“Darktongues”: Fufulde and Hausa in Finnegans Wake

Karl Reisman
(from Journal of Modern Literature, Vol 31, No 2, 2008)

[Abstract] Starting perhaps as early as 1927, but particularly after 1932, using F. W. Taylor’s A Grammar of the Adamawa Dialect of the Fulani Language (1921), and his Fulani-English Dictionary (1932) and its antecedents, Joyce began working Fulfulde and Hausa language and Fulani and Hausa history into passages in Finnegans Wake. This article examines a number of such passages using textual evidence of associations that are greater than chance, with some documentary support. One of these passages is analyzed as a direct claim for the use of Fulfulde based on its co-occurrence with Joyce’s satire on Irish “eclipsis.” There is also a brief examination of his associated use of Chamba/Sama and of his association of the Sama with the Same (Lapp) people (with a pun on “same”).

Among the languages of Finnegans Wake, colonial or spoken by those coming from “the Affrian Way” (497.12), are not only the Pidgins Joyce makes so explicit and the Swahili recognized by Phillip Wolff and later found in Joyce’s notebooks, but also the Creole or creolized languages of Sierra Leone, Jamaica, and other West Indian islands; Bantu languages other than Swahili; echoes of Yoruba and Ashanti of West Africa (made obscure by the syllable structure of those languages); and no doubt several others. More wide ranging is Joyce’s use of Fulfulde, the language of the Fulani, and Hausa, the language of the Hausa Emirates of Northern Nigeria and neighboring states (which is also a vehicular and trade language in wide areas of West Africa and parts of Central Africa). Along with these there appears to be some use of the Adamawa languages of people dependent on the Fulani, such as the Chamba or Sama peoples. It is the presence of Fulani and Hausa, with a brief glance at the Chamba/Sama that I want to examine here.

“And how olld of him? He was intendant to study pulu” (89.29). This appears a fairly clear line, yet no candidate has seriously been put forward for this project of study, particularly none that meets the fairly stringent conditions of “prenanciation” required. So I propose one and follow up its implications for a number of passages in Finnegans Wake.

Let me give the whole passage for my first discussion.

89.11    The gracious miss was
89.12 we not doubt sensible how yellowatty on the forx was altered?
89.13 That she esually was, O’Dowd me not! As to his religion, if
89.14 any? It was the see-you-Sunday sort. Exactly what he meant by
89.15 a pederast prig? Bejacob’s, just a gent who prayed his lent. And
89.16 if middleclassed. portavorous was a usual beast? Bynight as useful
89.17 as a vomit to a shorn man. If he had rognarised dtheir gcourts
89.18 marsheyls? Dthat nday in ndays he had. Lindendelly, coke or
89.19 skilllies spell me gart without a gate? Harlyadrope. The grazing
89.20 rights (Mrs Magistra Martinetta) expired with the expiry of the
89.21 goat’s sire, if they were not mistaken? That he exactly could not
89.22 tell the worshipfuls but his mother-in-waders had the recipis for
89.23 the price of the coffin and that he was there to tell them that
89.24 herself was the velocipede that could tell them kitcat. A maun-
89.25 darin tongue in a pounderin jowl? Father ourder about the
89.26 mathers of prenanciation. Distributary endings? And we recom-
89.27 mends. Quare hircum? No answer. Unde gentium fe . . . ? No ah.
89.28 Are you not danzzling on the age of a vulcano? Siar, I am deed.
89.29 And how olld of him? He was intendant to study pulu.

The people called by the British Fulani or Fula, depending on what part of West Africa they happened to be in, and called Les Peuls by the French, migrated with cattle herds across West Africa starting in Senegal beginning around 1300. Eventually they reached Nigeria and Cameroon. At Sokoto in 1802.Uthman dan Fodio gave flags to his major followers and started a jihad against the rulers of the Hausa states in which they were living, establishing a Fulani empire in the name of a purer Islam. Later they became the main agents of British “indirect rule” in northern Nigeria. The variation in their name between the French and the British versions comes about because the French used the singular form of the name while the British used the plural, and it reflects a process in Fulfulde by which changes in beginning consonants had grammatical meaning, so that the singular form of the name is Pullo and the plural is Fulbe. This use of such beginning sound changes for grammatical purposes is shared by Fulfulde (the language of the Fulani) with Gaelic (Irish) and other Celtic languages in the Indo-European family, although by no other Indo-European languages. The process in Gaelic, and the spelling of it, is called “eclipsis,” a term discussed by Brendan O Hehir in his “Supplementary Notes” at the end of A Gaelic Lexicon to Finnegans Wake (O Hehir 382-83).

On page 89 of Finnegans Wake we find the example Brendan O Hehir gives of Joyce’s play with “eclipsis.” In Gaelic spelling of the sound changes, both sounds are written, but only the first is pronounced. Joyce’s parody is: “If he had rognarised dtheir gcourts marsheyls? Dthat nday in ndays he had . . . Harlyadrope”(89.17-19). On the same page we also find: “And how olld of him? He was intendant to study pulu” (89.29). I think it can be shown that this is a declaration by Joyce of his use of Fulfulde, the language of the Fulani.

Fulfulde, like Gaelic, is well known for its elaborate system of sound alternations, particularly consonant alternations at the beginning of words of the type Joyce is making fun of in his parody of the Gaelic spelling system. The Fulfulde sound pairs are discussed in F.W. Taylor’s A Fulani Grammar (1921).1 This system was also the basis for Joseph Greenberg’s later classification of Fulfulde as a very close relative of Wolof in the “West Atlantic” branch (primarily in and about Senegal) of the Niger-Kordofanian or Niger-Kongo language family.

The Wolof appear in Finnegans Wake as the “Wolafs” (319.27: “the kersse of Wolafs on him, shitateyar, he sagd in the fornicular”) with ‘-ofs’ shifted to “-afs.” There are other uses in the Wake of such shifts to af to indicate an African subject, as on 191.04, “Europasianised Afferyank”; on 297.32, “when that tidled Boare rutches up from the Afrantic”; and on 497.12 “Affrian Way.” In Fulfulde, as I mentioned, an example of one type of initial consonant alternation (p / f) can be found in the forms of the name the people call themselves: Pullo (singular) or Fulbe (plural). (Some smaller ethnic groups living near them and some of those they have enslaved call them Puli). It should be said that in Finnegans Wake Joyce also indicates a special relation between p and f in places that have nothing to do with the Fulani:

468.03    P? F?

467.32 He’ll prisckly soon hand tune -your Erin’s ear for you.
467.33 p.p. a mimograph at a time, numan bitter, with his ancomartins
467.34 to read the road roman with false steps ad Pernicious from
467.35 rhearsilvar ormolus to torquinions superbers while I’m far
467.36 away from wherever thou art serving my tallyhos and tullying
468.01 my hostilious by going in by the most holy recitatandas ƒƒƒƒ for
468.02 my varsatile examinations in the ologies, to be a coach on the
468.03 Fukien mission. P? F?

and this entire passage:

116.25    For if the lingo gasped between
116.26 kicksheets, however basically English, were to be preached from
116.27 the mouths of wickerchurchwardens and metaphysicians in the
116.28 row and advokaatoes, allvoyous, demivoyelles, languoaths, les-
116.29 biels, dentelles, gutterhowls and furtz, where would their prac-
116.30 tice be or where the human race itself were the Pythagorean ses-
116.31 quipedalia of the panepistemion, however apically Volapucky,
116.32 grunted and gromwelled, ichabod, habakuk, opanoff, uggamyg,
116.33 hapaxle, gomenon, ppppfff, over country stiles, behind slated
116.34 dwellinghouses, down blind lanes, or, when all fruit fails, under
116.35 some sacking left on a coarse cart?

Joyce marks the connection between the “eclipsis” satire and his claim to be studying “pulu,” for he leads into “He was intendant to study pulu” with “Father ourder about the mathers of prenanciation. Distributary endings?” (89.25-26). We can of course read “mathers” as “Cotton and Increase Mather” and “prenanciation” as “predestination” (to go with “Our Father”). But these readings (not noted elsewhere) are not directly germane to our argument. We can also read this as “More words/garbage about the matters of pre pronunciation” contrasted with “endings,”
where “ordure” is French ‘garbage’ or ‘excrement’ (which is yellow, see below), while also including Danish ordet “word,” and where “prenanciation” contains some reference to pronunciation at the beginning of words (along with other reworkings that we will discuss).

