Tomoyuki Tanaka

I examine the unifying themes of Finnegans Wake that are evoked by the footnotes 3 and 4 on Page 299:

“3  Pure chingchong idiotism with any way words all in one soluble.  Gee each owe tea eye smells fish.  That’s U.”
“4  The Doodles family, E, D, I, X, O, V, C. Hoodle doodle, fam.?”

Section 1 presents new interpretations of the footnote 3:  anti-Pox eye wash for newborn babies (first noted by Paré),  a Chinese sing-song sign into which many meanings are soluble (Paré),  silver fish Lucia and Jesus fish filling the pages of FW, etc.   Tea, fish (psari = P.S. + “Paree”), and XXXX (mcmxxxix) are identified in the last lines.   Variations of the duplicated “Ocone! Ocone!” represent oceans, twin-fish (Lucia, Jesus), two eyes, twin-Issys, hiccups, etc.

In section 2, the origins of the seven sigla in the footnote 4 are sought in Numidian, Berber (Paré), Phoenician, Semitic, Greek, Chinese, and Japanese scripts:   Conflation of [h], [e], “E”, mirror-E, and “山” (mountain) contributing to HCE and his siglum.   ALP’s three lines yield “川” (river), “三” (three), and the water radical.   The square siglum for FW and its title originating from the square Sinai signs that became bet (house) in the Hebrew alphabet.   The FW mandala siglum in Phoenician, Cretan, and Semitic scripts correspond to the Greek Theta, matching its position in “Ι Χ Θ Υ Σ” (ichthys).

In section 3, Issy (Lucia) is identified with Jesus through schema entries for Issy, trinity in Japanese characters (以, い, イ), the iroha-uta, and the parallels between the last pages of FW and the last hours of Jesus.

In section 4, examining the silver Agenbite of conscience (U), lightning pain and thunderclap (FW) and other issues shows that FW was Joyce’s puzzle-field to hide his corpse, and suggests what we must do in light of the revelation offered by Ferris.


---  “Knightly knock eternally wood he make Finnegans Wake.”
[1]  GHOTI spells fish --- “Gee each owe tea eye smells fish”
--- Silver fish (Lucia) and Jesus fish fill the pages
--- Tea, fish (psari = P.S. + “Paree”), & XXXX (mcmxxxix) end FW
--- Genesis of FW in  “Paris. 1922”:   ii, letter, fish, Trinity, 3.14…
--- Oconee = okeanos (ocean) + sakana (fish) + oko (eye) + okonie (perches) + …
--- More interpretations of the footnote 3
--- The footnote 3 in context:  Book II, Chapter 2, “Night Lessons”
--- The footnote 4 in context:  “a lozenge to me all my lauffe.”
[2]  Sigla origins and Ι Χ Θ Υ Σ (I ch th y s)
[3]  Issy (Lucia) = Iesu (Jesus)
---  Schema entry for Issy [I],  Visigothi = Vision + ghoti (fish)
---  Trinity of Issy:  以, い, イ --- the iroha-uta (イロハ)
---  FW ’s end, Jesus’s end
[4]  Joyce’s puzzle-field to hide his corpse
--- 1. (HCE)  What do the initials HCE mean?
--- 2. (Nothing else)  Why no Hobbit- or CATS-like primer?
--- 3. (Too complex)  Why did Joyce overdo it?
--- Ferris and Robinson explain “HCE”
--- Silver Agenbite of conscience (U),  lightning pain and thunderclap (FW)
--- Conclusion:  Joyce’s confession and our role

James Joyce
Had an unusually loud voice;
Knightly knock eternally wood he make
Finnegans Wake.

This “clerihew” poem made me so excited.   The poem’s author was not given in the article (Word Ways, Feb. 2008, available at, which added to the excitement, because it could have been written by anyone --- a master, even Nabokov or Burgess!

The poem’s meaning wasn’t immediately apparent, and I felt a tingling sense of anticipation --- maybe this is a specimen of the “Wakean morsel” I have been waiting for a long time:  a delightful little puzzle in the sprit and technique of FW, but without its overwhelming depth, volume, weight, and interconnectedness.

After spending a few minutes deciphering it, I felt disappointed.  The poem (written by Michael Curl) is nice and clever, but clearly this is not the Wakean morsel I have been waiting for. 

(The “clerihew” poem does capture an anecdote about Joyce’s writing of FW.  Nora’s complaint:  “I can’t sleep any more. […]  Well, Jim is writing at his book. I go to bed and then that man sits in the next room and continues laughing about his own writing.  And then I knock at the door, and I say, ‘Now, Jim, stop writing or stop laughing.’ ”  (Maddox 324).   So Joyce’s loud laughing voice might have kept his neighbors awake.)

I felt that the little 4-line poem has nothing to do with Joyce or with FW.   The problem is not the brevity.   As I shall show, Joyce’s short and often-quoted “ghoti” sentence contains meanings that remained hidden for many decades.

A Joycean puzzle is usually multi-lingual, and, more importantly, pregnant with layers of seemingly-inexhaustible hidden meanings.  Whenever we think we’ve reached the end, we found that Joyce had hidden an additional layer.   For example, the name-puzzle “Jesus, Mr. Doyle.” (U 622.42) was thought to be solved by Robert Adams with the conversion: Jesus = Christ = Anointed = oiled = Doyle.”  But I showed several more additional associations, including a Pox-connection that makes Conan Doyle a medical savior for Joyce.  (Tanaka, “Box and Cox, the Homeric Sherlock Holmes, and Joyce’s Ulysses”  Hypermedia Joyce Studies  (Feb. 2008).)

  Then I thought:  Is there a puzzle in Ulysses or FW that is like the “clerihew” poem?  Like a mono-lingual puzzle for children that you can solve quickly and completely?

[1]  GHOTI spells fish --- “Gee each owe tea eye smells fish”

I remembered the “ghoti” puzzle and its Joycean variant I’ve known for 30 years.   In high school, a friend named Fisher posed the puzzle, which I couldn’t solve and he quickly explained it:   “Ghoti” spells fish because “gh” is pronounced [f] in laugh or enough, “o” is pronounced [i] in women, and “ti” is pronounced [sh] in nation.  This puzzle is usually attributed to G. B. Shaw, but earlier sources have been cited (   Martin Gardner in The Scientific American, Sept. 1964, p.222 attributes it to Dudeney (Clive Hart, A Wake Newslitter, II/1, Feb. 1965, p. 13-4).

Joyce substituted a homophonic word for each letter of GHOTI and worked it into the footnote 3 of FW 299:  “3  Pure chingchong idiotism with any way words all in one soluble.  Gee each owe tea eye smells fish.  That’s U.”   If the sentence --- “Gee each owe tea eye smells fish.” --- is a simple variant of “GHOTI spells fish” and nothing more, then it’d be comparable to the simple “clerihew” poem.  But is it?

The answer:  it is not.  A myriad of interpretations are possible, including the following reading used in this paper’s title.

“Each womb T. --- eye smells fish”   Meaning:  Each woman’s womb has (or potentially harbors) syphilitic infection, and during childbirth, a baby’s eye is exposed to the swimming T. pallidum, as well as to the fishy smell of the mother’s vagina.

Regarding the first three words,  “each owe tea” (Each womb T.):   The word “owe” (O in GHOTI)  is from the word “wom.en,” so it is reasonable to suppose that Joyce associated “owe” with the word’s first syllable “wom” (hence, “womb”).   Also possibly “Each owns T.”  ---  that each person (woman, womb, man) carries syphilitic infection.

Kathleen Ferris in James Joyce and the Burden of Disease (1995) argues that in Ulysses and FW “tea” is often Joyce’s codeword for T. pallidum, the spirochete that causes syphilis.  This is especially true for the capital T (“cupital tea”, FW 369.32), or when tea is mentioned out of the blue without any context, as in the footnote 3 (FW 299).   Joyce would not have missed the association between a silver, tea fish (silver-tongued “Selvertunes” (299.23) footnoted as “tea” and “fish”) and the swimming T. pallidum.   In the early sightings of T. pallidum under the microscope, the scientists described it as “slivery” and “swimming of a snake or an eel,” which Joyce used in Ulysses and FW (Tanaka).

Regarding the last three words,  “eye smells fish” ---  Diane Ackerman (20-21) notes that we have oceans within our bodies, “Our blood is mainly salt water,” and notes:  “Smell was the first of our senses.  It was so successful that in time the small lump of olfactory tissue atop the nerve cord grew into a brain.  Our cerebral hemispheres were originally buds from the olfactory stalks.  We think because we smelled.”   The ineluctable modality of the smell to evoke memories is captured by Marcel Proust in Remembrance of Things Past.

Ackermann (21):  “Through the ages women’s vaginas have been described as smelling ‘fishy.’  In fact, Sandor Ferenczi, a disciple of Freud’s, went so far as to declare, in Thalassa: A Theory of Genitality, that men make love to women because women’s wombs smell of herring brine, and men are trying to get back to the primordial ocean”.   Ackermann (21) also notes that the fishy smell may come from old semen.  “Ei” (egg in German) smells fish.   (See also Allegra Wong.  “Mourning or melancholia:  Joyce’s death fixation and the ‘Calypso’ chapter in Ulysses”  no date.)

As Ferris points out, Joyce had an encyclopedic knowledge of syphilis and science, history, and cultural trivia connected with syphilis, which he subtly and extensively alluded to in Ulysses and FW.   Silver nitrate eye wash was suggested by Dominique Paré (in [] mailing list, May 7, 2008).   Joyce would have been aware of this practice administered to newborns to prevent eye infections and blindness caused by contraction of syphilis, gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and other diseases.   This method of protection using silver nitrate was first used by Credé in 1881 and is still in use. (   Here are two medical texts from 1913 and 1918.

“Silver nitrate is used as an eye wash for the newborn, a drop or two of 14 per cent. solution being dropped in the eye immediately after delivery.”  (A Nurse’s Hand-book of Medicine, by John Norman Henry, J. B. Lippincott company, 1913, p. 272).

Conjunctivitis neonatorum (ophthalmia neonatorum) should be prevented.  Women should not have gonorrhea.  A child’s head which has passed through an infected birth canal, as soon as born, should be treated as follows:  the lids should be cleansed and separated and 2 drops of a 1 per cent. solution of silver nitrate dropped into each conjunctival sac at the outer canthus.  In the present stage of civilization all birth canals should be regarded as infected unless they can be proved to be not infected.”  (Surgical treatment v.3, by James Peter Warbasse, published by W.B. Saunders (Philadelphia and London), 1918, p. 122).

Note the last comment regarding “all birth canals should be regarded as infected” --- each womb T.   This eye-wash procedure was likely performed at the births of Joyce’s children in 1905 and 1907, leaving a strong impression on him.  

