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Uncle Vernon stayed at home again. After burning all the letters, he got out a hammer and nails and boarded up the cracks around the front and back doors so no one could go out. He hummed "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" as he worked, and jumped at small noises.

This is from the book Harry Potter. I don't get what "jumped at small noises" mean in this context. I tried to search "jumped at small noises" and "at small noises", but came out nothing useful.

I guess those small noises refer to what he had hummed? I can picture he was dancing with what he hummed. But I'm not really sure about it.

P.S. [I think he was nervous. He was trying to block those letters sending to Harry.]

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I take it to mean that he jumped whenever he heard small noises. In other words, he was startled by small noises.

The way I see it, at roughly tells us the cause of his jumping in this case. It does not indicate a direction, as in *towards small noises.

  • I edited my answer to remove possibly contentious points. If you believe the current post is incorrect in meaning or explanation, please comment to let me know why, or submit an accurate answer. – Em. Oct 8 '18 at 0:48

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