“How olld . . . pulu” (89.29) also contains some lexical readings in Fulfulde. In F.W. Taylor’s A Fulani-English Dictionary Fulfulde pul is glossed as “new,” which contrasts with an English reading of “olld” as “old” (also “odd”). In turn, olda in Fulfulde means “be yellow.” This meaning, “yellow,” echoes just before “Further ourder” in line .24: “A maundarin tongue in a pounderin jowl” (89.24), with its allusions to “mandarin” and to Ezra Pound’s translations from the Chinese.

“Yellow” is a significant reading because Fulani are known for considering themselves to be lighter — more yellow — than and superior to other West Africans. This notion of a special origin and racial status figured in early theories about Fulfulde (which made Greenberg’s classification of Fulfulde with Wolof shocking to both the Fulani and the British), as in the paragraph which opens Taylor’s A Fulani Grammar:

The question of the origin of the Fulani is one of the most discussed and interesting subjects of the ethnologist. Some have tried to prove their origin from the Malays or Polynesians; others from the ancient Egyptians; others from the gypsies driven from their Indo-Germanic homes by the Magyars, via Egypt; others from the “Children of Israel” . . . Others, including Barth, identify them with the Leucoethipes, or white Ethiopians, of Pliny and Ptolemy . . . My own idea is that Fulani, or rather the root Pul or Ful, is identical with Phut, the third son of Ham, whose second son’s name, Mizraim, is identified with Egypt, for which the Fulani name is Misra. (ix)

“Misra” or “Masar” is the Fulani’s own choice for their place of origin. (On Joyce’s awareness of the Fulani concern about these matters, see discussions below of “miscegenation” on FW 35.04 and FW 18.20)

“Yellow” appears in another line on this page (89.11-13): “The gracious miss was we not doubt sensible how yellowatty on the forx was altered? That she esually was, O’Dowd me not!” The connection here involves some verbal gymnastics of a kind which it seems fairly evident Joyce enjoyed. For a fox to be “altered” is to be spayed.2 Doubt (doubt or “Dowd”) about yellowness haunts this line. Songs by Thomas Moore, as here “Yellow Wat and the Fox” with its line “O doubt me not” (Hodgart and Worthington 96, 195) again pointing to deception, often appear in “Moorish” contexts (thus 293.12 “The song of the woods” appears with “one of dozedeams a darkies ding in dewood,” where “of the woods” translates in French as Dubois, a reference to W.E.B. Du Bois, author of The Souls of Black Folk [1903] with its final chapter, “Of the Sorrow Songs,” while the connection of “ding” with “Soul” can also be demonstrated). “Dowd” means “black” in Irish (O Hehir), and there is a kind of protest against the pretensions of the Dowds to an O’ before their name in the line, “O’Dowd me not!” Even more “doubtful” perhaps is the presence of “esu” or Eshu, the Yoruba trickster God of the crossroads, in “That she esually was” — which originally read “that she generally was” (Notebooks VI B 6.079). But the word “prenanciation” at line 25 not only changes “pro” to “pre” but “nunci” to “nanci,” a probable reference to the Ashanti trickster spider Ananse or Jamaican Brer Nancy, a natural pairing of the two major British-related West African peoples, Yoruba and Ashanti.

So can we read “how yellowatty on the forx was altered?” as saying that something yellow is really a “Spade” (“black”)? Joyce uses “Spade” as an epithet in “Ethna Prettyplume, Hooghly Spaight” (318.12). This is read not merely from association with “Ethna” and “Pretty,” but as a reference also to the uniquely Jamaican “Ugly” or hoghly fruit in a list of fruits: .04 “uplon,” .06 “nemon,” .12 “plume,” and .16 “datish fruits” (see “ugly” in Cassidy and LePage, A Jamaican English Dictionary, 1967). Other racial 1930s slang abounds, such as “not O’Faynix Coalprince” (139.35), where “not O’Fay” means “not white” (“Ofay,” African American from Igbo), so we get a reading of “not white nor [a] black prince.”

That Joyce used “altered” with reference to appearance is seen in: “He’s herd of hoarding and her faiths is altared” (331.03) where “faith” can be also read as “face.” The reading “face” requires a change from “altared” here to “altered” (as on 89) to make any sense, and again brings up the topic of change of appearance or identity. Since we can connect “yellow” in “old,” in “maunderin,” and in “yellowatty . . . altered,” and two of these relate yellow to “Black,” it seems that probabilities favor a reading of “olld” (in “And how olld of him? He was intendant to study pulu”) as Fulfulde olda, “yellow.” In addition, the association of “pulu” with age and yellowness, and of yellowness with being “spayed,” connects with another reading of “pulu” as “masturbation” (see also “pulshandjupeyjade” [261.01] and “the weight of his arge fullin upon him” [344.34]).

There is more. The syllables “pul,” “ful,” “pool,” and other variants often serve as possible cues to the presence of Fulfulde (Fulani language) or other forms of Fulani. In the line before “And how olld of him? He was intendant to study pulu,” we find “Are you not danzzling on the age of a vulcano?” (89.28). The alteration of “vol” to “vul” in “vulcano” with the additional alteration of “edge” to “age” may be taken as another such cue to readings of “olld” and “pulu.” While it is clearly impossible to prove such general use of language cues in the Wake (vul appears in Vulcan), such cues may have their likelihood demonstrated in particular cases. In this case “vul” reappears in a form that echoes “vulcano” in the following passage: “Hoy was a lexical student, parole, and corrected with the blackboard (trying to copy the stage Englesemen he broughts their house down on, shouting: Bravure, surr Chorles! Letter purfect! Culossal, Loose Wallor! … (a thing he never possessed of his Nigerian own) what do you think Vulgariano did…” (180.36-181.14). Here language study (or Shem tutoring) is again a focus, in a colonial context, and “Vulgariano” is identified as a Nigerian; i.e. from the country which is the center of Fulani power (On “surr Chorles” see Henry Kingsley, “Our Brown Passenger” where Sir Charles Hatterton, a “Brown” Admiral, shunned by others on a boat back from India, saves everybody in a storm.).

Fulfulde and Hausa form a pair in Finnegans Wake: where one appears we often find the other. Here we have the Hausa word gari, which refers to the secular city (with the market) as opposed to the Muslim pure inner city. The Fulani seized power from the Hausa with the claim that they were purer Muslims. Putting these facts together, we might read “Vulgariano” as “Ful in the gari, Ah no!” But it is not necessary to accept this reading to see the Vul in “vulcano” as a possible Fulfulde cue and a connection to “Vulgariano” (On gari see Dalby; also 112.07 “Zingari shoolerim” read as “Sin City schoolkids” — see “zinzin” p. 500)3. Also, “Mullingaria” (345.34) can be read perhaps as “Mullah in the gari, Ah!” as well as “Multilingual city” — on the same page as the “words of silent power,” one of which is in Hausa (see below). “Ful”and “can” have a long history of association in Joyce. In Stephen Hero Stephen goes to visit his godfather, Mr. Fulham, in Mullingar. During the visit Mr. Fulham carries on a discourse on the glory of the “peasantry” and the virtue of cows. The name of Joyce’s actual godfather was Phillip McCann. So Joyce was well aware of the relation between can and ham.

There are further variations on Pul/Ful. Since the “letter” (in Fulfulde: jimi — also “Jimmy”?) which in Finnegans Wake is written by a “hen” and the language Joyce “was intendant to study” was “pulu,” one could see a gliding from Fulani cues into “chicken” echoes (or more likely vice versa). Indo-European pu as “foul” and Old Norse full, “to rot, decay” show Indo-European p-f correspondence, as does the full:foul:fowl pun that works throughout the Wake (also see Danish full = “drunk”) and the many pul words having to do with chickens and hens, with extensions such as French poules.

Joyce added a number of Swahili words to the galleys of Finnegans Wake, probably the last African words to be added to the book. They were recognized in the book and translated by Phillip Wolff, a doctor in Kenya. Later they were found in Joyce’s notebooks and commented on by Jack Dalton (Wolff, Dalton). I would note two things about these Swahili entries. First, the fact that Phillip Wolff was able to identify the entire notebook list from only his own knowledge of Swahili is evidence that written sources other than Finnegans Wake itself are not essential to confirm readings in the book. Second, the words listed in the notebooks are not the only items in Swahili present in Finnegans Wake.

