A Municipal Report

a municipal reportW. S. Porter, who is better known by the O. Henry, wrote over 600 short stories. Some s consider “A Report” to be not only his best ever work, but a in the art of short story writing. The involves what happens between the and three main characters: Azalea Adair, a self-educated, gentle lady of the old South; Major Caswell, the husband who treats her badly; and Uncle Caesar, a kind African American man with a royal bearing who tries to help Azalea.

Pre-Intermediate Vocabulary Help / Exercises

The words and expressions in our Pre-Intermediate level Simplified English story which are not in our 1,200 word list are: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , and .

Intermediate Vocabulary Help / Exercises

The words and expressions in our Intermediate level Simplified English story which are not in our 1,800 word list are: , airship, , carriage, , , , editor, , , , , fist, , funeral, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , negro, , , , , , , slave, , streetcar, , , , , , whip, and yard.

There are also a word that is in our Intermediate word list but has a meaning in the story which is different to the one most commonly used. When the storyteller first mentions King Cettiwayo, he refers to him as the late King Cettiwayo. The word in this case is a meaning that the person is dead.

General Comments on the Story

“A Municipal Report” takes place in Nashville, Tennessee in the late 1880s. It is told in the form of a report by a man who came to Nashville on business but whose name we never learn. The storyteller says many times that Nashville is a quiet, boring city. An interesting feature of the story is how O. Henry uses his description of the weather (he mentions at several key points that it is raining lightly) as to add to the feeling that there is nothing exciting or interesting to see or do in the town.

King CettiwayoWhen talking about African Americans, the narrator uses the term “Negro”. Although not a polite form of address in modern times, this was the common (and polite) term used at the time of the story. When talking about one the the main characters in the story – Uncle Caesar – he says that Caesar looks like a famous Zulu chief by the name of King Cettiwayo (pictured on the right), and uses this name to refer to Uncle Caesar several times later in the story.

southern frock coatAn important part of the story is an old coat that is worn by Uncle Caesar. It is described as once having been the military coat of an officer in the Southern Army at the time of the American . A normal southern officer’s coat would have looked like the picture on the left, but the one described in the original story is much fancier with many tassels. This is probably because southern officers in high positions could have their uniforms -made in almost any style they wished. The description goes on to say that the coat was once gray but now is of many colors and in very poor condition. This is not surprising, as the story takes place around twenty years after the end of the war!

A feature of O. Henry’s stories is that there is often some kind of surprise ending. One of the problems with the way many EFL students are taught to read English is that too much testing is based on understanding the meaning of individual words or sentences rather than the overall meaning of a story. In some stories, the ending or final result is not as it first appears. You need to think about the information that you are given to understand what really happened. At the end of “A Municipal Report” you will read that some people in the story say that one of the main characters was killed for money by “some no-good thieves”. Can you see any reason why this might not be true?

Additional comments about our Intermediate level story

The storyteller changes a number of times from talking about what happened to him in Nashville (the main story) to describing the city in general as if he was writing a guide book. To make it easier to understand the main story, we have shown these “guide book” sections in letters. An important reading skill is to identify words that are and aren’t important in understanding a story. The guide book sections have a lot of words that are not in our Intermediate 1800 word list. We have left many of these words in our story as they are good for building. However, you don’t need to know any of these in order to understand what happens between the storyteller, Azalea Adair, Major Caswell and Uncle Caesar.

In the first sentence, Nashville is described as a “port of delivery”. Tennessee is a State far from the nearest lake or ocean. What is meant here is that Nashville was an important river port.

There are also several words from the Christian Bible that have been left in our story as these are part of some of the s used by the writer. They are: , , , .

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pen name(n: pen-name pl pen-names) A name used by a writer instead of his or her real name. (นามปากกา)

(n: critic pl critics) Someone, usually an expert, whose job it is to give opinions about books, movies, or other forms of art . (นักวิจารณ์) 2000

(adj: municipal) To do with a Municipality (a district, town or city able to make its own laws for local government). (เขตเทศบาล) 7000

masterpiece(n: masterpiece pl masterpieces) A great book, painting, piece of music, movie, etc; one of the best examples of creative or artistic work of its kind. (งานชิ้นเอก) 7000

