KA WORDCAST Passages: Lesson 17 Part ONE

KA WORDCAST Passages:  Lesson 17 Part ONE

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Passages Lesson 17 READING PASSAGE 

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Today we will be looking at eight words from KA’s reader, Passages, Lesson 17, Part 1.  The reading passage comes from a classic young-people’s novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island.  Set in the mid-1700s, the story is narrated by young Jim Hawkins, the son of the owners of the Admiral Benbow, an inn in a small English coastal village.  One day, a strange man named Captain Billy Bones checks in, dragging an old sea chest behind him.  Billy takes Jim aside and asks him to warn him if he ever sees a “sea–faring man with one leg.”  When, not long after, Billy Bones dies without paying his bill, Jim and his mother go through Billy’s sea chest searching for money.  They come across a map of an island where a pirate has buried a great treasure.  Jim shows the map to two of the town’s leading citizens.  They hire a ship, the Hispaniola, and sail to the island to find the treasure.  From then on, Treasure Island is filled with shipboard mutinies, cold-blooded murders, battles with swords and muskets—old-fashioned adventures of all kinds.  In today’s passage, Jim describes how he felt when he hears about the one-legged man.  And also tells us about Billy Bones himself.

All the passages in Passages have been hand picked not only to ensure that you are exposed to a variety of wonderful fiction by some of the greatest writers of all time, but also to familiarize you with hundreds of important words that you can “adopt” as your own.  In Lesson 17, Part 1, we will look at eight rather colorful adjectives and nouns.  Next week, in Lesson 17, Part 2, we will examine six useful verbs.

To listen to a recording of the passage, please tune in to the KA Voicecast website.


And altogether I paid pretty dear for the monthly four-penny piece Billy gave me, in the shape of my ABOMINABLE fancies.

ABOMINABLE is an adjective that means very bad.  Synonyms include loathsome, hateful, odious, obnoxious, despicable, contemptible, damnable, cursed, detestable, and revolting.  It is used to describe terrible social and economic conditions as well as more idiomatically to talk about everyday things.

The ABOMINABLE Atlantic slave trade took place from the 16th century through to the 19th century, with most of the slaves coming from West Africa.

The alleged ABOMINABLE treatment of suspected terrorist prisoners in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba has led to President Obama’s vowing to close the facility.

I had to leave my last job because my boss was an ABOMINABLE tyrant who found fault with everything I did.

The weather was ABOMINABLE, but luckily we were visiting the city for its art galleries and theater and not for its beaches, so we had a lovely holiday nonetheless.

As you probably know, THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN is a large hairy Yeti-type creature that is said to live in the Himalayas.

The adverb ABOMINABLY means in an offensive and hateful manner.  Synonyms include reprehensibly, dreadfully, appallingly, brutally, abysmally, horridly, nastily, atrociously and odiously.

The attitudes of leaders in both Japan and China have become ABOMINABLY xenophobic over the last few months, and all over a couple of rocky uninhabited islands.

My husband behaved ABOMINABLY at your anniversary party last night, and I’m writing today to tell you how sorry I am.

If you ask me, Kristen Stewart plays the part of Bella Swan in the “Twilight” saga ABOMINABLY.

ABOMINABLENESS is a noun meaning the quality or state of being ABOMINABLE.  Synonyms include loathsomeness, disagreeableness, and unpleasantness.

If it weren’t for the fact that the famous Italian chef is a genius and his food so delicious, no one in the kitchen would put up with the ABOMINABLENESS of his behavior.

ABOMINATE is a verb that means to hate or loathe.  Synonyms include detest, abhor, despise, dislike, execrate, shudder at, and recoil from.

I truly ABOMINATE the fact that my country is still dominated by racism and white supremacy.

Jamal is a strict vegan who ABOMINATES any and all non-vegan food, which makes it a bit difficult when he comes to stay with us.

The noun ABOMINATION means a thing that causes disgust or hatred.  Synonyms include atrocity, disgrace, horror, obscenity, outrage, curse, torment, crime, and monstrosity.