One of these words is “pooleypooley” (206.08), glossed by Wolff as “slowly.” But to understand “pooleypooley,” we need to understand that the Swahili entries on the galleys are not simply in Swahili. They carry within them meanings and allusions in several other African and African New World languages. At least four of these entries in this East African language name West African peoples or people living on the western side of Africa. Later on the same page “sina feza, me absantee” (198.16) names the Ashanti people of present day Ghana. Thus “pooleypooley” (206.08) is glossed in Swahili as “slowly,” but also names the Fulani in the form “Puli” used by many of those they dominate.4

So putting all this together it seems reasonable that one interpretation of Joyce’s object of study, “pulu,” is Fulfulde, which is what a Pullo speaks.


Leaving discussion of the threads that come from page 89, I want to turn to a passage on page 133 where Joyce creates a parallel between the relationship of the Fulani with the Hausa to that of Brian Boru and the Danes. Joyce makes a pair of Fulani and Hausa as they are linked in political history (see “asawfulas” 156.11). Usman Dan Fodio’s 1803 jihad against the Hausa emirates in the name of a purer Islam “usurped” power from within. The ruling Fulani at the center then maintained Hausa as a ruling language (though Fulfulde persisted as a governing language in Adamawa to the east). In addition the Fulani were the basis of the development of the practice of “indirect rule” as established by Lord Lugard first in Nigeria. Joyce parallels the Fulani political role in Nigeria with both Brian Boru’s usurping power from the Danes (as in “indanified himself” with boro tribute” — “borrowed” or “cow” tribute [133.28]) and with the role of Irish gentry in facilitating the government of Ireland by the British.

We can see the Fulani/Brian Boru relationship emerge in a passage with a fairly intricate structure of allusions tied to, among other matters, the nature of tribute (cows vs. bags), emirates, Babbo, Babu, and Baabu (Father, ambiguous term of respect and “No”), as well as Baa Baa Blacksheep and Mary had a Little Lamb:

133.25 passed for baabaa blacksheep till he grew white woo woo woolly;
133.26 was drummatoysed by Mac Milligan’s daughter and put to music
133.27 by one shoebard; all fitzpatricks in his emirate remember him, the
133.28 boys of wetford hail him babu; indanified himself with boro tribute

O Hehir lists the word “boro” as referring to Gaelic “boru” (boramha /borué/), “cow counting,” “tribute,” and also in his entry on “Brian Boru” (O Hehir 85). So we are dealing with two forms, the “boro” of the text and the “boru” of the Gaelic interpretation. The tribute in Gaelic is in cows, hence “cow counting” and the interpretation of Brian Boru as “Brian of the Tribute.”

The need for the Gaelic interpretation comes from Joyce’s habit of providing a gloss after a non-English word. “Boro tribute” is therefore “boro,” meaning “tribute” (Gaelic boru). This also comes from “indanified himself,” indicating that we are talking about Brian Boru. But we need to look for the meaning of “boro,” the form actually in the text. One possible translation is as Fulfulde “bag.” This is not arbitrary. “Bags” may also be a form of tribute. Joyce seems to think that “bag” is appropriate for colonial tribute, for we find: “My colonial, wardha bagful” (212.20) with “ful” suggesting “Fulani.”

We have another trigger in the word “emirates,” the political unit of Muslim rule. The Hausa states are called the Hausa Emirates. And the word “emirates” in the text is accompanied by the word “Babu,” which has an ironic interpretation in Hausa (along with the irony of the patriotic song of 1798, “The Boys of Wexford,” being changed to the Boys of “Wetford” in the title of a song often sung when drunk, particularly by Joyce’s father. The boys hail HCE as “Babu,” given in McHugh as a Hindu honorific, though of ambiguous status,5 with a reading also as “Babbo,” the Italian word for Father. [We will look at Hausa baabu in a moment]). Also, the principal clan of the pastoral Fulani are called the Bororo. And “boro” as “bag tribute” is not the only Fulfulde form of the word that is relevant. Fulfulde booru has the meaning of “surpass, usurp.” Joyce marks this with a further twist of Brian Boru in 16.26 “Booru Usurp!”:

016.26 Mutt. — Has? Has at? Hasatency? Urp, Boohooru! Booru
016.27   Usurp! I trumple from rath in mine mines when I
016.28   rimimirim!
016.29 Jute. — One eyegonblack. Bisons is bisons. Let me fore all
016.30   your hasitancy cross your qualm with trink gilt. Here
016.31   have sylvan coyne, a piece of oak. Ghinees hies good
016.32   for you.

with references to “black” (in “eyegonblack” — Danish ǿjeblik, “moment” — and an allusion to Joyce’s eyepatch) and to “pidgin” (“bisons is bisons”) and to what the Fulani and Brian Boru share — usurping power. There is also a suggestion of babyish crying (whose association with Baabu we will look at in a moment).

“Bag” also suggests the Fir Bolga, the “bags people,” the original ancestors of the “Black” Irish who were conquered by the people of Dana, along with a suggestion of fur or wool bags. The wool is significant in the two songs that begin the passage quoted:

Baa Baa Blacksheep, have you any wool?
Yes Sir Yes Sir, Three bags FUL.

Opposed to the Black sheep we have Mary’s white lamb.

Mary had a little lamb, whose fleece was white as snow.
And everywhere that Mary went the Lamb was sure to go.

Wool and Mary’s lamb are paired also in

250.30 And her troup came heeling, O. And what do you think
250.31 that pride was drest in! Voolykins’ diamondinah’s vestin. For ever
250.32 they scent where air she. went.

(See also Handel’s “Where’er you walk, cool gales shall fan the glade” and Henry Kingsley’s “Eyre’s March,” set along the arid desert south coast of Australia).

In case we have not gotten the idea of “bag” as a relevant translation in this passage, or doubt it, Joyce makes sure we get it in 300.F3, where Baa Baa Blacksheep is turned into: “Bag bag blockcheap, have you any will” (with a faint echo of the song “No more Auction Block for me”; see also 599.18-19: “Nomo-morphemy for me!”).

Let us examine “Baabu” as in “Baaaa boooo” (see below). In Hausa, Baabu is an emphatic “No,” a word of refusal or rejection. Thus in 133.27-28: “all fitzpatricks in his emirate remember him, the boys of wetford hail him babu” refers to the song “The Boys of Wexford” (“We are the boys of Wexford, who fought with heart and hand / To burst in twain the galling chain and free our native land”) by Robert Dwyer Joyce. Far from a call to “indanification,” this is an Irish song of resistance. So the Boys are not about to hail HCE/Brian Boru as Babbo. They say, “No.” They say it in Hausa, undercutting the ambiguous respect shown to the “Babus” of British rule. The “fitzpatricks” are presumably the Irish Wits and Worthies of W.J. Fitzpatrick’s book, not the “boys” of 1798. They are not to be hailed — “Baabu!”

Joyce’s use of Hausa baabu did not stop at Finnegans Wake. The same pairing of Italian (Babbo) and Hausa (Baabu) occurs again in an important letter Joyce wrote to his daughter-in-law, Helen Joyce. She had been complaining because Joyce wrote to his son Georgio in Italian, the family language. She felt somehow that he was talking about her in this language she could not read (a few months later she was hospitalized for paranoia). Joyce answered her:

The reason I write in Italian to Giorgio [sic] is not to conceal anything from your keen swift flashing and infallible eye but because when he was introduced to me 30 years ago by Dr. Gilberto Sinigaglia I said: Toh! Georgio. To which he replied: Baaaa boooo. Our conversation has continued in that tongue. (Letters I: 381; 28 Aug.1935)

This defense of the use of Italian is full of subterfuge. “Toh!” for example, does not show up in any ordinary Italian dictionary. It is, I am told, a greeting in a northeastern Italian dialect (presumably also Triestine). So Helen Joyce’s “eye” could not be expected to find it by any skills she might have possessed. The baby’s cry in response to the greeting is merged with the word for “father,” still Joyce’s signature in writing to Georgio. This is the overt point of the whole thing, an explanation for the Italian, but with the Italian of it all being mysteriously absent.

“Toh!” may be an odd word in Italian, but it is one of the most common expressions in Hausa (exclamation point and all). It asks, “OK?” or “Agreed?” or, as an answer, expresses “OK!” or “Agreed!” So underneath Joyce’s exchange we could hear, “Is it OK?” and Georgio’s crying answer, “No.” (Baabu). So in what “tongue” has their dialogue taken place?