--- Silver fish (Lucia) and Jesus fish fill the pages

Joyce’s daughter Lucia (1907-82) in 1929 in Paris danced on stage in a shimmering silver fish costume that she designed.  She was one of the six finalists that competed before a stellar panel of judges.   Lucia was fully conscious in the audience of the adoring eyes of Samuel Beckett, with whom Lucia was falling in love.   She didn’t win the competition that night, but she was the crowd’s favorite.  As the results were announced, the members of the audience protested loudly, “We’re calling for the Irish girl!  Be fair, judges!” to Joyce’s immense delight.  (JJ  612, The section “Lucia, the silver fish” (p. 173--) in Carol Loeb Shloss, Lucia Joyce: To Dance in the Wake, 2003).   Photograph at:

In the following year, Beckett told Lucia that he wasn’t romantically interested in her, causing a rift between Joyce and Beckett.   But it seems Beckett always had some feelings for Lucia.  “When Samuel Beckett died in 1989, a striking snapshot of a feral woman dancing, clad from head to toe in silver fish scales, was found among his papers.  Beckett had kept this memento of […] Lucia, for more than 60 years.”   (Tara Pepper, “Portrait of the Daughter: Two works seek to reclaim the legacy of Lucia Joyce”  Newsweek, March 8, 2005,

In 1933, Lucia took injections of sea water as prescribed by Dr. Henri Vigres (Shloss 255), further identifying Lucia as a fish.

Silver-tongued “Selvertunes” (299.23) footnoted as a “fish” --- a silver fish --- is Lucia, the apple of Joyce’s eye.  “The lappel of his size” (314.33-).    In “eye smells fish,” fish corresponds to apple from Finn’s eating the salmon of wisdom (“Salmonson” (297.03)).   “Eye” is pronounced the same as “Ei” (egg in German) suggesting baby and eye --- the expression “babies in the eyes” means “Love (Cupid) in the expression of the eyes.” (Brewer’s).    As Joyce indicated in his letter to Budgen, these footnotes are “by the girl” (Letters I. 405-6).   The adoring father says to his daughter Lucia:  silver  “fish.  That’s U.”  (Dutch U: you, and Chinese (yu) yü: fish.  (McHugh)). 

John Gordon points out the many associations between Issy and Lucia.  St. Lucia is the patron saint of light, vision, and the blind.  Issy is associated with double ‘i’s:  Iris, Isis, … . (Gordon 80). 

Iris is the Greek goddess of the rainbow and messenger of the gods.   Iris in the Iliad corresponds to Hermes (Mercury) in the Odyssey.   Iris (around the pupil, the apple of the eye) in Japanese is “ 虹彩 ” (kousai, literary, “rainbow colors” --- more on this below).  Joyce must have been intrigued by these Chinese-Japanese characters.  The first one contains insect (on the left) and I or rotated-H.  The second contains three vertical strokes over a tree (on the left) and three diagonal lines.

In the footnote 3, “Gee each owe tea eye smells fish.” contains several [i] sounds and an “eye”.  (Lutein is a substance found in the macula of the human retina, and is recently thought helpful in preventing various eye diseases.  Lutein may have contributed to Joyce’s association of Lucia and eyes.)

“Salmonpapered walls” (559.02) cover the bedroom of HCE and ALP (Gordon 34).  “North, wall with window practicable. Argentine in casement” (559.04).   As Gordon (33) points out, argentine are “any of various small silver-scaled salmon-like marine fishes” (  The coins piled or stacked in the window’s casement are ‘Argentine’ in the ‘silvering’ light of dawn (Gordon 33).  Joyce probably associated argentines (silver fish), silver coins, and Lucia’s costume that covered her from head to toe in silver fish scales resembling silver coins.

Joyce filled the pages of FW with species and variations of fish.  Since the exact pagination was not available to Joyce, he would have achieved fish on every page by placing a fish at half-page intervals.   “By my count, the number of allusions to fish and their watery world comes to at least 2,200, an average of 3.5 per page.”  (Robert H. Boyle,  “You Spigotty Anglease?”  New York Times Magazine, July 23, 2000).   Boyle seemed to have missed many fish references, including “ghoti” in “Spigotty” (16.06) (not in    Fish on every page may be “a kind of Finnegans Wake twist on JMJ at the top of a school foolscap” (Dominique Paré, June 11, 2004, on the [] mailing list), where JMJ stands for Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.   This practice common in Catholic schools (see Ralph A. Smith, Cultural Literacy and Arts Education, 1991, p. 67) or a similar practice may have led Joyce to fill his pages with fish.   And it must have been an acknowledgement of Joyce’s love for his shimmering silver fish, Lucia.

--- Tea, fish (psari = P.S. + “Paree”), & XXXX (mcmxxxix) end FW

“A way a lone a last a loved a long the

ALP’s final letter is sometimes considered to begin with “Dear” “Reverend” (615.12) and end with a signature and 3-line postscript (619.17-9) quoted below.   But the final “breakfast / letter apparently extends to the end of the book --- the last word, ‘the’, is French for ‘tea’, which I/5 taught us is the letter’s last sign.” (Gordon 272).   FW ends with a tea-stain, the all-important tea of “each womb T.”

“Paris” in the next line is the promised “pee ess” (111.18) and corresponds to “P.S.” (619.17) (  The last S in “Paris” is silent:  “In gay Paree he hides, Egan of Paris” (U 43).  Combining “P.S.” and “Paree” yields psari, fish in Greek.   This is the fish for breakfast in “The trout will be so fine at brookfisht.” (621.12). 

Four X’s are at the end of most variants of the letter (McCarthy 727-8).   1922 in Roman numerals is mcmxxii.  Note the final two ‘i’s of Issy, as in “twoinns with four crosskisses” (111.17).   1939 is mcmxxxix.  XXXX.

1922-1939 == mcmxxii -- mcmxxxix.     “With Kiss. Kiss [--] Criss. Cross Criss.  Kiss Cross.” (11.27) (the dash is mine) match the dates 2-39 or “ii -- xxx ix”.

“Axe on thwacks on thracks, axenwise.  One by one place one be three dittoh and one before.” (019.20-- ) similarly describes “X and X.  1 by 1.  Place three Xs and 1 before X” or “xx ii -- xxx ix” (years 22-39).

The “postscript from which three basia or shorter and smaller oscula” (122.21) and “that last labiolingual basium might be read as a suavium” (122.32) describe three kisses, a smaller kiss, and the last kiss:  xxx i x (39).

“Ex!  Feel how sheap! Exex! His liver too is great value, a spatiality! Exexex!” (172.8-) contains X, XX, “to”, XXX and three short vowels [i], which when reordered gives “xx ii (to) xxx ix”.

Book II, Chapter 2, “Night Lessons” ends with a NIGHTLETTER on Page 308, with a doodle recalling the Tunc page of The Book of Kells.  The page begins with “Xenophon” in the left margin, which also contains “Boox and Coox” (xxx).   The page ends with two footnotes:  “1  Kish is for anticheirst […]” and “2  And gags for skool and crossbuns […]”.  The first footnote provides an ‘i’ (kiss, fish) and the second provides an ‘x’ (cross).  So this page contains “xxx” and ends with “ix” (39) like FW.
“Boox and Coox, Amallaga- mated” on Page 308 seems a corporate name, suggesting that its and is a commercial and --- “et commercial” is a French name for &.  The first doodle on the page shows a thumb (French pouce) and a hand --- “un pouce hand” sounds like ampersand.

As for “the four shortened ampersands” (121.36), my guess is that “& & & &” can be read in French as “alors, alors, alors, alors” (with “et” in between), and this inspired the passage, “a lone a last a loved a long”.   Or the ampersands were shortened into four Ams or Ems in McMxxii -- McMxxxix.

“P.S.  Soldier Rollo’s sweetheart. And she’s about fetted up now with nonsery reams. And rigs out in regal rooms with the ritzies.  Rags! Worns out.  But she’s still her deckhuman amber too.” (619.17-).   1922 is read in French as “mille neuf cent vingt-deux”.  Perhaps a MIL (military-man) “naïf sens” (naive sense) and (wine-colored) “vin” two contributed to the “Soldier” “sweetheart” and “amber two”.  And “trent-neuf” (39) or “tron neuf” (new throne) contributed to Rolf (Rollo) Ganger who became the first Duke of Normandy, and “regal rooms” in the postscript.

The “deckhuman amber too.” (619.17-) in the postscript suggests “Document Number Two” or FW (Gordon 273, McCarthy 732).   Besides being a follow-up to the great Ulysses, I suggest more ways in which Joyce considered FW as the “Document No. 2”.   As soon as Joyce started writing FW, he knew that the last line was going to be “Paris.  1922 --”, the postscript (psari, fish) containing “… vingt-deux”, which suggests (je) “vins deux” or “I came (or arrived) two.”   Moreover, the square FW siglum corresponds to bet (house), the second letter in the Hebrew alphabet, and the second katakana letter in the iroha (イロハ) alphabet.   The iroha is also written as 以呂波 of which the second letter contains two FW sigla.

“riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s” --- Hugh Kenner observed “pa” (father), “Stephen”, and the “Ecce Puer” theme:  father dying and grandson born (Maddox 278).   I note that in “Pa -- St eve an -- dada -- m’s” we have the three generations of Joyces:  father, son, and grandfather.  The grandfather is “dada” as in the last line of the poem: “Humptydump Dublin’s granddada of all rogues.”   The river ran past ‘i’s and ‘x’s and past ‘m’s in the postscript.

Finally, what is the meaning of XXXX and &&&& at the end?

XXXX --- sealing a letter with (hugs and) kisses has been previously suggested.  1939 is mcmxxxix, containing XXXX.   X resembles the Greek Chi (Χ), and the kai symbol (Greek: ϗ), formed from kappa (κ) with an extra lower stroke, is sometimes used in Greek and Coptic as an abbreviation for the word καί, (Greek conjunction for “and”).  The kai symbol is used in a similar manner as the ampersand (&).

The Xs also corresponds to the X in Ulysses.   “Sinbad the Sailor and Tinbad the Tailor and […] and Dinbad the Kailer and Vinbad the Quailer and Linbad the Yailer and Xinbad the Phthailer.”  (U 737).   As Bloom dozes off, the letters begin to jump around, hitting D, K, V, Q, L, Y, X, …, giving the list a pangram-like quality, which is an appropriate way to end the encyclopedic narration of Bloom’s day.

&&&& --- In the 19th century and earlier, & was regarded as the 27th letter of the English alphabet, making it appropriate at the end.   Moreover, “&” here is a symbol that attaches (like the musical notation attacca) the end of FW to the beginning.  The name “Ampersand” derived from “and per se and”, which is especially appropriate here because “per se” resembles “P. S.” --- [the ending of FW] “and P. S. and” [the beginning of FW].