My idea of a proper English seaside resort is a quaint harbor town with pretty fisherman’s cottages, not one of these new places with concrete ABOMINATIONS lining the sea front.

That you betrayed your best friend in order to get a promotion is an ABOMINATION for which I will never forgive you.

ABOMINATION can also mean a feeling of hatred.  Synonyms include detestation, loathing, aversion, antipathy, revulsion, repugnance, and abhorrence.

The CEO at the telecoms company where I did my internship had an ABOMINATION for anyone who didn’t turn up at 6 a.m. and work until past 10 p.m.



How that “sea-faring man with one leg” haunted my dreams, I need SCARCELY tell you.

In the sentence above, SCARCELY is an adverb, but first let’s take a look at the adjective SCARCE, which means insufficient to meet demand or requirement or short in supply.  Synonyms include wanting, deficient, lacking, in short supply, and at a premium.

After the tsunami, food was SCARCE and expensive; at first, people came together and shared what they had, but as the shortages continued, it soon became every man for himself. 

The high demand for this Christmas’s “must have” toy, the robotic jumping dog, means that it is becoming increasingly SCARCE and that most toys shops are now out of stock.

SCARCE can also mean hard to find, or absent or rare.  Synonyms include few, unusual, uncommon, few and far between, and infrequent.

Paintings by this artist are SCARCE and sought after, so if you ever come across one, it will be worth a tidy sum, because they do very well at auction.

Butterflies are becoming SCARCE in this region due to increasing urbanization and destruction of their natural habitats.

Now let’s go back to the adverb SCARCELY, which has a variety of usages.  First of all, it means hardly or almost not.  Synonyms include barely and only just.

The advantages of being bilingual in this day and age are so obvious that they SCARCELY need spelling out.

The poet was surprisingly shy, and when she read from her latest work, her voice was so low I could SCARCELY make out what she was saying.

Completing my first marathon was as much a mental as a physical challenge, and I was so exhausted when I crossed the finish line that I could SCARCELY put one foot in front of the other.

SCARCELY is also used to mean not very often.  Synonyms include rarely, seldom, infrequently, occasionally, and hardly ever.

The author claims to SCARCELY ever re-read his published writings.  He spends so much time perfecting them before they are published, he says, that he knows them by heart.

You can hide in here for now.  My parents SCARCELY ever use this basement room, so I am sure they won’t find you.  I’ll sneak some food down to you a little later.

SCARCELY can also mean only a very short time before, or by a small margin.  Synonyms include barely, hardly, only, and just.

We SCARCELY made it in time and had to scramble through the closing doors of the train as the guard blew the whistle to signal its departure.

Karen had SCARCELY dismounted when the horse shied at a barking dog and bolted off down the road, leaving her to chase forlornly after it.

SCARCELY can also be used to suggest that something is unlikely to be or certainly not the case.  Synonyms include surely not, definitely not, not at all, on no account, under no circumstances, and by no means.

“This could SCARCELY be an accident,” the victim’s husband said.  “The car was just serviced last week, and the brakes were checked.  Someone must have tampered with them.”

I know we have an important deadline to meet, but you can SCARCELY expect the staff to work on New Year’s Eve.

SCARCITY is the noun form.  Synonyms include shortage, lack, deficiency, undersupply, dearth, paucity, and infrequency.

An ever-increasing SCARCITY of drinking water is a problem that will have to be faced in the not too distant future.

Relief supplies are being sent to the Philippines to help ease the SCARCITIES caused by typhoon Haiyan, but it is proving difficult to distribute the aid to remote towns and villages.

The SCARCITY of the reclusive author’s public appearances makes today’s reading a very rare opportunity.

The phrase TO MAKE YOURSELF SCARCE means to run away or escape or disappear, especially in order to avoid trouble.

As soon as Jonny heard the police sirens in the distance, he MADE HIMSELF SCARCE and headed out the back door.

Dad’s pretty upset about the dent you put in his car.  You’d better MAKE YOURSELF SCARCE for a while!



By his own account he must have lived his life among some of the WICKEDEST men that god ever allowed upon the sea.