(n: plot pl plots) The series of events that form the story in a movie, novel, play, etc. (โครงเรื่อง) 3000

narrator(n: narrator pl narrators) Someone who tells a story; a storyteller. (ผู้เล่าเรื่อง) 7000

cruel(adj: cruel, crueler, cruelest) Used to describe someone who hurts others and does not feel sorry about it (โหดร้าย), or something that causes or helps to cause pain or suffering. (ซึ่งก่อให้เกิดความเจ็บปวด)
(n: cruelty pl cruelties) 1. Something which causes pain or suffering. 2. The quality or state of being cruel. (การกระทำที่โหดร้าย) 3000

airship(n: airship pl airships) A very large steerable aircraft that does not have wings but has a body filled with gas so that it floats and that is driven through the air by engines. (เครื่องบินที่ลอยด้วยก๊าซ) 12000

boil(v: boil, boils, boiled, boiling) 1. To heat a liquid (or a container with liquid in it) so that bubbles are formed and rise to the top. I'm boiling water to make coffee. 2. To cook by boiling. I've boiled some eggs. (ต้ม)
(adj: boiled) Used to refer to things that have been cooked by boiling. I had two boiled eggs with lunch. 2000

bone(n: bone pl bones) The hard substance forming the skeleton of man, animals etc. (กระดูก) 2000

carriage(n: carriage pl carriages) 1. A horse-drawn vehicle with four wheels that is used to carry people. (รถม้า) 2. [British] A separate section of a train. A railway carriage. (ตู้โดยสารรถไฟ) 4000

complain(v: complain, complains, complained, complaining) To say or write that you that you are unhappy or not satisfied with something or are sick, uncomfortable, etc. (ร้องทุกข์) 2000
(n: complaint pl complaints) A statement that you are unhappy or not satisfied with something. (ความไม่พอใจ) 2000

condition(n: condition pl conditions) The state or situation in which a person or thing exists; the physical state of something. The house is not in good condition. He is in no condition to leave hospital. (สภาพ) 1000

contract(n: contract pl contracts) A legal agreement between people, companies, etc. He has a four-year employment contract. The company won the contract to build the new school. (นิติกรรมสัญญา) 1000

(n: editor pl editors) Someone who decides what goes into a newspaper, magazine or book and is responsible for making sure that the material printed is correct in facts, spelling and grammar. (บรรณาธิการ) 2000

fist(n: fist pl fists) A tightly closed hand, with its fingers bent down into the palm. (กำปั้น) 4000

funeral(n: funeral pl funerals) The ceremony held for a dead person before their body is put in the ground [buried] or burned [cremated]. (งานศพ) 3000

imagine(v: imagine, imagines, imagined, imagining) To form a picture of something in your mind that is not there or not real. (จินตนาการ)
(n: imagination pl imaginations) 1. The ability to form a picture in your mind of something that you have not seen or experienced; the ability to think of new things. You can find a solution if you use a little imagination. 2. Something that only exists or happens in your mind. Is it just my imagination, or is it getting warm in here? 1000

knock(v: knock, knocks, knocked, knocking) To make a loud, sharp noise by hitting or tapping something (especially a door to get someone to open it). (เคาะ) 1000

murder(n: murder pl murders) The crime of deliberately killing a person. (การฆาตกรรม) 2000

(n: negro pl negroes) An old-fashioned word for a person who has dark skin and who belongs to a race of people who are originally from Africa. (คนดำ) 12000
As this word can be offensive, we only use it where we feel that it is important to the meaning of a story.

poem(n: poem pl poems) A piece of writing arranged in lines which usually have a regular rhythm and often end in words that rhyme. (บทกวี) 2000
(n: poet pl poets) A person who writes poems (poetry). (กวี) 4000

proud(adj: proud, prouder, proudest) 1. Feeling very pleased because of something you have done or own, someone you know, etc. She felt proud as she watched her daughter graduate. (ภูมิใจในตนเอง) 2. Having a (too) high opinion of oneself; arrogant. She was too proud to talk to us. (หยิ่ง) 2000
(n: pride, noncount) A feeling of pleasure and satisfaction at one's achievements, possessions, family etc. She watched with pride as her daughter graduated. (ความภาคภูมิใจ) 3000

rent(v: rent, rents, rented, renting) 1. To pay money in return for being able to use something that belongs to someone else. 2. To allow someone to use something that you own in return for payment. We rent this flat from Mr Smith. Mr Smith rents this flat to us. (เช่า) 2000