The derivation of the name “Ampersand”:  “and” = “and per se and”.   This equation recalling a circular definition or a recursive acronym would have intrigued Joyce.   It resembles this fundamental equation of the “& ouroboros”:  FW = FW + P. S. + FW  --- which means that FW is defined as (1) FW, the novel text (which repeatedly talks about a letter in hinting, teasing ways), and (2) “P. S.” and (3) FW, the novel text to be immediately re-read (the entire letter).

The French name for “&” is “Esperluette”, which may have come from “espère lue et” (On espère qu’elle soit lue “et”).   (One hopes that it (&) be read “et”).  With “espère lue et” (hope read and), Joyce is expressing his wish:  “I hope that you have read thus far and that you will continue re-reading from the beginning.”

 (The “Paris” was noted as a postscript in  Beyond that, none of my suggestions is currently in

--- Genesis of FW in  “Paris. 1922”:   ii, letter, fish, Trinity, 3.14…

The genesis of FW can be reconstructed from “Paris.  1922 --”, based on the analysis in the preceding and other sections of this paper.   As soon as Joyce started the conception of the book to follow Ulysses, he knew that the last line was going to be “Paris […]  1922 --”.

“1922” contains 22 suggesting twins.  McMxxii contains McM recalling Ann McAnn (Ann daughter of Ann) and Trinity.  “xx” suggests hugs or kisses ending a letter, and “ii” hints at two eyes of Lucia, Iris, Isis, twin-fish, etc.

“Paris” suggests a postscript to a letter with a tea-stain, ending in French the (thé).  Combining “P.S.” and “Paree” yields psari, fish in Greek.  (Ann McAnn (Kenner 284), “ii”, Iris, Isis (Gordon 80), and French the (thé) (Gordon 272) are discussed elsewhere in this paper.)

Fish live in rivers, and a letter may begin with “Reverend” (615.12) or “riverrun”.   Trinity involves convoluted whole-to-part mappings, which prompts the entire letter (the FW) being mapped to shorter letters within the FW, as well as an ouroboric, circular structure.

“riverrun” (meaning  “Dear” “Reverend” (615.12)) suggests river-end.  A river runs through the entirety of FW.  The two river-ends are marked by “riverrun” and “the”.   A circular river has just one end (or one point, not two), which point is marked as river-end.  The book beginning with END (river-end) and ending with “the” (an archetypical beginning (of a sentence)) has something flowing or pointing backwards (from p. 628 to p. 3), symbolizing circularity,  eternal recurrence, fin-again,  Phoenix,  rebirth, ... .  (Posted to fwread as HenHanna on Aug. 8, 2008).

Joyce likely associated Trinity (triune 3=1) with Pi (3.14…), subtly encoded throughout.  “Three in one, one and three.” (526.13) encodes both Trinity and (because 1 and 3 is 4) “3 1 4”.   The Euclid diagram on Page 293 shows two triangles inside two circles, in the Christian symbol of vesica piscis (McHugh “Sigla” 68).

Tristan on the first page (“Tristram” (3.04)) alludes to tea-stain (note French [r]) and tri est un (French “Trois est un.”) meaning [3 is 1] and Trinity.  (Posted to fwread as HenHanna on Aug. 1, 2008).

Nigel Best noted:  “[FW] starts on page 3 --- page two is blank, and page one has the number one on it ---  the moral is:  life starts with 3 --- the twone, the trinity of one and two.” (fwread, Aug. 1, 2008).   Page 3 is the 1st page of the book (also roughly true for Ulysses, Random House / Vintage), which contains “with twone nathandjoe” (003.12) whose twone (21) encodes 3.  The key number 1132 (the fall) probably encodes (3=1).

“riverrun” includes river-un, combining river (Jp. “川” and associated with the number 3) and French un (one).  Trinity is triply triggered by “riverrun” (003.01) on Page 3 (=1st) and river-un (3=1).

  “riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s” begins (as just noted) with “3 1”.  “past” contains 4 letters.  “Eve” has the vowel [i] associated with the number 1 in FW.  “Adam’s” contains 5 letters.

Pi (3.14159…) times 100 is about 314.16 and FW has 314 leaves and 16 lines on the last page. Joyce reminds us of 100 in “A hundred cares” (627.14) and of leaves in “My leaves have drifted from me. All. But one clings still.” (628.06--).   (314 leaves was noted by Riverend Sterling (FWake-L, 25 Jan 1998), and 16 lines was noted by Neuendorffer (FWake-L, 27 Jan 1998).)

Each FW page contains 36 lines.  FW contains four books, each beginning with a page containing 24 lines.  Perhaps Joyce intended lines 1-12 to be blank and “riverrun” to be on the 13th line of the first page (p.3), where 13 encodes Trinity (3=1).   Numbered this way, 3.14 (p. 3, line 14) contains circle in “recirculation” (003.02).

--- Oconee = okeanos (ocean) + sakana (fish) + oko (eye) + okonie (perches) + …

The Oconee river in Georgia, USA is mentioned on the first page, and it is named numerous times, especially in a repeated form, as in “Ocone! Ocone!” (297.11).

I believe this is how Joyce derived this expression.   In Ulysses, Joyce had Buck Mulligan brag, “Thalatta! Thalatta!” (5) to recreate Sgt. Bouncer’s brag “Rataplan! Rataplan!” from Cox and Box (Tanaka).   Then, on the last page of Ulysses, Joyce had Molly say “O that awful deepdown torrent O and the sea the sea” (783).  (Ulysses Annotated).   Molly’s line includes (“O d, O d” and) “O sea, O sea”, which resembles “Ocean, Ocean.”   Thus Ulysses was bookended at both ends by two words for sea and ocean (thalassa and okeanos) in modern Greek.

So, of course, FW is bookended similarly:  “(O carina!  O carina!)” (7.3) and “Sea, sea!” (626.7) (not in  The latter part of “O carina” may suggest “marina.”   Numerous other variations of “O sea, O sea” appear in between.  None of the following examples is linked to “O sea, O sea” in   “Assaye, assaye!” (8.26),   “(Dare!  O dare!)” (22.23),  “O Mar- gareena!  O Margareena!” (164.19-),  “O’Shea or O’Shame” (182.30),  “O hce! O hce!” (291.F01),   “Ocone! Ocone!” (297.11),  “O.K.  Omnius Kollidimus.” (299.8-),  “O dee, O dee” (299.21),  “O gué, O gué!” (332.18),   “(Oh sard! ah Mah!)” (365.35),   “lo (whish, O whish!)” (407.11),   “Ser Oh Ser!  See ah See!” (499.10-),  “Usque! Usque!” (499.31),  “O, I see and see!” (563.19),  “(O Sheem!  O Shaam!)” (580.18).   In “Ostia, lift it! Lift at it, Ostia! From the say! Away from the say!” (371.9), “Ostia” may combine “O see” and “Lucia”.  “(oonagh! oonagh!)”  (064.08) suggests Jp unagi (an eel) (not in

Other variations involve “yeh” and “yes”, etc.  “O me and O ye!” (101.35) may suggest French mer (sea) and Chinese yang (sea, 洋) and yu (yü, fish, 魚).  “O me” may refer to oumi (近江, 淡海, Jp. “fresh-water lake, Biwa Lake”), ome (お目, Jp. honorific O + “eye(s)”), or umi (海, Jp. “sea”).  “O ye” may refer to oe (Jp 大江), which in Chinese means the Yangtze River.  (Oe is a common family name.  None of the following examples is linked to “O sea, O sea” in  “Oyeh! Oyeh!” (085.31),  “O me and O ye!” (101.35),  “Oyessoyess!” (488.19),  “ooah, oyir, oyir, oyir” (553.04),  “O yes! O yes!” (585.26).   The last item recalls the closing pages of Ulysses.   (None of this is in

The word “meme” appears 4 times (527.03, 21, 24, 528.10) suggesting mimesis, mimetic, French mer (sea) and même (same, self), Issy’s repetition “me, me” or “my, my”, and omeme (お目目, Jp. honorific O + “eye(s)” in baby-talk).   The word “meme” is usually considered to be coined in the 1970s (, but “mememormee!” (628.14) (memory, Remember me!) shows that Joyce’s use carries similar overtones as the current usage.

Other associations about Oconee that appealed to Joyce were Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer, and Peter Sawyer who founded Dublin, Georgia on the Oconee river:  “O’Connee weds on Alta Mahar” (549.28).  (Dublin, Georgia, USA, is on the Oconee river, a tributary of the Altamaha river (McHugh).  Anglo-Irish/Hiberno-English  ochone:  Irish ochón: alas  (McHugh’s annotation on 297.11)

“Oconee” also resembles Greek words on households and family finance:  oikos (house), oikogeneia (family), oikonomia (economy, finances, saving), and oikonomo (verb, to “save”, oikonomew?).  To say “Oikonomo!  Oikonomo!” is perhaps an admonition to save money.

More significantly, “Oconee” for Joyce probably contained Sakana, “fish” in Japanese.  (not in   Polish words for fish and eye may be suggested:  okon (a perch), okonie (perches), and oko (an eye).  (Notes for 003.07 and 297.11 in Katarzyna Bazarnik, “List of Polish elements in Finnegans Wake”  Abiko Annual with James Joyce Finnegans Wake Studies, Vol. 20, Summer 2000.)  Moreover, “lo (whish, O whish!)” (407.11) seems to combine the sound of waves and “fish”.   Polish oko (an eye) suggests that “Ocone! Ocone!” (297.11) represents two eyes (‘i's) of Lucia (Iris, Isis) and twin Issys.   Ai (愛) is “(to) love” in Chinese and Japanese, as McHugh notes on “love ay loved have I” (279.F10) and “Aiaiaiai” (293.23).

  Thus, each occurrence of the variations of “Ocone! Ocone!” (297.11) invoked the silver fish (Lucia) and Jesus fish that Joyce tried to put into every page.

Possible Japanese words suggested by “Oconee” include:  okoze (stingfish), oko (fool, used in the 19th century and earlier), oko ne!  (“You fool!”), okonai (behavior, pronounced okonee in dialect), okunai (indoors), okune (deep-root), okunen (obsessions), oh-kini (“Thank you”, dialect), etc.  Regarding the last item, see “(Obbligado!)” (464.02), Portuguese obrigado: thank you.   Or Hakone, a tourist attraction famous for parks and hot springs.  A famous 1901 song “Hakone hachiri” compares snaking Hakone mountain roads to sheep intestines.  Paintings by Hokusai and Hiroshige (all the rage among the impressionists in Paris) show Mt. Fuji over the Hakone Lake.

