Attila the Hun (p 12) – The brutal king and general of the Hun empire (433 to 453 A.D.) who was known for his fierce fighting army.
Lycee (p 16) – (lee-say) French secondary school, similar to an IB high school, to prepare students for college. The fact that Maxime is still in lycee indicates that he is young and innocent.
Immanuel Kant (p 18), Moral Philosophy – A philosopher (1724–1804) who argued that moral requirements are based on a standard of rationality called the “Categorical Imperative” (CI). Immorality involves a violation of the CI and is thereby irrational. Note the puns on Kant and can’t, and “It’s a manual” and Immanuel.
Rene Descartes (p 19), The Treatise on the Passions – (day-cart) A French mathematician, scientist and philosopher (1595-1650) who explored the relationship between mind and body. The Passions asserted that the emotional (and thus moral) life of a human being derives from the connection between the soul and the body. A passion of the soul is a mental state (or thought) that arises as a direct result of brain activity. Such passions can move us to action. Since this is so, Descartes suggests that one needs to learn to control one’s passions because passions can lead to unhealthy acts.
Leave my drawers alone (p 19) – pun on drawers in a dresser and drawers, meaning underpants.
Into the breach (p 27) – Taken from a monologue in Shakespeare’s Henry V:
“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more,
Or close the wall up with our English dead!
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility,
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger…”
The breach in question is the gap in the wall of the city of Harfleur, which the English army held under siege. Henry was encouraging his troops to attack the city again, even if they have to "close the wall with English dead."
Volcano vs. iceberg – metaphors for Pinglet and Paillardin to show how they differ under the surface (hot vs. cold)
Ville d’Avray (p 30) – (veel dah vray) Mdme. Pinglet’s sister’s home, a suburb west of Paris.
Mathieu’s stuttering word-play:
Other word-play based on pronounciation:
Bouillabaise (p 35) – (bool-ya-baze) French fish soup
Sous, centimes, francs – (soo, sahn-teem, frahnk) 40 sous (p 36), 100 sous (p 37), 80 centimes (p 72), 7 francs (p 72), 5,000 francs (p 91) – French coinage, 100 centimes = 1 franc; a sous was a small denomination copper coin minted in the 18th century, probably worth only a few centimes
Locusts (p 39) – the swarming phase of a certain kind of grasshopper; in this context, it refers to Matthieu’s many daughters invading the Pinglet’s house like a swarm of bugs
Flophouse (p 39) – a cheap hotel; a joke about Pinglet’s home vs. the Paradise Hotel
Inebriated (p 40) – drunk
Avenue du Bois and rue de la Pompe (p 41) – the location of the rendez-vous, on the corner of Tree Avenue and Pump Street. Rue de la Pompe is an actual street in Paris and one of the longest streets in the 16th arrondissement.
220 rue de Provence (p 41) – the location of the hotel. The rue de Provence is an actual street located in Paris in the 9th arrondissement.
Boolowed (p 45) – pun on the name Boulet (pronounced boo-lay), a variation on the term “bowled over”
Naked as a jaywalker (p 46) – commonly said as naked as a jaybird, meaning stark naked; origin unknown; a jaywalker typically refers to someone crossing the street amidst the traffic.
Take life with a lump of salt (p 46) – commonly said as take life with a grain of salt - to be skeptical, cynical or doubtful of what you see and hear. NOTE: This phrase as well as the two above it as all spoken by Bastien; perhaps he is prone to malapropisms as part of his character.
Theatre de la Chanson (p 48) – musical theatre, literally theater of the song
Chamomile tea (p 60) – an herbal tea that is supposed to have a calming affect
Hot water bottle (p 61) - a rubber container filled with hot water and sealed with a stopper, used to provide warmth or pain relief.
Pillaging, plundering, sacking (p 62) – synonyms for ruthlessly stripping victims of their money or goods by open violence, as in war
Tortoise-shell combs, ebony brushes (p 72) – expensive beauty items made from rare materials, a sign of wealth
Regalias (p 72) – A high quality and large Cuban cigar. Pronounced ree-GAHH-lee-uh.
Two-bit thief (p 76) – And inferior or unimportant thief; small-time
Chambermaid (p 79) - A maid who cleans bedrooms and bathrooms, esp. in a hotel
Spinoza (p 79) - Baruch Spinoza was a philosopher whose ideas combine a commitment to Cartesian (Descartes) metaphysical and epistemological principles with elements from ancient Stoicism and medieval Jewish rationalism. His extremely naturalistic views on God, the world, the human being and knowledge serve to ground a moral philosophy centered on the control of the passions leading to virtue and happiness.
Zulu (p 84) – South Africa’s largest ethnic group of an estimated 10–11 million people, mainly dark-skinned
Horse feathers (p 86) - rubbish; nonsense; bunk; BS
Through the wringer (p 94) – Undergoing a painful or difficult ordeal; metaphor taken from an apparatus or machine for squeezing liquid out of anything wet, as two rollers through which an article of wet clothing may be squeezed.
Puce (p 96) – the color of Mme Paillardin’s dress; reddish-brown to purplish-brown. The word origin is French from the word “puce,” which means “flea,” thus serving as slanderous reference to the Madame’s tryst in a flea-ridden hotel.
Clytemnestra (p 107) – In the Oresteia by Aeschylus, she was a femme fatale who murdered her husband, Agamemnon
Battle axe (p 107) – A slang term for a domineering, aggressive, sharp-tempered woman
Delilah (p 107) - in the Hebrew bible Book of Judges 16, she is the dangerous temptress whom Samson loved and who was his downfall.
Double-dyed traitor (p 111) – a confirmed, inveterate person who betrays a trust
Audacity (p 124) – boldness or daring, esp. with confident or arrogant disregard for personal safety, conventional thought, or other restrictions.