What the noun gan mean in the following passage from the third chapter of James Joyce's Ulysses:

White thy fambles, red thy gan

And thy quarrons dainty is.

Couch a hogshead with me then.

In the darkmans clip and kiss.

Can the word mean gin - the alcoholic drink? I looked up gan in some dictionaries, it is written in them that gan can be a form of the verb gin (meaning begin). I have not found anything of help with regards to gan as a noun.


3 Answers 3




Etymology: Perhaps connected with gane v.; or possibly < Welsh geneu, Cornish ganau, mouth.


n.1 The mouth.

1567 T. Harman Caueat for Commen Cursetors (new ed.) Peddelars Frenche sig. Giiv Gan, a mouth.

1652 R. Brome Joviall Crew ii. sig. F4v This Bowse is better then Rom-bowse, It sets the Gan a gigling.

1785 in F. Grose Classical Dict. Vulgar Tongue (at cited word)


It's a quotation from "The Maunder’s Praise Of His Strowling Mort" in From The Triumph of Wit, by J. Shirley (1707). It is written in 'Cant', which is a kind of criminal underworld dialect.

White thy fambles, red thy gan, [hand; mouth]
And thy quarrons dainty is; [body]
Couch a hogshead with me then, [sleep]
And in the darkmans clip and kiss. [night]

The Maunder’s Praise Of His Strowling Mort

  • 2
    This is interesting. The verse appears in Joyce's Ulysses. and in the notes the entire poem is quoted and the annotation says it is The Canting Song from Richard Head's The Canting Academy (1673)
    – WS2
    May 19, 2020 at 11:30
  • It is quoted with different sources in different places. May 19, 2020 at 11:34
  • Yes, it does seem as if Head is merely quoting an existing song - which probably dates from long before him. It is called The rogue's delight in praise of his strolling mort.
    – WS2
    May 19, 2020 at 12:03

Mouth, lips but also the throat. The term is probably of Welsh origin and referred to fish. GDoS has a very early usage example:

gan n. (also ganns, gans)

[? Welsh geneu, Cornish ganau, mouth; Scot. gane or ganne, mouth, orig. of a fish; itself linked to Norw. gan, a fish-gill]

(UK Und.) the mouth; in pl., the lips; occas. the throat.

  • c.1535 [UK] R. Copland Hye way to the Spyttel House Eiii: Cyarum by salmon and thou shalt pek my iere / In thy gan for my watch it is nace gere.

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