Sunday, March 20, 2022

"Big went the bang" in James Joyce's "Finnegans Wake" and the coining of the expression "The Big Bang"

While reading my daily passage of James Joyce's "Finnegans Wake" this morning, I came across a phrase with associations that I immediately called into question: "Big went the bang: then wildewide was quiet: a report: silence: last Fama put it under ether" (FW 98.1-3). While the Big Bang is a clear "report" in this "silence" to a contemporary ear (especially the ear of someone who went to college to study physics), it is anachronistic here: the expanding-universe theory may have been developed in the nineteen twenties, while Joyce was writing "Finnegans Wake", but the expression "the Big Bang" was coined by Fred Hoyle in 1949, ten years after the book's publication. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 20 March 2022)

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