The adjective WICKED (used in its superlative form above) means evil by nature and in practice.  Synonyms include corrupt, vile, foul, vicious, heinous, depraved, devilish, fiendish, and abominable.

Horrible deeds carried out by WICKED stepfathers and stepmothers are a staple of traditional fairytales.

In my book, anyone who kills elephants or other animals just for their tusks is truly WICKED.

When I confessed to my neighbor that I had run over her cat, she flew at me, calling me a WICKED animal hater.

WICKED can also more idiomatically mean playful or mischievous.  Synonyms include impish, devilish, naughty, cheeky, rascally, incorrigible, raffish, and roguish.

The comedian and actor Russell Brand has a WICKED sense of humor and enjoys making people squirm with his outrageous comments.

WICKED can also mean severe and distressing.  Synonyms include agonising, terrible, acute, severe, intense, awful, painful, fierce and dreadful.

Carl fell off the stool and a WICKED pain shot through his leg as he tried to get up from the floor.

The boxer landed a WICKED uppercut on his opponent’s jaw, sending him to the canvas for the count of ten.

WICKED can also mean highly offensive or obnoxious or intense.  Synonyms include harmful, terrible, and dreadful.

The wind up on the top of the cliffs was so WICKED it could almost knock you off your feet, but it was thrilling to watch the waves crashing against the rocks below.

Returning home after a three-week holiday, Sandra opened the front door only to be greeted with a WICKED smell. “You forgot to take out the trash before we left, didn’t you?” she asked her husband.

WICKEDLY is the adverb form for all of the above uses.

She smiled WICKEDLY as she lifted the trophy above her head.  Yes, I cheated, she thought to herself, but nobody else knows that!

Someone WICKEDLY put hot peppers in my children’s Halloween candy.  Who would do a thing like that?

The noun WICKEDNESS means the quality or state of being WICKED.  Synonyms include evil, immorality, vileness, ugliness, and loathsomeness.

In her speech, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate denounced the WICKEDNESS of child labor and the poverty that makes it happen.



I would see him in a thousand forms, and with a thousand DIABOLICAL expressions.

DIABOLICAL is an adjective similar in meaning to WICKED.  It means characteristic of the Devil. Synonyms include devilish, fiendish, satanic, demonic, hellish, infernal, evil, and ungodly.

Cameron instigated an anonymous slander campaign against his fellow candidates, and his DIABOLICAL cunning plan paid off when he was elected for a third term.

City officials have revealed that they recently discovered and foiled a DIABOLICAL plan by master criminals to poison the city’s drinking water.

The DIABOLICAL skill shown by conmen who prey on the elderly means that they are very difficult to apprehend.

DIABOLICAL can also be used more idiomatically to mean very bad or unpleasant.  Synonyms include dreadful, awful, terrible, frightful, disgraceful, shameful, lamentable, deplorable, appalling, and atrocious.

I can’t believe we lost again.  Surely the team manager should be sacked after that DIABOLICAL performance.

These exam results are DIABOLICAL.  There will be no more after-school activities for you until I see a real improvement in your grades!

DIABOLICALLY is the adverb form.

In a DIABOLICALLY bold move, militants attacked the Yemeni defense ministry, leaving over 50 people dead.

Piers Morgan is one of my favorite journalists. His columns are often DIABOLICALLY cutting, which of course makes them irresistible reading.



And altogether I paid pretty dear for the monthly fourpenny piece Billy gave me, in the shape of my abominable FANCIES.

In the passage, FANCIES is the plural form of the noun FANCY, meaning a product of the imagination.  It can also just mean imagination.  Synonyms include fantasy and dream.

A woman just came into the precinct to confess to the murder, but I think her story is pure FANCY.

My daughter is prone to incredible flights of FANCY. I don’t know where her imagination comes from or what she will come up with next.

A FANCY can also (and this sense is also implied in the sentence from the passage above) be a feeling of liking or attraction, typically one that is superficial or transient.  Synonyms include desire, urge, wish, want, whim, impulse, notion, and whimsy.

