Abominable Snowman a large, hairy, man-like creature reputed to live in the Himalayas; also called yeti. Here, Leper in his ski gear reminds Brinker of the creature.
aide-memoire (French) a memorandum of a discussion, proposed agreement, etc. Here, Knowles uses the term comically.
Archangel seaport in northwestern Russia, at the mouth of the Northern Dvina River. It is icebound for six months every year.
Athens capital of Greece, in the southeastern part of the country; Athens became established as the center of Greek culture in the 5th century B.C., when it was the capital of ancient Attica. Here, a model for Devon.
Big Three the leaders of the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union, the most powerful Allied nations in World War II.
blitzkrieg sudden, swift, large-scale offensive warfare intended to win a quick victory, used by the Nazis. Here, the boys adapt the term for "blitzball," a game that emphasizes high energy and surprise manuevers..
Bolsheviks originally, a member of a majority faction (Bolsheviki) of the Russian Social Democratic Workers' Party, which formed the Communist Party after seizing power in the 1917 Revolution. Here, Finny means the Soviet Union.
Bunyan Paul Bunyan, the giant lumberjack of American legend.
Burma Road "Burma," the old name for Myanmar, country in southeast Asia on the Indochinese peninsula. Here, the supply route for the Allies beginning in Burma and extending far into China, where American and Chinese troops fought the Japanese.
butt the remaining end of anything; stub; stump; specifically the stub of a smoked cigarette or cigar. Here, the term is a slang word for cigarette, applied to the place where the boys at Devon gather to smoke, the Butt Room.
contretemps (French) an inopportune happening causing confusion or embarrrassment; awkward mishap. Here, Gene uses the word to play down the seriousness of Finny's fall.
de Gaulle Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970), French general and statesman; president of France (1959-69). Here, the reference is to de Gaulle's leadership of the Free French during World War II.
doughboys United States infantrymen, especially of World War I. Here, Brinker's father uses the word to describe the World War II recruits he sees at Devon.
duration the time that a thing continues or lasts. Here, a specialized term from World War II meaning "for as long as the war continues." For example, the maids at Devon will be gone "for the Duration," or as long as the war lasts.
Elliott Roosevelt the son of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945), 32d president of the United States. Here, Gene refuses to enlist with Brinker, even if he were the son of the president. In turn, Brinker claims a family connection with the wealthy, powerful Roosevelts.
the Eton playing fields observation "Eton" town in Buckinghamshire, on the Thames, near London; site of a private preparatory school for boys. Here, Mr Ludsbury refers to the phrase used by the Duke of Wellington (1769-1852). In the Duke's opinion, the Battle of Waterloo, in which the British defeated the French led by Napoleon, was won "on the playing fields of Eton," the result of the spirit of the British officers who first learned to compete in the vigorous games of their schools, notably the prestigious Eton.
foxhole a hole dug in the ground as a temporary protection for one or two soldiers against enemy gunfire or tanks. Here, it represents the infantry fighting Gene hopes to avoid.
fratricide the act of killing one's own brother or sister. Here, Brinker's characterization of Gene's doing away with Finny.
Free French inhabitants of the part of France and its colonies not invaded by Germany in 1940.
"Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres" Latin phrase meaning "Gaul is divided into three parts;" the beginning of Caesar's Gallic Wars.
General MacArthur Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964), United States general, commander in chief of the Allied troops in the southwest Pacific during World War II.
Giraud Henri Honore Henri Honore Giraud (1879-1949), French general, de Gaulle's rival for leadership of the Free French.
Golden Fleece (Greek Mythology) the fleece of gold that hung in a sacred grove at Colchis guarded by a dragon until taken away by Jason and the Argonauts. Here, the term is used as the name of the Devon debating society, emphasizing the club's exclusive quality, unconnected to reality.
Guadalcanal largest island of the Solomon Islands in the southwest Pacific. Here, the site of an United States victory after a long, bloody struggle (1942-43).
gull a person easily cheated or tricked. Here, Gene offers Leper as an example.
