Lesson #242 (Part 2): 12 Pairs of Antonyms and Synonyms through Hodgson Burnett’s Children’s Classic

This is Part 2 of our Lesson covering useful pairs of antonyms (words expressing contrast, opposition) and synonyms (words expressing similar meanings) as found in A Little Princess, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s famous children’s classic.

We have covered some antonyms in Part 1, and are focusing here on 8 pairs of synonyms that you will find useful in English.

📝 SYNONYMS

✏️ #1 ‘Queer’ & ‘Strange’ & ‘Unusual’ & ‘Odd’

Note on ‘queer’:

As you can tell from the text we read in Part 1 of this Lesson, Hodgson Burnett used this word a lot. The word ‘queer’ originally meant ‘strange or odd’.

Nowadays it is sometimes used to mean ‘homosexual’ but can be considered offensive. However Hodgson Burnett was simply referring to its literal meaning of ‘strange or odd’.

✍️ Notice too how Hodgson Burnett uses these synonyms to describe different aspects of ‘strange’ (some, like ‘unusual’, being more positive than others):

📙 ‘She sat with her feet tucked under her, and leaned against her father, who held her in his arm, as she stared out of the window at the passing people with a queer old-fashioned thoughtfulness in her big eyes.’

– Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess (emphasis mine)

📙 ‘Principally, she was thinking of what a queer thing it was that at one time one was in India in the blazing sun, and then in the middle of the ocean, and then driving in a strange vehicle through strange streets where the day was as dark as the night.’

– Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess (emphasis mine)

📙 ‘Captain Crewe laughed outright at this. He was young and full of fun, and he never tired of hearing Sara’s queer speeches.’

– Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess (emphasis mine)

📙 ‘”Lady Meredith has told me of her unusual cleverness. A clever child is a great treasure in an establishment like mine.”

Sara stood quietly, with her eyes fixed upon Miss Minchin’s face. She was thinking something odd, as usual.’

– Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess (emphases mine)

..

✏️ #2 ‘Listen ‘& ‘Hear’

She only knew he was rich because she had heard people say so when they thought she was not listening, and she had also heard them say that when she grew up she would be rich, too.

– Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess (emphases mine)

📙 ‘”I want her to look as if she LISTENS when I talk to her. The trouble with dolls, papa”— and she put her head on one side and reflected as she said it— “the trouble with dolls is that they never seem to HEAR.”‘

– Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess (Hodgson Burnett’s own emphases)

..

✏️ #3 ‘Spoiled’ & ‘Give or have one’s own way’

To ‘give someone or have one’s way in everything’ means to ‘[be] spoiled’.

📙 ‘She had always lived in a beautiful bungalow, and had been used to seeing many servants who made salaams to her and called her “Missee Sahib,” and gave her her own way in everything.’

– Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess (emphases mine)

📙 ‘”I expected that a child as much spoiled as she is would set the whole house in an uproar …”‘

– Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess (emphasis mine)

..

✏️ #4 ‘Inventing’ & ‘Telling stories’

📙 ‘She liked books more than anything else, and was, in fact, always inventing stories of beautiful things and telling them to herself.’

– Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess (emphasis mine)

To tell stories’ can either refer to ‘storytelling’ or to ‘making up fantastic, false stories’ or ‘telling long-winded lies’. Hodgson Burnett uses it however to mean ‘storytelling’:

📙 ‘Sara not only could tell stories, but she adored telling them.’

– Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess (emphasis mine)

..

✏️ #5 ‘Severe’ & ‘Very firm’

📙 ‘In the hall everything was hard and polished— even the red cheeks of the moon face on the tall clock in the corner had a severe varnished look.’

– Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess (emphasis mine)

📙 ‘Still she was very firm in her belief that she was an ugly little girl, and she was not at all elated by Miss Minchin’s flattery.’

– Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess (emphases mine)

..

✏️ #6 ‘Learned’ & ‘Discovered’

📙 ‘After she had known Miss Minchin longer she learned why she had said it. She discovered that she said the same thing to each papa and mamma who brought a child to her school.’

– Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess (emphases mine)

✍️ Notice how ‘learned’ in the above quotation is synonymous with ‘discover’. But more often than not, ‘to learn’ refers to an educational effort, as in this next quotation:

📙 ‘”The difficulty will be to keep her from learning too fast and too much. She is always sitting with her little nose burrowing into books …”’

– Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess (emphasis mine)

..

✏️ #7 ‘By oneself’ & ‘Alone’

📙 ‘”I want to be quite by myself, if you please.”‘

– Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess (emphasis mine)

👉 Although Hodgson Burnett doesn’t use ‘alone’ in this context, it is a synonym of ‘by oneself’ and could also be used here.

..

✏️ #8 ‘Quaint’ & ‘Old-fashioned’

Early in the book we read of Captain Crewe that

📙 ‘His quaint little Sara had been a great companion to him, and he felt he should be a lonely fellow when, on his return to India, he went into his bungalow knowing he need not expect to see the small figure in its white frock come forward to meet him …

This all meant that he was going to be separated from his beloved, quaint little comrade.’

– Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess (emphases mine)

Later, after he has left Sara on her own at the school, Miss Minchin’s sister Miss Amelia remarks of the girl,

📙 ‘”I never saw such a funny, old-fashioned child, sister,” she said. “She has locked herself in, and she is not making the least particle of noise.”‘

– Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess (emphasis mine)

As you can see from our study of A Little Princess, there are plenty of antonyms and synonyms in English (especially in written texts, which is why it is important to learn English through literature). I am sure that you will notice plenty more from now on, whatever you choose to read!