Julie was determined to join the convent.  This was no passing FANCY, but a lifelong commitment.

Being a novelist was just one of my youthful FANCIES.  I never really had the talent or courage it takes to be a real writer.

Winning the lottery meant that Jake was able to indulge his FANCY and collect and restore classic sports cars.

FANCY can also be something that one supposes or imagines, typically an unfounded or tentative belief or idea.  Synonyms include idea, notion, thought, supposition, opinion, belief, impression, understanding, and suspicion.

They had a vague FANCY that they had forgotten something, but it was only when Freddie arrived home from school that his parents realized they had missed the class assembly.

The man had a FANCY that the woman sitting across from him was attracted to him, but that’s all it was—FANCY.

As a verb, FANCY is often used informally to mean to feel a desire or liking for.  Synonyms include wish for, want, long for, yearn for, crave, hanker after, dream of, and covet.

As much as I love a holiday by the sea, this year I FANCY a week hiking in the Alps.

Do you FANCY a cup of tea?  Or are you a coffee drinker? 

Can we stop talking about it?  I really don’t FANCY an argument right now.

FANCY can also mean to find someone or something attractive.  Synonyms include be captivated by, be taken with, desire, and admire.  Informal synonyms include have the hots for and have a soft spot for.

There was a watercolor painting in the exhibit that I really FANCIED, but of course it was priced way beyond my means.

I love “Parks and Recreation,” and, to be honest, I quite FANCY Rashida Jones.

FANCY can also be used to mean to suppose, presume, assume, or regard as.

In high school, I FANCIED that I would be chosen to play the leading man in the senior class play, but my best friend Gary Sandgren got the part instead, and I was devastated.

I FANCY George will get the promotion.   He’s consistently been the best-performing team leader, and he is really popular with everyone.

I FANCY Arsenal for the Premier League championship.    What do you think?

FANCY also often means to have an unduly high opinion of oneself.  Synonyms for this sense include be overconfident and think highly of oneself.

The contestant FANCIED himself a mover on the dance floor, but I don’t think he will be winning any dance competitions anytime soon.

FANCY can also be used to express surprise at something.

FANCY Alison being such an accomplished cook!   I never would have thought it!

FANCY that!  The popular young singer is giving up the celebrity life to become a cattle rancher in Montana.

FANCY is also an adjective that means elaborate in structure or decoration.  Synonyms include ornate, decorative, adorned, embellished, intricate, showy, luxurious, and flamboyant.

My son pulled up in front of my flat in his FANCY new SUV and said, “Let’s go for a ride, Dad.”

I don’t like French food.  I find that those FANCY sauces overpower the taste of the fish or meat or vegetables.

We were invited into a huge sitting room that was filled with FANCY antique furniture that I was almost afraid to sit on.

Every Christmas Laura looked forward to receiving a letter from her godmother.  It was always handwritten in beautiful cursive style on the FANCIEST stationery.

The adjective FANCIFUL has a couple of meanings and uses.  For one, it can mean existing in the imagination.  Synonyms include fantastic, extravagant, far-fetched, unbelievable, preposterous, and imaginary.

My friend Ellen is always boasting about having done this, that, and the other. I’m afraid, however, that most of it is entirely FANCIFUL.

FANCIFUL can also mean creative or unusual.

My father would make up incredibly FANCIFUL stories to tell us when we were young, stories filled with fascinating characters and preposterous plots.

When I visited my friend Claudia’s house for the first time, I was really surprised at how FANCIFUL the décor was, when she dresses so plainly herself.

FANCIFUL also means so imaginative as to be unrealistic.  Synonyms include whimsical, impractical, capricious, flighty, and dreamy.

The designs you see in catwalk fashion shows are often too FANCIFUL and impractical for everyday living.

It may be FANCIFUL to suggest that we can heal society’s ills just by performing random acts of kindness to strangers and asking them to pay it forward, but it certainly won’t hurt. 

The adverb form is FANCIFULLY.

Each year I add to my Christmas lawn and house decorations and aim to make our home the most FANCIFULLY decked out in the village.