“--- Hoke! --- Hoke! --- Hoke! --- Hoke!” (552.31-) was recognized as a group-hiccup by Finn Fordham (Lots of Fun at Finnegans Wake, 2007, p. 176) (not in   Searching by shows 15 hiccups between “jiccup!” (4.11) and “heacups” (616.23), but none are linked to a variation of “O sea, O sea” discussed in this section.   The French word for hiccup is “hoquet,” and an inebriation-related hiccup is often duplicated in written text, as in:  “O hce! O hce!” (291.F01),  “O.K.  Omnius Kollidimus.” (299.8-),  “O gué, O gué!” (332.18),  “Usque! Usque!” (499.31), ... . 

“O hce! O hce!” (291.F01), “(O carina!  O carina!)” (7.3), etc. may be related to “Hosanna” (the cry of adoration at Jesus on his entry into Jerusalem, see below), which in French would begin with the silent [h].

--- More interpretations of the footnote 3

“3  Pure chingchong idiotism with any way words all in one soluble.  Gee each owe tea eye smells fish.  That’s U.”   McHugh and provides the following annotations to the footnote 3 on FW 299.  Millington: English as She is Spoke includes a section headed “Idiotisms and Proverbs”.  All Chinese words have one syllable.  Dutch U: you, and Chinese (yu) yü: fish.

“Pure chingchong idiotism” may be a paraphrase of Nora’s description of FW:  “that chop suey he’s writing.” (JJ 710).

Soluble Fish (Poisson Soluble) was André Breton’s book title and the name for the automatic writing in the Surrealist movement of the early 1920s.  FW has aspects of automatic writing.

One can imagine a Chinese restaurant scene from an American movie, with a sing-song utterance by a Chinese waiter:  “Gee!  Each owe tea!  Eye smells fish!”  The last sentence could be an uneducated “hick” (or broken-English) variant of “I smell fish.”  This evokes another broken-English utterance, “Vely lovely entilely!” (299.25) using Ls for Rs.

A Chinese character typically contains components, called “radicals.”  That is, words and meanings are “soluble” in a Chinese character (Paré).   An example of this “any way words all in one soluble” appears in “yangsheep-” (299.25), which McHugh annotates as “Chinese yang: sheep; foreign.”   (Sheep may have been evoked by “goat” (GHOT).)  “Yang” can be a reading for the character sheep (羊) as well as the character for ocean, western, or foreign (洋), which combines the water radical (the three strokes on the left) and a “sheep” on the right.   “yangsheep-” is also a reference to the Yangtze River.  “From the Ming dynasty, the name was sometimes written 洋子 (yángzĭ).”   “tsifengtse” (299.26) is probably a river name or a description of a river.

Thomas Burkdall (49-50) suggests that Joyce’s interest in the Japanese-Chinese symbols (which Joyce called “letterwords”) influenced his use of the sigla.   Dr. Carola Giedion-Welcker’s recollection of her “Meeting with Joyce”:   “When the Japanese edition of Ulysses appeared in 1932, he [Joyce] showed it to me with special interest.  He believed that, because the Japanese mentality was used to an indirect and fragmentary symbol language and also because their form of poetic expression was close to his, they were well prepared for his way of thinking and writing.”  (Potts 266). 

“Gee” can be a reference to Geo. Bernard Shaw, whose name allows a triple monosyllabic pronunciation:  G. B. Shaw.

The “gheist”  (299.14) combines the German “Geist” (spirit) with GHOST, which is similar to GHOTI.

 “GHOTI spells fish.”  The first word can be read as GYO-TI, and GYO is a Japanese reading of the Chinese character for “fish” (Paré).   Combining GYO and SHI (Japanese reading, the character for “child”) results in the word GYO-SHI (魚子).  This combined term can be read as (in Japanese and Chinese hybrid reading) GYO-TZU or GYO-ZI (two notations with the same pronunciation).   The Chinese and Japanese meaning of the word can be “fish-child” (young fish) or possibly just “fish” because the “child” character seems to be a generic noun-maker.   It is the last character in names of ancient philosophers (孔夫子、孔子、老子、孟子、荘子) --- Confucius (pinyin: Kong Fuzi or Kong zi, Wade-Giles: Kung-fu-tzu, or Kung-tzu), Lao tzu (Laozi), Mencius (Meng Zi, Meng Tzu), Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu), etc.   And more pertinently the “child” character is added to make common nouns (包子、餃子、帽子、椅子、卓子、扇子) --- steamed dumpling (Pao tzu, Pao zi), fried pot-stickers, hat, chair, table, fan, etc.

As “tea” (T) is a keyword in FW, so is H (“each”) of HCE.  HOT (“each owe tea”) is like “Hoc,” the first word of “Hoc Est …” (see Section [4]).

Afflicted eye of Joyce may have produced some smell at some point (“eye smells fish”).

Joyce’s unnatural gait must have given him foot-corns.  Joyce may have been aware that such a callus is called a “fish eye” (魚の目, uo no me) in Japanese:  “IWO-NO-ME, n. A fish’s eye ; a corn on the foot.” (James Curtis Hepburn,  A Japanese-English and English-Japanese dictionary, Z.P. Maruya & Co., 1897, p. 215).   It is so-called also in Malay:  “Mata ikan:  a wart. [Lit. a fish’s eye.]” (Frank Athelstane Swettenham,  A Vocabulary of the English and Malay Languages, W. B. Whittingham & co., 1887, p. 63).  It is also named after a bird-eye in French and Japanese.

The word “owe” resembles “ewe” (female sheep)  --- “That’s U.”  Another sheep on the page is “Hammel-” (299.22), which in German means sheep or wether (castrated ram).

“GHOTI spells fish.”  (smells fish).   This perhaps refers to a man’s goatee (Paré).  Goat is spelled “ghoat” at 51.13 and 81.30 (Clive Hart, Structure and motif in Finnegans wake, 1962, p. 225) and at 51.15.   No linguistic stunt would be too cunning for Joyce.  A man’s goatee smelling of fish soup recalls the old song that, like FW, goes on repeating forever:   “There once was a man named Michael Finnegan, / he had whiskers on his chin-i-gan, / shaved them off and they grew in-i-gan, / poor old Michael Finnegan, begin-i-gan.”

 “That’s U.” may be a reference to a page in Ulysses, e.g., “God becomes man becomes fish becomes barnacle goose becomes featherbed mountain.” (U 50).

Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable suggests additional interpretations.  “It smells of the lamp. --- Said of a literary composition that bears manifest signs of midnight study;  one that is over-labored.  In Latin, olet lucernam.”   Joyce may be making fun of his own work, as smelling “fishy” or smelling of the lamp-lamb-ewe (“That’s U.”).  The verb, to “lamb” is for a ewe to give birth.

“Tis jest jibberweek’s joke.” (FW 565.14).  If Joyce is making fun of his own work, he is “crying stinking fish.”   Brewer’s:  “To cry stinking fish.  --- To belittle one’s own endeavours, offerings, etc.  ‘To cry’ here is to offer for sale by shouting one’s wares in the street.”

  Brewer’s:  “Eye-wash. --- In colloquial usage means bunkum, humbug; something to blind one to the real state of affairs.”  (watered-down or ineffective liquor).

--- The footnote 3 in context:  Book II, Chapter 2, “Night Lessons”

The footnote 3 annotates the name “Selvertunes O’Haggans,” (299.23) which is a reference to “silvertongued O’Hagan” (Ulysses 7.707, p. 138), or Thomas O’Hagan, Lord Chancellor of Ireland (McHugh).   Three lines previously in Ulysses appears “the hook and eye department” --- which suggests fishing.   Joyce must have associated “silvertongued O’Hagan” (silver, G (from Ag), O, and H) with silver nitrate (AgNO3) and GHOTI.   “Eye” is pronounced the same as “Ei” (egg in German), with “owe” hinting “roe” (fish eggs).  Big eggs of salmon roe resemble eye-balls.  “That’s U.” --- The plural “yeux” (eyes in French) is pronounced “U” (yü), the vowel of which is the sound of “oeufs” (eggs in French).

“Selvertunes” encodes “Selber Töne” (“self tones” in German), the self-descriptive spelling advocated by Shaw.

 “Selvertunes” encodes “Selber tue” which is a part of the German expression, “Tu, was ich dir sage, und nicht, was ich selber tue!” (Do what I say, not what I do.)  --- Joyce’s way of poking fun at Thomas O’Hagan, whose reputation in Ireland was mixed because he seemed to benefit from what was regarded as a pro-English stance. (Ulysses Annotated).

Martha Fodaski Black provides more background.  G. B. Shaw in his correspondence with Ezra Pound over Ulysses had criticized Joyce’s preoccupation with sex and art for their own sake.  In Shaw’s Back to Methuselah (1921) Strephon (inspired by Stephen of Portrait) tells the Ancient, “You old fish!  I believe you don’t know the difference between a man and woman”.   This may have inspired Dolph (Shem) to show Kev (Shaun), “a Shaw clone, what is under ALP’s skirts” (Black, 281) or “the maidsapron of our A.L.P.” (297.11).

The footnote 3 annotates this sentence:  “We like Simperspreach Hammel- tones to fellow Selvertunes O’Haggans.” (299.22-).  McHugh notes:  “William Gerard ‘Single Speech’ Hamilton: Irish M.P.; made brilliant maiden speech; said never to have spoken again.   German Hammel: sheep, wether.  Rowan Hamilton: mathematician.”  The sentence means that we prefer the ‘single speech’ Hamilton to silver-tongued O’Hagan.  Or that we want the simple-speech (simpel-Sprach) sheep sounds to follow  “Selber tue” or “Selber Töne” (described earlier).

The page 299 is in FW, Book II, Chapter 2, which Joyce referred to in his letters as “Night Lessons.”  The footnote 3 relates and illuminates the rest of Book II, Chapter 2, “perhaps the most difficult in the book.” (Campbell and Robinson) as follows.

  This chapter describes the study period of the children:  Dolph (Shem), Kev (Shaun), and their sister (Issy).   In a July 1939 letter to Frank Budgen, Joyce explained the format of the chapter:  “[T]he technique here is a reproduction of a schoolboy’s (and schoolgirl’s) old classbook complete with marginalia by the twins, who change sides at half time, and footnotes by the girl (who doesn’t), a Euclid diagram, funny drawings, etc.” (Letters I. 405-6)

While lessons on liberal arts subjects (Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric, Arithmetic, Music, Geometry, Astronomy, …) go on in the body text, various, often-joking comments are inserted in the right and left margins and in the footnotes.

Much of Page 298 is about mathematics, enclosed between “Quef!” (298.5) (Q.E.F. appears after problems in Euclid) and “Qued?” (299.3) or Q.E.D.  Thereafter begins a section on political history on Page 299.  Oliver Cromwell, “Selvertunes O’Haggans,” (299.23) or Thomas O’Hagan, Lord Chancellor of Ireland, etc.

