Cultural References


Drummer: traveling salesman.

Union League Club: founded in 1863 in New York City; exclusive civic club dedicated to promoting arts, culture and charities, such as the Red Cross, in the United States.

Rum-dum: excessively drunken.

Slug-nutty: mental incapacitation brought on by concussions from being hit in the head too many times.

New Masses: (1926-1948) American Marxist publication.

DuBarry: Marie-Jeanne Be'cu, comtesse du Barry (1743-1793), official mistress of Louis XV of France; used to refer to Dick's ability to utilize his good looks and sexual charm to help the labor cause.

American Legion: founded in 1919, veterans' group officially charted by the US Congress; dedicated to civic duty and promoting the interests of veterans. In the novel, derogatory for overzealous patriots who use vigilante violence to break strikes and any other activity they see as a threat to "American values."

Writ: a formal written order by a judicial official.

Semaphore: a system of visual signals, such as lights or flags, which can be moved to signal a change in a position.

Bichloride of mercury: toxic, odorless, colorless antiseptic.

Rochester lamp: Kerosene lamp made by the Rochester Lamp Company.

Baldric: Belt worn over one shoulder, usually used for fastening on a weapon.

Pippins: apples.

Top-fallers: In logging, the person who climbs the tree and cuts the top off.

Bindle-stiffs: Migrant workers; hoboes.

Gillopy: jalopy; worn-out, beat-up old car.

Bulls: slang for police officers.

Dope: as in "the scoop," or an explanation of the truth.

Oilcloth: Cotton fabric covered with several coats of linseed oil to make it partially waterproof.

Carbolic: Phenol; historically used as an antiseptic. Particularly known for its strong odor.

Croton oil: oil made from seeds of the tree croton tiglium. Used in traditional Chinese medicine; causes violent diarrhea when ingested orally in small amounts.

To jug: slang for to put in jail.

Caissons: chest or two-wheeled vehicle for storing or transporting ammunition.

Winchesters: Popular historic brand of rifles and shotguns.

Deus vult: Latin for "God wills it."  Associated with the Crusades.

Bunk: slang for nonsense.

Belly-aching: complaining.

Bloody Thursday: Events of the maritime strike and riots that broke out in San Francisco, California on July 5, 1934. The police killed two people and injured dozens more. Eventually the National Guard was called in to quell the violence.

Longshoreman: a dock worker who loads and unloads ship freight.

Steel-jacket: a type of jacketed bullet.

Battle of Salamis: naval battle (480 BC) between an alliance of Greek city-states and the Persian Empire.

HausfrauGerman for housewife.

Lydia Pinkham: (1819-1883) inventor and marketer of a commercially successful alcoholic remedy for premenstrual syndrome and menstrual cramps.

Salvarsan: drug used to treat syphilis.

Growler: a can or pitcher for beer.

Bum steers: misleading advice or directions.

Battle of Bull Run: (July 21, 1861) First major battle of the American Civil War.

I.L.D.: International Labor Defense; legal defense organization affiliated with the American Communist Party.

On the lam: on the run.

Hop-head: opium addict.

Mills bombs: type of hand grenade.