FANCIFULNESS is a noun meaning the quality of being whimsical or imaginary or imaginative.

My Uncle Brian is well known for his FANCIFULNESS, and has recently taken to using topiary to create fantastic alien creatures out of the hedges in his garden, much to his neighbors’ dismay.



Often I have heard the house shaking with the tune, “Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum,” all the neighbors joining in for dear life, with the fear of death upon them, and each singing louder than the other, to avoid REMARK.

In the passage, REMARK is a noun that means a casual or brief expression of opinion.  Synonyms include comment, observation, reflection, statement, thought, declaration, assertion, and utterance.

Katy feels very strongly that people should not wear animal furs, and she has no qualms about making very outspoken REMARKS on the issue.

In his press conference, the president only had time to make a few REMARKS on the hostage crisis when he was interrupted and rushed from the room by his aides and the secret service.

Fed up with pilot’s lascivious REMARKS, the flight attendant reported him to the union.

That movie was so bad that it is not even worthy of REMARK.

REMARK can also be used as a verb.  Synonyms include comment, state, reflect, mention, and declare. It can also mean to notice or observe.  Synonyms include note, perceive, mark, regard, and heed.

“I see the Yankees have paid a large sum of money for yet another mediocre player,” Terry REMARKED at dinner, which had nothing to do with the conversation that was in progress.

Everyone has REMARKED what a handsome dog my dog Patch is, so I have decided to show him at the next kennel show.

The adjective REMARKABLE means worthy of notice.  Synonyms include noteworthy, notable, phenomenal, conspicuous, and pre-eminent.  REMARKABLE can also mean unusual or extraordinary.  Synonyms for this usage include singular, striking, outstanding, impressive, surprising, and distinguished.

Spider silk is a REMARKABLE material that exhibits a unique combination of high tensile strength and extensibility.

Learning to read and write, something most of us take for granted, is a REMARKABLE achievement for a dyslexic child.

Genetically speaking, sea urchins and humans have a REMARKABLE amount in common.

Bacteria can swim and swarm, and left to their own devices on nutritious petri dishes, some species will form REMARKABLE patterns.

The adverb form is REMARKABLY.

Susan was REMARKABLY tight-lipped during the meeting, especially considering she normally never lets anyone else get a word in edgewise.

Hugo is REMARKABLY tall and well coordinated for his age, and the local high school basketball coach already has his eyes on him.



And the language in which he told these storied shocked our PLAIN country people almost as much as the crimes that he described.

In the passage, PLAIN is an adjective that describes people who are common in rank or station.  It can also refer to things and means simple or not at all fancy.  Synonyms include average, ordinary, modest, everyday, commonplace, unaffected, and unpretentious.

Uncle Joe was a PLAIN man who lived alone as a subsistence farmer for the whole of his life, only venturing into the nearest town when he had excess produce to trade for tools and seeds.

The actress is not beautiful, but she’s not PLAIN either, and has remarkably expressive eyes.

Anna was used to her mother’s PLAIN cooking and was overwhelmed by the bewildering array of dishes offered at her Indian friend’s wedding celebration.

The author’s PLAIN writing style grew out of his desire to attract a wider audience to his ideas.

While some of the mummies discovered in the tomb were wrapped only in PLAIN linen, others were elaborately painted and gilded, denoting their higher social standing.

If we are awarded the “Cities in Bloom” grant, even the PLAINEST parts of our city will be transformed by beautiful floral displays.

When talking about a person’s appearance, PLAIN can sometimes be derogatory or uncomplimentary, or a euphemism for ugly.

Kate is so beautiful and her husband is so … well, so PLAIN.

PLAIN can also mean free from obstructions.  Synonyms include open and clear.

I spent an hour looking for my glasses, but then I found them in PLAIN sight right next to the telephone.

The enemy at last emerged into PLAIN sight, and the troops took aim.

PLAIN can also mean easy, clear, obvious, evident, apparent, manifest, frank, open, honest, candid, and straightforward.

Please remember that the majority of us at this meeting are not scientists and not up on scientific or technical jargon. So let’s stick to PLAIN talk, shall we? 