Joyce has orchestrated this whole scenario only for himself, for it surely was not to be caught by Helen Joyce’s “infallible” eye. We are moved to wonder if Dr. Sinigaglia is invoked here only because his name could be read, not in Italian, as “without gagging.” In addition, it isn’t clear what we are to make of the two different spellings of “Giorgio.” (Joyce’s loved younger brother “Geogie” died in his teens; “Georgio” keeps the form of his name with an Italian ending, while “Giorgio” is presumably a completely Italian variant). Since Hausa and Fulfulde are often a pair, it might be possible to read “Toh” as tawa (Fulfulde for “meet” — see discussion below) and read Giorgio as gor “man” (3.08 “gorgios” writes the Fulfulde form into Georgio’s name) which would give us the reading “Meet man” and the answer, again in Hausa, a crying “NO!”

We cannot leave page 133 without commenting further on the phrase “passed for.” Normally we speak of someone “passing for white.” Here the HCE /Finn MacCool figure, identified as “Monsieur Ducrow, Mister Mudson” (133.22 — see 219.12 “Pierre Dusort” where sort = Danish “black”) has “passed” as a black sheep, but grows white. So if he passed for black he is not black, but if he grows white what was he? He is either fundamentally inauthentic, a set of masks, or essentially invisible.

Having created all this intricacy, Joyce must still tease us about it, and talk back to us — if we have gone this far — for there are other versions or songs sung to the tune of Baabaa Blacksheep, one of which is:

QRST U and V, W and XYZ,
Think how happy you will be,
When you learn your ABC.


The theme of lightness, yellow, and “mixed racings” (117.22) associated with the Fulani is related to “wool” in the following passage: “and find your pollyvoulley foncey pitchin ingles in the parler” (346.19), which contains “Parlez Vous Français” tied to “Polly Wolly Doodle” and “Pull the Wool.” In addition, “pollyvoulley” can be read as “pull the wool,” with Fulfulde wula “deny” leading to a reading: “and find your Peul denying darkness (Fr. foncé ‘dark’; Eng. ‘fancy’), pitching (plus ‘speaking’ with a bad Spanish or other Latin accent ‘(s)pitching’) English into the conversation or into his speech” (Fr. “parler” — English “parlor”) in a colonial or metropolitan colonial scene. Finally, “wool” becomes “fool” in the passage “and comely norgels were and pollyfool fiansees. Men have thawed, clerks have surssurhummed, the blond has sought of the brune: Elsekiss thou may, mean Kerry piggy?” (15.14-17) where the “fool fiansees” are set against the “norgels” and the theme of “Miscegenations on miscegenations” (018.20) is made explicit. Since the Fulfulde word tawa in the form “thaw” means “meet with, encounter, discover,”we can read “Menn have thawed” as “Men have met,” as well as “melted.” (This meaning of “thaw” as tawa will recur in the discussion of “Guiness thaw tool in jew me dinner ouzel fin?” [35.15].) The same translation allows us to read:

“Fullyhum toowhoom.
Taawhaar” (613.4-5)

as “Meet where?” Presumably, the “fool fiansees” are darker than the “norgels.”


While pages 89 and 133 may contain more elaborate and demonstrable uses of Fulani and Hausa, what seems to be the first use of Fulfulde was probably also the first use of an African language in the text of Finnegans Wake. It involves the conversion of “How are you today, my dark sir” or “How do you do, my dark sir” into Gaelic, but with a layer of Fulfulde readings.

We can date the passage because it appears in the second issue of transition (2, 98, 1927): “Guiness thaw tool in jew me dinner ouzel fin? (a nice how-do-you-do in Poolblack at the time as some of our olddaisers may still tremblingly recall)” (35.15-18).

F.W. Taylor had published A Fulani Grammar in 1921, a Fulani-Hausa Phrase Book in 1926, and A Fulani-Hausa Vocabulary in 1927, all in the Clarendon Fulani-Hausa Series. He also published the Book of Genesis in Fulani in 1927. This passage is the greeting of the “cad with a pipe,” one of the occurrences of the motif “How do you do my dark sir,” first identified as such by Clive Hart (243 — Glasheen identifies the color as “black” rather than “dark” [32]). “Fin” is of course Gaelic fionn, “fair” or “white.” But “ouzel” (from Anglo-Saxon) means “blackbird” or “person of dark complexion” (Gaelic uasul, however, is glossed as “gentleman”). So the Gaelic reading is “How do you do my fair Gentleman” while the Anglo-Saxon reading conforms to the usual dark reading of the motif. The dark reading is marked in several ways. This “nice how-do-you-do” is identified as being in “Poolblack” (or Black Pul/pool, therefore Dublin).

The context of this greeting has strong markers for colonialism and Africa. The paragraph begins with the “Cad” invoking English colonial domination of Africa in the artificial language Volapuk (which we saw identified with apes on 116.31): “Fikup for flesh nelly” (34.32), which reads “Africa for England” and leads into “….pull early… and malers abushed, keep black, keep black!” This is followed by: “rights in appurtenance to the confusioning of the human races” (35.04), a theme of “miscegenation” which, we saw, appears with another possible Fulfulde reading of “thaw” in “. . . pollyfool fiansees. Menn have thawed, clerks have surssurhummed, the blond has sought of the brune” (15.14).

However in this greeting, “How do you do,” has become “a nice how-do-you-do”— a scandal or problem in Linn-dubh, “Blackpool” or “Dub-lin” (Gaelic, O’Hehir 381; Letters I, 225 13 Jan. 1925). Or is it THE scandal or problem? Can Fulfulde help us decode an aspect of the greeting? To understand that the greeting is an example of the motif that addresses “my dark or black gentleman” we need to read “Poolblack” as indicating the greeting is delivered in a dark or African language, Fulfulde (see my comments above on pul ful pool and other syllables as possible cues for Fulani references).6 And it is in Taylor’s Fulani-English Dictionary that we may find clues to what this “how do you do” is all about.

“Guinness”: ginowo, “brewer”
“thaw”: tawa, “meet with, encounter, discover”
“tool in”: tullina, “consider inferior, lie down with, spend night with”
“jew”: no equivalent
“me dinner”: mettana, “to be distasteful to,” “to taste for”;
 medira “to taste with,” meda “to hunt, to taste”
“ouzel”: usa, usako “Thankyou,” “express appreciation”
 (See “oukosouso” with Hausa “biribiri” at 345.24.)
 (McHugh, Annotations, glosses “ouzel” as “blackbird;
 fig., a person of dark complexion” in Old English (35).
“fin”: fina “wake up” (plus findina “awaken, arouse”)

So a version of the scandal may be: “The brewer meets, considers inferior or lies down with or spends the night with — Jew — to be distasteful to / to taste with, expresses appreciation, is aroused / awakes.” (Possibly suggested by “me dinner” is the fact that the Fulani are notorious among the people they dominate for being unwilling to eat with them, even after these people have converted to Islam.)


Both Hausa and Fulfulde appear on a list in FW 54.12 — “Cha kai rotty kai makkar, sahib?” — which is another version of “How do you do, my dark sir,” and one of a list of greetings called to strangers. The phrase contains:

“cha” Fulfulde: “expression of disgust”
“kai” Hausa: “exclamation, expression of astonishment, reaction to the unusual”
“makkar” Swahili: makka, “expression of astonishment”
“rotty”: although not in the OED, this seems to be an Anglo-Indian expression of disgust.

The tone here is foreign and guttural, with “sahib” providing a vague regional placement, although why three African languages show up in India is not clear except as part of the British racial pattern of including all darker colonial peoples in one category.

Also forming a list are the “words of silent power, susu, glouglou, biribiri, gongos” (345.19).7 Among these words is Hausa “biribiri”: “poor light, faint light of dawn, threw dust in my eyes.” Oliver Gogarty’s poem, “The Ballad of Joking Jaysus,” some of which Joyce used in Ulysses, includes the lines: “My methods are new and are causing surprise, / To make the blind see I throw dust in their eyes” (Ellmann 206). This is also a Wake motif: “duthsthrows in his lavabad eyes” (240.16); “and the dust in his ears” (180.28); “Throwing dust in the eyes” (424.04). Accompanying this list with its words in African languages there is a further Hausa reading: “Mullingaria” (345.35): “Multilingual city (gari)” or possibly “Mullah in the gari, Ah!”