resource(n: resource pl resources) A supply of something (such as money) that someone has and can use when it is needed. We have used up all our resources. We haven't the resources at this school for teaching disabled children. (ทรัพยากร) 1000

royal(adj: royal) Of or relating to a king or queen, etc. (เกี่ยวกับราชวงศ์) 2000

rug(n: rug pl rugs) A piece of thick, heavy material smaller than a carpet that is used to cover a section of a floor. Take off your shoes so you don't make the rug dirty. (พรม) 4000

shake(v: shake, shakes, shook, shaken, shaking) To move back and forth or up and down with short, quick movements. (สั่น) 2000

silence(n: silence, noncount) 1. [A period of time] when there is no sound. The teacher asked for silence in the room. I find it hard to sleep unless there is complete silence. (ความเงียบ)
(adj: silent) Used to describe someone or something that is not making noise. (เงียบ)
(adv: silently) In a silent way. (อย่างเงียบ ๆ) 3000

slave(n: slave pl slaves) Someone who is legally owned by another person and is forced to work for that person without pay. (ทาส) 3000

streetcar(n: streetcar pl streetcars) A vehicle that travels on roads on metal tracks and is used for carrying passengers. (ถนนรถ)

thief(n: thief pl thieves) Someone who takes (something) from the owner in a way that is wrong or against the law; a robber. The thief got away with all my money. (ขโมย) 3000

tidy(adj: tidy, tidier, tidiest) Neat, with everything in the right place; well-ordered; not messy. (สะอาดสะอ้าน) 3000

tight(adj: tight, tighter, tightest) 1. Fitting very or too closely; [of clothes] fitting very close to your body. These shoes are too tight. (คับแน่น) 2. Flat or firm from being pulled or stretched; not loose. Pull the ribbon tight and make a bow. (ผูกแน่น) 3. Fastened, attached, or held in a position that is not easy to move. The lid is too tight. I can't open it. (แน่นหนา) 2000
(adv: tightly) In a tight way. The shirt fits too tightly around the arms. Hold on tightly to the railing. (แน่น)

whip(n: whip pl whips) A long cord or piece of leather attached to a handle, used for driving horses and forcing farm animals to move or work. (แส้) 3000

worth(prep: worth) Used to indicate the value of something. (มูลค่า) 1000

yard(n: yard pl yards) 1. The area of ground around a house, usually covered with grass or plants. (สนาม) 2. An area of enclosed (fenced) ground used for a special purpose. (ลานบ้าน) 3. An old British unit of length equal to three feet or 0.9144 meters. (หลา) 2000

(n: acre pl acres) A measure of land area in certain English-speaking countries, equal to 4046.86 square meters. (เอเคอร์) In the Thai land measurement system, 1 acre is approximately 2.5 rai. 4000
(n: acreage pl acreages) An area of land measured in acres.

(n: barrel pl barrels) 1. A large, usually wooden container with round sides and flat ends. (ถังใส่ของเหลว) 2. A tube in a gun through which a bullet goes when it is fired. (กระบอก ปืน) 3000

barrels gunbarrel

clerk(n: clerk pl clerks) A person who works at a desk whose job is to keep track of records and documents for a business or office. (เสมียน) 2000

cracker(n: cracker pl crackers) A thin dry biscuit that is usually unsweetened or has a salty taste and is often eaten with cheese. (ขนมปังกรอบ ไม่หวาน) 3000

drizzle(v: drizzle, drizzles, drizzled, drizzling) To rain lightly in very small drops. (ละอองฝน) 7000

en-brochette(adj, adv: en brochette) Cooked on a brochette or skewer (a long, thin pin made of metal or wood). (สะเต๊ะ)