Of the many sexual references, the most visually striking is the “Euclid diagram” on Page 293.  “Dolph uses a geometrical configuration of triangles and circles (FW 293) to elucidate for Kev the geometry of their mother’s (ALP’s) vagina.”  (Fargnoli, 132).   Dolph uses this “Euclid diagram” figure to instruct Kev on ALP’s womb:  “I’ll make you to see figuratleavely the whome of your eternal geomater.” (296.31--).   On Page 299, Kev (Shaun) finally understands the sexual meaning of Dolph’s (Shem’s) sex-education.  Then on next page, the boys start fighting:  “SICK US A SOCK  […]  FOR THE SAKE OF OUR DARNING WIVES.”  (“Sing us a Song of Zion” from Psalm 137 is not in   The two boys boxing for the sake of their wives is reminiscent of Box and Cox’s fist-fight over their intended wife (see Tanaka).

The footnote 3 appears is in the context of this extra-curricular sex education:  “Salmonson” (297.03), Finn eating the salmon of wisdom, salmon that swims upstream, and the boys eyeing and “gaping up the” (299.13) Euclid figure.   The footnote 3 is triggered by “silver” of silvertongued O’Hagan --- and silver fish, silver tune, silver lightening, quicksilver, Himmel tones (thunder).

--- The footnote 4 in context:  “a lozenge to me all my lauffe.”

The line “it will be a lozenge to me all my lauffe.” (299.28-9) is annotated by the footnote 4:  “4  The Doodles family, E, D, I, X, O, V, C. Hoodle doodle, fam.?”

On Page 299, Kev (Shaun) finally understands the sexual meaning of Dolph’s (Shem’s) sex-education, and the grateful Kev (Shaw-Shaun) exclaims, “it will be a lozenge to me all my lauffe.” (299.28-9).   The basic meaning of the line is the grateful Kev (Shaw-Shaun) exclaiming,  “it will be a lesson to me all my life.”   McHugh’s annotation provides:  “German laufen: to run / laugh / Liffey river.”

Lozenge is (3rd definition) “3: a small usually sweetened and flavored medicated material that is designed to be held in the mouth for slow dissolution; especially : one that contains a demulcent [sore throat lozenges] --- called also pastille, troche” (  And the name “lozenge” was used in this sense in the 19th century.  A cough drop would help Kev in all his laugh.

(Gordon notes in Notes on Issy (p. 7) that Joyce associated Issy with a trochee (stressed-unstressed metrical foot).  Issy (silver fish) in the footnote 3 may have prompted lozenge for the next footnote, because a troche is a small medicated lozenge.)

The German verb lotsen is to pilot, or to guide a ship.  The noun der Lotse (plural Lotsen) means pilot.  The German verb laufen means to go by car, ship, airplane, etc.   So Kev is saying, “it will be a guiding pilot to me [in] all my ship-travel” on the Liffey river.

Lozenge is also a rhombus:  (1st definition)  “1: a figure with four equal sides and two acute and two obtuse angles : diamond”  (   The diamond shape likely reminded Joyce of the sigla, and of the central diamond in the Euclid diagram on Page 293, which is inside the intersection of the two circles or the vesica piscis (bladder of fish).  (About vesica piscis, see McHugh “Sigla” 68.)

These associations, together with BER-BER and the silver fish of the footnote 3, likely prompted Joyce and Issy the Jesus fish of footnote 4:  “4  The Doodles family, E, D, I, X, O, V, C. Hoodle doodle, fam.?” 

McHugh provides for “Doodles”: “Dutch dood: death; dead, and Dedalus.”  Sigla are doodle signs. 

The etymology of doodle is interesting:   [doodle (v.)  “scrawl aimlessly,” 1937, from dial. doodle, dudle “fritter away time, trifle.”  It was a noun meaning “simple fellow” from 1628.  Doodle-bug “type of beetle or larvae” is c.1866, Southern U.S. dialect;]  (

[One popular derivation of the word “doodle” is from the Scotch word double, used in the same sense as the German dudeln, the slang word for playing music.  […]  The Germans also use the word Dudel-Sack for bagpipe, and as the latter is also known in the English language as doodle-sack,  … .]  (Report on “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “Hail Columbia,” “America,” “Yankee Doodle” by Oscar George Theodore Sonneck, 1909)

 “Hoodle doodle, fam.?” suggests many possibilities, none of them singularly definitive.

Speaking of Joyce’s studying Japanese, “Kono sakana wa takai ka? (this fish dear?) Is this fish dear?” (Aston 149) may have contributed to “It’s Phoenix, dear.” (621.01).   Aston mentions iro-iro (Jp, “sundry”) several times.  “Iro’s Irismans” (612.20) may refer to iro-iro suman (Jp, “I am sorry for various things.”).  (None of this is in

 [2]  Sigla origins and Ι Χ Θ Υ Σ (I ch th y s)

In the footnote 4, we see a family gathering under one roof, represented by five sigla for the family members, and two extra sigla.

The phrase “That’s U.” placed directly over the sigla suggests Joyce’s awareness of the Japanese name “U-kanmuri” (U-hat) for the Chinese “roof” radical.   As noted by McHugh, Joyce was aware that the “house” is “pig” under the “roof” radical:  “pig’s cheeks under the sacred rooftree” “House.”  (025.12-15)

“4  The Doodles family, E, D, I, X, O, V, C. Hoodle doodle, fam.?”

Anonymous and undated notes in provide:
[E]  (HCE).  (*E* siglum may derive from E of Everyman or Earwicker) 
[D]  (ALP).  (*A* siglum may derive from delta or pudendum) 
[I]  (Issy).  (*I* siglum may derive from fallen T of Tristan) 
[X]  (the four old men, the four Evangelists, “mamalujo” (Mathew, Mark, Luke, John))
[O]  (the book FW and its title)
[V]  (Shaun).  (*V* siglum may derive from A of Abel or from partial *A*) 
[C]  (Shem).  (*C* siglum may derive from C of Cain or from partial *E*) 

The seven Sigla resemble the Berber script, and “the berberutters” (241.26) suggests “Berber utters, Berber rutters.” (Paré).   (A “rutter” is a horseman or trooper.)   Of the over 200 scripts displayed in The Languages of the World (Kenneth Katzner, Routledge, 1986) as well as in even more comprehensive Sign, Symbol, and Script (Jensen), the best matches for the seven sigla are found in the Berber script and the mirror-katakana (see below).

Numidian and Berber scripts are shown in a combined figure in Jensen (Fig. 118 on Page 155).  In this figure is found each of the seven sigla of the footnote 4 except for [D] (ALP) and [I] (Issy).   [E] (HCE) appears in rotated in all four directions.   The Delta of [D] (ALP) does not appear in the exact form, but various triangles appear, and the three vertical and horizontal lines (discussed below) are included.   The rotated T of [I] (Issy) appears in all directions except for the one in the footnote 4.  Pronunciations of the Numidian and Berber scripts do not offer any elucidations.

Additional support for the Berber theory is that BER-BER (in SilBER and SelBER) connected with “Selvertunes” (299.23) and the footnote 3 may have prompted Joyce the list of sigla in the next footnote.   Moreover, Berber is mentioned twice explicitly (106, 241), and hinted once (310).   “Awake Aweek, Airy Ann and Berber Blut” (106.31).  “The kurds of Copt on the berberutters and their bedaweens!” (241.25-26).   “Selverbergen” (310.04) (Silber Berg)

The most anomalous thing about the list of sigla in footnote 4 is that the boys are out of order, placed at the end.  This can be explained by noting that the last five sigla (I, X, O, V, C) match the Greek letters for the Jesus fish (Ι Χ Θ Υ Σ) (ichthys).  This correspondence also matches the Lucia silver fish in the footnote 3 with the Greek Jesus fish in the footnote 4.

ΙΧΘΥΣ (lowercase: ἰχθύς) (ichthys, ichthus, etc.) is the ancient and classical Greek word for fish.   The Jesus fish is said to derive from as an acronym (backronym) of “Jesous Christos Theou Uios Soter” (“Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour” in Greek) --- Jesous Christos Theou Uios Soter spells Ι Χ Θ Υ Σ (ichthys).  Note the correspondence with “Gee each owe tea eye smells fish.” (G H O T I spells fish).  In the five words spelling “fish”, the first three words of the Greek (Jesous Christos Theou) even sound somewhat like G, H, and O.

When the word is broken up as “ichthys = ich + thy’s”, it illuminates “ichs on the freed brings euchs to”  (299.2).  The German gospels are full of  “(wahrlich) ich sage euch.”

There seems to be no single origin for Joyce’s sigla.  The signs evolved and changed over time, and, like everything else in FW, they are designed to allude to many things at once.  The correspondence with the Greek “Ι Χ Θ Υ Σ” (ichthys) and the following possible origins of the seven sigla signs of the footnote 4 shed light on how they were derived and what they represent.


[E]  (HCE).  “006.32 (four directions of *E*) [036.17] [051.19] [119.17] (similar to Snellen’s optometric table where rows of rotated E’s of decreasing sizes are used for eye tests)”.  (See also McHugh “Sigla” 136.)

The Old Phoenician sign with the phonetic value [h] resembles mirror-image E, and it corresponds to the Archaic (Thera, Melos; rightwd. forms) sign with the phonetic value [e] which resembles E.  This became the Classical alphabet E and modern Greek uppercase E (eta) in Fig. 443 (Jensen 452).  Here, we have conflation of the phonetic values [h] and [e] and the sign “E”, which may have contributed to the name HCE.

The Cretan sign with the phonetic value [h] resembles E, and the Old Semitic sign with the phonetic value [h] resembles mirror-image E in Fig. 226 (Jensen 272). 

In Fig. 222 (Jensen 266), these characters (corresponding to the Old Phoenician E) originated as the “man” (“shout of jubilation” in Hieroglyphic) and became the Hebrew (Square script) sign “He” (Name of letter).  In the Hieroglyphic column of this table, this sign “man” (“shout of jubilation”) is the only item showing a person (other than the sign for “head”).  Thus, Joyce probably saw a table like this, and to him, this row of characters (corresponding to the Old Phoenician E) represented the archetypal “man” (human).

The Syriac (Zebed inscription (512) and Syro-Palestinian) characters with the phonetic value [h] in Fig. 280 (Jensen 316) are like E with the three prongs pointing downward (resembling “M” as in the footnote 4).

The Xp (Chi-Rho) page of the Lindisfarne Gospels contains an “AUTEM” monogram, in which E is combined with M rotated clockwise 90 degrees.

This leaves only one orientation for the sign E with the three prongs pointing upward, as in 006.32.  According to Joyce (Letters I, 254), “This sign in this form means HCE interred in the landscape.” (McHugh “Sigla” 65).  This resembles “山”, the Chinese character for mountain (not in   Joyce wrote in a letter to Miss Weaver in 1927:  “A Chinese student sent me some letterwords I had asked for.  The last one is山 and it means mountain” (Letters I. 250)  (via Burkdall 50, Atherton 227). 