(A more fantastical reading of “fantasmagoria” would introduce the Fulfulde word Gor — “man” — translated in the Irish name of Joyce’s biographer Gorman and in the name of the Martyr). These transformations of the city of Mullingar (the city of Mr. Fulham in Stephen Hero) into something “multilingual,” is related in form to “Vulgariano.” The reading I proposed there — “Ful in the Gari, Ah No” — seems relevant here as a response to the “Ah!” of “Mullingaria”: “Mullah in the Gari, Ah!”

Hausa and Fulani also appear together in a pair of short items, the first of which is a fine example of Joyce’s mastery of tone, in what appears as a tranquil English rural scene: “I fenced it about with huge Chesterfield elms and Kentish hops and rigs of barlow and bowery nooks and greenwished villas and pampos animos and (N.I.) necessitades iglesias and pons for aguaducks” (553.19-22). The agua in the “ponds” gives us not only “water ducks” but also the Hausa word for “duck,” gwagwa, followed by its English gloss “duck.” The g in the Hausa word is a fricative or spirant, not a stop, as is the g in the middle of Spanish “agua.” Reading the word as “aquaducts” (a reversal: ponds for aqueducts instead of aqueducts for ponds) leads to a paired Fulfulde reading of “pampos” as “pampus,” the Fulfulde word — borrowed from English — for “pump,”as reported by Taylor (1932, 153). Another vowel change in “pampos” leads to Spanish “pampas animas” or “fields of souls,” to go with “necessitades iglesias.”

The duck theme is developed in a further example that uses Latin to facilitate the pairing of Fulani and Hausa. We find in FW 61.25: “Puellywally.” Here we have not only a girl (Latin puella) but a Fulani girl — Peul (ue > eu) + “strolling” (in Hausa wali is “to stroll”) with the attractive walk of Fulani women caught in the rhythm of the word. Fulani/Peul women are known across West Africa for their attractive way of walking: see the Bambara (northern Ivory Coast) praise song line that Germaine Calame-Griaule has recorded for us: “Her carriage is as beautiful as a Fulani girl’s / She walks so you think she’s a wild duck” (Calame-Griaule 1963, 73-91).


The lists we have been looking at lead us to recall that Joyce liked to play with dictionaries, which he seems to have been able automatically to commit to memory and pun between. In what is perhaps the extreme case of using Ful as a cue, he plays with a series of successive words which he makes refer to maroons (runaway slaves, often established in communities, as in Jamaica and Surinam).

Maroons first appear on page 151,17 in “What the romantic in rags pines after like all tomtompions haunting crevices for a deadbeat escupement,” “Toms” accompanied significantly by drums which act as spies in this case (French espions), their beat also that of Tom Tompion’s clocks of course.

On page 595-96 maroons appear in:

. . . or he conjured himself from seight by slide
at hand; for which thetheatron is lemoronage; at milch-
goat fairmesse; in full dogdhis . . . (595.36-596.02)

. . . from Tumbarumba mountain . . . (596.11)

The French term for maroons running away is le marronnage. Here the use of only one r in “lemoronage” indicates the English spelling, with overtones of “moron.” If one is so tuned to Fulani cues, “in full dogdhis,” that one actually looks up “dogdhis” in Taylor’s Adamawa Fulani dictionary (“dogs” it, as it were), one finds a sequence of items that can serve as a commentary on maroons and maroon life.

First we need to note that Joyce connects Maroons and dogs on this page in the phrase, “from Tumbarumba mountain.” A Philadelphian with the remarkable, and for the this book appropriate, name of Demoticus Philalethes wrote a book called Yankee Travels Through the Island of Cuba (1856). What ties this book to page 596 of the Wake is that in Chapter 3 of Yankee Travels, which has the relevant title “Hunting the Maroons with Dogs in Cuba,” the hunt for the maroons begins and ends at a plantation with the name “La Tumba.” (A tumba is also, of course, a rumba drum, another indication that we are in Cuba.) It would be very difficult to believe that Joyce is not referring to chapter three of Philalethes’ book in “from Tumbarumba mountain,” a phrase placed ten lines after “lemoronage.”

So let us “dogdhis” in Taylor’s dictionary. On page 38 we find that the dictionary gives entries for dog that follow in the order given below (I have omitted long vowel marks and two items that begin with nd not d or ď, a symbol used to represent a glottalized d. [Comments in brackets are mine]):

doga — “persevere;” dogiďum — “persevering” [“to dog”]
dogarijo — “Native Administration Policeman,” “doorkeeper.” “porter” [Joe?]

[Note: -jo is a singular suffix “man” — as in watchman etc.;

mallumjo “scribe, tutor” etc. ]

Joyce alternates jo and Joe with Dinah as in “not for a dinar! not for jo!” (170.03) and “Dina and Old Joe” (175.35)

dogga — “run away, flee, escape” [what the maroons do]
doggere — “diarrhea” [“result of fear; a danger on the trail?”]

Then a number of entries follow in sequence in doi, doj and dok. These seem to comment on maroon life at more distance. Maroons were often characterized as lazy people who slept all the time, as opposed to industrious slaves. I suggest that these entries are followed by what we may take to be comments on the reader’s reaction to discovering this (doila + dujja) and an invocation of Joyce’s presence (dokkida).

ďoiďa — “sleep;” ďuďa-ďoiďijo — “a great sleeper” (“Dude.” “Joe?”)
doide — “dysentery” [again]
doidowaljo — “a man of measured gait, slow but sure” (Don’t rush.)
ďoila — “ignore, leave alone; give one enough rope to hang himself’ +
dujja — (“dodge?”) “look at and then turn away in disgust”
ďojja — (“dodge?”) “cough”
ďoka — “law, regulation”
dokere — “a spear with two heads”
ďokkiďa — “to have only one eye”

If, after looking at “dog” we pursue “dhis” we find “ďisa” — “stick in; put up, as a pole; erect; impale; crucify.” (37) (There are no dh combinations in Taylor’s Fulfulde dictionary, but the glottalized consonant ď may do as a substitute. Impaling on a pole through the rectum was a well-reported punishment for captured maroons.)9 Is Joyce really punning us through Taylor’s dictionary? Are we really to “dog this?” Joyce has already told us he will “smotthermock Gramm’s laws!” (378.27). His treatment of language is a “warping process” (497.03). Is he out to bend dictionaries also? I believe so (on Joyce’s relation to linguistics and dictionaries see Hugh Kenner, “Joyce and the 19th Century Linguistics Explosion” and Maria Tymoczko, The Irish Ulysses 326).


Finnegans Wake is indeed written with “A darktongues, kunning.” The passage

“A darktongues, kunning. O theoperil! Ethiaop lore, the poor lie” (223.28)

contains an African label, an African-American song, and West Indian pronunciation, as well as references to William Carleton’s Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry, all of which accompany another appearance of a pairing of Fulfulde and Hausa.

“A darktongues, kunning” lets us hear the sounds of “The Darktown Strutters Ball” (original sheet music spelling). What the women are “strutting” is their “kunning.” And there is a possible description of the ball on the preceding page:

222.33 those first girly stirs, with zitterings of flight re-
222.34 leased and twinglings of twitchbells in rondel after, with waver-
222.35 ings that made shimmershake rather naightily all the duskcended
222.36 airs and shylit beaconings from shehind hims back.

But the word “Darktown” is not on the surface, it is heard only through a West Indian pronunciation — another “dark tongue” that Joyce goes out of his way to let us hear. In Jamaica and other West Indian places with English-based Creole languages, “town” is pronounced “tongue.” Similarly, in the West Indies “only” is pronounced “ongly.” To show that “tongue” represents ‘town’ Joyce uses “ongly” for “only” just three lines later: “where ongly his corns was growning” (223.31).