Hitler Youth "Hitler" Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) Nazi dictator of Germany (1933-45), born in Austria. Here, the term refers to a Nazi program designed to promote discipline and loyalty in German children and adolescents. Finny uses it in his joking description of the free-for-all snowball fight.
interned detained or confined (foreign persons, ships, etc.) as during a war. Here, confined in prison for the war, the fate of many Japanese-Americans. When the boys question Quackenbush's loyalty, they wonder why he has not been confined as an enemy alien.
Josef Stalin (1879-1953) Soviet premier (1941-53); general secretary of the Communist party of the U.S.S.R. (1922-53). Here, the boys refer to Stalin in his role as leader of the Soviet Union during World War II.
Kraut (slang) a German or person of German ancestry; a derogatory term.
Lazarus the brother of Mary and Martha, raised from the dead by Jesus. Here, Finny awakening on the beach reminds Gene of Lazarus miraculously coming to life again.
Leper a person having leprosy; a person to be shunned or ostracized, as because of the danger of moral contamination. Here, it is a nickname for the quiet, aloof Elwin Lepellier.
LST the initials stand for "land ship tank"; a vessel designed to land large numbers of troops on a beach quickly.
Madame Chiang Kai-Shek (Soon Mei-Ling) the wife of Chiang Kai-Shek (1888-1975), Chinese generalissimo and head of the Nationalist government on Taiwan (1950-75). Here, a reference to the couple's representation of wartime China in international circles.
Maginot Line (after A. Maginot [1877-1932], French minister of war), a system of heavy fortifications built before World War II on the eastern frontier of France; it failed to prevent invasion by the Nazi armies. Here, Gene uses the term to describe the barriers people put up to defend themselves against a perceived threat.
Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Hindu nationalist leader and social reformer, assassinated; called Mahatma. The term describes any of a class of wise and holy persons held in special regard or reverence. Here, Gene jokes that if Leper can find the courage to jump from the tree, than Gene is as holy as the Indian leader.
Mussolini (1883-1945) Benito Mussolini, Italian dictator, Fascist prime minister of Italy (1922-43), executed; called Il Duce. Here, someone questioning Quackenbush's loyalty asks if he intends to join Mussolini's army, the enemy of the Allies.
Ne Plus Ultra (Latin) the ultimate; especially the finest, best, most perfect, etc. Here the term refers to an academic award Gene hopes to win at graduation.
Pearl Harbor inlet on the southern coast of Oahu, Hawaii, near Honolulu; the site of the United States naval base bombed by Japan on December 7, 1941. Here, the reference to the base denotes the entrance of the United States into World War II.
Prohibition the forbidding by law of the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages. Here, Finny is referring to the period between 1920 and 1933 when the sale of all alcoholic beverages was forbidden by an amendment of the United States Constitution.
Ruhr river in west central Germany, flowing west into the Rhine; major coal-mining and industrial region centered in the valley of this river. Here, it refers to the industrial region heavily bombed by the Allies in World War II.
Sad Sack (slang) a person who means well but is incompetent, ineffective, etc., and is consistently in trouble. Here, the kind of person Gene fears he might become under the pressure of combat.
Scharnhorst a German battleship torpedoed by British destroyers and then sunk by the battleship Duke of York in December, 1943.
seigneurs lord (French) a lord or noble, specifically, the lord of a fee or manor. Here, the term characterizes the superiority Gene and Finny feel when they jump from the tree and the others do not.
Sparta ancient city of Laconia in the Peloponnesus, a peninsula forming the southern mainland of Greece. Here, a model for the representatives of various branches of the military.
Stalingrad old name of Volgograd, city in the south central part of the Soviet Union, scene of a decisive Soviet victory (1943) over German troops in World War II.
Tunisian campaign Tunisia is a country in north Africa, on the Mediterranean. The Tunisian campaign was the series of battles between the Allied forces and the combined German and Italian forces in North Africa (January to May, 1943).
Winston Churchill (1871-1947) British statesman and writer; prime minister (1940-45; 1951-55). Here, the boys refer to Churchill in his role as prime minister of Great Britain during World War II
Yellow Peril the threat to Western civilization presented by Asian people, especially those of China or Japan; widely believed in during the late 19th and early 20th centuries in North America, Europe, and Australia. Here, Finny gives Brinker the nickname when Gene says he is really Madame Chiang Kai-Shek.