Sweet Thursday - Cultural References

Setting | Character Summaries| Plot Synopsis | Critical Reception

Cultural ReferencesKey Terms and Concepts


Mexican American youths, known for wearing Zoot suits in the 1930s and 40s.

Francois Villon

15th- Century French lyric poet.


Slang term for marijuana in the 1930s and 40s.


Derogatory term for Mexicans who have illegally crossed into the United States.

Charro costume

Traditional Mexican costume popularly worn today by Mariachis.


Free-floating hydrozoan that lives on the surface of the ocean; relative of the jellyfish. 

Sistine Choir

Official choir of Vatican City in Rome; one of the oldest religious choirs in the world.

William Byrd

16th-Century English composer.

Diamond Jim Brady

James Buchanan Brady (1856-1917), American business man and philanthropist, remembered for his great wealth and expensive tastes.


Anachronistic medical term for bleeding, used to describe fits of rage.

Tide-pool Johnnys

Tide pool sculpin; abundant shoreline fish of the Pacific Northwest.


Dimestore, or store specializing in the sale of a wide variety of cheap merchandise.

Lucky Strikes

Famous brand of American Cigarettes.


Brand of coffee maker.


One who has been emasculated or had his manhood insulted.


American version of Croquet; an apparently complicated combination of croquet and billiards.  Popular in the early 20th century.

Sorrows of Werther

Poem by 19th-Century English novelist, William Makepeace Thackeray satirizing Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's popular novel The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774).

Jackson fork

Large mechanical fork for lifting hay.

William Henry Harrison

(1773-1841) Ninth President of the United States.


Abbreviation of the Latin quod erat demonstrandum, which is translated, "which was to be demonstrated."  Used to signify the end of the justification of evidence provided to prove a theory or solve a problem.


Slang for one released or escaped from a mental health facility; a crazy person.

Harun al-Rashid

Fifth Abbasid caliph whose courts were memorialized in the Thousand and One Nights, historically the most famous Arabic work of fiction in the Western world.


Variant of jinni, the magical creature in Arabian tales.


Traditional French fish stew.


To beat someone.

Romie Jacks

Local wealthy resident of Monterey, CA who managed her family's hotel.

Haute monde

French for high society.

Battle of San Juan Hill

Most famous battle of the Spanish-American War fought on July 1, 1898.


Intricate four couple dance popularized among the fashionable in Europe in the 18th Century.

Baum martens

Furs made from the rodent pine marten.


Prescription sedative.


Dieterich Buxtehude (1637-1707) Organist and composer of the Baroque period.


Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594) Renown Italian composer of Roman liturgical music during the Renaissance.

Giordano Bruno

16th Century Italian philosopher burned at the stake as a heretic.

Halcyon brawl

Oxymoron in the text as Halcyon is a Greek mythical term for "golden" and a time of peace and prosperity.


An over the top party, certain to be long-remembered for drunken mishaps.


Ceremonial festival practiced by Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest.

Eton jacket

Short formal jacket named after Eton College in England.

Dementia praecox

Chronic psychotic disorder characterized by impairment in cognitive abilities.


Automobile produced in Toledo, Ohio from 1914-1933.

Tobacco mosaic

Plant virus that forms white or green mosaic patterns on vegetation.


"Fifty-four-forty or Fight"; slogan used by extremists during the United States' struggle over the Oregon territory with Great Britain.  Used as a campaign slogan by democrat James K. Polk in the presidential election of 1844.


Figure from Nordic mythology associated with hoarding gold or treasure.

Marquis de Sade

(1740-1814) French philosopher and writer best remembered for his pornographic writings which depicted violent and bizarre sexual acts. 

Art of Fugue

Incomplete musical composition by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750).

Kinsey Report

Two books on human sexuality published in 1948 and 1952.  Named for primary author Alfred Kinsey.  Controversial for their discussion of taboo sexual behavior such as child molestation.

Eugene V. Debbs

(1855-1926) American labor union leader and founding member of the International Labor Union and the Industrial Workers of the World.

Fort Ord

US Army base located in Monterey, California.

"Sweet Georgia Brown"

Jazz standard recorded in 1925 by Ben Bernie, an American Jazz violinist.

Chapter Title References:

Whom the Gods Love They Drive Nuts

The title of Chapter 9 is adapted from "Whom the Gods Love Dies Young" by the Ancient Greek dramatist Menander. To hear a selection of Menander's writing in the original Greek visit http://www.rhapsodes.fll.vt.edu/menander.htm

The Little Flowers of Saint Mack

The title of Chapter 16 is a reference to the Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi, a book of stories about the Catholic Saint. To read a selection of the text or listen to it read aloud visit http://www.ccel.org/ccel/ugolino/flowers.html

O Frabjous Day!

The title of Chapter 27 is a quote from Lewis Carroll's poem "Jabberwocky" in the text Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There.

To hear the poem and read the book for free, visit Project Gutenberg.

Where Alfred the Sacred River Ran

The title of Chapter 28 is an adaptation of a line from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem "Kubla Kahn." The poem is a complex integration of story and an interpretation of thought.  To read the poem in its entirety, visit http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/stc/Coleridge/poems/Kubla_Khan.html.

Lama Sabachthani?

The title of chapter 36 is a reference to Jesus Christ's crucifixion and final words. As stated in both Mark and Matthew of the New Testament of most Bibles, "Lama Sabachthani" is translated within the biblical texts as "why have you forsaken me?"

Use www.bible.com to access the Bible Gateway and view several versions of this popular text and search similar phrases.

I'm Sure We Should All Be as Happy as Kings

The title of chapter 40 is the second and final line of a poem by Robert Lewis Stevenson entitled "Happy Thought." To read the entire poem, visit http://www.bartleby.com/188/125.html.

Setting | Character Summaries| Plot Synopsis | Critical Reception

Cultural ReferencesKey Terms and Concepts