In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, “The only arms” Stephen will allow himself to use are “silence, exile and cunning” (P 247). What has become of this “kunning?” It appears here accompanying “darktongues,” and it appears in two African languages. Hausa kunne “ear” gives a reading: “A dark tongue’s earing” (the song). The paired language Fulfulde has a word kuna “oaths.” If “kunning” is read as Fulfulde for “oaths” then we can also read the whole phrase as “A darktongue’s oaths.” And it is the oaths that create the peril from “God”, the “theoperil” of “O theoperil!” In his standard way Joyce has glossed Fulfulde kuna “oaths” in the next word, which explains the lower case t in “theo” (“oath, o peril”) and has provided a built in contrast between God and oath (two readings of the same words). Perhaps the confusion of plural and possessive in “darktongues” mirrors this duality between “oath” and “theo,” for the singular, marked by the “A,” requires a possessive but the apostrophe is not there — as it is not in “Finnegans,” nor in the original published title of the “Darktown Strutters Ball.”10

At the top of page 223 there is an allusion to W. G. Wills’ play A Royal Divorce in the name “Mary Louisan Shousapinas” (FW 223.2). Joyce used this play several times — often with connections to black figures such as Marcus Garvey and Josephine Baker (“Jazzaphony” 388.08) — as well as here, possibly, to the Hausa. The play’s main characters are Napoleon and his wives Josephine and Marie Louise (Atherton 161-62). Along with Mary Lamb (who appears as “Mirrylamb” [225.1]) and Mary Louise, there may be a faint allusion to Mary Kingsley’s voyages in West Africa, so “Shousapinas” with its echo of “Hausa.” Joyce seems to have seen Mary Kingsley as concentrating mostly on the “pains” of her travels in West Africa. In association with “darktongues, kunning” the words “Ethiaop lore” provide a second surface identification of what Joyce is doing. But this phrase also carries us to a complex play on the letter a involving both Aesop and Carleton as part of a consideration of “lore” or folklore.

James Atherton and Hugh Staples both noted Joyce’s uses of sections of Carleton (Atherton 99-100, Staples 83). Of particular interest, Hugh Staples has noted Joyce’s allusion at 299.27 — “And be the powers of Moll Kelly” — to the section in Carleton called “The Geography of the Irish Oath,” an “essay in folkloristic field work.” This section is also invoked here in the line on folklore that we are examining and reinforces our Fulfulde reading of kuna “oaths” in “O theoperil,” while other passages from Carleton provide explanation for the “theo.” “The poor lie” also may allude to “The Geography of the Irish Oath” (Carlton III 92-178), for the same passage that mentions “Moll Kelly’s Primer” starts: “In fact, Paddy has oaths rising gradually from the lying ludicrous to the superstitious solemn.”

A number of spellings in Finnegans Wake seem to indicate words taken directly from the section “Denis O’Shaughnessy Going to Maynooth” (Carlton IV 71-207). These include “avick,” “sorra,” “beyant,” “avourneen,” “throth,” “frinds,” “matther,” and “sate.” “Avick,” one of the ways Shem is addressed, comes in a direct echo of the style: “It is looking pretty black against you, we suggest, Sheem avick” (188.04).

Carleton’s account of a series of exchanges between an ill-educated young candidate for the priesthood — Denis O’Shaughnessy — and his family is filled with an Irish concern for images of black and evocations of darkness (“of . . intellect”). “Ethiaop” echoes — in a linguistically complex way — in the following exchange (Carlton IV 76): “That’s the way, Phadrick, I chastise my fadher with the languages” (see FW 29.32 “lashons of languages”).

“In throth it is; go an, avick. Phadrick!”

“I’m listenin’.”

“Phadrick, do you know the differ atween black and white?”

“Atween black and white? Hut, gorsoon, to be sure I do.”

“Well, an’ what might it be, Phadrick, my larned Athiop?” (Carlton IV 76)

The extra a in “Ethiaop” may point to Carleton’s spelling here. And this is not the only play with the a. The phrase “Ethiaop lore” is matched with “esiop’s foible” (422.22) — a matching of “lore” and “fable” of course — but also a matching of some sound games. “Esiop” and “foible” both have an i inserted. If you remove the i you get Esop, read “Aesop,” and if you do the same to “foible” you get “fable” (via “foble”). The a inserted in “Ethiaop” is just what is missing from Esiop. If we move the added a to the front we can read “Aethiop” which is closer to Aesop, whose presence in indicated by “lore” and indirectly by “the poor lie.” The whole play of E and A brings us closer to Carleton’s “Athiop.”

The best known analogues in African and Afro-New World folklore to Aesop’s animal fables are the Akan-Ashanti stories about the trickster spider, Ananse, who appears in Jamaica and some other West Indian places as Nancy or Brer Nancy, and whose stories are often merged with all tales as “Nancy Stories.” African stories about rabbit or hare also show up in the New World as Compere Lapin stories in the French Caribbean and as Brer Rabbit in the southern U.S. Brer Rabbit does not seem to appear in the Wake, although Brer Fox appears several times, once (245.09) along with Nancy (244.20) in an extended passage of philosophical speculations about “our funnaminal world” (244.13 “It darkles”).

A Nancy story is considered a form of fraud or lie. Nancy stories are regularly referred to as “lies.” Many versions of Nancy stories end with the tag line, “And so I came and told you this little lie.” To say that something is “just a Nancy story” is, in the West Indies, often a way to say that it is not serious. So “Ethiaop lore” is equated with “the poor lie.”

In Carleton the question of the difference between black and white is apparently resolved, after two more pages of “nonsense,” by Phadrick’s being told, under some protest, to shut his eyes and then testify to his resulting color perceptions: “Well, Phadrick, that’s the point settled. There’s no discrimination at all atween black an’ white. They’re both of the same colour — so long as you keep your eyes shut” (Carleton IV 77). This is truly “A darktongues, kunning.” If this is the quality of the priesthood, then “O theoperil!” It is “Ethiaop lore”; the “aop” may also suggest an ape-like yawp. The whole line can be read as Joyce’s comment on Carleton’s text.


To see in full the role of the Fulani in Finnegans Wake, we need to look more closely at the most eastern of the Fulani emirates named Adamawa, after its founder, Adama. Just the idea of a place ruled by the descendents of Adam may have had a certain appeal to Joyce. In any case F. W. Taylor’s Grammar and Dictionary were based on the Adamawa dialect of Fulfulde. And more importantly C. K. Meek’s Tribal Studies in Northern Nigeria provided a picture of the peoples of the area.

Adamawa contained more “pagan” and non-Hausa peoples than the other Fulani emirates which were based primarily on the older Hausa states (the city of Kano is regularly mentioned as being a great cotton trade center “when London was a village”). The rulers of some of these non-Muslim peoples converted and joined the Adamawa Fulani system. Some, favored by geography and adopting successfully the horse warfare which made the Fulani jihad possible, did not. Among these were large sections of the two peoples the Fulani called Chamba but who called themselves Sama. Also, though perhaps less geographically favored, the Vere (or Verre) people kept a modicum of independence. Meek called the two Chamba peoples — their languages are cousins but are not mutually intelligible — the Chamba (or Sama Leko) and the Chamba Daka, but the term Daka is best limited to the mountain-dwelling members of this second group.

C. K. Meek’s presence appears in Finnegans Wake in several ways. The Chamba first appear in Finnegans Wake inside one of the Swahili fragments entered on the galleys: “nyumba noo, chamba choo” (FW 198.11). That the occurrence of Chamba in this line is a genuinely possible reading is indicated by the indirect presence of Meek on this page. Meek’s books are signed C. K. Meek, with no names given for the initials. But in fact his name was Charles Kingsley Meek.

“Chamba” occurs on line 11 of page 198. On line 8 we find, “Wasserbourne the waterbaby?” a reference to Charles Kingsley’s The Waterbabies, in which the chimney sweep is washed “whiter than snow” after a water journey, which in the Swahili insert at line 16 becomes the passage of an African slave from Ashanti to Jamaica.9 Meek occurs elsewhere more directly. In 271.F4 “Understudy my understandings, Sostituda, and meek thine complinement gymnufleshed.” (Meek has naked photos of Vere and other Adamawa pagan people; Fulani are always fully clothed.) Altering “make” to “meek” requires some explanation, so this might be one. (“Understudy” is ambivalent: either do not seek to study all my meanings or study them as an understudy studies the role and actor for which he is the understudy.) In the Wake 423.13: “It was given meeck, thank the Bench, to assist at the whole thing byck.” (“Meek” also to be read as “me + a hiccup”; y in “byck,” as so often, with a European pronunciation of a high front rounded u, reading “book.”)11

That the Chamba/Sama, a West African people, appear inside a Swahili, East African phrase is not a unique occurrence in the Wake. A number of Joyce’s Swahili insertions contain a reference to a West African people. On the same page, 198.16, we find another Swahili phrase: “sina feza, me absantee, him man in possession.” Much could be said about this phrase. Here I just note, without giving the evidence, that one solid reading of the second pair of words is “I am Ashanti.”12 Among these words is Hausa “biribiri”: “poor light, faint light of dawn, threw dust in my eyes.” Oliver Gogarty’s poem, “The Ballad of Joking Jaysus,” some of which Joyce used in Ulysses, includes the lines: “My methods are new and are causing surprise, / To make the blind see I throw Another Swahili phrase from Joyce’s notes is “pooleypooley” (206.08), glossed in Swahili as “slowly,” but which also can be read as “Puli Puli,” where Puli is the name for Fulani used by non-Muslim peoples that the Fulani ruled in Adamawa.