(adj: extensive) Large in size or amount; very full or complete. (กว้างขวาง) 2000

feather-duster(n: feather-duster pl feather-dusters) A stick with feathers on the end of it that is used for cleaning. (แปรงขน)

fireworks(n: firework pl fireworks) A small device that explodes to make a display of light and noise, often used for entertainment at special events. (ประทัด) 5000

flour(n: flour, noncount) Powder made from a grain (especially wheat) that is used in cooking for making bread, cakes, etc. (แป้ง) 4000

glow(v: glow, glows, glowed, glowing) 1. To give out heat or light without any flame. (แสงแวววาว) 2. To have pink cheeks because of heat, cold, emotion etc. (คุแดง) 3. To look happy or excited about something. (อิ่มเอิบ) 3000

glue(n: glue pl glues) A substance used for sticking things together. (กาว) 3000

gorilla(n: gorilla pl gorillas) The largest of the ape family, that has black fur and comes from Africa. (กอริลล่า) 8000

grader(n: grader pl graders) A powerful machine with a large blade used for giving the ground the correct slope when making or improving roads. (เครื่อง ปราบดินให้ราบ)

grocery(n: grocery pl groceries) A store that sells food and household items. Originally, grocery stores only sold 'dry good' )food that came in tins, packets, jars, boxes, etc). In modern times, they have developed into supermarkets which sell many more things such as cold drinks, frozen food, meat, fruit, vegetables, etc. (ของชำ)
(n: groceries, noncount) Food and household items. (ร้านขายของชำ) 4000
(n: grocer pl grocers) A person who sells groceries. (คนขายของชำ) 6000

honeysuckle(n: honeysuckle pl honeysuckles ) A kind of shrub or small tree that has bright, colorful flowers. (สายน้ำผึ้ง) 9000

hug(v: hug, hugs, hugged, hugging) 1. To put your arms around someone or something, especially as a way of showing love or friendship. (กอด) 2. To be or stay very close to something. (เข้าใกล้) 6000

leak(n: leak pl leaks) A crack or hole in a surface through which liquid or gas can pass in or out. (รอยรั่ว) 3000

lobby(n: lobby pl lobbies) A large open area inside and near the entrance of a public building (such as a hotel or theater). (ห้องโถง) 4000

loyal(adj: loyal) Having or showing complete and constant support for someone or something; faithful and true to a friend, partner, employer, country etc. (ซื่อสัตย์)
(n: loyalty pl loyalties) The quality of being loyal. (ความจงรักภักดี) 4000

lumber(n: lumberyard pl lumberyards) A place where lumber is stored and sold. (ลานเก็บไม้ไว้สำหรับ) 6000
(n: lumber, noncount) Wood that has been sawed and cut for building things. (ไม้แปรรูป) 3000

(n: main pl mains) Large pipes or wires in a system carrying water, gas and electricity to houses and removing waste water. (ท่อสาธารณะประโยชน์)

merchant(n: merchant pl merchants) A trader, especially one who buys goods from producers in large amounts and sells them to other sellers in smaller amounts. (พ่อค้า) 3000

mill(n: mill pl mills) 1. A building with a machine that grinds grain (seeds such as wheat, rice, etc) into flour. (โรงสี) 2. A building in which certain kinds of products are made; factory. A paper/cotton/wool/textile/lumber/steel mill. (โรงงานผลิตสินค้า) 2000

pave(v: pave, paves, paved, paving) To cover (a street, path etc) with a material (such as stone, tar, or concrete) to form a hard, level surface for walking, driving, etc. (ปูพื้น) 3000

romance(n: romance pl romances) 1. The relationship, actions etc of people who are in love. (เรื่องรักใคร่) 2. A story about people in love. (การผจญภัย) 3. A feeling of excitement and adventure, especially connected to a particular place or activity. The romance of travel. (ความโลดโผน) 5000

scuffle(n: scuffle pl scuffles) A fight that lasts for a short time and is not very serious, often by people close together holding on to each other. (การต่อสู้กันอุตลุด) 7000

sew(v: sew, sewed, sewn, sewing) To make or repair something (such as a piece of clothing) by using a needle and thread. (เย็บโดยใช้เข็ม)
(n: sewing, noncount) 1. The act or process of sewing. I learned sewing at school. (การเย็บ) 2. Things that are used for sewing or that are being sewn. She took her sewing into the kitchen. (งานที่ต้องเย็บ) 3000

shame(n: shame, noncount) 1. A feeling of guilt, regret, or sadness because you have failed at something or done something wrong or foolish. (ความอับอาย) 2. Something that causes such a feeling; a pity. (ความน่าเสียดาย) 2000
(adj: shameful) Something so bad that someone should feel shame because of it. (น่าละอาย)
(adj: shameless) Having done something shameful without feeling shame. (ซึ่งไม่อับอาย)

