentences with gleam.
I started working here a long time ago before you were a gleam in your father’s eyes.
His boots gleamed

gleam meaning

6. CRAZE

Craze /kreɪz/ is an activity, object, or idea that is extremely popular, usually for a short period of time.
The synonyms are mania, cult.

Fitzgerald used it to describe a craze for a specific architectural style.

Here’s the quote:
“A brewer had built it early in the “period” craze, a decade before, and there was a story that he’d agreed to pay five years’ taxes on all the neighboring cottages if the owners would have their roofs thatched with straw.” 

He simply told us that the Gatsby’s mansion was built at a time when wealthy people wanted to copy a specific historical architectural style in their property.

There are some set expressions with the word “craze”: the latest craze, dance craze. 

You can also meet a “crazed” person, a person that behaves crazy or out of control.
His crazed behavior got him arrested. 

And if you want another image to remember there’s a well-known American brand of dry cranberry which is called Craisins.

Although the word ‘craisin’ derives from merging words ‘cranberry’ and ‘raisins’ (dried grapes), it often goes with ‘crazy’ implying peoples’ craze for dried cranberries.

7 Great Words from the Great Gatsby That You Can Use in Daily Speech
7. OVER THE TOP

To be over the top means to be too extreme and not suitable or demand too much attention or effort, especially in an uncontrolled way.

Fitzgerald never used this expression in this novel but it describes perfectly the character and lifestyle of a new rich Jay Gatsby. He’s trying too hard to be someone he’s not and never will be.

All about Gatsby is over the top: his mansion, his car, his outfit, his crazy parties, and all he did with his life in a hope to win Daisy’s love back.

The synonym for this expression is “too much”.

Here are my sentences:
He bought her a cat, a puppy, and a parrot. It’s a little bit over the top.
When she asked me to rewrite it again it was 10 pm. She knew that it was over the top.
Do you think my speech was over top

That’s it. I hope you like it. Let me know in the comments if you’ve read The Great Gatsby and what you think about the novel.
And also, choose one expression from this article and create your own sentence. Okay, I hope it’s not over the top to ask you about it.

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English Language enthusiast, the founder of about-english.com and Speaking Club host.
I help English learners to boost their speaking skills and confidence.

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