The Chamba-Sama appear in an important play with the Lapps who also call themselves something else. The Lapps call themselves Same (2 syllables) or in the plural Samer. On page 199.13, right opposite “chamba choo” (198.11), just after another Swahili insert (“Wendawanda, a finger-/thick”) we find “in a Lapsummer skirt and damazon cheeks.” That the identification of the Same (Samer) is also with the Sama (Chamba) is not just because they show up on opposite pages. There is real evidence in the line on 625.27: “But the still sama sitta. I’ve lapped so long.” The Lapp (Same) herding group is called the siida, and the Lapps appear in the verb. But Same is respelled Sama, naming the Chamba/Sama. So that by altering one letter (a for e) Joyce has made the relation of Sama and Same explicit. This reading of the line is reinforced by “sitta”/siida where the Sama, with no herding group, are noticed for their “sitta,” an example of Joyce’s preoccupation with asses and African steatopygia, noticeable also in the “damazon cheeks” that accompany the “Lapsummer skirt.” The Lapp skirt and the Sama (Chamba) skirt both were traditionally made of leaves. It is probably one more bit of overdetermination that the “noo” of “nyumba noo” (198.11) is the Sama word for “leaf”; O Hehir shows how a leaf skirt is appropriate for Anna Livia (392).

The alliteration in “chamba choo” tempts one to see a play with the alternation ch/s (Chamba/Sama) and read “Sama Suu,” which in Chamba/Sama means “God,” whereas “choo” in Swahili means “privy.” Further in the realm of total speculation about how far Joyce may have gone with his dictionaries is a chain of meanings one can see in “nyumba noo, chamba choo” (198.11). Swahili chumba is the “apartment” of a nyumba (“house”). But chamba in Swahili is “wash one’s private parts after calls of nature, privy.” So “Not in the apartment, in the privy.”


Finally, a last note on gor. Gor is the Fulfulde word for “Man,” see Wolof wor as in:

433.19 Minxy was a Manxmaid when Murry
433.20 wor a Man.

and is used sometimes as a syllable — “Man” — cutting up the words in which it appears by a process Joyce sometimes calls “subjunction,” particularly in oppositions of man to soul and to Lord/God.

We can see this opposition in “soullfriede” read as “soulfood” in

376.35    But of
376.36 they never eat soullfriede they’re ating it now.

where the “eat” and “ating” food references are clear as well as the dropped h of “hating” which can be either Irish or West Indian. A black reading of soulfood is reinforced across the page in a reference to Al Jolson in blackface:

377.26    And who will wager but he’ll
377.27 Shonny Bhoy be,the fleshlumpfleeter from Poshtapengha and all
377.28 he bares sobsconcious inklings shadowed on soulskin.

“Sonny Boy” is a song closely identified with Jolson, and “sobsconcious” is a wonderful description of Jolson’s vocal style. And “soulskin” here has to be read as “black skin” — as well as “sunshine” in Danish.

“Soullfriede” is supported by the presence of “soul butter”:

230.23 while he, being brung up on soul butter, have
230.24 recourse of course to poetry. With tears for his coronaichon,
230.25 such as engines weep. Was liffe worth leaving? Nej!

This is accompanied in turn by

603.07 O, what an ovenly odour! Butter butter!

Set against this heavenly invocation of butter we find, on the same page as “soullfriede” the word “gormagareen”:

376.17    since she clapped her
376.18 charmer on him at Gormagareen. At the Gunting Munting Hunt-
376.19 int Punting. The eitch is in her blood, arrah!

One reading of “Gormagareen” in the contexts I am suggesting is “man margarine.”13

Sometimes Joyce uses gor to replace West Indian and Irish “Man” as an interjected form of address. Occasionally he does this in contexts with homosexual overtones and the intermittent presence of the verb “to gore.”

348.18    Cedric said Gormleyson
348.19 and Danno O’Dunnochoo and Conno O’Cannochar it is this
348.20 were their names for we were all under that manner barracksers
348.21 on Kong Gores Wood together . . .
   (“manner” Danish plural “men,” English “manner”)

Subjunction and its “dunk” (“Have your little sintalks in the dunk of subjunctions” 269.02),14 important in seeing the presence of creole and creolized languages, is also important in this passage. The presence of Gor often involves a cutting up of a “word.” In the quotation above we get a kind of West Indian style of speech in a breaking up of the name “Gormleyson.” All these names can be cut up. “O’Dunnochoo” can be cut up in a boarding school kind of way to read “O do not chew.” But also if we were to substitute the s of Sama for the ch of Chamba (Chamba/Sama) we would get suu, “God,” and a reading “O don’t know God.” The “can” in “O’Cannochar” is equally sophomoric. And Clongowes Wood College has been transformed into “King Gore’s Wood” in this barracks scene of sexual domination.

How does “Gormleyson,” besides being a legitimate Irish name, fit into all this? In “Gormleyson” we can — if we have our ears wide open — hear a phrase with a West Indian reading in a subjunction with a West Indian style of melody: “Man, me lay E son” (where E is the West Indian form of the possessive pronoun), “Man, I laid his son.” However if we replace “Man” by the contrasting “Lord,” we can get — with the same melody — “Kyrie Eleison,” “Lord have mercy upon us.”

“Gorman” in “Martyrology of Gorman” (349.25) provides the gloss “man” following the Fulfulde “Gor,” (although this is also a venerable Irish name and the name of Joyce’s official biographer). “Gorman” repeats in a ragtime version of the often repeated passage from Edgar Quinet (Atherton 34-5):

236.23 and the rigadoons have held ragtimed revels on
236.24 the platauplain of Grangegorman; and, though since then ster-
236.25 lings and guineas have been replaced by brooks and lions and
236.26 some progress has been made on stilts and the races have come
236.27 and gone and Thyme, that chef of seasoners, has made his usual
236.28 astewte use of endadjustables and whatnot willbe isnor was


These notes are not just a report of readings, but a claim about the texture of Finnegans Wake — a claim that Joyce actually engaged in a process of inserting complex and not always explicit readings in a fairly systematic way, leaving clues in passages in other parts of his book, through cue syllables, among other ways. And that he maintained some themes across different appearances of the same language or people. In other words that these readings are substantive to the content of Joyce’s book.

As diaphanous as these readings may seem to some, in their whole they form an epiphany, a gossamer web of meanings bringing to light phenomena of the darker world of colonialism, slavery, and boarding school — and other dimensions of the phantasmagoria of meanings that is Finnegans Wake. Finnegans Wakeexpands Joyce’s use of epiphany at the beginning of his writing in ways that follow from or at least parallel his knowledge of the connections revealed by the Indo-European root for “shine”: *bha 2 — to shine, whose derivatives from Greek phainein, “to bring to light,” cause to appear, show, and phainesthai (passive), “to be brought to light” include: diaphanous, epiphany, phantasmagoria, and phenomena.

I have just had the opportunity to look at George Cinclair Gibson’s book, Wake Rites, with its remarkable last chapter, “The Recovery of the Dark Tongue,” in which he points to the bélra na filed, “the language of the Arch Druid of Ireland called the ‘Dark Tongue,’” “a form of ‘pidgin’ as obscure, polysemous, and circumlocutional as the soliloquy of Archdruid ‘Berkeley’ or even the language of the Wake itself” (220). He sees this language as at the center of the Tara ritual, which is for him the pattern for Finnegans Wake. I recommend this book and its chapter on the Dark Tongue to any readers wishing to see a larger context for the languages and the kind of reading I am proposing here.


This work, as well as research in Africa, was supported by fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Work on Finnegans Wake was done in close association and discussion with John Szwed. Robert Faris Thompson, Master of Timothy Dwight College, invited me for a year as Resident Fellow and opened to me the encouragement which Yale so generously offers. I should also like to remember the encouragement of Adeline Glasheen and Lewis Mink.


