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TextWordPassage & CitationAnalysis Contributor(s)
Finnegans Wake regginbrow “the regginbrow was to be seen ringsome on the aquaface” (FW 003.14) German: Regenbogen, rainbow; brow. The rainbow describes the curved brow of the “aquaface”. The rainbow is curved (“ringsome” plus German “ringsum” (around) on the face of the water. Ciaran McMorran & Terence Killeen
Ulysses rtststr “Rtststr! A rattle of pebbles. Wait. Stop! He looked down intently into a stone crypt. Some animal. Wait. There he goes.” (U 6.970) One of the many instances of onomatopoetic language in Ulysses, “Rtststr” connects the themes and stylistic preoccupations of the episode “Hades.” On one hand, the sound comes immediately after Bloom’s famous musings on the ability of a gramophone recording to memorialize the voices of the dead: “Put on poor old greatgrandfather. Kraahraark! Hellohellohello amawfullyglad kraark awfullygladaseeagain hello hello amawf krpthsth. Remind you of the voice like the photograph reminds you of the face” (6.962). And throughout “Hades,” we find ironically stylized descriptions of many characters’ faces—“Mr Power’s goodlooking face” and “Martin Cunningham’s large eyes… Intelligent. Like Shakespeare’s face” (this echoing his appearance in “Grace”)—that parody a desire to idealize and make picturesque the burial and mourning of Paddy Dignam (6.242, 6.792). On the other hand—as the garbled transcription of the gramophone recording suggests—perfect memorialization is impossible and, indeed, often comes through primarily as noise. Moreover, behind the noise is not necessarily a sentimental icon of the departed but a reminder that life itself always frustrates our attempts to memorialize it. For “Rtststr” is the sound of an “obese gray rat” who stands in for the self-consuming and mutable nature of living matter. The real “greatgrandfather,” the rat is simply “the grey alive” to Bloom, and “crush[es] itself in under the plinth,” echoing Bloom’s earlier vision of how, even in corpses, “cells or whatever they are go on living. Changing about. Live for ever practically. Nothing to feed on feed on themselves” (6.974, 6.780). Initially an instance of what Derek Attridge has named “nonlexical onomatopoeia,” (“the use of the phonetic characteristics of the language to imitate a sound without any attempt produce recognizable verbal structures”), “Rtststr” is quickly revealed in the next sentences to be phonologically and graphologically shaded with the name of what caused it: not just the “rattle” of pebbles but also the “obese gray rat” that makes the sound (1120). The onomatopoeia is thus also partially “lexical,” in Attridge's terms, having a semantic connection to its sound. That the rat-like spelling of “Rtststr” comes before Bloom identifies its source, however, suggests in the context of “Hades” that the emergence of meaning is tied not just to the capture and reproduction of experience (whether through photographic or gramophonic means) but through a disappearance, or evacuation, of the part of biological life for which Joyce makes animals stand. We know the animals are there, and we forget that a basic, animal-like precarity lines our humanity—until the zero-degree of death reminds us that we are just cells and pebbles. Like the many other animals represented, thought of, and alluded to in “Hades”—the donkeys that hide themselves away for “shame of death,” the billy goat from which Robinson Crusoe steals his coat in a song that floats through Bloom's thoughts (6.837, 6.813)—the rat makes a concrete appearance before withdrawing, leaving the room required for abstract, symbolic culture: “Good hiding place for treasure,” Bloom thinks in the rat’s wake (linking him to Stephen, who earlier, in the presence of “a warren of weasel rats” and the “bloated carcass of a dog” on the shore, also thinks of hiding gold [3.286]). Yet however long our gold might outlast us, it is death that reminds Bloom that nothing we do as humans—whether accumulating wealth, memorializing experience through the rituals of language, or merely dying—can mean anything without some other party to give it meaning. “A fellow could live on his lonesome all his life. Yes, he could. Still he’d have to get someone to sod him after he died though he could dig his own grave. We all do. Only man buries. No, ants too” (6.809). Works Cited Attridge, Derek. “Language as Imitation: Jakobson, Joyce, and the Art of Onomatopoeia.” MLN 99.5 (1984): 1116-1140. Cliff Mak
Finnegans Wake sesthers “sosie sesthers wroth with twone nathandjoe” (FW 003.12) Sisters; Dutch: zes, six, i.e.: six sisters. If Susanna (“sosie”, or Susie), Esther (“sesthers”) and Ruth (“wroth”) each had a counterpart (French: sosie) then there would be six sisters in total. As noted by Joyce (SL 317) Swift’s Stella and Vanessa were both called Esther. Ciaran McMorran & Terence Killeen
Finnegans Wake sosie “sosie sesthers” (FW 003.12) French: sosie, twin or counterpart. This can also be pronounced “saucy”. Ciaran McMorran & Terence Killeen
Finnegans Wake tauftauf “nor avoice from afire bellowsed mishe mishe to taufauf thuartpeatrick” (FW 003.09-10) German: taufen, to baptise. “Tauf” also alludes to Taff, the twin brother of Butt. Ciaran McMorran & Terence Killeen
Finnegans Wake themselse "nor had topsawyer's rocks by the stream Oconee exaggerated themselse" (FW 003.06-07) “another Dublin” (Joyce, Selected Letters 317). Ciaran McMorran & Terence Killeen
Finnegans Wake thuartpeatrick “nor avoice from afire bellowsed mishe mishe to taufauf thuartpeatrick” (FW 003.09-10) Allusion to St. Patrick and his naming— “thou art Patrick”—which echoes Matthew 16:18: “thou art Peter [...]”. Also rick of peat. Ciaran McMorran & Terence Killeen
Finnegans Wake tumptytumtoes “in quest of his tumptytumtoes” (FW 003.21) Baby-talk: Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker’s Humpty Dumpty-esque toes (see humptyhillhead, humself, prumptly). Ciaran McMorran & Terence Killeen
Finnegans Wake vanessy “[...] though all’s fair in vanessy” (FW 003.11-12) Portmanteau word: Vanessa, vanity. Vanessa serves as a model for Issy, who is repeatedly found facing her equivalent in the looking-glass world. Ciaran McMorran & Terence Killeen
Finnegans Wake venissoon “[...] not yet, though venissoon after [...]” (FW 003.10) Conflation of “venison”, “Vanessa” and “very soon”. Ciaran McMorran & Terence Killeen