[D] (ALP).   ALP is associated with the Delta triangle and the number 3.   ALP’s children are numbered as (in Roman numerals) III and (in Arabic) 111 --- which number may give ALP her name, since as Fritz Senn (A Wake Newslitter, III/2, April 1966, p. 47) points out, Joyce knew that three parallel vertical strokes mean ‘plurality’ (as in ‘Plurability’) in Egyptian hieroglyphics (Gordon 23).  A sample text in Egyptian hieroglyphics is “followed by three vertical lines to convey the idea of plurality.”  (John DeFrancis, The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy, University of Hawaii Press, 1984, p. 162).

Three vertical strokes make “川”, the Chinese/Japanese character for river.  Three horizontal lines make “三”, the Chinese/Japanese character for three, whose Japanese reading is “san” --- a reading for the character mountain “山” (not in  An “alp” is a mountain.  [alp (noun) (Etymology: back-formation from Alps, mountain system of Europe) (Date: 15th century) --- a high rugged mountain] (

[I]  (Issy).    Joyce may have added the horizontal prong to distinguish it from 1, I, l, etc.   One Cursive Punic character with the Iberian phonetic value [i] in Fig. 248 (Jensen 291) has a horizontal prong resembling the [I] siglum in the footnote 4.  The Cherokee sign with the phonetic value [i] in Fig. 201 (Jensen 242) has is “T”.   The  Japanese “以” [i] (from which hiragana “い” [i] was derived) contains two Issy sigla, as does the Japanese katakana “イ” [i].  (More on these characters below.)

Alchemists including Newton used a symbol for mercury called “two serpents”.  The symbol represents two mirror-symmetric snakes coiled around a staff  (James Gleick, Isaac Newton, 2004, p. 101, 219 n.10), which may have inspired the sigla for [I] and mirror [I].  (See or .)

[X] (mamalujo).   The [X] siglum (with its four prongs) represent the four old men, the four Evangelists, “mamalujo” --- Mathew, Mark, Luke, John.   In the various figures in Jensen, the signs resembling X have the phonetic value [t] and became the modern letters T and t.

[O]  (the book FW and its title)   The square (rectangular) siglum may represent the shape of the book, but it primarily represents the house.   In Fig. 222 (Jensen 266) reproducing Grimme’s work, many of the signs for “house” (pictorial value) resemble the square siglum.  This is true in several scripts from Sinai 345 to Sinai 357.   These signs became the Hebrew (column, “Square script”) sign “Beth I” (Name of letter), corresponding to the Hebrew word bet (house) and the second letter in the Hebrew alphabet.

This makes sense because FW is a story of the HCE and ALP household and what happens in that house.   In Joyce’s notebooks the siglum is identified as “their house”, “Old House”, “workhouse”, “poorhouse”, etc. (McHugh “Sigla” 114, 133).

Joyce studied the square “mouth” character (口) in his notebook (Mikio Fuse).  Cf. “mouthspeech” (484.02).   The square “enclosure” radical signifies a building or house.  囚: Enclosed person means imprison or prisoner (qiu in Chinese, torawaru in Jp.).  困: Enclosed tree means hard pressed or troubled (kun in Chinese, komaru in Jp.).

The FW mandala siglum (a cross within a circle, denoted as $XO by Henkes & Bindervoet) appears in several of the tables mentioned in this section.   McHugh (“Sigla” 121) considers the square and mandala sigla to each represent the physical and abstract-spiritual aspects of FW.   In the Old Phoenician table, Fig. 443 (Jensen 452), these mandala signs correspond to the Greek Theta.  The same exact sign is in the Cretan and Old Semitic scripts in Fig. 226 (Jensen 272).   Note that this siglum (as Theta) matches its position (the position of the square siglum in the footnote 4) in the Greek “Ι Χ Θ Υ Σ” (ichthys).

[3]  Issy (Lucia) = Iesu (Jesus)


There are more correspondences between the sigla “I, X, O, V, C” and the Greek “Ι Χ Θ Υ Σ” (ichthys), “Jesous Christos Theou Uios Soter” (“Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour” in Greek).
[I]  “Issy” resembles Latin Iesu for Jesus.
[X]  The four Evangelists are linked to Christ.
[O]  The FW mandala siglum correspond in meaning to “Theou” or god.
[V]  Shaun is the primary son, the better of the twins.
[C]  The sound and shape of the siglum [C] (Shem) fit the last Sigma.

I’ve already noted that Joyce’s association of the silver fish (Lucia) and the Jesus fish in the footnotes 3 and 4, and will now explore the possible identification of Issy (Lucia) and Jesus.

---  Schema entry for Issy [I],  Visigothi = Vision + ghoti (fish)

Here are entries in a possible FW schema for [I] Issy.

Body part:  feet, (mouth), eyes. 
(The FW schema by Henkes & Bindervoet indicates,  “Body part: the body”.)   Issy is closely related to the feet (dancing, footnote), and possibly the mouth (lisping).  As noted earlier, Gordon (80) points out Issy’s (and Lucia’s) connection to the eyes.   St. Lucia is the patron saint of light, vision, and the blind.  Issy is associated with double ‘i’s:  Iris, Isis, … .   Gordon (81) also notes the biographical coincidences to support the associations:  e.g., Lucia was born in 1907, when Joyce was in hospital with the “rheumatic fever” initiating his lifelong history of eye afflictions.   Joyce probably thought of Lucia as his guarding savior of his eyes.

Color:  silver, green, rainbow.
(Henkes & Bindervoet indicate,  Color: “quicksilver, heliotrope” --- the latter is white or reddish purple.)   Lucia is the silver fish, and the silver may also come from mercury (as medicine, and as “mercurial temper”).   Gordon (31) notes that Joyce wrote in a letter that Germans call glaucoma (which Joyce and Bloom had) “green blindness”.  (glaucous (adj.) Of a pale grayish or bluish green.)  Gordon (80) also notes that an early symptom of glaucoma is seeing rainbow colors around lamps and other light sources --- hence the rainbow colors in FW.

Issy has a mirror-image reflection through the silver mirror, and refracts into the rainbow girls. (See McHugh “Sigla” Chapter 4.)  The siglum of the rainbow girls is an oval, shaped like an eye.  (“The leap year girls” denoted as $I.29 by Henkes & Bindervoet)

Animal:  fish, cat (kitten).
(Henkes & Bindervoet indicate, “Animal: puss”.)   There’s a cat (?) with green eyes in “Proteus”:  “Green eyes, I see you.” (U 43).  Malone identifies the green-eyed cat in “Calypso” as Athena glaukopis, the radiant goddess of wisdom who sets the narrative of the Odyssey in motion.  (Stephen Malone, “CATSNIPPETS”  Abiko Annual with James Joyce Finnegans Wake Studies, Vol. 20, Summer 2000.)  Perhaps Joyce had the pun “Glauco-puss” in mind.

“oystrygods gaggin fishy- gods!”  (004.01).  Ostrogoths were beaten by Visigoths in the year 451.  These are (shell) fish version of Ostragothi against (German gegen) Visigothi in Latin.  (Godfrey Tanner “Classical language references in FW: a philological commentary with versions”,  A Wake Newslitter, III/2, Apr. 1966, p. 37-9).  McHugh:  “the fishgods of Dundrum” (U 13)   Vision-fish link is reinforced by the folk wisdom that eating fish and fish (cod liver) oil helps eyesight.   “Visi-god” would be another name for St. Lucia.

The “gaggin” also suggests gagging and gaggle (, and partially explains why the name O’Hagan was changed into “O’Haggans,” (299.23).  “Hammel- tones to fellow Selvertunes” (299.22-) suggests thunderclaps to follow silver bolt of lightning, as in “himmeltones or the quicksilversong” (138.01-) (German Himmel means “heaven”).

Issy’s duplication in the mirror-image inversion can be best explained by the name given to Lucia at birth.   Joyce had decided on the name Lucia at least two years before her birth (July 26, 1907), which fell on St. Anne’s day, so Joyce named her “Lucia Anna” (JJ 262).   But the names were registered as “Anna Lucia”, an inversion that persisted for many years (Maddox 82), which also explains Issy (“Anna Lucia”) merging with Anna Livia.

Joyce’s great-grandmother was named Ann McAnn --- Ann daughter of Ann (Kenner 284).  The equation of mother and daughter likely prompted Joyce to think of “Ann” as a name for female Jesus.  Anne was the name of Nora’s mother (JJ 262), and “Anna Lucia” was born on St. Anne’s day, solidifying in Joyce the notion of Anna as the recurring, archetypal female.   (Joyce’s associations of Jesus-Ann and Jesus-Doyle (Tanaka) explain the name “Ann Doyle” (575.06).)

---  Trinity of Issy:  以, い, イ --- the iroha-uta (イロハ)

At the end of FW, ALP seems to merge with Issy.   The last page begins, “sad and weary I go back to you, my cold father, my cold mad  father, my cold mad feary father” (628.01-), which seems more like Issy speaking than her mother, ALP.   Anna Livia has merged with (Issy) Lucia Anna.   ALP, with the surname Plurabelle, represented the rainbow girls from the beginning.   At the end of FW, three stages of womanhood --- young girl, mother, and old woman --- all merge.

The doctrine of Trinity states the unity of the Father, the Son (incarnate as Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit.   ALP (the Mother) merges with Issy (the Daughter), who as Lucia is silver fish, ichthys, and is also St. Lucia (visi-god, fishygod), Greek Iris, and Egyptian Isis.    Lucia Anna shares the surname “Joyce” with her father, who took note of its similarity with “Jesus” especially as JJ (Joking Jesus).

以 [i] became the hiragana い [i].  --- Note also, katakana イ [i].

As noted earlier, the Japanese (Chinese) character “以” [i] (from which the phonetic hiragana “い” [i] was derived) contains two components resembling the Issy siglum, as does the Japanese phonetic katakana “イ” [i].   Two Issy sigla (left and right) each of which is [i] (with the central rainbow dot --- iris or pupil) making up the character “以” [i], which became the hiragana “い” [i] --- all of this is reminiscent of the Christian trinity.  See and and related entries.

The Issy’s [I] siglum with its mirror siglum together make a cross (of Jesus), as well as “H” of the father (HCE).

[i] is the first character in iroha-uta (i-ro-ha song, 以呂波歌), the Japanese syllabic (alphabetic) ordering at Joyce’s  time.   The iroha-uta, the classic Japanese pangram from the Heian era (794–1179), is a perfect poem, both in form and content.  The four 7-5 syllable lines contain each character of the Japanese syllabary exactly once, and express lamentation on the transitory and ephemeral nature of the visible world, a typical theme for poems from the period.   The iroha-ordering was gradually replaced by the modern aiueo ordering in the 20th century.   See

コ ヘ ロ メ ト -- マム ヨ
Japanese katakana:   コ(ko) ヘ(he) ロ(ro) メ(me) ト(to) -- マ(ma)ム(mu) ヨ(yo)
The first letters of the iroha-uta (イロハニホヘト) include characters resembling the sigla, especially in mirror-image, as in opening sequence of the film The Matrix.  In the above list, the two letters (マ(ma), ム(mu)) corresponding to ALP’s Delta siglum sound like “mom”.

