Brain Burning a reference to the effects of electroshock and a parody of the title of one of William Faulkner's more famous short stories, "Barn Burning."
bull goose loony an oxymoron. A bull indicates masculine qualities while a goose indicates feminine. A loony, of course, is someone not entirely in control of their mental faculties and perhaps unable to discern whether they are a bull or a goose.
chronic lasting a long time or recurring often.
Combine a large mind- and environment-controlling mechanism concealed within the walls of the hospital.
convulsion a violent, involuntary contraction or spasm of the muscles.
croon to sing or hum in a low, gentle tone; to sing (popular songs) in a soft, sentimental manner.
The Dalles a geographic region located in Oregon, the setting of the novel.
electroencephalograph an instrument for making electroencephalograms, graphic tracings of minute voltage changes resulting from bioelectric activity in the brain.
electroshock therapy a form of shock therapy in which electric current is applied to the brain.
Faulknerian a reference to American writer and Nobel Laureate William Faulkner, known for his fiction that depicts human frailties.
flophouse a very cheap hotel frequented chiefly by indigents.
fog the fog as used by Chief Bromden indicates his paranoid perception that the Combine emits a thick cloud when it needs to subdue and control the patients.
gaff a spar or pole extending from the aft side of a mast and supporting a fore-and-aft sail.
gurney a stretcher or cot on wheels, used in hospitals to move patients.
hallucinate to perceive sights, sounds, and so on that are not actually present.
jetty a kind of wall built out into the water to restrain currents, protect a harbor or pier, and so on.
jounce to shake, jolt, or bounce, as in riding.
keelhaul to haul (a person) down through the water on one side of a ship, under the keel, and up on the other side as a punishment or torture.
latrine a toilet, privy, etc. for the use of a large number of people.
lobotomy a surgical operation in which a lobe of the brain, especially the frontal lobe of the cerebrum, is cut into or across as a treatment for psychosis.
matriarchy government, rule, or domination by women.
maudlin foolishly and tearfully or weakly sentimental.
paranoid characterized by extreme suspiciousness, grandiose delusions, or delusions of persecution.
paranoid schizophrenia a chronic form of schizophrenia characterized by hallucinations, grandiose delusions, delusions of persecution, and so on.
Patient's Council a group of Acutes appointed by other patients and Nurse Ratched, ostensibly, to vote on matters of interest to the other patients. Because none of the council members wants to upset Nurse Ratched, the group is essentially powerless.
pinochle any of a family of card games, usually for three or four persons and typically played with a 48-card deck made up of two of every card above the eight, including the ace.
punitive inflicting, concerned with, or directed toward punishment.
ramshackle loose and rickety; likely to fall to pieces; shaky.
Shock Shop a room on the hospital's Disturbed Ward where electroshock therapy is administered.
troll to fish with bait or a lure trailed on a line behind a slowly moving boat.
twitch(es) a slang expression for a woman of easy virtue; a prostitute.
vermin various insects, bugs, or small animals regarded as pests because they are destructive, disesase-carrying, and so on, as flies, lice, rats, or weasels.
voting for Eisenhower Dwight Eisenhower was a World War II general and president of the United States during the latter half of the 1950s, a period perceived by many to be marked by conservatism and conformity. Therefore, one who votes for Eisenhower is a conformist.
wheedle to influence or persuade (a person) by flattery, soothing words, coaxing, and so on.