Joyce's Words

The Words pages examine Joyce's vocabulary not so much to celebrate an individualistic and exuberant wordsmith, but in search of the sources of his language. In the same way that Joyce plucks characters and situations from the Dublin life around him for his fiction, he often selects distinctive vocabulary from the mass of discourse by which he was surrounded in his daily life.

As a result, a new Joyce emerges: one who is still a creative inventor, but also one who weaves into his fiction more of the energetic vocabulary of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Ireland than has previously been recognised.

For a full listing of notes and articles on Joyce's Words go to the Article Index

Pronouncing Joyce

Proper names in Joyce's writing can be pronounced in Dublin English in ways which are surprising to those unfamiliar with the dialect. [more pronunciations]


Click the triangle on the audio bar on the left to listen to the pronunciation of "Heytesbury Street".

"...said he had a farm in the county Down off a hop-of-my-thumb by the name of Moses Herzog over there near Heytesbury street"

Pet lambs in Dublin

Myler Keogh, sometime champion of all Ireland, was one of Dublin’s middleweight boxing heroes during the 1890s... [more]

Scortum and moechus: not so neuter words

In one of his more callous statements in Stephen Hero, Stephen Daedalus mentions (in a conversation with Lynch that begins with his statement that they "must have women")... [more]

Comings and goings: Joyce’s words in the Oxford English Dictionary

This article surveys the comings and goings of Joyce’s quotations and first usages as quarterly updates to the OED are published, and as the dynamic database is updated generally.

g.p.i. (abbreviation): = general paralysis of the insane, a term for the later manifestation of syphilis (WAS 1922 NOW 1892)

A new first use has now been uncovered in the British Medical Journal of 1892.

Ulysses (1922): That fellow I was with in the Ship last night, said Buck Mulligan says you have g.p.i. He’s up in Dottyville with Conolly Norman. General paralysis of the insane.

Comment: It is extraordinary that Joyce should ever have been credited with the first use of this abbreviation, which was most likely to have originated in the world of medicine. It is possible that early OED readers in the 19th century were not attuned to abbreviations being valuable records of our vocabulary, and so failed to record examples they encountered. The new first use derives from a likely source, the British Medical Journal, where g.p.i. appears as jargon rather than slang.