The first and last lines of the poem must have especially appealed to Joyce;  they contain iro (color) and yume (dream) used in FW:  “Iro’s Irismans ruinboon” (612.20), “Yoruyume” (night-dream) (231.10).

“iro ha nihoheto,  chirinuru wo  /  wakayo tareso,  tsune naramu  /
uwi no okuyama kefu koete  /  asaki yume mishi,  wehi mo sesu”

(Colors [of flowers] smell, but wither away.
My world and everyone is ever-changing.
Today  [I have]  travelled over the deep mountain of transitory existence.
[I] saw a shallow dream, which did not intoxicate [me].)

This seems like a good thematic summary of the entire FW.   The second line (“My world is ever-changing.”) may have influenced Joyce’s interest in the Japanese first person indicated in “Washywatchywataywatashy! Oirasesheorebukujibun! Wata- cooshy” (484.26-), and the third line about the mountain may have inspired the picnic in the closing pages:  “Scale the summit!”  (624.11)

---  FW ’s end, Jesus’s end

Even if Lucia didn’t have syphilis (Shloss 276), Joyce always feared that he gave it to her (Ferris 125-6).  Joyce believed that Lucia’s problems were somehow inherited from him.  In 1934 he wrote, “Whatever spark or gift I possess has been transmitted to Lucia and it has kindled a fire in her brain.” (Shloss 7).  For Joyce, Lucia became a metaphorical martyr who suffers for the sin of her father, or for the sin of others.  “For all their faults. I am passing out. O bitter ending!” (628.34-), which echoes Jesus’s “why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).

I believe that FW contains a running parallel between Issy (Lucia) and the life of Jesus.

What the father (HCE, JJ) did to cause the birth of Issy, or “ruinboon” (612.20) (rainbow, reign-born, ruin-boon, felix culpa (reign-born and felix culpa are not in, he would do again and “may again when the fiery bird disembers” --- which, according to Gordon (87-8), indicates May in December (fiery summer in winter), as well as an explicit connection of  Issy’s creation and the figure of Christ-as-phoenix.   Association of May and December may be inspired by Joyce’s association of Conan Doyle’s birthday (May 22) and Christmas (Tanaka).   Gordon (88) also notes the association of St. Lucia’s Day to Christmas, and for Issy’s association with Christmas carols, cites Mabel P. Worthington in Fritz Senn, ed. New Light on Joyce, Bloomington, 1972, p. 171. 

Lucia was born in a pauper’s hospital, and when Nora and the baby was leaving the hospital to go home, the hospital gave Nora twenty crowns in charity (Maddox 83), further identifying Lucia’s birth to that of Jesus.

About “Mattahah! Marahah! Luahah! Joahanahanahana!” (554.10), McHugh notes the four Evangelists (mamalujo) and “Czech hana: shame”. adds “Shame! Thrice shame!” (618.10), “Irish lua: a kick.  Hannahannas: goddess in Sumerian myth of Telepinus”. 

花  ( 華 )  hana  (flower in Japanese)  ---  Twin Issys wearing a crown of thorns

The repeated “hana” in Joahanahanahana!” (554.10) is the Japanese word for flower. (Dominique Paré’s posting to the [] mailing list, no date).   The kanji characters (花,華, also shown above) contain various crosses.   The lower part of the Japanese “花” [hana, ka] is “化” [bakeru, ka] which means to change, as in “mercurial” or mercury in alchemy.  It (化) consists of two Issy [I] sigla.  The upper part, the “plant” radical, is called Jp kusa-kanmuri (plant-crown, or grass-hat).   The character (花) shows twin Issys wearing a crown of thorns.

“Joahanahanahana!” (554.10) refers to “Hosanna” (the same posting by Paré, no date).  “Hosanna” is the cry of praise or adoration shouted in recognition of the Messiahship of Jesus on his entry into Jerusalem. .   The three shouts of “Hosanna” has been customary in the Mormon church since its early days (Rudger Clawson, Stan Larson, Prisoner for Polygamy, 1993, p. 135).   Stephen says, “Say the following talisman three times with hands folded” (U 242), associating three times with palm.   The cry of “Hosanna” is usually associated with Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter.   Palm Sunday is marked by the distribution of palm leaves, boughs of box, yew, willow or other native trees. .   Joyce may have associated palm branches and flower with the Japanese hana.  (None of this is in

For the closing pages, these references to the Gospels are noted by McHugh:
“Pax Goodmens will.” (621.35)  --- Luke 2:14: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men’.
“Ceremonialness to stand lowest place be!” (623.130) --- (Christ's advice to the wedding guest to take the lowest place (Luke 14:10)).
“I'd die down over his feet, humbly dumbly, only to washup.” (628.11) --- Mary Magdalen washed Christ's feet (Luke 7:38).
“under whitespread wings like he'd come from Arkangels” (628.10) --- Matthew 1:20: ‘angel of the Lord’ (Annunciation:  the announcement by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary of her conception of Christ).

None of the following is noted in

 “Ho hang! Hang ho!” (627.31) may refer to the crowd’s cry of “Crucify him!  Crucify him!” (Matthew 27:22, Mark 15:13).

 (It may be the bells ringing to tell time:  “Heigho! Heigho!” (U 70).
“海航, 航海” (hai hang, hang hai, “Hang High!” --- hang hai means “ship travel” in Chinese.)
Iris of the eye in Japanese is “ 虹彩 ” (literary, “rainbow colors”) and in Chinese is “ 彩虹 ”.  The inversion (Anna Lucia, Lucia Anna) must have appealed to Joyce.  The Chinese reading is cai hong.)

“My leaves have drifted from me. All. But one clings still. I’ll bear it on me.” (628.6-) may refer to the Roman soldiers’ disrobing and then letting Jesus bear his own clothing:  (Matt. 27:28) “And they stripped him, […] (27:31) […] they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.” 

“Scale the summit!” (624.11) may refer to Jesus ascending the hill of Golgotha.

 “Two more. Onetwo moremens more.”  (628.05-) (two more men) may refer to the two thieves (or revolutionaries) crucified with Jesus.

“Whish! A gull. Gulls.” (628.13) ---  “Obsolete gull: the throat; to swallow, (628.06) French avaler: to swallow”.   This may refer to “They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.” (Matt. 27:34), where gall is some bitter, distasteful fluid.

“Save me from those therrble prongs!” (628.05).  McHugh notes Neptune’s treble trident.  The prongs are more closely related to how Jesus on the cross was lanced by a Roman soldier.   Considering Joyce believed he caused Lucia’s suffering, the three-pronged fork (devil’s hayfork) belong less to Neptune than to Joyce and HCE --- hence the three-prongs of [E] siglum.

Finally, I note the last three utterances of Jesus on the cross.

--- “I thirst.” (I am thirsty.) (John 19:28) corresponds to “ithmuthisthy!” (623.10).  “Isthmus” is a narrow strip of land connecting and bridging two larger masses of land.   Here, “ithmuthisthy!” (623.10) connects the last pages to the “isthmus” (3.06) on the first page. 

--- “It is finished” (John 19:30) corresponds to “It’s Phoenix” (621.01).

--- “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46) corresponds to “I go back to you, my cold father” (628.01) and “I rush, my only, into your arms.” (628.04).

The river Liffey, old and weary, nears its end as it reaches the ocean, “the site of salvocean” (623.28).  Exactly when it dies, there is recirculation and resurrection.  “It’s Phoenix, dear.” (621.01).  Thus, FW goes further than T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, by showing us a vision of rebirth.

[4]  Joyce’s puzzle-field to hide his corpse

For 30 years, three questions puzzled me about FW.  Earlier this year, a solution came to me that gave satisfactory answers to all three questions.  This section describes that solution.  But first, here are the three questions and the tentative answers I had maintained to them.

--- 1. (HCE)  What do the initials HCE mean?

The name and initials of HCE puzzled me.   I felt that ALP was intuitive:  Anna seems like a primordial female name, perhaps combining Adam and Eve.  Livia suggests the river Liffey and Labia, and Plurabelle probably signifies plurality (of water, rivers, females, …) and a belle.

But I never understood why Joyce was so fond of “HCE” that he filled the book with “Here Comes Everybody” and “Haveth Childers Everywhere” and countless other variations.  Why these three letters and not the other?  And what is the significance of the name “Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker”?  Guidebooks mentioned the insect “earwig”, but no book or article gave a satisfying answer.

--- 2. (Nothing else)  Why no Hobbit- or CATS-like primer?

Why did Joyce for 17 years work only on FW?  Pound and Stanislaus were not very supportive of Joyce’s “Work in Progress.”   Why didn’t Joyce produce a light-hearted piece, comparable to Tolkien’s Hobbit, an introduction that can ease readers into the world of FW?  Or something like T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, which would have been the “Wakean morsel” I’ve been dreaming about?   Both of these types of work would have enhanced Joyce’s popularity and stature.  It seems that Joyce was determined to put all his energies into the FW and to nothing else, and also to make sure that FW remains inscrutable.

Introductions and primers for FW were quickly written by others, and Joyce fully expected this, so this would be a partial answer, but I never fully understood why Joyce didn’t produce extended versions of the two poems “Buy a book in brown paper …” and “Humptydump Dublin squeaks through his norse,” that introduced and advertised FW.

--- 3. (Too complex)  Why did Joyce overdo it?

The analysis of the footnotes 3 and 4 and the two sentences they annotate in the foregoing sections have been pretty thorough.   Are those far-fetched associations that Joyce never even intended?  Are those interpretations like the answers to the riddle with no intended answer, “Why is a raven like a writing desk?”   Has this been a demonstration of what Umberto Eco calls “hermetic drift” in The Limits of Interpretation (1990) --- the human ability to always find new and additional meanings and associations?  Is FW like a Rorschach test in that what we see are largely in our minds, as Postmodern theorists might suggest?

My answers to the above questions are all in the negative.   Consider that the line “Knightly knock eternally wood he make Finnegans Wake” evokes only a few interpretations.  Joyce intended all these interpretations and probably even more.  With the possible exception of the “Oconee-Hakone” connection (and a few others), I feel that the suggestions in the foregoing sections are plausible ones that Joyce might have considered.

If I can understand the rest of the book as well as I understand the small portions analyzed in this paper, then I’d probably have an adequate understanding of the whole book --- which underlines the enormous complexity of FW.   From Dubliners to Portrait to Ulysses to FW, we find progressively increasing textual and allusive complexity.  It may be partly a natural evolution, but why is FW so complex?  Why did Joyce overdo it?