1. Taylor’s list of singular/plural sound changes includes:

p/f: pullo/fulbe;

g/w: gujjo / wuyse “thief”, gor / wor “man”;

h/k: ho:re / ko:’e “head”;

w/ng: was — / ngas “bury,” wodda / ngodda “be well,” war / ngar “count”;

y/g: yite / gite “finger”;

y/ng: yen / ngen “kill,” yim / ngim “spleen”;

w/mb: wind / mbind “write” — and others more complex (Taylor, [1921]: 11-12).

2. That “altered” on 89.12 can refer there to gelding or being spayed is confirmed by a note in Joyce’s Notebook VI B 6, 072(j), “alter/geld” in reference to the line 89.12 that we are discussing, and also by the editor’s comments there on Jespersen’s Growth and Structure of the English Language about “altered” as a euphemism in the U.S. South and in Europe, which gives a southern origin for a substitution of “alter” for “geld”.

112.06    Gee up, girly! The quad gos-
112.07 pellers may own the targum but any of the Zingari shoolerim
112.08 may pick a peck of kindlings yet from the sack of auld hensyne.

where “Zingari” is not only “gypsy” but a combination of Hausa Gari with Hausa zin “sin” to produce “sin city.” This tells us that it is not only the college Gospel quartet (or the four gospels) that can give light from the text; the Sin City Schoolkids can also get some kindlings. Gibson discusses “zinzin” (Wake Rites, 212-214, 88-89) as the sound accompanying fili singer’s recreation of the voice of Old Finn, the dreamer himself. In Hausa, zin is associated with brideprice in cows, a common African practice among cattle herding peoples in central and southern Africa, strongly condemned by missionaries and missionary ethnographers as prostitution (“zin” FW 500).

4. On page 201 we find another Swahili entry: “We’d be bundukiboy meet askarigal” (201.25), which may name the Mbundu (Umbundu/Kimbundu) peoples of Western Angola (Swahili: bunduki “gun”; askarigal “soldier”). In Kongo, another West Central African language, bundu means “slave” (giving, by “subjunction,” “Key boy” and “ass carry gal” to make up the model that “We’d be,” which goes with another Swahili entry on the same page: “meanacuminamoyas” — FW 201.30 — “111,” “she had three figures to fill”).

5. “In British India, Babu came to mean a native Indian clerk. The word was used as a term of respect attached to a proper name, like ‘Master’ or ‘Mr.’ and Babuji was used in many parts of India, meaning ‘Sir.’ But later Babu, without the suffix, was generally used contemptuously as signifying a semi-literate native, with a mere veneer of modern education. In the early 20th century the term Babu was frequently used to refer to bureaucrats and other government officials, especially by the Indian media; in this sense the word hints at corrupt and/or lazy work practices. In northern and eastern parts of India, Babuji is a term of respect for one’s father. It can also be used as a term of respect for any respected elder or man” (“Babu (title), a South Asian term of respect or endearment.” [Wikipedia]).

6 Scribbledehobble (153) has “Rhow do you do (a common phrase in Dublin) R” (where the Rs indicate “crossed out in red”). Connolly, the editor, makes the following erroneous comment:

“This is an example of a phrase that was ‘harvested’ for use, but never reached the final page of the Wake. It appears on the manuscript in the British Museum ADD 47471.B. It was originally intended for addition to 35.15 after the words “accosted him” (Connolly 153).
It did appear, of course, but transformed.

7. On “Words of Power” see George C. Gibson, Wake Rites (84, 89-90, 214). The words in
this list are words of “silent” power as opposed to the thunder of the bull roarer — but Joyce may well have captured the “mystery” or ambiguity that Gibson points to when he shows how the “words of power” were inscribed in characters on the bull roarer or “Roth Romach” — and thus while the bull-roarer made noise the words themselves were transmitted silently (Gibson 88-90). The reading “dust in my eyes,” along with less elegant associations to the elements of the ritual may suggest that Joyce was slightly less carried away by the ritual at Tara than Gibson’s seriousness might imply.

8. A further note on dogdhis 596

dh 596.02 “dogdhis”: 24.17 + 123.01 “why spell dear god with a big thick dhee” (dh aspiration?); “dog” as “God” (see also 024.16: “Now be aisy, good Mr Finnimore, sir. And take your laysure like a god on pension and don’t be walking abroad”). The dh in “dhis” seems to be an indication of this spelling of “God,” although we are talking about the inverse, “dog” and “dogging,” just as we will see gor in opposition to Kyrie, “Lord,” and to Soul.

9. If we start from the G.C. Gibson’s premise that the “Dark Tongue,” the Druidic “pidgin” (as he calls it), is at the center of power in the Tara rituals, then its appearance here with a dark overlay of West Indian, Hausa, and Fulfulde may say a lot about how Joyce sees the relation of ancient Irish to other kinds of darkness (see also note 8 on the bull roarer in the ritual).

Joyce not only gives us the “Darktown Strutters’ Ball” in a West Indian pronunciation,
he gives us another African-American dance, the “Cakewalk” with a Haitian connection, tied to a presentation of the figure of the imprisoned Toussaint Louverture: “It’s the fulldress Toussaint’s wakeswalks” (455.05).

10. Explanations and evidence for passages focused on Creole languages such as 198.16 and further discussion of subjunction can be found in my article “Whagta Kriowday! Creole languages and Cutures in Finnegans Wake” (ms.).

11. John Szwed (personal conversations) has found that words italicized in Meek’s text tend to show up in Finnegans Wake. And opposite page 457 (plate 39) he found that Meek has a photograph of a phallic mud pillar which Meek says is called “woops.”

On page 24 of Finnegans Wake we find the line which represents Finnegan’s resurrection:

024.13 . . . whines for my wedding, did you bring bride and bedding,
024.14 will you whoop for my deading is a? Wake? Usqueadbaugham!

On the phallic pillar at the Tara king replacment rituals, see Gibson.On Egyptian elements here, see Mark Troy, “Will you whoop for my deading is a?” (24.14). While none of these indications can be seen as demonstrating that Joyce used Meek, he does have a general concern with the area that can be demonstrated; the Meek connections are strongly suggestive, and the publication date of Meek’s book, 1931, makes it more than likely that Joyce used it.

12. Soulfood also appears in other passages in Finnegans Wake:

243.24 selling foulty treepes, she would make massa
243.25 dinars with her savuneer dealinsh
265.l5 Here’s our dozen
265.l6 cousins from the
265.l7 starves on tripes.

269.01 often hate on first hearing
269.02 comes of love by second sight. Have your
269.03 little sintalks in the dunk of subjunctions, dual
269.04 in duel and prude with pruriel . . .

269.30 all them fine clauses in Lindley’s and Murrey’s

Apart from syllable and consonant pairs given in particular languages and contexts it is possible to wonder productively whether there are “universal” syllable and consonant pairs and other pairs of sounds and syllables in Finnegans Wake that serve as building blocks for Joyce’s writing. If there are, what creates them? Does he have a scheme independent of context? Once a pair has been created, does he immediately spread the pair into different contexts? If such a process of spreading things around were at work, how would there ever be enough room in the book for the number of repetitions of each pattern that we would find? Perhaps Joyce has a complicated scheme for the interaction of a limited number of syllable patterns with the themes in which they participate. There is enough particularity in his games, and the scheme of universal pairs and syllables is sufficiently hidden, that recovering his process may be very difficult indeed.

14. Some other possible Fulfulde items.

“you were the pale eggynaggy”

“Leatherbags Reynolds ties your shuffle and cut. But as Hopkins and
Hopkins puts it, you were the pale eggynaggy” (26.02-3)

egga — “migrate”

nagge — “cow”

The Fulani are not only migratory cowherders, but are also chicken raisers and thus the major source of eggs — and of course they were leather workers.

timma — “finished! Perfect”
fina — “wake up”

“Timm Finn again’s weak tribes loss of strength to sowheel” (35.16-17)

267.19 Issossianusheen and sometypes Yggely
267.20 ogs Weib. Uwayoei!
   “sometypes” — “body types”

“Ugly ass wife” — see “sukand see whybe!” (52.35)

Uwa Fulfulde: “bury”
Hausa: “mother”; yo “let”; ei “sound of assent”
“Uwayoei” — “let bury mother”

“lappa” “sleep” see 534.11 “Lapsang” “lullaby”

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