You are obviously over-qualified, so if you view this job as just a temporary stop gap, I would appreciate your making your intentions PLAIN and not wasting both our time. 

You have obviously misunderstood me.  So let me make myself perfectly PLAIN. I have no intention of changing my vote.  My mind is made up.

Let me say this in the PLAINEST terms.  Under no circumstances are you allowed to get a tattoo.  Not while you’re living under my roof!

Plain can also mean not mixed with other substances.  Synonyms include pure, unadulterated, and simple.

Drinking PLAIN water is the best way of hydrating yourself on a hot day or after rigorous exercise.

Like all kids, my children love sugary, chocolate-coated cereals, but as often as I can, I get them to eat PLAIN cereals with fresh fruit.

PLAIN can also mean sheer, utter, and unqualified.

Your decision is just PLAIN wrong!

Thinking that you could hike that far without having done any previous hiking was just PLAIN stupid.

The adverb form is PLAINLY for all of the above meanings and uses.

My grandparents were married for over seventy years.  They lived PLAINLY and enjoyed the simple life, which may have been the secret of their successful marriage.

Few politicians ever speak PLAINLY.   Why can’t they just say what they mean?

May I speak PLAINLY?  I’d like to get straight to the point.

You are PLAINLY mistaken, as any good history text will tell you.

The Senator was PLAINLY too important for you to leave off the guest list, but I do wish you wouldn’t have seated me next to him.  He is such a pedantic bore.

PLAINNESS is a noun meaning simplicity.  It is the state of being unadorned and unembellished.

Don’t be fooled by the professor’s PLAINNESS of manner.  She is a remarkably erudite and highly esteemed woman with a long list of awards and publications to her credit.

Hannah was dismayed by the PLAINNESS of her costume when she saw how outlandishly and fancifully all the other competitors were dressed.

The popular phrase PLAIN SAILING means that a plan or action should proceed as expected, without any obstacles or difficulties.

I have been assured by the technical team that all the glitches have been resolved, and that it should all be PLAIN SAILING from here on in.

You might also hear someone (someone a little older, perhaps) use the expression AS PLAIN AS THE NOSE ON YOUR FACE or AS PLAIN AS DAY.  They just mean clear and obvious.

Your feelings for Bobby are AS PLAIN AS THE NOSE ON YOUR FACE.  So tell him how you feel.

It was the wrong choice.  That’s AS PLAIN AS DAY to me now, but at the time, it seemed like the right thing to do.

And by the way: a PLAIN is a large area of flat, grassy land with few trees.  It is often used in the plural. Synonyms include flatland, plateau, prairie, grassland, mesa, lowland, and tableland.

There, on the vast plain below them, was a herd of thousands of bison, feeding on the grass and drinking at the river’s edge.

The wide PLAIN extended as far as the eye could see with no sign of any watering holes, leaving the thirsty hikers wondering where their next drink of water would come from.

The West Siberian PLAIN is a large stretch of land that occupies the western portion of Siberia and consists of some of the world’s largest swamps and floodplains.

The central part of the United States is often called the Great Plains, for obvious reasons. 



Dreadful stories they were; about hanging, and walking the plank, and storms at sea, and the Dry Tortugas, and wild DEEDS and places on the Spanish Main.

In the passage, DEED is a noun that means an action that is performed intentionally or consciously.  Synonyms include act, feat, exploit, achievement, and activity.

My son loves to watch Bear Grylls’s reality-TV program to see what new daring DEEDS he has been up to.

It may be some consolation for you to know that your father will long be remembered for the many good DEEDS he performed in the community.

You might come across the expression THE DEED IS DONE.  It means that some action that should have been carried out much earlier has finally been accomplished.

I have quit my horrible job.  THE DEED IS DONE!  After all these years of working just for the money, I have finally decided that enough is enough, and that I will do what I want from now on.

A DEED is also a legal document, especially one regarding the ownership of property or legal rights.

Do you have the DEED to the house? We need to show it to the bank when we re-mortgage.


Tune in next week for more fantastic words from Passages: Lesson 17, Part TWO!