Martin Gardner (354-5) notes:   “Joyce’s interest in puzzles was almost invisible in Dubliners, […].  It began to surface in his first novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and exploded into monstrous proportions in the wordplay and letter play of Finnegans Wake.”  

After the publication of Ulysses in 1922, a young man working on the French translation of Ulysses asked Joyce for the schema summarizing the structure of the novel.  Joyce refused, and famously commented, “I’ve put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that’s the only way of insuring one’s immortality.” (JJ 521)

The Ulysses schema, kept strictly confidential by those who had access, was finally published with Joyce’s permission in Stuart Gilbert’s James Joyce’s Ulysses (1930).   Joyce assisted Gilbert in the writing and publication of the book, giving it a seal of approval, but when asked about it in 1937 by Nabokov, “A terrible mistake,” said Joyce, “an advertisement for the book. I regret it very much.” (JJ 616).

Joyce wanted various readers of Ulysses to have their own interpretations --- some of them strange and wacky --- and he must have regretted that Gilbert’s book tended to confine the interpretations to academic and erudite ones following Homer’s Odyssey, Dante’s Devine Comedy, etc.   It must have been such an academic focus that kept the connection to the lowly Box and Cox undiscovered for over 80 years (Tanaka).

Another reason for Joyce’s regret is that by 1937 he must have felt that Ulysses was being decoded much more quickly than he expected.  He must have sensed the foreboding signs of the “Joyce industry” springing up.   (Fritz Senn, “The Joyce Industrial Evolution, According to one European Amateur”  Journal of Modern Literature, Volume 22, Number 2, )

In the short story The Red-Headed League, Sherlock Holmes takes one look at the visitor and says, “Beyond the obvious facts that he has at some time done manual labour, that he takes snuff, that he is a Freemason, that he has been in China, and that he has done a considerable amount of writing lately, I can deduce nothing else.”  The astonished visitor asks, “How, in the name of good-fortune, did you know all that, Mr. Holmes?”   But after Holmes explains the steps of his deduction, the visitor laughs:  “I thought at first that you had done something clever, but I see that there was nothing in it, after all.”   “I begin to think, Watson,” said Holmes, “that I make a mistake in explaining.  ‘Omne ignotum pro magnifico’ ”.

It is the inherent nature of puzzles, math problems, and riddles that before they are solved, they seem to contain boundless magic and mystery.   But after the answer is known, the charming aura disappears.   In order to insure his “immortality” Joyce had to make sure that the riddles in his next book are so difficult and voluminous that they will never be exhausted, and that’s why he overdid it with FW --- this was my tentative answer.

And this was the state of my understanding of the FW, regarding the 3 questions, as of January 2008.

--- Ferris and Robinson explain “HCE”

Earlier this year, I finally understood the name HCE (Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker), when I read Kathleen Ferris’s book James Joyce and the Burden of Disease (1995).  According to Ferris (121), the earwig that enters the ear of a sleeping person, penetrating the eardrum and destroying the brain is Joyce’s metaphor of the syphilis “bug” that can cause Neurosyphilis and “General paralysis of the insane.” (U 6).   Then I realized that the name “Earwicker” could be referring to Odysseus who closed the ears of his oarsmen with wax, and also to how Hamlet’s father was killed by hemlock through his ear.

The initials HCE stand for the Latin words of consecration in the Mass, “Hoc Est Enim Corpus Meum” as explained in Henry Morton Robinson’s 1959 paper entitled “Hardest Crux Ever” (Ferris 145).  Contrary to what is commonly believed, Joyce never lost his faith and was church-going all his life, especially during Holy Week (Ferris 11-4).   Bloom stretching out in the bathtub, consecrates his body, saying “This is my body.” (U 86), and Ferris (144-7) argues that every time Joyce writes a variation of HCE, he is pronouncing the words of consecration and that FW is Joyce’s act of confession and contrition.

--- Silver Agenbite of conscience (U),  lightning pain and thunderclap (FW)

The Ayenbite of Inwyt (literally Prick (or Remorse) of Conscience) is a confessional prose work written in a Kentish dialect of Middle English, translated from the French.  

Ulysses contains several explicit references to Agenbite of inwit:   “Agenbite of inwit. Conscience. Yet here’s a spot.” (16) where Stephen links dirt and guilt (Ferris 19).  “a clean handkerchief. Agenbite of inwit.” (17).   (Also 189, 206).  “She is drowning. Agenbite. Save her. Agenbite. […]  Agenbite of inwit.  Inwit’s agenbite.” (243).

FW contains, in addition to “inwiting” (54.35),  many references to a bite, sting, prick, of remorse, conscience, etc. and each suggests a reference to Agenbite of inwit in varying degrees:  “the buzz in his braintree, the tic of his conscience” (180.22), “Prost bitten! Conshy!” (424.09), “Every third man has a chink in his conscience” (486.11),

I believe that Joyce uses the nonstandard spelling Agenbite of inwit because he associated the lightning pains he experienced (Ferris 63) with silver (French argent) bolt of lightning that he feared from childhood (JJ 25).   Lightning represented divine wrath for the sin committed, which Joyce must have feared as much as Stephen of Portrait did, agonizing after hearing Father Arnall’s sermons on death, judgement, and hell.   The word “thunderclap” contains “clap” meaning gonorrhea (Ferris 55, 104), which was a common euphemism for syphilis.

Argent (silver) bite suggested to Joyce an insect bite, and Bloom’s metaphorical bee sting suggests infection with venereal disease (Ferris 121).   While syphilis was merely one of the themes in Ulysses, its significance is much greater in FW, which Ferris calls an “Insectfable.”  In “brontoichthyan” (007.20) we have bronte-ichthys or thunder-fish:  silver-bolt of lightening strikes the sinner as a Christian punishment.  As for insects, a lightning bug is a firefly, and a silverfish is a kind of bookworm, as well as “any of various silvery fishes (as a tarpon or silverside)” (

In 1904, Joyce was likely treated for syphilis with mercury (Ferris 28-32, 74), and Ulysses contains several references to it.  “Poisons the only cures. Remedy where you least expect it. Clever of nature.” (U 84).   “A sinister figure […], a visage unknown, injected with dark mercury.” (U 436). “(A dark mercurialised face appears, leading a veiled figure.)  THE DARK MERCURY:” (U 456).   “Mercurial, Veneral” (U 700).

 Earlier I pointed out the commonality in the talismans of Odysseus, Jefferson Hope (the avenger of the first Sherlock Holmes tale), and Bloom (Tanaka).   Bloom’s potato talisman corresponds to the moly given by Hermes, a gift of Mercury.   Mercury is poisonous and Gift in German (and other languages) means “poison” --- which is used several times in FW

Mercury is also called quicksilver.   The ghost of Hamlet’s father tells how he was killed:  “Ghost:  […]  And in the porches of my ears did pour / The leperous distilment; whose effect / Holds such an enmity with blood of man / That swift as quicksilver it courses through / The natural gates and alleys of the body,” (Hamlet,  I, v).  “And in the porches of their ears I pour.” (U 196).

To sum up the foregoing, the silver fish (Lucia) and Jesus fish filling the pages of FW would have been intimately associated in Joyce’s mind with silver Agenbite of inwit, prick and remorse of conscience, silver-bolt and thunder-clap (via Vico, a prominent FW theme), Himmel-tones and the Hamiltons, lightning and lancinating pains, gift of Hermes, poison of Mercury, insect bite, and the earwig.

--- Conclusion:  Joyce’s confession and our role

FW superimposes many stories of world history and literature, telling them all at the same time.  On the personal level, the main theme of FW is Joyce’s shame, guilt, and suffering from his disease, as well as Lucia’s madness that Joyce feared he caused.

For his next novel after Ulysses, he did not want to write a novel of similar complexity that deals with these personal themes.  For one thing, he wanted to outdo himself and break new ground.  Another reason is that he could not reveal his situation in such an obvious manner; it would have brought too much shame on himself and his family.

He was in a double bind:  he wanted to achieve confession and contrition, but he could not do it in a way that anyone would find out his true intentions --- at least for several decades.  And Joyce found in FW a perfect vehicle to achieve all of these personal and artistic goals.   I find in the convoluted prose of FW the tormented, paradoxical confessions of Hamlet.

In G. K. Chesterton’s short story “The Sign of the Broken Sword” (The Innocence of Father Brown, 1911) appear the following famous observations:

“[…]  the wise man hides a pebble on the beach.”
“[…]  a leaf?  In the forest.”
“If there were no forest, he would make a forest.”
“And if a man had to hide a dead body, he would make a field of dead bodies to hide it in.”

The social stigma that syphilis carried was so obvious that Susan Sontag did not even bother explaining it in Illness as Metaphor (1977).  FW is Joyce’s autobiographical confession, which he deliberately made obscure and impenetrable (Ferris 35-7).   In order to avoid the immediate negative reactions, Joyce made his confession less noticeable by creating a field of puzzles to hide it in.  Joyce hid his confession in plain sight, in the time-release capsule of FW.

This explanation also answers the second and third questions.  Joyce’s suffering was so great that nothing else seemed important enough to write about. He did not want to write a children’s book like Wilde and Eliot did; rather, he chose to incorporate children’s lore material into the FW.  For artistic and personal reasons, he made the time-release capsule of FW extremely complex and primer-less.

And Joyce seemed to have designed the time-capsule just right.  The appearance of Kathleen Ferris’s book in 1995 comes to us at a time when Joyce has been firmly established as the most innovative writer of the 20th century, or perhaps of all time.   The advances in science and medicine have largely eliminated the old, superstitious stigmas about the disease.   The factors such as the early troubles of Ulysses with obscenity laws that made Ellmann over-cautious in his authoritative biography are all things of the past.   In other words, Ferris’s ultimate FW answer book comes to us just when we are finally ready to accept Joyce’s complexity.  Joyce was great not because he was a sanitized saint, but because he wrote to embrace life in all its complexities.   Although the academic community has been slow to accept Ferris’s revelation, I believe that the true appreciation of FW can begin only when we embrace Joyce’s confession.   That is our role as readers in closing the circle of Finnegans Wake.


(A work that is cited only once is usually cited parenthetically within text.)

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Burkdall, Thomas,  Joycean Frames: Film and the Fiction of James Joyce.  Routledge, 2001

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Ferris, Kathleen.  James Joyce and the Burden of Disease  (University Press of Kentucky, 1995).

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Paré, Dominique.      Posting to the [] mailing list,   June 24, 2002.

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Shloss, Carol Loeb.   Lucia Joyce: To Dance in the Wake, 2003. 

Tanaka, Tomoyuki.   “Box and Cox, the Homeric Sherlock Holmes, and Joyce’s Ulysses”   Hypermedia Joyce Studies,  (Feb. 2008).

_______________END --- (C) 2008       Tomoyuki Tanaka      (