ENG 099 Conversational American English (Dec. 2012) Atom 4: Christmas Short Story 1 of 10

ENG 099 Conversational American English (Dec. 2012) Atom 4:

Christmas Short Story 1 of 10

Librivox Recording of The Gift of the Magi Art Cover design by Janette  Brown. This design is in the public domain.

Students and teacher read this short story “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry. It is a Christmas story and given this is a December course it’s especially appropriate. O. Henry is a famous American author from the early 20th century.

O. Henry Portrait


  • Please study these vocabulary words before doing the reading and video watching below.
  • magi n. pl. IPA: /meɪˈd͡ʒaɪ/ plural form of mage, or magician; “wise men or philosophers of the East” (Webster’s 1828).
  • imputation n. IPA: /ˌɪm.pjʊˈteɪ.ʃən/ a charge, saying someone did something bad; an accustion, the act of imputing or charging; attribution; ascription; also, anything imputed or charged.
  • parsimony n. IPA: /ˈpɑr səˌmoʊ ni/ not spending a lot of money; cheap; thrifty; closeness or sparingness in the expenditure of money.
  • shabby adj. IPA: /ˈʃæb.i/ old and dirty place or thing; poor; ragged.
  • flat n. IPA: /flæt/ apartment, floor, loft, or story in a building; especially, a floor of a house, which forms a complete residence in itself.

“The Gift of the Magi” 1 of 10 Text

  • Please read the text below twice and take notes.

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one’s cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.

While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad.

“The Gift of the Magi” 1 of 10 Audio

Now listen and take notes on this recording from the beginning to 1:22 to hear this lecture’s text of the short story. We will read all of it over the course of the 10 lessons.


  • Please watch and take notes on the video below from 29:05 to 37:30 [4 minutes 50 seconds] to see “Language Talk 1” explained by Mr. Danoff.
  • If you can’t see the video below, click here to watch it on YouTube.


  • In the comments below answer the following 3 questions:
    • Did you like the text, yes or no?
    • Why?
    • Why do you think Della is not happy?
  • Please leave your answer in the comments, or via FacebookP2PU and/or Wikiversity.

Copyright Notes

  • Please respect the copyright plus terms and conditions of all links and media not by Charlie Danoff.
  • Atom Text Copyright © 2012 by Charlie Danoff. Rights given a CC Zero 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.
  • Christmas Short Story 1 of 10 adapted from “The Gift of the Magi,” part of O. Henry’s 1906 collection of  Short Stories “The Four Million.” Public Domain in the US, because it  was published in the US before 1923 and therefore is in the public  domain due to copyright expiration.
  • Librivox Recording of The Gift of the Magi Album Art Cover design by Janette  Brown. This design is in the public domain per the PDF.
  • Portrait of Porter from frontispiece in his collection of short stories, Waifs and Strays. O. Henry. “William Sydney Porter, Wiafs and Strays frontispiece” via Wikimedia Commons. By unattributed (Austin History Center, Austin Public Library). The work of art itself is in the public domain for the following reason: because its first publication occurred prior to January 1, 1923. This media file is in the public domain in the United States.


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