shell(n: shell pl shells) 1. A hard outer covering of something [such as a shellfish, egg, nut, tortoise, etc.] (เปลือกหอย) 2. The hard outer structure of a building, car, airplane, etc. (ครงสร้างอาคารหรือสิ่งก่อสร้าง)
(v: shells, shelled, shelling) 1. To remove the shell or outer covering of something [such as nuts, peas, etc.] 2. To separate the yellow seeds [kernels] from the outside of a piece of corn. (ลอกเปลือกออก) 1000

snail(n: snail pl snails) A small, soft-bodied animal that lives in a shell that it carries on its back, moves very slowly, and that can live in water or on land. (หอยทาก) 6000

stubborn(adj: stubborn) Refusing to change your ideas or to stop doing something; unwilling to listen to advice; inflexible. (ดื้อรั้น) 6000

tableware(n: tableware, noncount) The dishes, glassware, and silverware used in setting a table for a meal. (เครื่องใช้หรือภาชนะที่ใช้ในการรับประทานอาหาร)

tassel(n: tassel pl tassels) A decoration, consisting of a hanging bunch of strings tied firmly at one end and loose at the other end. Often used on curtains and uniforms. (พู่) 7000

textile(n: textile pl textiles) Cloth or fabric made by weaving or knitting. (สิ่งทอ) 4000

(n: waterworks, plural) A system for supplying clean water to a city or town, usually by pumping it through a large system of underground pipes called "mains". (การ ประปา) 9000

late(adj: late, later, latest) 1. Coming or happening after the usual, expected, or desired time. The train is late tonight.. (สาย) 2. Existing or happening near the end of a period of time. Late at night. (ดึก) 3. Living until recently; now dead. The late king. (เสียชีวิตไปแล้ว) 1000

(n: euphemism pl euphemisms) A mild or pleasant word or phrase that is used instead of one that is unpleasant or offensive and may upset the reader or listener. (ศัพท์ หรือภาษาที่นุ่มนวล) 7000

symbolism(n: symbolism, noncount) In literature, where a real object is used to stand for a thought, idea or feeling. The dove is the symbol of peace. (ด้วยสัญลักษณ์) 3000

(n: civil war pl civil wars) A war between sides made up from people of the same state or country. (สงครามกลางเมือง)
(adj: civil) Having to do with the ordinary people of a country. (เกี่ยวกับพลเมือง) 2000

tailor(n: tailor pl tailors) A person who makes men's clothes [such as suits, jackets, shirts] that are specially made to fit a particular person. (ช่างตัดเสื้อ) 5000

italic(adj: italic) Having letters, numbers, etc., that slope upward to the right , often used to show emphasis and for the examples in dictionaries. (ตัวอักษรแบบตัวเอน) 8000

(n: vocabulary pl vocabularies) 1. Words in general. (ประมวลศัพท์) 2. The words known and used in something [such as a language, by one person, within a particular group or profession, in a story or article, etc.]. (กลุ่มคำศัพท์) 4000

(adj: landlocked) Surrounded by land with no ocean coastline. (ที่ล้อมรอบไปด้วยแผ่นดิน)

In literature, a method used to express meaning through the use of special forms of language. Most authors don't simply come out and say things plainly in their works. They use literary techniques to communicate meaning in different ways and make their stories or poems more interesting. (เทคนิค วรรณกรรม)

In the Christian bible, Adam was the first man created by God. Here the Major is suggesting that his family tree goes back even further than this!
In the Christian bible, Eve was the first woman created by God (Adam’s ‘wife’).
From a story in the Christian bible where Adam and Eve’s son (Cain) killed his brother (Able) and was sent away by God to live in a wild land called Nod. Here the Major is probably saying that there is a story going around that some of his wife’s family are criminals. Nowadays, the expression is an idiom and if you hear that someone is ‘in the land of Nod’ it means that they have fallen asleep or gone to bed.
From a story in the Christian bible in which a tower was to be built so high that it would reach up to heaven. The story says that God became angry that man would aim so high, and stopped it being built by confusing the languages of the workers so that they could no longer understand each other. This may be where the English word ‘babel’ comes from, which means a confusion of sounds or voices. If we say the someone is ‘babbling’, it means that they are speaking in such a confusing way that you cannot understand their meaning.