First use of the word “wordpress”

Serendipity struck today. Sunday afternoon spent lounging on the sofa reading books. D started chuckling and motioned for me to come over to look inside his copy of Finnegans Wake by James Joyce:

A bone, a pebble, a ramskin; chip them, chap them, cut them up allways; leave them to terracook in the muttheringpot: and Gutenmorg with his cromagnom charter, tintingfast and great primer must once for omniboss step rubrickredd out of the wordpress else is there no virtue more in alcohoran. For that (the rapt one warns) is what papyr is meed of, made of, hides and hints and misses in prints. (p. 20)

wordpress! James Joyce! It came as a total surprise, although perhaps shouldn’t since Joyce was an auteur when it came to messing with words. Here it is in situ:


What is Joyce talking about? There’s a great analysis of it here. He seems to be referring to the intoxication of language, an overabundance of words; how language has developed over time (from cro-magnon man to Gutenberg (who created the first printing press from a wine press)) to become drunk with meaning and sense. “wordpress” is this clamour of words from which sense and nonsense springs.

Finnegan’s Wake is often cited as being the source for the word “quark“, which Murray Gell-Mann took from the line “three quarks for Muster Mark!” While Christine Tremoulet didn’t have Joyce in mind when she came up with the name, it’s fantastic to find this different meaning to the word, one that links our publishing platform to the printing press, one of history’s literary cornerstones, and to language itself. It’ll make a lovely footnote for the book.